It was somehow fitting that the Philanderers 500th match was against new opposition sourced by the young academicians on one of their rebel tours. It may seem that the Philanderers CC is a club defined by tradition and respect for its elderly. Existing only to play out the time-honoured rhythms of seasons past.
The truth is, however, that the club has always been in constant evolution and has never sat still. The driving force behind this is ironically a man who to many personifies traditionalism and parochialism. How appearances can be deceiving. The 500th fixture vs Incogniti at the Perse School. An historic game for the club, but also as clear a demonstration of the future of the Philanderers as can be.
A declaration game was decided on, and the visitors put into bat.
The was attack spearheaded by a founding (grand)father - John Burnett, pounding in on his run-up wearing white golf brogues. Congratulating team-mates with a demure nod and a firm handshake.
At the other end operated a new recruit, James Tilbury. Raised in a different century to Burnett. Seemingly bred in a gym. On field chat honed through TikTok and WhatsApp bantz.
The old and the new, the ancient and modern, the club embracing change in order to survive.
Even amongst the youngest club members, nothing remains constant. Upon arrival at the match, James Tilbury complained when asked to open the bowling, in a Rob Gill-esque manner, that he had “had 17 pints last night and 2 hours sleep”. The classic refrain of the 20-somethings in the team looking to bolster their social capital.
Rob Gill, former king of this approach, in one remark then handed over his mantle to the youngster, by announcing he was also very tired after a late night up making macaroons with his girlfriend.
A reputation takes many seasons to build - but only seconds to destroy. The King is dead; long live the King.
Back at the cricket, the Incogniti were slowly constructing a total of 163-9 declared, contending with a mammoth 8 over spell from John Burnett (wicketless but for only 27 runs), and 16-2 from 6 overs for Ed Dodson, turning the screw bowling wicket-to-wicket.
The prime target and villain of the piece during the rebel’s tour to Belgrade, the opposition captain Sunny, was trapped LBW offering no stroke, and the Philanderers began to chip away with regular wickets and kept the Incogs to a modest 163 from 43 overs before declaring.
Fairly confident of chasing this total down, with a side packed full of batsmen (including Pieter Daneel, formerly of South Africa U-19 and current Cambridge Blue), Rob Gill and Paul Leary strode out to the middle.
First ball of the innings Leary edged one behind that he said bounced miles in front of Sunny but was duly claimed and he was on his way back; Gill clearly still suffering after a hard night with the mixing bowl and piping bag managed to miss a straight one and suddenly the Philanderers were 6-2, and with only 30-ish overs to chase down 163, very much behind the rate.
John Howe made a pretty 20-something with Pieter before being caught off one of their two spinners, seemingly the Incogs’ only bowlers (an opening spell of 23 overs between them), bringing the Philanderers other Cambridge Blue to the wicket.
Pearson and Daneel consolidated the Philanderers innings but were still very much behind the rate; Daneel tried to move up a gear but unfortunately hit one straight down mid-on’s throat for a well-made 35.
Debutant Alex Lockie then looked to accelerate the scoreboard with some clean hitting, including a magnificent reverse sweep for 4, but he too was soon back in the pavilion for 18.
With Pearson fast running out of partners, and 60-odd required from the final 8 overs of the day, it looked like the Philanderers’ Sunday record* might be at risk and once again require the lower order to weigh anchor.
Not with the new Rob Gill in town.
2 overs and 4 sixes over cow corner later, with Pearson trying his best to get off strike, James Tilbury turned the game on its head. A rapid 52 n.o. off about 18 balls, including 6 huge sixes, brought the crowd (excluding Phil) to its feet and the Philanderers home with 3 overs to spare. After Pearson (26 n.o.) and Tilbury walked off the pitch to deserved applause from the large gathering of Philanderers past and present, John Burnett gave a heartfelt speech to the assembled club members and well-wishers.
It was a warm moment of thanks for Phil Harvey and all the work he has done putting out 5,500 players on to a cricket pitch, and a reflection on a special club and the enjoyment so many get out of it.
*Excluding overseas Sunday fixtures What overseas Sunday fixtures? The Fuhrer
Burnett pondering where the last 35 years have gone and was it worth it!
Match winner James Tilbury at the end of the game
Exhausted after 500 matches but whilst there is breath in his body still able to hold court
The 500th team