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The Philanderers v Motley Crew, Sunday 16th August at Fitzwilliam

The Gathering Storm

It is reassuring that some things do not change, in spite of C-19 and other distractions. The sight of a carefully prepared and pristine looking outfield and square at Fitzwilliam was surely one for sore eyes. However, this was a rather bizarre game (or nearly a game) and, consequently, you have a slightly bizarre match report. Those of a sensitive disposition should look away now.

The pressure of needing to preserve the Club’s amazing unbeaten Sunday record was palpable; the Fuhrer having reminded the selected eleven before arrival in a typically assertive email. No matter, we were up to it, and up for it. The unknown ‘Motley Crew’ were all that stood before us in our quest for even more glory, and maybe a nod of approval from our beloved leader.

Arriving changed, or partly changed, is not what we are used to, apart from Gill. And how we miss that early banter in the dressing room amidst the smell of unwashed kit. The new ‘normal’ includes the site of white buttocks and exotic underwear, as players pull on their flannels beside their vehicles. These escapades would normally be captured photographically for posterity, but in the interests of modesty, good taste and safeguarding strictures they will go unrecorded.

Rain, and loads of it, was promised nay, threatened, since the start of the week, but our friendly and intrepid groundsman, David Norman (aka Billy) had sought to counter the predicted Noye's Fludde with the most sophisticated of wicket coverings – a piece of dirty white tarpaulin he had paid a mate £30 for. But it had done the trick – underneath was a really decent and competitive track.

In the event, we started more or less on time but it was then that the sub-plot was beginning to unfold, unbeknown to us. More of this later. Together with the opposition skipper, our own captain, Ragnauth, had discussed, in pragmatic fashion, the options open to us, given the imminent arrival of the deluge. Eventually, a 20/20 format was agreed and a toss was made and was promptly lost by the Motley Crew. Ragnauth decided he wanted to get runs on the board and opened with the reliable Hammond (W) and the ever-ready Picton-Turbervill. Looking to bat through, Hammond was dropped on three but survived to make a really attractive 72; at times looking every inch like his great uncle Wally. P-T, at the other end, was in a slightly higher gear and took no prisoners. He ran out of luck on 37 when caught by the Motley Crew’s ubiquitous Sherwin, who took three decent catches in different parts of the field.

The demise of P-T brought ‘The Finisher’ Gill to the crease and he was in a hurry (what’s new?) - the ball went to all parts, resulting in a 27-ball 58 before he too was swallowed up by the omnipresent Sherwin. At which point Jack Dillon strode to the crease and settled in for a steady 14 not out. All of this just left time for skipper Ragnauth to show great leadership by hitting his first delivery straight up in the air to provide the wicket keeper with a comfortable pouch.

That’s pretty well the story of the first half, which allowed the Phillies to post a competitive 201 for 4.

With tea being postponed to the end of the game, Motley Crew began their innings with Jonah ‘Big Bird’ Munday opening up at a lively pace. A number of wides ensued, giving credence to the claim that under relentless pressure from all of the Covid-19 rules and restrictions Billy Norman had put the stumps in the wrong place. However, the bowler finally conceded that he was responsible for the extra width. But, once he had found his line, we saw some exciting chin music, which definitely gingered things up a bit!

Rusted, on debut, picked up the wicket of one of the Patchetts – there were three of them – by which time the sky and ground were getting darker. But there was still just enough light for Pimblett, that most nocturnal of wicketkeepers, to pull off a really smart stumping off the nagging (length of) Dean. Coteman, having bought new flannels for the occasion, bowled a Curate’s Egg over before the deluge began – first a few drops, then heavier and heavier. Those fleet of foot were already back in the pavilion but a few stayed to help the groundsman pull on the thirty quid tarpaulin. When it was discovered that there weren’t enough pegs to hold it down Billy promptly secured one end with his top of the range BMW. Should the storm have lifted the other end, a sleek black Mercedes was parked conveniently behind the pavilion – I’ve clearly been in the wrong profession for the last forty years! At this point (after nine overs) Motley Crew were 50 for 2 and going along steadily. But that was the end of the cricket.

In addition to the absence of a large crowd, Covid-19 had impacted on that most sacred of cricket traditions - the cricket tea. In the event, someone had ordered sandwiches and cakes on posh trays and we ate well, huddling together on the pavilion steps with the rain beating down on the roof. The groundsman’s BMW was still holding the tarpaulin down and thoughts were turning to an early pint at The Castle.

In the end, we thought we had made a really good fist of trying to play a game of cricket, with conditions totally against us. But nothing prepared us for what was to come – a vitriolic and whingeing email landing in the Fuhrer’s inbox the next morning. It was difficult to understand the opposition’s rants, which were upsetting and unfair on Phil. It was out of order and some of us promptly helped to prepare a strong riposte.

For some, ‘Motley Crew’ may well sum it all up! I could not possibly comment.

Gerald Coteman

Tea - al fresco

Hammond reflects on the century that got away

The Groundsman's BMW and the £30 tarpaulin

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