Prior to last year, when the fixture was lost to the pandemic, the form book against Chippenham read - Draw (2020 - the Philanderers only avoiding losing by blocking out for 13 overs) - Win - Win (2019 and 2018 - comfortable wins aided by fast innings of 142* and 72*) - Draw - Draw (on these occasions it was Chippenham batting to save the game). On this basis the researchers assured us that the Chippenham pitch, despite its postcard setting and clocktower, required a big innings from an in-form batting ‘gun’. Who else could the team look to but early season wunderkind Will Hammond. The benchmark of 1,000 runs before May was last reached shortly before Will was born. He had (I imagine) declared over the winter - quietly, but resolutely and only to himself - that he would be the first person in his own lifetime to reach the accolade. His Sangakarresque 2021 batting record bore testament to his run hunger: 56*, 52*, 52*, 101, 54 - 317. Admittedly 1,000 looked a bit of a stretch even by his standards. Even so - on his head the batting order hung its helmet (or something).
So much for the form book, how about the going? Well: damp, stodgy, a green Cambs pitch, much heavy rain in the forecast. With deep foreboding many had set off, anticipating no play. On arrival: morning sun turned to watery gloom. This match was many things, but not a good advert for a 2pm on a Sunday although to be fair the afternoon eventually turned out reasonably bright and sunny.
Skipper Rory Davidson’s irritating weather optimism had Drudic properties, however. The match started and endured throughout without a drop. Lucky with the weather but unlucky with the coin, Davidson lost the toss and the Phillies were inserted in less than promising batting conditions.
Out strode talisman and hope-of-a-generation Hammond to open, paired with scowling long time sparring partner George Dean. The pitch looked tricky - up and down, occasionally sticky. Hammond swept, and swept, looking ominous, even if comment was passed that he himself might not claim to be an elegant batsman. Dean fell (16) after various interesting looking shots off the back foot to over pitched balls. Ed Pearson strode out, safety personified at no.3. But what’s this? Hammond out for 33 - and clean bowled? The sky darkened, the batting line up shivered, partly due to the weather. 51-2. Unfortunately, a dicky shoulder and toe - probably the sticky wicket too - had Ed C&B for 2. 51-3 and darker skies. Top order decimated. Dean’s aggressive assertions - “bat for 15 overs and stick them in” - rang hollow.
After Tim Middleton departed (duckishly), your correspondent and Will Wright shored things up somewhat, taking the score from 65-4 to 136-5. The labouring manner of some of the run-making
caused nervous discussion about when the most ‘3s’ had been run by a Philanderer; one rather suspects the top brass’s record keeping system is a tad archaic to search easily for this sort of information. Then, however, Alex Dombrandt (aka ‘Choppy’/’Choppsy’ aka, surprisingly, ‘Heather’) started to take wickets - the first of five ‘clean bowleds’. Mihir (19), George Pearson (0), Nat Gimson (1) and cricket identical twins Jamie Rutt (25*) and Davidson (11) took the Phillies to a chasable/defendable 213.
The Twins opened on the sort of pitch that required nothing more than full straight bowling. They sprayed the ball all over the place, Rutt picking up two wickets caught by drivemen (honourable mentions for Mihir’s languid close catching). The Chippenham threat came from the partnership of no.2 Grant (steady) and no.4 Waites (biffer). Moving from 35-2 in the seventh over to 110-2 in the eighteenth, the pair caused concerned looks to be cast at the scoreboard, sky, and the looming figure of Phil Harvey, wistfully watching his Sunday unbeaten run hanging in the balance. Particular lowlights included Hammond self-selecting himself, without approval from the Captain, to replace George after one dot ball in the over broke his bowling shoes. It’s quite hard to read the scorebook - lots of big numbers in a small box. It looks like it went for 17 with two extra balls. The Captain was overheard audibly complaining - “What is going on?” - and bleating, more desperately, “Does this even count?” Well, it did count, and it left Chippenham odds on to complete the chase. Had Hammond flown too close to the sun?
That reckoned without Nat Gimson pootling in from the Field End, showing relentless control, reigning in the chase, frustrating the batsman and bowling a wicketless but critical spell (8-1-19-0), combining well with gloveman Wright up to the stumps and a ring field. (Contrast for the sake of curiosity the combined figures of Pearson/Hammond (8-0-53-3): funny old world). Sir George, to give him his due, picked up wickets at the other end, most importantly the hitter Waites for a more-than-cameo 32. Not bad considering the light zephyr across the pitch counteracting his in-ducker (he said).
This left steady Grant with too much to do, and too little support in the face of improved bowling from the Twins, in particular the second spell and three wickets of Skipper Davidson, including Grant and a ‘two-in-two’. After a rather lengthy period in which it seemed both sides had two much to do to force the win - fielders were left amusing themselves guessing Rutt’s middle name, George talking near constantly in the slips - came a high-octane finish: 161-3 became 161-4, then 161-5, 167-6, and 175-7. Three wickets were needed from three overs. The Phillies surrounded the Chippenham pair in the gathering, in fact by then the pretty well gathered, gloom. Sadly, only one wicket fell, leaving Chippenham’s no.11 happily on the side lines with the score at 180, and another memorable draw.
Everyone except Mihir relaxing between innings
Total concentration in the field