My research - Instagram, but no website: a truly modern club? - tells me that the Dell Boys identify as “village cricket specialists” and established themselves with a natty logo and no short measure of enthusiasm in August 2020. It looks like they enjoy netting, drinking beer and putting up player profiles. The double ‘L’ in their name confused me a little - an “Only Fools & Horses” homage maybe? But why misspell Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter’s nickname? Or are they, perhaps, the village cricket arm of a band of hooligan Southampton FC supporters, regular attendees of The Dell until its demolition in 2011 - an unlikely commute from Rickling Green? Time would not tell.
A dank, grey, heavy day although fortunately no rain had been forecast. The DBs won the toss and fancied a bowl. Perhaps because of the dark overheads and having a reasonably handy opening bowler in their ranks. Perhaps for the opportunity to sup on some of their sponsor’s cold refreshments during their innings. Either way, the Philanderers sent out a new opening pairing - myself and Rory Davidson, the latter in muted mood after a rather mysteriously spent Saturday evening (what does a single thirtysomething do at a tennis club?). The Kingfisher DB’s reasonably handy opening bowler made short work. It’s not clear whether Rory will make his way as an opener after he declared the full straight-ball he had missed to be a searing inswinging yorker. Fortunately, debutant Billy Norman went well at No.3: he had spent all week mowing the outfield and now set out about the DB attack in the same vein to make a hard hitting 66, in partnership with some silky stroke play by Mihir (30). This partnership set the tone: as next man George Pearson lost his wicket, an optimistic Dell Boy asked me (umpiring at square leg) whether we had a long tail. Hammond was marking his guard at the time. Ed Pearson had not yet padded up. I didn’t answer the question and the Dell Boy laughed, nervously. Jamie Rutt held things together (23*), and Ed came in for the last over. Ed’s score has been marked as 11*, but this is surely an error - I remember Ed stroking the last 3 balls of the innings for two fours and a six, to post 236/8 off our 40 overs (Coteman DNB).
Jamie Rutt took the first over. Long run, long hair, evil glint. The Dell Boy on strike was not phased. Jamie’s first ball disappeared hard back over his head for a very meaty four into the sightscreen. The second pinged for four though third man. 8-0 off 0.2. Fielders stroked their chins and looked on, wondering. Those first two balls marked the golden age of the chase; the chandelier then crashed to the ground. Jonah Munday opened at the other end. The other opening Dell Boy - Robin to his partner’s Batman - was overhead muttering darkly and resignedly ‘here comes the tall one then’. Jonah’s first ball flew through the slips, and Robin ran a single as fast as his three wheels would let him, and turned down the easy second to get back on strike. After that he batted like a human darts board, hit hard again and again on an unprotected arse. What a plonker!
After the fast start the DBs slowed down to a trickle over three an over for rather a long time. Rutty recovered for figures of 8/1/37/1. Jonah ended on 8/3/23/2. Ben Cross (7/2/28/3) took two in two and should have ended with four, but for a sitter being dropped by yours truly - another plonker. There was a slightly unseemly episode when Ed decided to practise his leg spin, bowling from mid-on to his father at mid-off for a while in the middle of Jonah’s over. The captain can do as he pleases, I suppose... but all the same. In fairness, practice yielded good results and Ed bowled a spell of sharply turning leg breaks into the breeze (6/1/28/0). George Pearson may have complained, as usual, about ‘the wrong end’ but bowled a good spell of 3/1/12/1. I think there was a three over period of maiden - wicket maiden - maiden.
It turned out, though, that the DBs all had the same shot: lift bat, left foot to square leg, right to point, strike cleanly down the ground. There are videos of the DB Shot on Instagram (8, 31 May). Around two thirds of the way through the innings - long overdue, granted - the DBs pulled the Trigger: the axe swung and the DB Shot connected. The straight and cow boundaries were peppered time after time. Rory’s offspin was called into service but the tennis club continued to exact its toll, as he dropped short once or twice (!) too often (3/0/24/0). Coteman was called upon - Uncle Albert to taunt Derek? - and cunningly drew the DB Shot time and time again, unfortunately most over the catcher posted at deep wide mid-off (5/0/33/1). Could they get close?
In the end the chase was closed down by some exemplary fielding. Mihir was the right man at deep midwicket to take the sharpest of catches - running in and diving forward to pluck the ball just before it hit the grass. Hammond had found his range behind the stumps and started to stand up all comers, taking an excellent stumping and sharp edge catch off Jonah. The DB Shot eventually brought the DBs up to 188/8 off their 40. A solid dart but never realistically likely to get close to the target, or as the DB’s Instagram put it “not a bad effort” which is a fair assessment. “Onwards and upwards” the post ends. Perhaps next year they’ll be...
Looking for quick runs at the end of the innings Jamie Rutt essayed a huge swipe at a ball outside off stump only to chip it gently up to mid-off. He nevertheless went for the run and, sure enough, the fielder shelled the catch. He and his teammates stood around in disbelief at the crassness of this drop whilst the bowler threw himself to the ground in apparent supplication to Allah – with his head facing the wicket as if it were Mecca. Noting this lack of activity in the field, the batsmen set off for a second run, at which point mid-off ran to the ball, picked it up and hurled it with all his might at the stumps. Unfortunately, his aim was somewhat awry and the ball cannoned straight into the backside of the prostate bowler. From his quivering buttocks it ricocheted off towards mid-wicket allowing a third run to be taken.
If Jamie ever scores a more fortuitous three runs in his illustrious Philanderers career, I hope I am there to see it.
The elder statesmen of the team taking stock
Groundsman and debutant David 'Billy' Norman proudly standing next to his high tech scoreboard
Great photo capturing the quality of the Fuhrer's long standing plastic bag