The occasion of John Burnett’s 300th appearance for the club was marked by both celebrations and the Club’s adoption of a playing format unheard of in its prestigious history. Knowing how the President endorses all modern innovations with alacrity, skipper Rob Gill was nevertheless non-plussed when his team informed him that they had agreed to bowl 10 overs from one end followed by 10 from the other (in order to speed the match along). When news reached Rob’s ears that Phil would appear shortly and was in an unusually grumpy mood, he promptly lost the toss and led his team rapidly in to the field so that none of us would be here when the great man arrived. Still, what is the purpose of having a Fuhrer if he isn’t fuhrious most of the time?
It quickly became apparent that it had not registered with either one of the opposition’s opening batsmen or your correspondent that the purpose of this match was to celebrate John’s momentous anniversary, for his bowling was treated with rank disrespect by the former and a relatively straightforward catch was dropped off him by the other. When John later valiantly attempted a catch and badly bruised a finger it became obvious that he needs to employ Ian Botham’s script writer when we come to play his 350th. Meanwhile Nick Redmayne had eschewed the five years he said it was since he had taken a wicket (albeit he had not played for three of them) by quickly finding his length and he returned later in the innings to bowl John Lorimer. However, it was not only John’s bowling that was treated with disdain, as multiple balls were smote to the boundary and a fielding team featuring a number of “Philanderers Legends” was run ragged.
It was not until the tenth over that the wicket of the aggressive opener, M Mead, fell to an effortless slip catch by Ken Siddle, immediately after he had registered his half century. But this was the first wicket to fall and there were already 92 runs on the board. The fact that the Philanderers restricted Swaffham Bulbeck to a final total of 167 for four might therefore be seen as result, although the truth is that dropping at least five catches did not help our cause. Nevertheless, nagging lines were bowled by the likes of Heggers and George Dean (despite the fact they had to change ends during the middle of their spells) and, when Ed Dodson was brought on towards the end of the innings and his first ball crashed into the batsman’s middle stump, we were all suitably impressed by his claim that the victim was a Minor Counties opening batsmen (but less so by the three consecutive wides he sent down shortly afterwards).
Having been assured by our beloved leader that the opposition were keen but not strong, we were undaunted by our imposing target despite the fact their bowling looked rather good and their fielders were all young, lithe whippets. Mysteriously, the pitch also appeared to have slowed up to make boundary hitting harder and it was not long before Tom Sherwin and (after hitting 35 runs) Mel Ragnauth fell to exceptional outfield catches. The litmus test now arrived in the shape of Rob Gill who joined Ed Pearson as he stroked the ball round in classical fashion. When Rob also found difficulty in breaking the shackles and holed out after a few hefty blows we knew we were in trouble.
As the run rate rose and wickets fell so the call went out for Redders to prepare himself to bat. “But I am covered in dog shit” he replied. “A likely story” we all thought, with the prospect of facing some bowling after five years most likely to be the real cause of his predicament. But by the time Nick finally joined Ed at the wicket the “game was up” with just two overs remaining and roughly 30 required off each of them. The last was bowled by an 11 year-old who Nick managed to top edge to the keeper only for Deano to arrive thinking this was rather a good wheeze because he did exactly the same. Thus, the only “tight squeeze” of the night was Ken just avoiding a bat when Heggers and Ed (42no) survived the last two balls to take the Phillies to a final score of 128.
And so, we suffered a rather chastening defeat. However, as John so eloquently put it after the game, he had loved playing in every one of his 300 matches for the club, win or lose, and he could only feel grateful that he had had the opportunity to do so and to Phil as the man who made it possible. That is a sentiment with which we all can agree as we look forward to his next 300 games.
Perhaps entirely suitable for John’s historic moment this was an old school game of the type when glancing with nostalgia into the club’s distant history was often encountered. In those far off days victory was rarely the most frequent word on our lips. John has bowled his heart out throughout the bad times as well as the good. The ultimate clubman. With gratitude - Phil.
John with his appearances on public display
JB with the bottle of champers which had just been presented to him by his grandad!