Life as a village cricketer

Unfortunately this season did not quite pan out as I had hoped. I have only been able to play in four games since the end of June and, alas, not one of them was a win. I did manage a few ugly runs with the bat, however, to end up with a season average of 11.29. It might not sound a lot (probably because it is not), but it was, remarkably, an improvement on 2013!Dalton_cricket_pitch_onlookers

The final four games of my league season in the Fullers Brewery Surrey County League 2nd XI Division 3 started at home to Sheen Park 2nd XI. I won the toss, as had become a happy knack during the season – one of the few bright spots personally, and opted to bowl. Sheen promptly made 279/9 dec, taking just 39 overs to do so.

Regular readers will know that this was way beyond our limited capabilities in the Englefield Green 2nd XI. I opened up, failing to lay bat on ball during my two ball stay, being given lbw second ball of our reply. Honestly, who gives their captain out second ball?!

There was more resistance down the order, though, and we clung on for an ugly heroic draw, finishing on 151/8 from 58 overs.

It was during this fixture that I decided to resign myself from the captaincy of the side. I was, owing to work commitments, finding decreasing time to take care of the administrative side of things (the league are very particular over most elements of record keeping). On top of that, my team mates had started to ignore my instructions and took up setting their own fields. It was time to relinquish the responsibility.

My final game as captain came the following week at home to Effingham 2nd XI. We had suffered a narrow one wicket defeat to them earlier in the season and were keen to avenge this. It was not to be.

I again won the toss and again opted to bowl. We started well enough, but their middle order got it together to post 229/9 dec from 46 overs. We lost wickets at regular intervals and, opening up, I tried to grimly hang on to save the draw. I managed to hang around for 29 overs, covering two hours 20mins and 80 deliveries faced. I scored nine. It was not what the makers of my Slazenger V600 had in mind when packing the bat with a huge middle and the broadest of edges, but it was a useful in tool in getting in behind the ball and keeping it out!

I was out at 80/5 and we subsided to 121 all out, four overs short of saving the draw. It was a game everyone was pleased to walk away from.

After a week off, we travelled to Long Ditton. I notched my previous season best against them in an opening day defeat, and bettered it in another defeat here. I batted at five, arriving at the crease with the score at 21/3. Two balls later, it was 21/4.

A rebuilding job was on the cards and after a period of bedding in, I attempted a few shots – much more what the V600 was designed for… My timing through the off side was not perfect, but a couple of clips off my pads to the boundary restored some confidence, before later kissing a few off the face of the bat down to third man. My 67 ball occupation was brought to a premature close by a very poor decision from their club umpire. Having wilfully missed a number of obvious front-foot no-balls from one of their bowlers, I was triggered having hit the ball into my pads. That, unfortunately, is the game, but I was delighted with the 27 runs.

From 21/4 we somehow put on 176/9 from 52 overs. Some poor fielding, a number of refused lbw shouts and a clean bowled off a no-ball (guess the umpire) let Long Ditton cruise to a straightforward win. They would have won anyway, but some decisions do linger in the memory.

The final league outing of the season was a visit to play Sheen, against whom this article began. Back on the limited overs format, they batted first and piled on 288.

We were always up against it and were 11/2 at the end of the first over of our chase. I arrived at 23/3, with the light fading and the clouds gathering. From one end of the ground it was near impossible to pick the ball out of the bowler’s hand. Rather than offering a sporting alternative, their captain offered to bat for me.

Two overs later the heavens opened and we headed off. Their captain stood there bemused, shouting at us and his team mates for leaving the field in ‘a drizzle’. We didn’t get back on for another two hours. It’s sad, but some people don’t seem to have much else in their lives.

At the resumption we were left needing about 87 from six overs. On a damp wicket, this was a tough task for even the most competent of batting units. They were lucky we resumed at all. Owing to the conduct of their skipper I wouldn’t have resumed. Just as well I’m no longer captain. There was support for this view from a number of the team, but I’m glad we did the right thing and finished the game – we didn’t deserve anything from it based upon the cricket played.

So the season concluded with a hefty defeat under grey clouds. Fitting, in a way. The following week our final league opponent, Hook & Southborough, withdrew from the fixture as they could not get a team together. Having beaten them earlier in the season, this was something of a shame, but the walkover meant we got the 20 points awarded to the victors, leaving us to finish third bottom in the table.

Given that we were expecting a really tough ride as this league was a step up from last season (we got stuffed regularly last season), we can be pleased with our efforts. Onwards and upwards for 2015 and Englefield Green 2nd XI!

By Miles Reucroft

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