Life as a village cricketer

It’s been a while. A combination of the World Cup, parenting and some commentating stints for Guerilla Cricket have kept me out of my whites. As I last wrote; “Still, there is plenty of time left and things feel like they might be clicking with my batting. If I can bat well at Lord’s, surely I can bat well on a village green at some point? I’m now averaging 3.75 for the season and have some way to go to reach the target average of 10, but one good knock I’ll be right back in it…”

I was every bit as excited as David Lloyd is here, when I reached my maiden half century

And you’ll never guess what, the one good knock came!

63 glorious (and in no way owing purely to good fortune) runs. 21 July will live long in my memory as it was my first ever half century. I’d come close before, with a 47 not out for Englefield Green many, many years ago, but I finally did it.

The net session at Lord’s, the Black Cat Shadow, some fortune with the fielding… I would like to thank them all!

We were planning to field first if we won the toss, but Binfield Cricket Club’s 4th XI captain called the coin right and thought he’d be better served having a bowl first up. I was, somewhat surprisingly, asked to open. I hadn’t so much touched my Black Cat in six weeks but duly stuck my pads on anyway.

I got off the mark in the first over with an edge down to third man. The wicket wasn’t the greatest, keeping very, very low or springing up with plenty of lateral movement. This one was the former and it squirted away safely enough. The next over brought another run, nudged into the leg side. Then came my first ever boundary for Thames Ditton – it only took a season and a half, but the aerial thwack over extra cover was worth the wait.

That also meant, in further damnation of my more recent exploits, that I was on my highest score for Thames Ditton: six. Having posted my previous top score of five in the previous game, I was at least pleased with the continuous improvement I was bringing to the table.

A couple more boundaries eased me into double figures and then I began to lose count. The first drinks break came at 15 overs and the opening partnership was past 50. Not only was this unusual for me, but it was also unusual for Thames Ditton 4th XI.

Sadly, our opening salvo was ended on 60 and something of a wobble ensured and we were soon 101/5 facing a rebuilding job. This was more like it. Promise had been consumed by concern and we were back in familiar territory. Only to stroll right back out of there.

I carried on playing my game with the odd play and miss but runs around the square. Flicks off the pads, a lofted drive over mid-off (one of those where you barely feel the bat face slamming against the ball, so pure is the contact), a few bludgeons straight down the ground; in this unusually hot English summer, there was full value on offer for your shots.

The 50 rather crept up on me. I thought I might still be in the 30s, but a pull backwards of square leg beat the fielder and ran away for four, bringing a round of applause from the boundary’s edge. It was a nice feeling and one I wasn’t sure I’d ever experience.

I had been dropped twice. Once at mid-on off a full blooded smash, which probably should have been taken, then the very next ball I tried to plough one over cover, only to get a steepling top edge which point dropped one handed running back over his head. I needed that bit of good fortune.

Once the 50 came we tried to score a bit more freely. I was dropped again at mid-wicket – I thought I’d played the shot well only to look up in horror as the ball went straight down his throat – and had further good fortune when a ball seamed back, beating my inside edge and hitting my front pad, ricocheting onto the back of my bat and rolling onto the stumps. The bails stubbornly refused to be troubled by the episode and onwards I plodded. First slip remarked that Black Cat was an apt name for my apparatus and I used all nine lives within it to the full!

I was absolutely knackered. 35 overs into our 40 overs innings I tried to launch another one down the ground, only to pick out mid-off who this time held on. We had moved from 101/5 to 172/6 and into pole position in the game.

We eventually posted 200 and ran out victorious by 98 runs. On a stiflingly hot day, scoreboard pressure did its thing. The major surprise was that I was the one who had forced it.

That innings means I now have a far healthier return for 2018 of 78 runs from five innings (scores of 4, 3, 3, 63) and an average of 15.6. I’m aiming to average above 10, so this was a major milestone in achieving that.

By Miles Reucroft

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