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Venturers Vs Poplars Wingfield, Wednesday June 14th

Venturers 91-8, Poplars Wingfield 92-8

We found the opposition scattered on the warm grass, very relaxed. Causal conversation suggested that they might be better than us: one or two had played for Wiltshire. But then, some of us have played for Cambridgeshire, at chess. We batted, Simon being absent, and the opening overs did suggest cricketers rather than chessplayers. Matt and Ben negotiated them carefully. Some of the rust is beginning to wear off Ben, who before this season hadn’t played cricket since 2003. Ask him about the Leningrad Sicilian, though… But eventually he fell for a slower ball, and Jack joined Matt. They made steady progress, rather quicker once the openers were off, but still scoring was not easy The outfield was slow despite the dry weather, and they fielded well. When wickets did finally fall, they did so in a small cascade. Nothing especially stupid, just the usual pressure of overs running out. Ian G and Alistair ran hard, not always in the best direction, and Imran and Duncan ran harder, though slower. At the very end Duncan was run out going for a fourth that was probably on had Imran believed in it.

The plan in the field was for Ian C and Imran to keep things quiet at one end and hope that people got out trying to attack Gregory and Chris at the other. The first part worked: Ian kept it quiet. The second part also worked: they attacked Gregory. The part that failed was the the bit about getting out. They didn’t do that, partly because there were slightly too many genuinely hittable balls, and partly by luck. One opener picked up a perfectly good ball and hit it over mid-on, a definitely risky thing to do. Then he took a second risk, and Ben ran him out. But we were still leaking runs, so Jack tried Imran at Gregory’s end.

Imran’s first over was a maiden. It needed some alert fielding in the covers to keep it that way, but nothing brilliant. At Ian’s end, there was a boundary. The first ball of Imran’s second over was an unplayable outswinger that hit the top of off. Three nervous pushes later, and then Imran dropped fractionally short. The batsman tried to cut, but this one didn’t move away so it was too close to him. The resulting top edge looped to gully. Bruce ran forward, caught it and then, having seen Ian G take catches, dived forward and fell over. He did remember to hang on to the ball.

Since Imran was conceding absolutely nothing it was possible to revert to the original plan and try Chris at the other end. The results were much the same: they attacked him, but didn’t get out. Imran’s third over was another maiden, with another late-swinging ball of full length in it: three overs, three maidens, three for none. A few more runs came at the other end. Imran tried again: again someone tried to cut a ball too close to him. Ian G could have taken a few steps to his right and caught it. Instead ran hard to his right and dived. Halfway through his dive, he noticed the ball to his left. Still falling to the right, he reached back to the left with both arms, like a Cossack dancer, and caught it. Then he fell over.

Finally, off the sixth ball of Imran’s over, another batsman attempted a cut. Again the top edge, but this one went above and between Bruce and Alistair, far out of reach of either of them, and Imran had at the very last conceded two runs.

Figures like 4-3-2-4 don’t happen much. When they do, there is usually a bit of luck involved. Not this time, not really. There was one ball down leg which the batsman didn’t get anything on. There were a couple of pushes into the covers that Ben or Ian G got to before they could trickle away for a single. And that was about it.

The other thing that figures like 4-3-2-4 usually do is win the match. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough runs, and Gregory, Chris and even Ian C had been expensive enough that the run rate wasn’t going to save us. We had to bowl them out. Jack and Bruce were the next to try. Jack doesn’t bowl often and it took him a couple of balls to find the right length. Bruce’s first over was tidy if not in Imran’s class. Later Bruce became more expensive and Ian C was asked to bowl his remaining over, which he did without incident. There was plenty of incident at Jack’s end, though: two batsmen bowled by swinging deliveries of full length in successive overs. The ball following the second of these was a full toss. The incoming batsman (number 9) drove it back fiercely. Jack put down a hand to try to stop it, sending the non-striker diving for the crease, and instead caught it, and gawped at the ball in amazement.

Number 10 survived the hat-trick ball and managed a couple of runs later in the over. By now, they needed only three. The problem for us was that there was still a batsman in: a left-hander who had been dropped twice, neither catch particularly easy. Ian C was out of overs so Jack reverted to Gregory. His first ball was straight and the left-hander hit against the spin and picked out the line of Bruce at mid-on, but got just enough elevation on it to clear him. It ran away down the slope, far enough for them to get the three they needed.

Cricket bat and ball