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Venturers Vs Southstoke, Tuesday May 1st

Southstoke 72-7, Venturers 73-7

Diffugere nives, wrote Horace, redeunt iam gramina campis, arboribusque comae. The fields were still quite bare, and it was cold enough to make you wonder whether wasn’t still some snow lingering under the hedges, but the trees were in flower if not in leaf, and it was dry. It was time to stop sledging and start, well, sledging. We put the toboggan back in the loft, got down the bats, the sandpaper and the Handbook of Australian Insults, assembled in the car park, and introduced ourselves to one another. Several of us are called James this year. Jack works next door to Sulis and once we had established that the Abdul who was playing for us was the usual Abdul, we left for the ground, knowing that he gets there himself.

He did, claiming to have brought an assortment of power tools with him. A little roughness isn’t going to be enough for us to find reverse swing. Drill a hole right through the ball and something might possibly happen. We were ready to make a prompt start, which was just as well as it was already quite gloomy. Ian’s first over was exactly like most of Ian’s overs: nobody could do anything with it. He bowled one of the openers at the end of it. Imran’s first over was just the same, exactly like most of Imran’s overs. They reeled off eight between them for less than twenty, but only the one wicket. James R looked as if he hadn’t bowled for a while, probably because he hadn’t, but also looked as if he might remember how to at any moment. At the other end, Gregory conceded eight runs from his first three balls, but only nine more, with three wickets, all bowled, from the other twenty-one. He had to be alerted to the middle one by Alex, because he was deep in conversation with the umpire about what was wrong with his LBW appeal. They agreed that the batsman had probably hit it, but neither had noticed the bails coming off.

James R produced one of the highest full-tosses ever seen, and then suddenly did remember how to bowl, with immediate effect. By the end he was looking almost as efficient as Ian and Imran. Also not quite remembering how it was done was Alex, who hasn’t played much recently and missed a stumping by tapping the bails so lightly that they did not fall. It didn’t cost any runs. Farooq bowled brisk spin from round the wicket, underpitching occasionally but not costing much. Only Josh got hit at all, at the very end, and he soon stopped the flow by inducing a miscue which James R caught confidently, despite the wind and the cold. A second catch, a simpler one by Simon in the gully, gave Josh another wicket and left us with a straightforward chase.

As if. No chase is straightforward when we bat. Abdul looked sound for one over, then suddenly got bowled. James P played four nice wristy shots, unfortunately connecting only with the first three. A brisk left-armer from the other end sent Jack looking for a helmet: thus protected, he showed off a fine pull to a short ball, but, back at the other end, got a ball that pitched well outside off and nipped back to hit the top of middle. It would probably have bowled him even if he hadn’t been playing a square cut at the time. Josh was bowled by the left-armer, and Farooq, slightly unluckily, via bat and pads by the right-armer.

21 for 5. A typical score for a county match these days, but a bit embarrassing here. Simon and Alex stopped the rot, although Alex didn’t actually score any runs. He did see off the left-armer, though. Then he walked across his stumps to a ball he thought was going down leg, playing no shot at all. It straightened, and Abdul gave him out. Realistically we needed Simon to get most of the runs and Imran and Ian to support him, since James R didn’t think he would achieve much and Gregory obviously wouldn’t.

Fortunately, that was exactly what happened. There was a scare when Simon attempted to sweep a very slow delivery from left-arm over and was struck on the right knee, but the ball was drifting wide of off. Otherwise there were no alarms except when Imran tried to defend. A more positive approach paid off for a bit, but then he tried to defend again and missed. Ian, either more selective or just luckier, kept the score moving slowly. The problem for Southstoke was that they had very few runs, and all we needed was one good over. In the seventeenth over of the innings, we got it. Nothing much, just a series of twos, but it added to ten and that’s a lot to give away when you are defending 72. The required run rate only briefly ever went above a run a ball, and in the open spaces there were always singles to be had. As long as we didn’t lose a wicket…but we never did, and we never looked as if we were going to. We won only off the very last ball, needing a single, but it almost felt like a well-calculated run chase. Almost.

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