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Venturers Vs Combe Down, Wednesday June 27th

Combe Down 143-4, Venturers 134-4

We had precisely XI in the end, but at one time this threatened to be our third twelve-a-side match of the year. There may well have been twelve of them: we didn’t count them. Only eleven fielded, and we didn’t get far through their batting, nor they through ours.

Jack wasn’t really fit but agreed to play at the last minute to make the numbers up to twelve, but then we had a late drop-out through illness. The advantages of this were twofold. First, Jack could captain, meaning that it didn’t have to be done either by Matt, whose mind was elsewhere, or by Gregory, who dislikes it. Second, Jack works with and sometimes plays for some of the Combe Down players, so he was able to give us some inside information. He told us that one of the openers would hit anything wide or short a long distance but had little defence against full straight bowling. Ian tested both parts of this assessment and found it to be correct. There followed a fairly long partnership, as Ian made no further progress and Josh was less effective than usual, but they did keep the batsmen fairly quiet. It was James who leaked runs, though not obviously bowling worse than anybody else. Gregory, by contrast, did obviously bowl worse than everybody else, but only occasionally. Two of these occasions resulted in the the batsmen hitting catches to Matt, the only person who appeared likely to catch anything. We dropped or missed four catches, all difficult: two of these were slip catches that went to the immobilised Jack.

Matt’s first catch seemed like a considerable breakthrough, but was actually completely unimportant because Jack had agreed a retire-at-fifty rule and then forgotten to tell us. So the ridiculous full toss with which Gregory removed the opener for 49 actually did neither harm nor good. Combe Down had enough batting left to accelerate at the end - we didn’t have Bruce, who can be amazingly difficult to hit - and they lost one more wicket, to Aadil’s occasional and distinctly dodgy offspin.

They seemed likely to have made rather too many runs, and the position got worse when Matt miscued a full toss. He glanced at the square-leg umpire as he left, but at once saw that no reprieve would come. It was indeed just a full toss. The two Ians kept things together for a little while until Ian C missed and started to walk off even before the wicket-keeper got round to stumping him. We were falling behind the run rate, though, and Ian G and Jack couldn’t, for quite a long time, do much about that. We arrived at the halfway point only two down, but needing nearly a hundred. Oddly, from that point on we more or less kept it at nine and a half an over, as Combe Down suddenly ran out of (on the day) effective bowlers. Jack, not so much impeded in his running as we and perhaps he expected, was particularly fluent. Ian did more than just provide support, and when he was out his role was taken over with equal competence by Aadil. We were still losing, but we had a chance until Jack pushed a single to cover. The fieldsman flung the ball at the stumps and missed by yards: Jack and Aadil ran a second, but the ball careered away to the midwicket boundary, giving Jack five. Aadil, now at the wrong end, started to walk back to the striker’s end, and found Jack walking off because his fifty had been reached and he was therefore bound, by the terms of the secret treaty, to retire. That didn’t deprive us of all momentum, because next in was Josh, but he quickly got stumped trying something absurd (as he had to). We needed seventeen off the last over and Aadil got a single off the first ball. That put Abdul in the position of needing to hit four of his first five balls for four, which is not what Abdul’s batting is for. He did manage to give the strike back to Aadil, but it was too late.

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