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Venturers Vs Railway Tavern, Saturday June 9th

Venturers 172-5, Railway Tavern 174-10 (sic)

There was some seriously heavy ball-tampering equipment parked at Sulis: a road roller and a machine for laying tarmac. Our opponents denied all knowledge of how they had got there, or at least, all recollection: after a big night in the pub they couldn’t actually be too sure about what might have happened.

For the second time this year we found ourselves playing twelve a side, and this time it mattered. We had eleven: they, a touring side, had fourteen, only one of whom was so hung over that he didn’t want to play. So they lent us a player, moved the boundaries in to about 45 yards (their captain likes to hit sixes, but isn’t very good at it) and off we went.

Charlie and Matt found the going slow, the extra fieldsman more than outweighing the short boundaries. Charlie was dropped, a difficult return catch, early on: for some reason the bowler was not given the garland that Railway Taverners award to the person who has most recently goofed while on tour. In fact, the fieldsman who had it at the beginning (apparently for his singing in the pub the previous night) kept it for almost thirty overs, which certainly wouldn’t ever happen if we did that. Still, their fielding, and indeed their bowling, was reliable rather than brilliant: we weren’t being outclassed.

Matt got one that straightened a bit before very long. This brought in Ritvij, who at thirteen is the youngest to appear for Venturers for some years. The opposing captain asked whether he should put slower bowlers on, and was told that there was no particular need. Indeed, pretty soon one of the bowlers dropped short, probably by accident: Ritvij leant back and pulled him, on the ground, between midwicket and mid-on. For four: at this point the short boundaries worked in our favour because Ritvij, though highly competent, is not yet strong enough to hit the long boundaries. What he could and did do was find the gaps, and just seem generally in control. Especially, he called loudly, clearly and decisively: this confused Charlie no end, because he is of course used to our usual method of running a few steps and then giving a hopeful bleat. But then Charlie miscued to cover. Roger made a few, warning Ritvij not to ask him to take a second run unless there was plenty of time, before being caught behind. Josh, though, brought a much more aggressive approach, exploiting the short boundaries, and with their contrasting styles they were threatening to take the match decisively in our direction. By now the bowlers had gone from asking whether they should go easy on Ritvij to wondering how on earth they were going to get him out.

But then Josh guided rather tamely to gully, and Ritvij chipped to the left of midwicket, who caught it with one hand although he had plenty of time to use both. We were 87 for 5 and although we had plenty of wickets left, they included Bruce’s, Steve’s and Gregory’s. Fortunately they also included Ian G’s and Simon’s, and they calmly saw us through. Simon outscored Ian, and got to fifty by the end, but they both played very well and we would have been in trouble if they hadn’t. At the end, perhaps, they were slightly too calm: a bit of random slogging, which is not what either of them does, in the last few overs might have brought us a few more runs.

Bruce thought that 172 was at least a competitive total. Gregory didn’t, believing that to defend it would require a period of extended competence, which we don’t usually manage. In the event he managed extended competence himself, which of course nobody could have foreseen. Josh and James opened the bowling, with a new ball again (we think that the one used in the first innings was sent for tampering and will eventually form part of the Keynsham by-pass), and were quite efficient. Josh had difficulties with the crater in the run-up at the top (north) end, and might have been no-balled for stepping on the return crease as he tried to avoid falling into it. He got one of the openers to chip an awkward catch to Charlie, who took it well: James, after a while, picked off the newcomer.

A positive Australian arrived, with absolutely no hint of a road roller secreted anywhere in his equipment, and attacked the short boundaries, which were all of them. But when Josh bowled him a full toss it surprised him and he top-edged a catch to Matt: the umpire at the bowler’s end looked across at his colleague, who signalled (correctly) that it was too high. But meanwhile the non-striker, who should have known better, had got half-way down the pitch. One of his colleages on the boundary shouted “get back in your crease!”, and thus alerted Matt to the possibility of returning the ball to Josh and running him out. So Matt did that, and a small row broke out. The dismissed non-striker didn’t complain. The positive Australian didn’t complain about what Matt had done, either; but he did complain to the umpire that he ought to have called the no-ball immediately. The umpire replied that he couldn’t: he had to get the decision from square leg, and he also had to watch the ball while it was in play. Simon, turning up to see what all the fuss was about, decided that we shouldn’t have taken the run-out and recalled the batsman, much to Matt’s annoyance.

It didn’t, in fact, make much difference. The restored batsman was very soon bowled by Gregory, and the Australian was bowled by Josh. Gregory, in fact, proved completely unhittable, and the run rate sank dramatically despite the arrival of the captain, also eyeing the short boundaries. He did play a few shots, one of which Gregory should perhaps have caught, but before very long aimed (off the loaned bowler) at the piece of short boundary where Matt was, and hit the ball straight to him. The problems for us after that were that we didn’t have quite enough runs for the required rate to go very high even though practically nothing was coming at Gregory’s end, and that apart from one who got bowled by Gregory immediately, everybody contributed a dozen or so. Ian G cut off one of those with a spendid catch at long-off; Simon fluffed an easier one at mid-on; Gregory, slow to start, didn’t quite reach a small top edge off Steve. Ritvij got a wicket with his first ball, an LBW that probably shouldn’t have been given, but during the tenth (out of eleven) wicket stand they survived a run-out that probably should have been given. We had got that far because of another splendid catch, by Ritvij off his own bowling. With seven needed off nine balls, Bruce broke through, but the number 12 blocked the rest of Bruce’s over and we let the remaining batsman face too much of Ritvij’s last. Maybe, with one wicket needed, James might have been a better bet against the tail, but it’s easy with hindsight.

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