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Somerset Evergreens Vs Venturers, Sunday July 1st

Somerset Evergreens 103, Venturers 104-4

This was an eventful match, rather too eventful in some ways. It began harmlessly enough, with most people going to the wrong ground (Clifton College next door) but we started fairly promptly. Both sides had had ten at one point, but Aadil had somehow had a meeting dropped on him on a Sunday and one of their players felt unwell and only able to score. In fact he wasn’t really well enough to do that either, and left at the tea interval with the book very incomplete for the one innings he had tried to score. Still, the overall scores are thought to be accurate as people knew he wasn’t feeling up to it and were counting.

The rules for this match were as specified by the Laws, with the agreement that eighty overs would be bowled, and a gentlemen’s agreement not to allow any one bowler to bowl more than eight overs. So the side batting first could bat as long as they wanted or were able to, and would then have the remaining overs, whether forty or more or less, to bowl the other side out. If they didn’t, and the other side didn’t make the runs, it would be a draw. In the event all this made little difference. We also lent each other a fieldsman, so as not to have only nine fielding on a warm afternoon. That did make a difference.

Wales is visible across the Bristol Channel from the ground, and a rather competent Welshman opened the innings for Evergreens. We knew he was competent because Gregory and he were teammates for several seasons, in Cambridge about thirty years ago. Back then he was rather more than just competent. He was still more than good enough for us to be relieved when Ian bowled him with one that kept a bit low. Another one from Ian cut through the defences of the left-handed Afghan who came next and had just shown some ability to place the ball, and Imran produced something similar at the other end to get rid of an even younger right-handed Afghan. A minor recovery was halted when Imran found a bit more bounce and induced a loft to Bruce at short midwicket, who juggled and held on. Ritvij replaced Imran and gave away very little off the bat, though there were a few byes when he strayed down leg. A little later Gregory took over from Ian, and was similarly accurate at first, runs coming largely from mishits. The opener was still there and the partnership was building slowly, but then the other batsman got into a tangle against Gregory and turned the ball off his hip straight into Simon’s gloves. The new batsman tried to clear Charles at short midwicket and didn’t: good catches both. The longest partnership of the innings followed, during which Ritvij was treated with great care and Gregory with care except when he bowled something awful, which he did three or four times. They took the same approach to Bruce, which meant no acceleration at the end. Imran had some overs left, which were kept in reserve in case they went past the forty over mark, but Bruce and Steve did an efficient job. Steve at last removed the opener, who seemed surprised to be given out LBW. We thought he thought he was too far down the wicket (there is no such thing: a straight ball is a straight ball) but in fact it turned out that he had got an edge on it and neither Steve nor the umpire spotted it. Bruce ended the innings with an unquestionably straight ball, the third of the fortieth over.

It was at this point that things became disagreeably eventful. Before the match we had asked whether it was all right to leave valuables in the dressing room and got the answer “it depends whether you want them to be still there when you come back”. It wasn’t meant seriously, but some of us did do that and found that their valuables were not there. Ian and Simon were the victims. The thief seems to have been seen and to have entered the pavilion, where there is CCTV, so there is some chance of an arrest later. Our opponents, a new team, had not used this ground before.

With Ian and Simon preoccupied, Charles and Jaideep batting and Ritvij and Imran padded up, it was left to Steve, Bruce and Gregory to divide the umpiring and fielding duties between them. Bruce fielded at first. Various bystanders prepared to do the scoring, but Ian became available to do that very soon after we started. The bowling was accurate but Charles and Jaideep kept calm and took whatever runs were available, unhurriedly; they could even have been a bit more urgent between the wickets without coming to any harm. At one end was the left-handed Afghan, who was quite brisk; after a few overs he turned to spin, which was not much slower. But he didn’t have quite enough control of line. The other bowlers were more accurate, but less threatening. Without alarms, but not without problems, Charles and Jaideep accumulated fifty, and Jaideep was beginning to worry that Ritvij might not get an innings.

Soon after the very necessary drinks break, during which Bruce and Gregory swapped duties, the left-arm Afghan bowled Charles. As long as we didn’t panic we would win easily, and Ritvij does not panic. Back we went to steady accumulation, and they tried their captain, sixty-eight years Ritvij’s senior, and the junior (not much older than Ritvij) or right-arm, Afghan. After an iffy start the junior Afghan persuaded Jaideep to play back when he should have played forward, and bowled him. Simon, his cards now blocked, arrived, and got a lifter from the left-arm Afghan which he didn’t quite kill: it bobbled into his leg stump and tipped one bail off. We didn’t need much. Ian was there; there was Ritvij standing like a stone wall. What could go wrong?

Well, plenty, of course. Last week Ritvij was playing well when he got suddenly caught one-handed at short midwicket. And this week, he suddenly got caught one-handed at short midwicket, off the right-arm Afghan. He had hit it fairly well and it was only a few inches off the ground. What made it worse was that the catcher was the fieldsman we had lent them; by now, since Bruce was umpiring, that was Gregory, whose habit of catching difficult catches and fluffing easy ones is proving hard to break. So Imran and Ian had about fifteen to find from somewhere. Behind them were Bruce, Steve and Gregory, who couldn’t be depended on at all. They got half-way, and then Imran scooped a catch into the air on the leg side. The nearest fieldsman, who was Gregory again, stood and waited for it to come down. Unseen by him, though, the left-arm Afghan was galloping Tigger-like up from far away at fine leg. The captain, unable to remember the name of either player, shouted “one of you!”, thus distracting both of them; and then they saw each other, glanced at each other to avoid a collision, and lost the ball, which dropped between them.

After that Bruce, padded up, sat down again and watched Ian and Imran make the last half dozen runs without further incident. Except that our scorebook ended up in Weston-super-Mare amid all the kerfuffle. It is on its way back.

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