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Reports

Crossbats v Yarl

Saturday 15th May 2021, Marble Hill

I am pretty sure Crossbats’ ability to surprise is one of its myriad of attractions to cricketers and drinkers of all standards that flock moth-like to its beguiling flickering brilliance.

The team that strode out to meet one of our longest standing, and often strongest, opposition teams, Yarl of West Harrow, reflected Crossbats continuing current success in attracting such huge new talent.

Surprise #1 was our new captain for the day, Stuart Baister.  Personally I felt safe in the hands of someone whose day job is to protect the welfare of all our nation’s subjects and, of course, our former overseas subjects too (Can you say that? Ed. He works at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office so it’s probably ok).

So out we strode, trust in the strength of our leadership overcoming any slight nerves around the strength of everyone else – trust that was promptly rewarded when he lost the toss but got his wish to field first (some convoluted nonsense about fielding first in the worse weather before it brightened up – I think you can find the full press release on www.prspinbollocks.gov.uk ).  There followed a new style of team talk which seemed to avoid the exhortation not to be as sh#t as we normally are.  Most proceeded bemused.

Ben “Striker” Humphreys took the first over. And there he was, back in the groove that only he knows or understands.  Larry “Nuts” Gray took the other end.  What a great start – back in the six-for groove himself.  Opening with a maiden.  No surprise here.

Slightly more surprising were Yarl’s openers.  They seemed a little, how should I put it, unnerved? It is true that they had arrived late and the start was delayed because they could not muster two batsmen, two umpires and a scorer.  “Night watchman” was an expression used, so expectations were high that our bowlers would mop up quickly.

But not so.  Yarl continued at less than two an over until the sixth over and, unsurprisingly, it was Lals who made the breakthrough with a ball I cannot exactly recall but which was ultimately good enough to remove the bails.  Something about a Chud was mentioned (look it up, it’s quite surprising).

Then the first piece of surprise brilliance.  Ben bowls, their remaining opener scoops the ball to mid-on.  Boom, the speed of his feet only defeated by the speed of his cricketing brain, brilliantly avoids the catch, picks up the fallen, now stationary and unthreatening ball and hurls the stumps down – the opening batsman left stranded on his bum some way out of his ground.

Two down for not many after quite a few overs (their scorebook on subsequent inspection was a little, er, surprising in its lack of detail).  Anyway, things now begin to change a bit.  Strokes were played, the run rate climbed.  Ben and Larry soldiered on (an expression I acknowledge may not be ideal) but with little reward until a moment of cricketing magic (no, really).  Ben a sharper delivery in his last gasp over, probably swinging and cutting away.. An edge and a ball that flew.  Deano behind the stumps briefly interested but it’s too wide and he’s too late.  Winchy, not too late. Large, safe hands.

So, three down but Humphrey (1 for 24) and Gray (1 for 41) bowled out.  They are now into their mainstream batters and we are… well, Ross is first change.  But, surprise. On reflection, Wossy’s first ball was almost a replica of Ben’s last wicket only this was played real time in slow motion.  The time it takes for the old man to reach the crease and then the ball to reach the batsman was clearly all too much.  An attempted drive, the ball flew, Winchy grabs again so effortlessly.

And, then, more genius.  Ross bowls again, the ball runs out to point.  Mupes threatens to collect but is summarily (an “f”-word is rumoured to have been used) ordered out of the way by an advancing but not quite swooping, Alan W-C who bends … picks up … steadies… aims … draws back … considers… checks the runners … aims again and … lets loose probably the fastest looping throw we have seen in some considerable time. Deano takes it cleanly and demolishes the stumps with grace by which time the batsman by general acclaim is well back in his crease.  It is surprising, then, that he starts to walk off and is given run out. It is fair to say that the bowler is unaware of this drama as he is still appealing for LBW.

So, drinks break.  76 for 5.  The game could go either way … but Yarl is in for another surprise.

First over back and Winchy strikes. A superlative ball which bemused both batting and bowling sides in equal measure.  The ball flies up from the bat and only the bowler is quick enough to get under it and claim the catch he’s now made simple (his third of the day for those not paying attention).  6 down.

Then Wossy’s third over.  It looked like Yarl’s #5 may have got the measure of him. He had earlier hooked one off the middle stump for four and then repeated the stroke against the surprise faster full toss.  But ancient guile proved too much.  A slower (or faster) one on off stump (probably swinging and cutting) and Ramesh strokes it firmly straight back at the bowler’s head.  Ross’s 100% record for catches dropped this season is ruined and has fallen to only 66%. He claims self-defence.  Others said it doesn’t count until he catches one of someone else’s bowling.  Either way, 7 down.

And then more surprise.  Two balls from Wossy later, a similar delivery. A swish, a miss and the grace of Deano whipping off the bails is witnessed again. 8 down.

Winchy is replaced by debutant Tony (probably due to bowler fatigue).  One over, one maiden, one wicket – caught by a relieved Carter (who is possibly on 50% now).  8 down.

Wossy stays on. The last man doesn’t. What must have been a jolly good ball ricochets off his pads and bowls him.  The last five wickets have fallen for 9 runs.  85 all out. (Wossy 4 for 12 of 3.3 overs).

Which takes us to the batting.  Before we do so, however, we should mention the surprise of receiving our second team talk.  Social distancing still precludes linked arms round shoulders in a team circle but I think we all did this in our minds.  I am clear that the performance was a team effort and jolly good all round and we should be … proud was it?  Or was it amazed?

Anyway Alan WC opens with Mupes.  Progress is slow but steady – actually more of the former than the latter.  Alan WC connects but without the timing of last time out until he fails to connect at all. M Boereboom joins Carter but not for long, dislodged by a straight ball into his pads and the pointing finger of the captain. Pradeep V’etc. joins Carter and some entertaining running ensues before Pradeep V’etc. is caught.

26 for 3 and there is a little concern, not least for the weather.  Already the teams have taken to the shelter of the trees as the clouds opened.  Twenty minutes later and the sun is out and steam is rising from the pitch and certain team members but big clouds are gathering on the horizon.  Debutant Tony joins senior professional Carter.  To start with, the somnolent partnership continues at OAP pace but Tony gets into his stride – and Carter has to stride too (mostly in twos and there are growing health concerns).  Suddenly the pace picks up and the win is secured.  Carter carries his bat with 38 and debutant Tony 29 in slightly quicker time (including all of the only three scoring shots for 4).

A win by seven wickets and we go to the pub.  Congratulations to debutant Tony Graham (1 for 0 and 29 not out).  A bit of a mention for the old men Carter and Ross and, of course, the Captain.  But, actually, it really was a full team effort.  Now that’s a nice surprise.

Crossbats Sunday X1 v Paddington Rabbits

Sunday, 2nd May 2021

From the desk of Co-correspondents Ross & Nicholls

We love a good game of cricket.  Fortunately, we also love a traditional Crossbats games of cricket.  Had we been a fan of Palma Violets, all would have been clearer but, sadly, we weren’t.

Crossbats Team B took to the field as invited by Capt.  A Skinner.  With the clarity of hindsight, this was really the critical moment as his assertion that, “with the early dampness, the ball would skid on and give the bowlers that extra edge”, proved, as we shall see, conclusive.

So it was that the second eleven gathered for the team talk.  We forget the details but know we were inspired and awed in equal measure. Others showed more of each during the course of the afternoon but it is fair to say none were unaffected.

Play commenced.  The opposition captain was clearly eager to lead from the front and determined to demonstrate his cricket shot at every opportunity.  Quite how he lasted so long remains another of cricket mysteries (that and the fact he was dropped behind the wicket off the first ball).  Clivo was typical in his magnanimity when Larry eventually snared their plucky leader playing “his shot” once too often and actually connecting with the ball.  Masini making up for his earlier aberration.

This brought another “Viking” to the crease.  Although less in control of his flowing locks, he seemed to show a little more control of his bat.  Sadly, however, the effect was similar and he too disappeared after giving tantalising glimpses of his skills – a victim to new boy Gopal’s immediate speed and accuracy.  We’ve forgotten the exact order but he was followed by “Worsel Gummage” whose game fee of a Tesco meal deal appeared to be his first meal for some time (it was later confirmed that he was less familiar with solids for his refreshment). Also someone who, when caught behind said in his defence that it had come off his glove, so was that out? And a young man who reminded us a great deal of Patrick Melrose.

Frankly, all of our front line, second string bowlers were too good for the opposition.  Lawrence, Nuts, Vijay, Skinner A and the newcomer Gopal threw down over after over of probing medium fast bowling.  By the drinks break they were 87 for 6 (or something like that) including the early dismissal of “Viv”, their feared #5 (no one likes a long hop early on) and the Crossbats back up X1 may possibly have become just a little complacent.  Baister was given an over of change of pace – I thought it was pretty good but it was his last (although he did wicket keep jolly well later after Dan’s injury) and we returned to our pace onslaught.

But something had changed.  First of all the other opener started to score runs.  I think we made the mistake of forgetting he was there.  Then, after another wicket fell, he was joined by Sam, Palma Violets front man (if only we had known).  Suddenly the pace quickened, spanking the ball like he spanks his axe, Sam raced to about 20. Despite the opener falling to the Skinner brothers (caught A, bowled S) for 44 and Sam the man’s wicket being bought (for a reasonable sum according to the Banker) sadly, batsmen 8, and 9 also raced to the next highest scores of their innings.

The result, Crossbats stand-ins were facing a surprisingly large target of 170.

It was perhaps at this stage that the first hint that they may be a “bowling side” started to percolate. Baister and A Ward Collins opened for the Crossbats also rans.  If I were honest, I expected to see Bleachy back first but, after showing his style and continued form, Baister was undone by a corker – cutting back in and taking the bails and limiting him to 19.  Masini’s ealier injury elevated the Banker to #3 and what style he showed.  A major partnership was on the cards before Bleachy’s off-swish to the pace of Sam, yes, for it was he, let him down and his off stump cartwheeled away.

Masini, another man in form came out to steady the ship but sadly returned quickly, nursing injured hand and possibly pride falling to another corker from the opener.  Ross was in the meantime racing (in his own special way – including facing down Mr Nicks, the 80 year old spinner – he chucks by the way) to twenty-something before falling to, yes, the front man. Sam is no shrinking violet when it comes to his cricket and he is clearly proud of his bowling and a fighting man (he had earlier foiled a run out by hitting the ball away when about to be collected by the home side. Quite why he couldn’t let us f#ck it up like Dan and the Banker did on a couple of other occasions is another mystery – what a game!).

Leo came to join our debutant Gopal who was beginning to show more reasons why he may not have known much about Crossbats before turning up.  Leo showed great grit in staying in there while we all waited for their bowling to wilt like more than a couple of their fielders but eventually fell to Viv (batsman, wicketkeeper and now strike bowler).  Skinner S joined Gopal B who looked increasingly like a man with victory engrained in his heart … only for Viv to strike again.

So, it was Skinner S and Skinner A.  130 for 5 and the Crossbats were beginning to relive the trauma of too many defeats snatched from the jaws of victory. But what style and resistance they showed, with Skinner S ably demonstrating just why he should be higher up the order and Skinner A scoring rather more runs.

As I write this it seems like an anti-climax to say that the Skinners two guided us home with four overs to spare but, at the time, confidence was ebbing and it took these two to remind us of the team talk (remember that?).  So, we made it without loss of further wickets, which was shame as Vijay was next in – resplendent in 70’s white Roger Moore roll neck sweater and some strap-on protection.

All in all a very fine team performance, and shows you should never take indie rock with some garage rock and psychedelic influences for granted – even if the opposition’s spin bowler is 80.  The most worrying aspect is the realisation that, if Mr Nicks could still play at 80, then Crossbats has 50 or more years of Ross, Carter and Gumbley.

Batting:

Baister 19

Ward-Collins 24

Ross 26

Gopal 30

Skinner A 19 not out

Bowling:

Lawrence 1 for 24 off 6

Grey 1 for 17 off 4

Skinner S 3 for 37 off 7

Ross 1 for 21 of 2

 

Match Report Crossbats vs Isleworth 24th April 2021 Barn Elms

It looked a decent match up, with both sides mixing youth and experience. Crossbats batted first and built a solid early foundation by being two down in five overs.

Next in Masini. Wiry. Wily. Unshaven. Slightly hunched and with a curl of the lip ever-present. Ready to deliver his next scathing line.Yes, how did we miss it, Crossbats had its very own Steptoe. A reference lost to almost half of Crossbats since its ‘great expansion.’

The natural question was ‘who then is Steptoe’s son? The Harry Corbett to his Wilfred Bramble?’. Look no further than the next batsman in, Baister. Straggling 70’s hair, sideburns and the careworn look of a man ready to conquer the world if only the world would have let him.

Was that a ‘two please’ from Masini or a sneering ‘Harold?’. Was that a ‘wait on’ from Baister, or had his deep sinuses disguised a ‘dirty old man’? We may never know. Alas the partnership lasted far less than the sitcom, Masini falling to a fine catch.

12 overs in. 4 down for around 60. So their skipper took the decision to turn it into a beer match. One-sixth into the actual match.  As he cheerfully told anyone within earshot, everyone was to have a bowl except the wicketkeeper (‘our best bowler, and batsman’).

This largesse brought the desired effect as a parade of ‘bowlers’ delivered a variety of slow full tosses and long hops. Baister and Pradeep tucked in, and were both impressively ruthless in putting them all away.

100 added to the total, and all ten outfielders having had a go, their skipper decided for a sharp change in tack. On came the wicketkeeper, sauntering in to take five wickets and keep the total below 200. As if playing to a well-worn script.

The break gave an opportunity for refreshment, and a quick bath in a sink for those so inclined. Crossbats bowled generally well, and with some exceptional fielding (Bart especially). However wicket-keeper sauntered in again, this time for a quick 50. Another hit a brutal 80 and the game was done in 25 overs.

The opposition were a talented, gracious and lovely bunch. Crossbats were less beaten and more had a distorted fairground mirror held up to them. The early finish gave plenty of time to debrief in the Crown, with the other losing Crossbats team, and proclaim the growing pains of its great expansion. Or perhaps other pains: the knackers yard calling earlier than we’d thought.

Paul (with kind permission of Dan)

 

A Typical Crossbats affair. VILLAGE CC V CROSSBATS CC- Saturday 1st May

21 years ago, to the day…

Normally around this date availability is strong as we head to the luxurious surroundings of Bank of England sports ground. Many a balmy 21c evening has been spent there with the old corrupt enemy.

Time moves on and our date today was with The Village Clappers on Ham Common. A decent location with our own sandwiches in tow.

No doubt my good friend Mal S would have something to say about this encounter. With pitch fees sky high the presented turf brought back memories of the abandoned game in the West Indies.

Toss lost again the opposition gleefully inserted Crossbats. With a number of regulars suspiciously missing one could only suspect the following day on Sunday with the flat track at Marble Hill was more preferable for their averages.

Winch and Wright strode to the crease. Excited, that no superior talent was available, and looking to hark back to another era. Four or five hostile overs followed. Bouncing overhead height then along the deck accelerating past the keeper for four runs. The Villagers were amused and content in their skippers tossing ability. Despite their strong position of our insertion, the chat was more anxious.

How much did you pay for this pitch?

Did they actually know we have a game today?

With probably 20 odd runs on the board courtesy of wides rushing to the boundary the Village team checked the length of the pitch. Apparently, it was too short and was set at the colts length. In his “I will get one run Wright bubble” skipper ignored the chat as the pitch was marked out again and stumps moved. In hindsight I suspect we were now at 23 yards or there abouts.

The game restarted. More balls going high and low. Absolutely nothing from the Crossbats waiting to bat, one normally hears a get on with it after one ball. Not today.

Eventually the slow bowler came on and it was time for Wright to depart. Ash seizing the moment hit out, Winch started to find his stride and the runs started to flow. Ash departed and Winch was joined by Carter. The runs continued to accumulate. Carter finally out. Enters Bart. This LMS professional has no fear. Apparently 23 years old, he looks 11, and is used to getting asked for his ID. It was a magnificent display. 6’s and 4’s to all corners. Finally, the bowler managed to produce an edge. Deano not interested and Bart held firm. (Apparently it hit the ground first) Does not matter really, as the bowler completely lost his shit. Running in again, foaming at the mouth, it brought back memories of Atherton and Donald. This was ferocious. Result? A massive overhead wide, Captain suggested he calm down, next ball on stumps, thumped for 6.  Amazing. Winch pushed on admiring the talent and brought up an incredible 100.One of his best – and I have seen a few. That was quite something to behold. Thumper Bart pushed on so quickly no one realised he had passed 50 until he was plus 60 odd. Winch out showing some distraught at the impact on his averages allowed Avi to enter and bash a few more fours and sixes.

Total set game one.

Pitch chat was something like this. New boy Jonny can throw, so back up, and back up again. Not so this time, this hulk of a man had no chance to practice, and it was not to be.

Ben and Guy bowled beautifully – Ben picking up well earned wickets whilst Guy maintained control. Avi picked up loads – and a hat trick. Luckily no one noticed this was on the cards, otherwise the field would have been changed to 8 slips and the moment lost.

Meanwhile, Bart munched his sandwich on the field with hands in pockets, his day was done.

Game sort of sorted and with 100 runs in the bank it was time for Boom and Alan to bowl. The cushion was in place. 6’s and 4’s flew around. More wickets but we were not secure. Enter the ranting bowler. Complete with pads that were….black. This was a man on a mission. 6’s rained down. The comfort Boom / Alan factor had been removed. Perhaps, we could lose this one?

Thankfully, Avi cleaned up the last wicket and we had done it.

You may have wondered why I started the report with:

21 years ago, to the day…

Well, I was 3 balls into my over – call came, wife in labour, Rupert finished the over and Scarlett had her 21st birthday on Saturday when we played.

Times’s change, but Crossbats CC remain.

Author – Anon.

P.S. Everyone played a part in this game – if you are not mentioned worry not!

 

Match Report – Our House (Local Heroes) – 5th April 2021 

It was Marble Hill Revival Day on bank holiday Monday and Crossbats CC competed with some lesser-known local upstarts for the inaugural (and possibly final) Marble Hill Cricket Cup.  

As your correspondent understands it, English Heritage’s aim was to celebrate the renaissance of a once stately edifice which had fallen into neglect and was now in need of specialist attention – for many Crossbatters, this mission registered with a deep-seated and uncomfortable truth; dovetailing as it did with players’ own personal quests.   

The oppo had turned up looking spry with their confidence wafting through the snow-speckled air. For some Crossbatters, this was the third match of the weekend after a long winter spent basking in the glow of their fridge. That being said, one advantage of playing multiple matches over the course of the balmy bank holiday weekend was that many players had now perfected their jumper to snood ratio.  

Before taking to the field, we were treated to some light entertainment from local “legend-in-his-own-living-room” Gary. Many took a moment to savour the master craftsman at work; a man painting with the broadest and most vibrant of brushes for whom details are somebody else’s problem.    

Anyway, Arse was in the red zone and wanted the win: clarion call issued, game faces applied and sinews stiffened (mainly due to the cold). What followed was an inspired and professional performance in the field – Crossbats rising to the big occasion, as ever.  

The oppo’s batting would be opened by an erstwhile foe. You can’t deny it – he knows his game and Masini and your correspondent were delighted with the way he guided the ball around the square quite deliberately with the shoulder of his bat whilst regaling his partner with advice and stories from the set of Harry Potter.  

However, the real story of the day was the fielding on show from Crossbats. Every berth in the field was filled with one-armed-bandits snaffling catches left, right and centre. First “Gloves” Masini treated us to a routine grab followed by a diving effort (who says rubber doesn’t grip). It was then a case of the immovable object meeting an unstoppable force with Coach Ash showing us how it was done as he pouched a tracer bullet in typically Antipodean fashion.  

But these were mere warm-ups for the circus show that followed. Anir, channelling Matrix-era Laurence Fishbourne with his beard, beanie and mirror sunglasses, decided to pluck a fierce cut one-handed out of the air with the kind of disdain that only happens by accident. This was followed by Shirley, fresh from a fall off a one-wheeled contraption in the woods (please don’t ask any further questions), completing a lovely spell of bowling with another one-handed beauty – his stock in trade really (why endanger the fingers on both hands?).      

Avi continues to seek sponsorship from a premium hair-care brand but, in the meantime, was prepared to go through his variations – leggie, flipper, arm ball, elbow ball and others. The oppo were bamboozled; Winch picked everything behind the stumps with the ball melting into his gloves like the snow on the ground earlier in the day. Avi took a good caught-and-bowled as well as a catch in the outfield where Snowball also distinguished himself no more than once. And with that and a few other wickets (the details of which your correspondent has spared both himself and you), the oppo were all out. 9 out of the 10 wickets taken were caught and Crossbats had put in a fielding performance that would live long in the memory – reducing the oppo to a derisory total that would surely be easily knocked-off (or would it?).

Half-time victuals demolished; it was time for Crossbats to bring it home with the bat. Mark and Masini opened up and were initially nervous. After several near misses and a few drops, McAlpine decided what the oppo really needed was further slip catching practice and he duly obliged by guiding one safely to slip.   

In strode Snowball; surely the man for the occasion given the conditions. Those expecting Sharpe’s Resistance were, sadly, to be denied. Wielding a bat that he had stolen from a child earlier, Snowball poked and prodded; presumably with the aim of gently knocking in all the edges of his new rapier. In the end, Snowball succumbed and chipped off to the slip cordon – more Mr. Bean than Sean Bean. 

Not to worry, by now, Masini was getting into his stride. Not literally, of course. Where only one-arm had sufficed in the field for many, Dan appeared to be trying to make do with barely one-leg when shuffling between the wickets. Anyway, who needs alacrity when you can have accuracy and timing like Masini? Especially when accompanied by the majestic Anir. Having taken a while to remember the purpose for the wooden implement he had been carrying around, Deoras starting to punish the bowlers, tenderizing them one after another like such a weight of prime flesh as has not been seen since his cook-along.   

Anir and Dan put on a nerve-calming and match-winning partnership with Masini passing his 50 and Anir coming up just short. This meant that the opportunity presented itself to the skipper (its Alan right?) to hit the winning runs. A tear appeared in Gary’s eye at the sheer poetic beauty of the moment. One ball and a golden duck later, we were all brought back down to earth. Winch marched calmly in (hamstrings secured with industrial levels of scaffolding) and, with no small amount of class, proceeded to close matters off with a few flashes of his blade. That was that – a fine win for the home side with something like 10 overs to spare.  

In a peroxide flash, Gary was back. But was he back for good? With his boy-band bleaching and portable speaker/microphone set which he got himself for Christmas, the master of ceremonies returned. No one knew what to expect, were we going to receive a re-imaging of the greatest hits from Steps’ H or a dedication to Bowie’s Jareth the Goblin King? What followed was the kind of high-satire for which preparation is futile. At first, many wanted the ground to swallow them up but as Gary went on (and he did go on) many realized that they were actually watching a rare comic genius.  

Not wishing to let a potential local radio rival receive too much attention, Al swept in and secured the mic to give an acceptance speech which combined just the right piquancy of gloating and derision to make members of his speechwriting committee proud. We all took it in turns to embrace the magnificent trophy and admire both its weight and the artisanal skill involved in its construction. All in all, a grand day which ended with furious searches on Amazon for a suitably capacious trophy cabinet. The lights were on in the groundskeeper’s cottage until the small hours…   

 

 

Crossbats Interclub Fun 19 September 2020

The annual Crossbats CC Interclub clash never fails to disappoint, even during these mostly shit current times. An excellent turn out to see the double A clash, Team Arse v Team Anir. Do not know who picked the teams but I fear Anir slipped them an extra samosa because his team had the Skinners in it.

‘Get on with it you selfish Muppets!’ That was the key takeaway I got firstly from Guy’s explanation of his funky new stats algorithm (Did anyone understand a word he was saying? No idea how he gets so many likes on Tinder?) and secondly Arse’s charged team talk, “Right lads, no messing about, I want to get everyone a game, Guy, I mean Shirley, Snowball, whatever your fucking name is you’re opening because you can run. You [pointing at an aghast Alexander] no pissing about or playing for your average!” It might not have necessarily inspired the troops but it totally pissed Paul off and there is no finer entertainment than a prickly Alexander, so at least the boys went out to bat with a snigger in their soul and a spring in their step. Perhaps a little too much spring, more of that anon.

So, to combat, Arse and Snowball attempting to open. Snowball looking a little rusty against Skinner A’s pace, successively playing the ball a day or two late was reduced to banking on an early bowling change. Skipper Arse facing his least favourite thing the world,  Anir’s off spin, I think it’s off spin, lunged, swung and missed. Deano didn’t, miss that is, so back to his fold up throne and the comfort of heckling Alexander from the sidelines, “Get on with it Paul!”

If there was a pitch side bar it would have been full for the next 15 overs of play, an hour of our lives we will not get back. Snowball and Alexander edging, prodding and looping the ball to largely 3rd man for an hour or 10. Captain Anir, nought if not generous, kindly allowed them to bat without Skinner A spoiling their innings so they both trundled to 55 entirely forgettable runs. Still, team Arse, scaling 100 at the 17 over mark with only 1 wicket down is not what the pundits had anticipated.

Team Anir needed a spark, it came with Barnes’ fashionably late arrival, pink trousers et al and within moments a lethal direct hit from the pesty bear that is Rupert sent Snowball whence he came. Baister then came in for a blast, not a decisive one but a very raucous 31. After depositing our celebrated Sunday captain towards the trees, a couple of times, Anir unleashed his old friend the quicker ball, all Liam Baister could do was look back in anger, as an even angrier Sayers gleefully snaffled him. Star bat Winch unhindered by his hammies (for once) viciously sliced at the stock Anir shit ball like Zorro, decapitating his stumps in the process. You could spot McAlpines’s smile a mile away as Winch’s batting average took a mortal blow. High hopes on the shoulders of Masini, seemed misplaced as he kindly returned the ball to a whooping Deoras. Never good to see him go for so low but there was a palpable sense of relief in the changing room that he wasn’t out lbw. Carter looked to be finding some welcome end of season form, punching 5 extremely attractive runs before an end of innings horror show.

Never pleasant to report, so I simply ask, if you were to hear Alistair demanding that we run quick singles during our pumped team talk, what mode of dismissal would subsequently be the most common? Yes, dear reader I am afraid you’re correct. Largely thanks to the consuming pressure of tight bowling from Murali Avishek the nemesis that is the run out went onto to decimate Team Arse’s middle and late order. My favourite of the 4 was Mal, the final one of Al’s sacrificial hens, who although making his ground in time, clearly didn’t want to feel left out and couldn’t quite be arsed to slide his bat in.  Team Arse, all out for 206, TV pundit Alan Ward Collins feeling it was about 30 runs short against a powerful batting line up on a billiard table outfield.

So, to part two, a subdued Skinner S joined forces with the pugnacious Avi to kick start Team Anir. The elegant Samin did his best to extend the tea interval by bowling 56 wides in his first over. The 37th rammed Masini on the finger to cause serious damage. Masini heroically fielding on whilst Winchy donned the Go Pro strap on and Dan’s gloves to sub Masini with distinction. What with Samin’s wides and Dan’s injury it felt like Skinner S had been in all afternoon by the time he was dismissed by a beauty from Samin with about the 4th legitimate ball of the innings. An avaricious Avi went for a swing to the moon too many against the canny Shirley and Team Anir was wobbling at 18 for 2 with two matchwinners changing their pants. Must have been a delicious samosa that Anir slipped the selectors as where Skinner S and Avi departed, Rash and McAlpine arrived. Nothing rash about Shafi’s shot selection today and McAlpine was at his bullying best. Spiro is no pushover these days though and with his mixture of swing, seam and wide he was able to illicit a wafty swish from Shafi, safely pouched by a smiling Samin. A useful 39 from Rash but an important catch, match turning we mused? Balls later, Baister, reliably mixing shit balls with good ones induced an uncharacteristically girly lap from McAlpine, ball dutifully looping to Crossbats’ finest pair of hands, Shirley G. Perhaps Guy only had thoughts for his evening tinder acquaintance Berota at that crucial moment because he spilt the ball like he no doubt spilt his pants later that evening. Oh how I would love to report that it wasn’t a match losing drop…..

Our cuddly Celt allied with the languid Skinner A,  marched towards the Arse total with ease. So be it, a rare occurrence, an inter club match with no tension. We were due I suppose. But wait! What’s that coming over the hill? Is that the Last of the Mohican’s Daniel Day Lewis circa 1987? No of course not, it’s our very own mid-life denier Benjamin Humphrey! The last of Arse’s recognised bowlers, refusing to surrender, simply ripped through Anir’s middle order as if they were colonial invaders. A sublime slower ball to Adam S will live long in the memory, less the 2 and half press ups mid pitch post dismissal. The Humph went onto steal the scalps of McAlpine, Barnes and Rapley in delivering a fine 4 for 61  (61? Maybe not that fine?) for his beleaguered skipper already exhausted after telling Paul and his pesky field suggestions to go fuck off. Amidst all this drama we can’t fail to acknowledge the performance of the day, a crunching 96 from Mark. A fitting finale for this season’s batsman of the year!

Anyway, thanks to Ben’s heroics it was game on. Team Deoras, with a jittery Anir and busy Vijay at the crease had a mere 10 runs to get but only 3 wobbly wickets left. More like 2 wickets really because although Anir had been batting for an hour and faced 15 balls he still hadn’t troubled Griffith the immaculate scorer. All on you Vijay. Never in doubt. A couple of posturing back foot drives later and our cheerful swing bowler saw Team Anir safely home.

Great fun, as always. Massive thanks to Boomster and Larry who put massive umpiring shifts in.  Excellent work boys. Not a typical season but a memorable and happy one, nonetheless. Well done Team Crossbats!!

 

 

 

Match Report Crossbats vs Yarl 13th September 2020 The King’s Fields

Pressure was on. The winning xbats sides of the previous day had heroic tales to tell. Stunning Pads and Wright catches. Another Ross 50. And a Deoras direct throw runout, of professional proportions, deciding the game. Meanwhile the other xbats Saturday side scraped 140 on a real problem pitch. The same pitch faced now. Xbats ‘Sundays’ was already in need of a hero.

Pitch inspection followed, confirming warnings from yesterday. Even worse a young and fit opposition member casually asked which league we normally played in. He then went on to unconvincingly deny he played in one. Tough first gig for new captain A Skinner.

‘League guy’ opened their bowling and managed to get rapid bouncers, and ankle-high deliveries ,hitting the same piece of turf. Blaister fell to an evil bounce. Skinner S started jittery, surviving being dropped and other near misses. He then went through his gears. Hitting the odd bad ball. Hitting every bad ball. Hitting the odd good ball. Hitting insanely timed shots regardless of the ball. A joy to behold.

Alexander was also showing his gears, from first through to reverse. Fortunately, as the innings progressed, so did S Skinner’s proportion of the strike. The score ticked on, past 100 and then past Captain Skinner’s target 160. Just before 200 S Skinner reached the most sublime of centuries, even by his standards. ‘Bleachy’ Ward-Collins hit a couple of nice shots and the innings ended at 211. Not unassailable, but pretty hefty on a wicket like that.

Our confidence was further buoyed by a bowling attack of no less than six quality seamers. Lawrence was threatening and got a deserved caught and bowled. Samin, and Savan, are two pacey new bowlers with contrasting styles. Samin’s measured run up and left-arm delivery resembles an Akram or Mitchell Johnson. Savan’s shuffling run up resembles someone terrified running from a large dog.

If anyone was terrified it was the other Yarl opener who, having endured three Samin short deliveries at his throat, gave in. Off the glove and a lopped catch to Skinner A. In his opening over Savan was clearly being chased by an imaginary Rottweiler, clean bowling someone with his first ball. Three wickets down and 30-something on the board. It was looking routine.

Except for ‘League guy’. He hadn’t got the memo. He played anything on the wicket carefully, but anything off went flying. He square cut one six which didn’t go more than six feet off the ground, nearly decapitating three people in its path. He got to 50 in no time, and suddenly Yarl were at 100. We were suddenly worried. A deflated Savan looked like he was now being chased by an imaginary poodle, and a limp one at that. We needed a change.

We needed Crossbats’s answer to McGrath and Warne. Skinner A with his metronomic probing of the fourth stump. Blaister with his changes in flight and pace. Wickets started to fall around ‘league guy’. The run rate was reducing, but as long as he was still there we were in trouble. Skinner A bowled a rare full toss which ‘League guy’ mistimed and it flew skyward. Alexander fell over and the ball landed in his hands, according to senior members Lawrence and Sayers. League guy gone.

Sayers himself, and Samin, then took smart catches. Yarl were still 70 shy with three wickets left. In came a giant of a man. Lawrence joked ‘you can’t hit anything with that matchstick’. 30 seconds later Lawrence was retrieving the ball from the tennis courts. Yarl had serious batting depth, and aggression. Giant took them to less than 30 from winning.

A Skinner (3 wickets), Baister (2) were bowled out leaving S Skinner and Vijay to start spells under great pressure. They bowled impeccably. Giant went, and the remaining tale pushed them to within 4 runs before S Skinner got the final lbw.

To say the Skinners make a difference to Crossbats is like saying it’s useful to have a liver. S Skinner earned hero status with his century and two vital wickets. Likewise A Skinner’s wise captaincy choices and a brilliant bowling spell. All the bowlers bowled well.

Yet Crossbats fielded with great tenacity from ball one, and none more so than those who played little or no part with ball or bat. If not heroic, then pretty impressive from them too.

Man of Match: S Skinner

Match Report Switch-Hitters vs Crossbats 5th September 2020 Marble Hill Park

Crossbats meets Switch-Hitters. Two teams boasting their technical incompetence. Two teams competing for Marble Hill supremacy (home ground for Saturday and Sunday respectively). Everything to play for. We lost the toss and were fielding.

Deoras has tamed his pre-fielding speeches. Gone are the ‘you’re rubbish, you know you are. Could you maybe try to be less rubbish?.’ They are genuinely missed. Even without the pep talk, Clive and Gums opened the bowling and pinned them down impeccably. Not a single boundary for the first ten overs. A fine catch from Leo rewarded Gums and their captain stepped in.

He could hit a boundary, and he and his middle-order were soon smacking the ball around. Vijay bowled a fine, wicket-taking, spell. Leo and Anir did well to contain them, and both got key wickets, but three of their batsmen got quick 40s and 50s. They looked at drinks to be heading for 140, and ended up with 190. A pretty hefty chase, especially with an outfield so unkempt you could hide in it.

Fortunately Crossbats have recently acquired their own coach. Coach Ash. Coach Ash stepped into the role without needing to be asked, and has continued in it despite several wondering if he might step out. His recent gems have included trying to entirely reconstruct Griffiths bowling action mid-match, in three balls, and advising Spiro to take his hands out of his pockets when fielding. He somehow found time, in-between working on his book on influencing people, to open the batting.

He was in truly excellent form. He dispensed advice pre-innings, between overs and even shouted a couple of batting tips between balls from the bowler’s end. Typically selfless, he did all this without paying much attention to his own batting. After a few wafted plays and misses his off stump went flying. The bowler had remarkably only learnt to bowl six months before. He must have had a coach, like Coach Ash. It was a blow, but a temporary one. He was soon back as umpire and normal coaching service resumed.

Meanwhile Alexander continued to show that the only x-factor he possesses is in his surname. As he laboured, entertainment-free, Avi stepped in. The same Avi that had scored 136 against the same opposition just a month before. He walked in with the open-shirted, casual air of someone about to dance a 70’s number whilst hooking you behind square.

The opposition tensed up, their bowler sending a chest high full toss. Avi top-edged it to cover, but appealed for the no-ball. Chest high isn’t very high, when its Avi you’re talking about. And he was, according to Umpire Clive, a good three steps out of his crease. And in Clive’s book a batsman so far outside the crease to a seamer deserves failure. Gone. The disco king had made his dancing move too early. Tragedy.

Cue Masini. He looks like a whippet, and has the pace of one. Turning ones into twos, maybe threes, ground Alexander down even more than the opener was grinding down bowlers and onlookers. He eventually departed setting the stage for Rash. It was perfect. Chasing 190 and just under half-way there at the half-way stage. Fearless, boxless, outrageous Rash to take apart their first-change bowlers. Routine for him. Masini flying at the other end, surely game over in ten overs?

Except Rash decided to begin his innings as he ends his T20 ones, and skyed it to cover too. A minute later, as he drew a slow lug of his cigarette, we were all inhaling with him and looking into the middle-distance wondering what might have been. Deoras in next. Captain’s innings required and he obliged with some stylish blows. A handy, and quick, 30 left Masini on 60-something to carry us home. Except he decided to stand outside the crease and let himself be stumped. Still. Four wickets left, five overs left, and four an over needed against an opposition running out of bowlers. How hard could that be?

No problem for Crossbats, especially when determined to show they are the Kings of the Hill. They can collapse like no-one else. Vintage Crossbats. For those who have missed our collapses in recent times, it brought a tear of joy to the eye. Last five wickets lost for 15 and we lost by four runs. Gums had foretold he would bat, and indeed he did, for his first and the game’s last ball. Both sides retired to the pub. A competitive but very good natured game under our belts, and honours almost even.

Man of Match: Masini, excellent knock and fine wicket-keeping.

 

Crossbats C.C. vs St Annes

A good toss to win.

Crossbats assembled promptly on a grey, chilly late August afternoon. As is the norm, the opposition was comprised of just one. A bulky pot-bellied Australian, fresh over from Perth and who had not picked up a bat since his last game played in 42C many months ago. Clearly unaware of the makeup of his own side, he nestled up to the Crossbats contingent assuming he was playing with them.

Eventually their number increased to 3 and a member of St Anne’s volunteered to toss. Flicking the coin high into the air he called tails. Coin landed just on the edge of the strip. It was a tail. Perhaps not grasping how this ritual works the gentleman chuntered. “Looks like you won the toss, what would you like to do?” Wright, hesitated about this first tactical cock up from the opposition. Poker face on, he replied, “We will bat” Saint Anir may have been less forgiving.

Wright, having invested in 4 painkillers, strode to the wicket with McHunt. The old due re-united at the expense of Skinner S who was moved to number 3.

Lockdown has done strange things to peoples physique. You either drank yourself to oblivion and made regular trips to the fridge from the comfort of your armchair, or took up some sort of fitness regime to occupy the hours. The result is some members of the team are either remarkably fit or overweight. 5 months into Wright’s cycle regime he felt a touch fitter, slightly faster and ready to take on a few 3’s.

The innings started with excellent intent. Pushed singles from Wright and lusty blows from McHunt. 8 an over and the pressure was on our opposition. McHunt playing one too many shots across the line eventually perished on 47 and out strode Skinner S. More dashing shots and deft hooks to backward square leg and the score raced on. Wright was next out, caught behind. Carter in next to push on the score, but quickly perished. Coach Ash was next to bash a few more and help Skinner to a well-played 92. Crossbats finished their innings on 207

Prior taking to the field, a practice session took place with Coach Ash bashing balls high into the air with the fearful Crossbats trying their best to appease the coach. Rare practice done, the team had a quick huddle and headed to the middle in a surprisingly buoyant mood.

The other Skinner bowled beautifully, while at the other end Ross reluctantly trundled in against the wind. Three overs later he pleaded to be taken out of the attack…..

Humphrey and Shaun were next up. Shaun struggling to find his line in first few overs had a quick coaching lesson from Coach Ash, then a few overs later suggested moving Ross out of the firing line with his fielding. Shaun duly offered up another long hop and the batsman struck it firmly at the repositioned Ross.

Luckily Shaun is made of stern stuff. He also has contacts with the monarchy and can have anybody beheaded with just a quick call to his previous employer. The next few deliveries offered wicket taking chances with one neatly caught by Sayer.

Now into the final throes of the match Spiro took 3 wickets with a mixture of flight and (as he told us in pub afterwards) some sort of mystery ball.

The innings was then wrapped up in record time. Oppo all out 123 in 28 overs. Coach had an urgent DP to attend.

Crossbats filed off the field with the elbow touching Covid etiquette.

Returning to their kit, it seemed that some of the Oppo had fallen into the Lockdown overweight category, with two chairs broken under the bulk of the previous occupants.

Team Crossbats retired to the pub. Landlord was taken aback by the early arrival at 5.30pm as table was booked for 7.00pm. Space found, we settled in to hear stories of Spiro’s mystery ball and then were joined by Larry aka Nuts to prove he was in fact alive, the stents were fine and he was still available for selection.

The adventure continues…