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.