Author: Jimmy Campbell-Smith

The Kyle Experiment

What fabulous gifts Mother Cricket has served us up this summer. From game to glorious game of the World Cup, to an unexpectedly sun-soaked ashes finale at The Oval. Saturday was spent there with Hareen ’The Mexican’ Potu, who amongst his countless other failings, proved that he is literally incapable of getting a drinks order correct. Even better (well, almost) was the prospect of Putney CC the next day, old friends and traditional late-season opposition. A chance for me to put my feet up and have a few more beers, indeed. Yet, Mother Cricket had other intentions. Aiden Naude had to pull out (paralysed with joy about his Superbru score). Would I like to Bat in Ant’s stead?  Well, of course I would happily sling the willow one last time to end the summer, and field a few overs in the mix?  Rarely do these things work out so fortuitously. Naturally, by the time I had arrived at Putney, I was playing a full game. Not for The Scotties mind, but for Putney. So what started as a few beers by the boundary became a few beers and a bat, then became a full game, for the opposition. One simply has to accept that sometimes, cricket has other plans for you. It’s best not to spend too long trying to resist.

The fact that I played for the other team perhaps foreshortens this week’s report, as well as the writing time that will be going into an end-of-season review (otherwise known as The Chronicles Of Justin : The Bat, The Wicket and The (lack of) Wardrobe for his many adoring fans. I’m sure he’s gunning to write these reports first, and will be manfully learning such new tasks as, well, writing, in order to ensure his inclusion next season. This is not a democracy. Oh yes, where was I? Putney CC. I can’t access the scorecard for some reason so won’t bore you with the stats, but Putney scored roughly 210. I chipped in with ahem, a personal best of the season with 16 runs, only for Kyle to bamboozle me with a rank half tracker. I top edged to Sean Ryder, dressed fresh from Magaluf in the 1990s, and ironically calling himself Jake ‘Smart’. Ant Thickett, fresh from CCF training with all sorts of twigs sticking out of various places, chipped in, and Kyle struck a bit of fear into the opposition, many of them grumbling to themselves as they walked off that he was ‘a bit handy’.

Then it was Scotties turn. Westy and new addition Ed Kilpatrick took the shine off the new ball, and Westy continued his run of form with some beautiful shots. Boycott, fresh from his marble-floored halls, would have purred. First drop saw the arrival of Danny Watson to the crease. All I can say, Gentlemen of Putney, is I said so. It was actually rather fun to be in the field and get a close look as he unfurled shot after shot and made the bowlers toil. Westy departed and in came…Kyle Pack. Bestowed the position of 4 for his birthday, he was promptly dismissed for a duck after an almighty heave. What a squandering of such a kind present from the team.  Putney’s nightmares continued though, when it turned out there is not one, but two Watson brothers.  Like sort of bogeymen for misbehaving bowlers, they set about dismantling everything thrown at them, until Watson D(anny) fell to leave Watson, D(avid) to finish the job. Alas, it was not to be despite his manful effort, and Captain Scott XI fell short of the runs needed for victory.

Never mind though. In the end, we have a special club, and as one player was heard commenting “sometimes it doesn’t really matter if we lose, it’s just loads of fun”. This was one of these days (I know, I know, I played on the winning side – but agree with the sentiment). We played in glorious sunshine, against a great bunch and ate a delicious tea. We drank a few cold ones and for bizarre reasons, downed shots of “Thunder Bitch”. I am reliably informed Kyle was a complete mess after Sean Ryder/Jake ‘Smart’ took him out to the local Weatherspoons (classy) for his birthday.  It seems like mere weeks ago that we stood in the late spring on Englefield Green, with a whole season’s delights stretching before us. As stood on Putney’s turf looking back in the other direction, we could all agree that cricket had been the winner, and a fine season it had been. New additions to the club, some great wins, some delicious teas, and firm friends. We merry band of brothers, we lucky few, and all that. Whereas Shakespeare’s lot were about to endure a winter of discontent, we had enjoyed a summer of quite the opposite. Good luck in South America to those going on tour, we are green with jealousy and expect regular dispatches!!

Kyle’s big day out

Something was rotten in the state of Denmark. Bags were packed, bats polished, baggy caps… baggied. Yet to the Scotties assembling for their treasured Sunday game, there was something off. It was SATURDAY. Like jetlag without flying, we arrived a whole sixty minutes early for the game. The Beard Hawson claimed this was simply contemptuous familiarity by the Royal Household CC, knowing that the Scotties treat ‘time’ as a fluid concept, rather than an agreed international standard. Maybe they had had The Skipper and The Mex rather too many times. Oh, actually they didn’t meet The Mex last year because he got locked out of his flat, wearing nothing but a pair of boxer shorts and holding a toothbrush waiting for a food delivery. (Sorry Hareen, waited a year to put that in writing). I suspect there was some skulduggery going on somewhere, but it was to the benefit of Kyle pack, fuming at those conspirators at TFL who delayed his tube.

New addition to the club Jake Smart admitted quickly that he loved seeing Kyle get annoyed and hoped the day would bring more gifts. Mother Cricket quickly provided them. Apparently, the Royal Household treat time as a fluid concept too, in which they play a ‘timed game’ which strictly ends at tea. Thus, completely robbing the concept of any value at all. Kyle was immediately unhappy at the prospect. So, you should have seen his face (and Ant’s) when it emerged that there was only one ball used for the game, and we were batting second. As his face turned thunderous, so Jake’s radiated with further joy. Oh, what gifts, when we found out he was batting at 10. It was set to be a most entertaining day for those on the boundary as one or two chilled libations started to slip down. The Royal Household really are blessed with the most high-security pub in the country, manned by members of the resident Prince’s close protection unit. Many different plans were quickly hatched about how we could get Aidan tasered, especially after we thought the bloke turning up with a pistol might be the umpire. One or two over-enthusiastic appeals might result in a quick 9mm to the kneecap. Spare a thought for Mr Jimmy Slatter, who will currently be choking into a pint of some kind of Kangaroo-excrement with glee as his colonial lot have smashed the English. He was not quite informed of the traditions of the household and very reasonably, chose to bat. Some batting happened, I missed loads of it as I was sleeping off the effects of the night before (thanks, James Reilly for the red wine – delicious, from what I could remember).

Thankfully the score card reminds me that the RHCC umpire made a questionable decision for Mr Slatter, who was out on 8 from a LBW that looked to be heading rather closer to her majesty’s residence up the road, than to the stumps. Oh well. 33 proved an unlucky number for Messrs West and Watson, D(anny) as they both perished and the last real honours were taken by Bruce Martin, a relative of some form of The Beard Hawson from the plains of the Highveld, freshly finished wrestling buffalo and ready to hit some big shots. 44 came up pretty quick.

Okay, now a small aside. The ‘timed’ game (which is bloody ridiculous anyway) *the views of the author are his own and do not represent the Captain Scott Invitation XI as a whole* is supposed to allow the batting team to bat on after tea if needs be to get a few more runs. Not so. It would appear, we were told rather stiffly, that this was ‘not how we are play our cricket’ here and that you declare at tea. I rather gather that the person who told this to our captain was still a bit miffed about the business of losing the Empire and could not believe that an Australian – a colonial – was allowed to captain The Scotties. So, I ask, what the f*cking hell is the point of a timed game, if you are to declare at tea? Just play 40/40 surely? Answers on a (small) postcard please.  Did I mention this concept annoyed me? It may have appeared further up the article too.

The machinations of village cricket will always be skewed in the favour of the home team (cricket, a gentleman’s game? Pah!). As such, we were then made to bowl after tea with the old ball. This may be the one and only time in my life that I agree with Aidan Naude. Next year, we may need to find a couple of sharp spinners and bring 8/9 batsmen. (Or bowl first, was the eminently sensible alternative). RHCC knocked off the 160 required and only lost one wicket. Kyle looked utterly miserable, which made Jake and I even happier.  That’s about it for the game.

Enough. Cricket is a game, RHCC is a wonderful place. If there is anywhere on earth that should be allowed to foster a little eccentricity, it is the 22 yards on that strip, in the gardens of the castle. The tea is another level, the opposition are great fun and the location is phenomenal. I can only hope Jamo’s hangover cleared by the time we got home.

What’s your view on singles?

One often wonders what the exchanges are between England batsmen as they walk out to the hallowed turf of say, Lord’s or Headingly. Perhaps a “Go well” against Pakistan or “Was that Sandpaper?” against our Australian cousins. What they definitely do not say, is “What’s your view on singles?”. This exchange could only be between Hareen “The Mexican” Potu, and James West Esq. of The Captain Scott XI. It would appear that Hareen did not want to run any singles, and was quickly caught out, mis-timing a nice heave across the line (well it probably was, I wasn’t watching) to be caught out. Very swiftly, the Scotties were one wicket down. It might have been that for perhaps the first time in club cricket history, we started a game spot on 2:00pm. This appears to have disconcerted the top order somewhat. Perhaps they had not had time for enough refreshment before the game, but we were quickly into a Scotties collapse. Prateek was gone for 9, an unusual moment in a so far excellent season. Spare a thought too for Watson, D(avid) who twisted his ankle, to add insult to injury, while frantically trying to return to the safety of his crease, was run out. Jamo-Love was out to a caught and bowled, and the author found himself in to bat at number 7 alongside Kyle Pack rather earlier than expected.

Tailenders of the world, unite and take over. So goes the podcast. So went the rear-guard action. Kyle nudged, he nurdled. We ran a few singles. I blocked, I heaved, even hit one or two that could be counted as cricket shots. I got a bit too cocky and tried for an even bigger heave and was promptly bowled out to a straight one on 13. Kyle stayed strong to hit 31 which would be our top score. The Beard Hawson was done for 2, and Ben Aspland hung around for a useful 11. That wonderful character, Extras, came in as second highest scorer for 28. So, it came to pass, 121 all-out. This was to be a day of firsts, and our first Sunday game defeat looked to be looming.

Tea was the usual assortment, and those with hangovers started to recover some composure. Those without, purchased more beer. The Mexican, musing on his dismissal, wondered whether he would be best placed with The Scotties as an international player, his ‘domestic’ appearances thus far not having been the most successful.

A timeless scene followed: the sweet music of willow on leather, shadows lengthening in the long summer afternoon as we played up and played the game. The author himself had at the start of play wondered where Ant might come from. All were agreed that Ant being Ant, he would not appear by conventional means (i.e. through the car park or the front door). I placed my bet on him appearing out of one of the bushes that surround the ground. I wished I had placed more money on this, as shortly afterwards our new addition to the club, (and all-around nice chap) Jake described the scene of Ant appearing Apocalypse Now-style out the nearby hedge. Sadly, Ant’s lucky twig was destined for the great wood-chipper in the sky on this game as he toiled to no rewards for his fine effort. A cruel mistress indeed, especially after his disciplined overs for someone else to go and take two wickets with filthy long-hops, as is so often the case.

We not say a huge amount more. Kyle thundered in, full of spit and vinegar. The Beard bamboozled, flippered, swung and zootered away. We needed 60 more runs. We did not have them. OD CUACO had a batsman of some talent who came out for some Sunday practice and proceeded to bludgeon the final runs. Did we play cricket? Yes. Did we enjoy ourselves? For sure. Were OD CUACO excellent hosts? Absolutely. Can we see them next year? We hope so.

A postfix for the scorer. It occurred to me recently that our dear scorer-extraordinaire Laurie Davies has largely not featured in dispatches thus far. Mainly because she quietly and without fuss, does a Stirling job for us every week and does not seek the limelight, unlike those attention-seeking Scottie cricketers she mothers with such love through the season. Without her we would be lost, so our thanks to you Laurie!

A Rather Hazy Day

As the milky clouds hung on the horizon on the morning of 23 June, the fine group of gents at Shalford Cricket Club prepared the wicket in time for a grudge match to last the ages. Or rather, a very friendly game of cricket and BBQ afterwards. Never mind the clouds, the hangover the author turned up with was utterly thunderous. Thank god, Scotties were allowed to go into bat first (the skipper was, naturally, late – with me in tow). This is usually where there is a few sentences dedicated to the unfurling, silky shots played the Scotties openers, or anyone called Watson. This would then usually be followed with a few observations about some huge Shanghai-slice and the skipper trying to threaten some windows in the nearest postcode. I was asleep on the boundary however, and saw basically nothing until Ben awoke me with the worrying news that I may have to go in to bat. (Luckily I didn’t have to). The skipper came off and said something about a Pelican, but as far as I can remember he was far more interested in Birds when they come from New York.  Hats should be duly cocked to openers Jimmy Slatts, (fresh from a victorious day at Ascot, and ready to keep riding his luck here) and Watson, D(an) with fine scores of 53 and 51 respectively, both out to Shalford’s David Shilcock. Brother and sister pairing Oliver and Jessica Rowe then shared the majority of the wickets with 2, and 3 each.

Thank god for tea. Thank even more gods that it was really excellent. A plethora of delicious treats awaited us. Homemade quiche, pies, sausages things. Our cups runneth over. My hangover finally cleared. The sun came out. The world was setting itself to rights by the time the Scotties took to the field. Now, we should also point out that Shalford is something of a home for retired Scotties. Unable to travel with our merry band as much as they would like, both Aidan and Bryan had found a regular club home at the pleasant surrounds. It also made this something of a chance for revenge, and to make a few new friends, so it was with unusual energy that the Scotties took on the challenge of defending their (pretty respectable) total of 264.

Enter Prateek Shah. Perhaps the world’s least likely strike bowler, which is perhaps why he outfoxed Shalford’s top 3, including and absolute beauty of a catch from Watson, D(avid). He may have dropped a dolly previously, but this was more than redemption enough. At some point in the batting order, an attitude turned up with a South African attached. Aidan Naude sauntered Viv-Richards like into the middle, twirling his bat and ready to lay his old friends to the sword. Those that live by the sword, can also die by it. So excited was Aidan by the opportunity in front of him that the first ball bowled by Brett ‘The Beard’ Hawson was cross-batted into the stratosphere above Shalford. Just short of going into orbit, the ball returned to find a Watson brother running like streaked lightning across the field to catch it. Dan wasn’t going to drop this one, even if he pulled his hamstring. He didn’t. Cheers erupted around Shalford. Aidan turned, speechless, and went to prepare the BBQ.

I can’t remember a lot more of the day after that – The Beard chipped away at Shalford nicely, and at one point we looked to have things wrapped up a good ten overs early. Sadly, for our aching knees, we looked to snatch that particular defeat from the jaws of victory, and it wasn’t until 37 overs that we managed to seal the win. This was the first victory for the Scotties in what has now become the annual Terra-Nova shield, so named after Robert Falcon Scott’s ship (and the name of his first expedition). First blood to us.

The BBQ that followed was truly fantastic. However terrible my pronunciation of ‘Boerewors’, this luckily had no effect on their taste. Absolutely awesome. It would appear that Aidan’s lack of runs had not affected his ability on the BBQ. So, too Shalford, we raise a glass. A very friendly bunch (populated with a few Scotties, no less) and firm friends for the future. We look forwards to seeing you next year lads and ladies, it was a blast.

Detailed scorecard can be found here.

A View From The Boundary.

Warborough & Shillingford is a very dangerous place to be if you’re a British actor, as you’ll almost certainly be murdered. In fact, if the fictional murder rate was translated to reality, this would be the most dangerous place on earth thanks to the BBC’s decision to film most of Midsomer Murders here. What a location to choose though. Nestled in the rolling Oxfordshire countryside, it’s a picture-perfect place for a game of cricket, surrounded by thatched houses and an excellent pub. Even the red-kites soaring above seemed to know they’d found a good spot.

With such an excellent pub, it was rude not to enjoy a refreshment before the match (only one!) as the gathering Scotties did their best to ensure the quiet atmosphere in the pub garden did not remain so. Some bloke called Justin turned up, and we thought it best to move over to the cricket club before many copies of the Daily Tory-graph were curled up and used against us in a real-life murder.

Warborough & Shillingford had 10. We had 12. The balance had to be re-dressed, and guess who was selected to represent the opposition? “Chris Langley!” We hear your cry. No dear reader, he only turns-coat for those fellows at the Butler XI. The author himself. Not a little perturbed, but also relatively glad I would be playing some cricket, Warborough took to the field with their Kolpak player (me) and the batting was opened by Messrs Slatter and Watson. A wily old chap from the other end was really managing to get some life out of the pitch, and down went Slatts for only 1, off not many deliveries. Danny followed a short while after with 17, and in chasing one of those 17 I pulled my hamstring. Off to the boundary I went, sulking. Bugger.

Messrs Ward and Lilley of W&S’ford made the most of the day with ball in hand. Ward bowled some cutters that swung back in whilst Lilley had a ball so slow, the batsman had played it into the next county by the time it reached them. Or they thought they had, as they heard the death rattle of the stumps behind them. Notably, Prateek Shah gave the most honest and un-scotties-esque answer of all time to his dismissal: “I missed it”. Luckily, we had Ayman Nackvi to help us out on this occasion, who steadied us at the crease with 49 not out and was ably assisted by the Brett ‘The Beard’ Hawson with 27. The pitch certainly had some life, although with 170 on the board it was game on, for sure. What Ayman did to deserve the Skipper declaring for tea, leaving him stranded, on 49 not out, we’re not sure.

Declaring for tea? Ah yes. The timed game. Have you heard the saying “The English invented cricket to give themselves an idea of eternity? Well, the timed match is for those who found the concept of ‘eternity’ far too adrenaline-filled. In a timeless place like this, it seemed fitting. However, it meant that what came in the second half got rather exciting.

The tea was excellent, and the setting just as wonderful on a long trestle table. It could have been a scene from … well, Midsomer Murders. W&S sit at the top of the coveted tea-table-trophy in my mind this year, although we still have some extremely strong contenders lined up. Blunham may be warming the ovens already. Out strode the Scotties, knowing that they may (quite literally) be some time.

Whatever Ant Thickett eats in his weird cream-cheese biscuits at tea, I think World Anti-Doping might have taken a keen interest in today’s batch. Ant’s length-and-line was at worst awkward for the batsmen, and at best unplayable. It seems a very cruel reward that he only took one wicket, but his figures of eight overs bowled with three maidens for only 9 runs gives you an idea. Take a bow, Ant. That’s not forgetting Mr Hawson. King Louis and the band struck up their favourite tune as the Jungle VIPs at the other end started slashing and missing whilst he swung around the place and justly took two wickets. However, they had some good batsmen on their side and it soon started getting tense. Very tense, indeed, as the Scotties started looking to secure the draw. It’s utterly pointless to try and convey the excitement from the side lines, but one very old man dropped his hat in the final over, which is probably the most emotion he’d shown since the French revolution. It was quite the day. Even the police turned up to have a watch, just in case any murders happened afterwards.

In the end, a valiantly played draw as W&S fell 6 runs short of their needed total in the final over, and a key spell of death bowling. Thanks to the timed format, the result was a draw. Cricket once again, was the winner. The Scotties now remain in the curious position of played four, won two, tied one, drawn one. Warborough & Shillingford, as always you were an absolute bunch of gents. It’s a special place and a special tea, and what a nice pub. Fab day, see you next year!

Ah! Nearly had you didn’t I? No no, we’re not quite finished. I know you were still wondering about that bloke Justin and his match stats. With the bat, 5 runs. With the ball 3 overs, for no wickets, going for 28 runs. Perhaps his girlfriend will be less keen to read about that this week.

To the Norse Shore.

Well of course, we lay down the challenge to any village eleven that would like to come play us. They shall be offered the finest Viking hospitality after the game, and even finer before it, just to take the edge off”.

Kit Harris knew about the Captain Scott Invitation XI prior to his interview with Aggers last summer on TMS. If the author didn’t know better, he would say this was direct Scotties-bait on the near certainty that one of us was listening. Viking Hospitality? An International fixture? Cricket in unusual places? I had to find out more. Our reputation preceded us. Kit was delighted that his gauntlet-throwing had been taken up the world-infamous Captain Scott Invitation XI. What none of us expected was what happened next.

In true Scotty’s style, it took about six months for anything solid to be committed. This was largely down to the efforts of club hero and bearded-embodiment of the spirit of Captain Scott, Brett Hawson. Ably backed up by veteran Scotty and skipper Sean Reilly, the two of them managed to assemble the touring party through a combination of good salesmanship and mild threats about selection. All comedies must have an element of tragedy and that job fell to the author, pulling out thanks to a very unfortunately timed wedding. Fear not reader, I received sufficient harassment for this from fellow members.

It was pain enough that the tour was on, and I was to be missing out. It was pain enough to be handed my five minutes of fame through an interview with Daniel Norcross on ‘The Cricket Social’ about the tour. So, imagine my expression when we received news from the Iceland XI that:

  • We’ll be playing the inaugural match at Víðistaðatún which will be formally christened the world’s northernmost grass-pitch cricket ground and Iceland Cricket’s new home ground.
  • The President of Iceland, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, will be in attendance to toss the coin.
  • The Prime Minister of Iceland, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, will (ceremonially) bowl the first ball of the match
  • Our opponents are to be the Prime Minister’s XI.
  • Our XI for the same match, has the endorsement of the British Ambassador to Iceland and as such, will carry the additional honorary title of the British Ambassador’s XI
  • As well as an official reception at the British Embassy, with the British Ambassador, on the Friday evening prior to Sunday’s Match

Yes, I think something resembling Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ comes to mind when reading that e-mail. C’est La Vie, C’est La Guerre.

Battle lines have been drawn; the game is on for this hotly anticipated diplomatic event. What an experience it will be. Who’d have thought that from reading a book in 2014, I would accidentally be instigating an international game of cricket for a team that I have lovingly become a part of? Evidence (if ever it were needed), that the spirit and legacy of our founder Harry Thompson stays as strong as ever. Bravo, Harry and bravo, Iceland. The team can’t wait to arrive on your Northern Shores. That Viking hospitality sounds pretty good too.

What the Butler(s) Saw

It was a day for heartaches and hangovers. The former being the home ground of that notable cricketing outfit captained by Sir Tim Rice and our venue of play, Aston Rowant CC. The latter, what a few of the Scotties brought with them to the ground. Young Master K. Pack mumbled something unhappily about reliving his (quite recent) University days and pints of wine, whilst Reilly (J) arrived with what could only be described an elephantine hangover, kindly donated by that cruellest of mistresses – red wine. The skipper meanwhile, determined to break free from the chains of his reputation for lateness, arrived early once again (three in a row!!), with 46% of the team, about one tree’s worth of willow, several mattresses of pads, and a child’s bike in the boot. However, the Butlers being similar in style and temperament to the Scotties, the curtain was not lifted on any sporting endeavours until around 1400 anyway. The toss proved not to be ours on the day, and we were sent in to field.

First up – Messrs Pack and Thickett to opening the Scotties attack. Kyle managed to beat the bat early and out went their number two with scoreboard reading 20-1. Ant laboured hard in the sun but his efforts were to go unrewarded, harsh returns for a fine effort that regularly asked questions of the batsmen. Luckily, Justin and Brett had definitely had their Biltong and Boerwors that morning, and were hungry for wickets. Justin turned the screw and ended up with three wickets early on as unsettled from the other end, and soon the scoreboard was more tragedy than farce, at 90-6. However, like every good play, a hero arrived. Messrs Jones and Bullen, we salute you. What can only be described as Oxfordshire’s version of the Battle of Thermopylae followed as they bravely withstood everything the Scotties had to throw (or maybe bowl) at them, and by the end of the Butler XI innings the scoreboard read 214-6. The game was on.

Tea was delicious, a fabulous assorted collection of carbs made all the sweeter (or more savoury?) by the fact that the fielding bit was done, and cold refreshments could be enjoyed in the sunshine. Perhaps one more than planned in the author’s case, but no-one would begrudge him the indulgence – the services of his bat were not to be required. Brett decided that some runs was the order of the day and headed to a controlled 43 as a few unlucky wickets were going down at the other end, but no-one (least of all himself) was ready for the virtuoso performance of Watson, D(avid). In keeping with the arts theme of the day, the newly formed Captain Scott Invitation XI cheerleading outfit “C**ty and The Hat-Tricks” struck up with their favourite one-word song “shoooooooot!”. Davey drove, pulled, smote, struck and lofted his way to a wonderful 77* as the brothers Reilly each contributed at the other end with a quick and tidy 24 (Reilly, S) and 22 not-out (Reilly, J). Davey, that would have been a century if you had needed it. The victory was sweet, and the Butlers XI as ever an excellent group of opponents and long-standing friends. We look forwards to seeing you next year chaps!

Kew Guard-and-swing

Kew Gardens. A civilised place for civilised people. Even the local clientele of the pub opposite (enjoying a few botanicals of their own) were impressed by the punctuality of the Captain Scott XI on this fine occasion – yes, including the skipper. As if to dazzle the assembled punters, the skipper even saw fit to add to his ‘streak’ of winning tosses (one so far, last week against Englefield Green). Naturally, he chose to bat. Once more into the breach dear friends, rode Dan ‘Jockey’ Vale. Riding high of the Tsunami of high-quality champagne consumed the night before in honour of his birthday, he was accompanied by the most welcome sight of a Mr J. Slatter, both knees positively glowing in their newfound functionality. The harem of Brazilian ladies accompanying Jockey got the fireworks, cheerleading outfits and pom-poms prepared…or rather, buttoned up their jackets against the chill wind ripping across the ground and wondered if the English were truly mad.

What followed looked, well just like…Cricket. Actual, sensible cricket. Shock. The opening pair blocked, shouldered arms and executed their shots with more judicious decision-making than the Scotties have shown in some while (and one or two of the members actually are judges). There was barely a shaolin slice or false shot played. To the extent that when Jimmy Slatts fell, we had a more than solid start of 88 runs for the first wicket (58 from his bat). Heads were scratching off the field (Scotties wondering if we could all play like this) and on it (how they were going to get the other batsmen out). 

Following a delicious liquid lunch of finest ales in The Cricketers (across the road), the day had all started rather well for Mr Prateek Shah of King’s Hill, Kent. So well in fact, that he decided to try out his new bat. Sauntering in to the crease, he too waited for the bad ball, and sent it scuttling over the boundary for 4. And again. And again. 50 runs appeared in barely an hour in the middle, keeping a fine head on him (must have been the ale) Mr Shah peppered the boundary with 4s, not going aerial much unless lofting outside the circle. Through the 70s and 80s he strode, some beautifully timed shots absolutely rocketing across the field, almost as beautiful as some of his replies to the grumbling bowlers. The nervous 90s descended a little for half an hour, but ultimately he raised his bat with the grace that the occasion demanded as 100 runs were clocked up. Desperately thirsty by this point, (and keen to give everyone else a go) Prateek allowed the opposition to clean bowl him with a massive attempted drive, and returned to the bar. Chapeau sir.

Did I mention that a nice little Scotties collapse was going on at the other end whilst Prateek cut, drove and pulled his way to a century? Messrs Campbell-Smith, Sandhu and (rather unusually) Watson, David were bowled LBW, playing through the shot to a bowler who turned one delivery every ten. So naturally he took three wickets. No matter though, high on the nectar of last week’s performance, in strolled the Skipper to continue his return to form. Civilised might not be the word, but the windows of the Greenhouses nearby were under threat with some almightily powerful hitting and well chosen balls to notch up 33 from 38 balls to finish the innings off in the time remaining, and allow Prateek to reach his 100. Rather unbelievably though, no one on the team scored a 6 through the whole innings. Restraint was the order of the day and we were in a good position of 254-8. Prateek himself said this was “definitely a par score”. How true this would prove.

Tea – Delicious. (Particularly as Kew have a bar). Extra marks for the falafel wraps here. The prospect of 40 overs in the wind? Not quite so delicious. Luckily for us, we had some sunshine arrive. Some of the Brazilian ladies had even taken off their skiing jackets, jumpers, woolly hats and scarves, and taken the hot water bottles and handwarmers out too. Or they’d gone home, bored and slightly bewildered. The first thirty overs were cat-and mouse. The opening pair for Kew had a solid start as despite the fine efforts of Ant and Kyle opening up, they either could not penetrate some obviously decent batsmen, or got unlucky with dropped catches. Scotties recovered and the pressure was back on towards over thirty as Jockey, Kyle, Ant, Ben A and David W all chipped in. Particular note for Kyle here, taking a beauty in from the boundary on the run. Particular black marks to the author, shouting for a catch and the dropping it, when it turned out to be falling down the throat of the skipper. Lesson – always look where you’re going…

With five overs left it was really starting to get interesting. Creeping through the 230 mark, the field was set defensive and the team were made to work for their post-match pints, and admirable efforts were made to stop the single or save the boundary by everyone involved.  The final over…adrenaline really starting to get going with the opposition in need of 10 from six and… A no-ball is called in error by our stalwart Umpire and swiftly pointed out (every ball counts at this stage). Fair enough, decision reversed. Get on with the game. In the end, a tie!! Who would have thought it?! Well in the end, cricket was the winner as both teams shook hands and agreed it had been a jolly occasion – in fact, quite fun to be involved in a tie! Prateek’s ‘par-score’ prediction had never been truer. 

No hard feelings on the Umpire from either side either, lots of people can’t do it anyway. Except, tiresomely, there is often one who has to take exception. Quite literally foaming at the mouth with fury that the decision was reversed, one would have thought someone had just ripped up his winning lottery-ticket by mistake. One or two spicy exchanges were had but luckily this attitude amongst his team did not proliferate. A reminder dear reader, that perspective is a highly important element to an enjoyable life. If one is to get this wound-up over a reversed decision, in a game of friendly cricket on a Sunday (non-league), where you didn’t even lose, I shudder to think of the reaction to something as terribly serious as spilt milk. The box with fewer stones in it always rattles the loudest. Nonetheless, Gentlemen and Ladies of Kew – most of you – we salute you. What a fine part of the world you occupy, and excellent hospitality you offer. We hope that our long-running friendship will continue, for it’s a pleasure to play against you.

Spring Clean(ing-Up)

Ah the joys of spring. Freshly cut grass, cuckoos singing…the sound of calf muscles tearing. Enter stage left, James West. Roguishly leaning in to dispatch the first ball of the Scotties 2019 season for four, his foot enjoyed being back at the crease so much it decided to stay. To the cost of his calf muscle unfortunately. Westy, we wish you a speedy recovery!

Rewind twenty minutes and the assembled members of the Scotties were placing bottom jaws back in sockets as the skipper arrived early. (Yes, dear reader – EARLY). Good thing too, as he had approximately 45% of the team in his car. For perhaps the first time in the history of the team, the start of play was 30 minutes late because of the opposition. Anyway, with our 1300 start time appropriately arriving at 1330, the skipper won the toss (this was quickly becoming a day of firsts) and Scotties set out with bat in hand.

It was quickly apparent that early season vigour had us in thrall, to the power of trying to steal ‘the cheeky single’. The problem is that this requires the legs for the job as well as the mind-set. Sadly, our communications officer fell to a very good direct hit early on. His time with the ball would come. Thankfully East London, South Africa (or somewhere like that)’s own Justin King had decided today was time to show the stuffy English a bit of Protea Fire. The ball quickly became an object of some interest to the local bird population, so much time did it spend sailing over the boundary. A brilliant 65 off of 34 balls to set us off. This was backed up by noteworthy additions from Messrs Van der Horst (37), Shah (26) and Reilly (27), accompanied by the usual assortment of run-outs and classic collapse of the tail. What was undoubtedly the best ball of the century (swinging a mile, decapitated off stump, at least 90mph) undid the author for a first ball duck. Enough said. Still, we had 181 on the board and a hungry battery of bowlers.

Tea (the usual excellent assortment of carbohydrates and ale) was washed down with gusto. Not enough gusto it would appear, to stop the likes of opening bowlers Ant Thickett and KP (Kyle Pack, in case you were wondering) opening with a very tidy spell indeed. Kyle’s raw, skidding pace was enough to unsettle the openers from one end, whilst Ant’s probing line and length induced some serious King Of The Swingers action with about a million near-edges. It was a fine performance. The fact they only walked away with two wickets each does not reflect the control and pressure they exerted over the top of the opposition’s batting order. No-one however, expected what was to come next. A very bushy (but otherwise rather slim looking) South-African beard appeared, hungry to redeem the disappointment of his earlier run-out. Behind the beard was our club stalwart and comms sec, Mr Brett Hawson. With cunning slight of hand our magician proceeded to conjure a variety of slower balls, spinners, zooters, flippers, all-other form of mammalian sounding similes. The batsmen were well and truly bamboozled. 5-17. An early birthday present, justly earned. On the other end was a certain Aiden Naude, making a welcome reappearance to the Scotties and keeping a miserly bowling length whilst Brett worked his magic from the other end. A special mention also goes to young Zac Naude making his first appearance for the team, and what a pleasure to see two generations taking the field together. After the start given to us and with Aiden and Brett bowling some very tight lines it was enough to take us across the line comfortably, winning by 77 runs with 7 overs to spare.

All-in-all an excellent opening match of the season, against an equally excellent bunch of chaps. The usual refreshments were enjoyed with some post-match analysis and general good humour. Gentlemen of Englefield Green, our thanks for a wonderful day!