Little Missenden, home to the Little Missenden Misfits Cricket Club, has featured in many television programmes over the years, a frequent filming location of ITV series, Midsomer Murders. The title “Missenden Murders” was actually considered as a possible title for the series.
Weirdly enough, a measure of the success of Midsomer Murders in Australia is that repeats of the series still rate highly and often feature in the nation’s top twenty shows in national surveys. Watching James “Jimmy Slatts” Slatter batting under a sky of dull steel in the Chiltern Hills on a lazy Sunday in June, it occurred to me that Jimmy is obviously a huge Midsomer Murders’ fan and recognising the surrounds, from hours in front of the gogglebox, decided to put the Little Missenden Misfits CC to the sword and create his own version of “Missenden Murder”.
Due to the location of ground, the starting locations of some of our players and the origins of their lifts, it was no surprise that 2:00pm rolled around and there were very few Captain Scott players visible. The skipper arrived around 2:10pm (with a car load of players). Before the car came to a complete stop, Sean had stepped out and was making his way to the middle for the toss. This was even more remarkable considering he was the one behind the wheel. The look on Ant’s face, as he realised that he was still in the driver-less car, easily doing two to three miles an hour, was one of abject terror. Fortunately there was a subtle incline upon which the car deposited itself and no lives were lost. Mind you, Ant, with the help of Rupert “Hound” Wells-Thorpe, still required a wander down the far side of the field to indulge in local flora and fauna, namely flora, to still his beating heart.
Having briefly spoken to the opposition captain to inform him, that our Skipper was still en route with the majority of the team accompanying him in his luxury Japanese vehicle, informed me that his team had spent a fair amount of time in the outfield in previous weeks, so was hoping to bat first. I failed to pass this nugget onto Sean, who again won the toss, asked their skipper to go back to the club house and determine his best bowling line-up. Scotties were batting.
Having realised early in her Scoring career thatthe batting line up of the Captain Scott Invitation XI is often as fickle as the sergeants that the Barnabys (both DCI) have partnered with throughout the run of Midsomer Murders, only the opening pair of, Slatts and Sidhu were pencilled in. The others would only be added to the book when they stepped over the boundary and into the field of play. Slatts proceeded to face the first over, while whistling the Midsomer Murders theme tune under his breathe and a surgical (or should that be murderous?) look in his eyes.
The second over Sunny looked to flick the ball down to fine leg, but only succeeded in kicking it there instead, a single was pinched and Sunny was down at his favourite end, the safest end, that of the non-striker. Sunny found himself back on strike for the second time and facing Little Missenden’s opening bowler. Sunny’s foray as an opening bat was not as successful as his previous time opening the innings and he was trapped in-front without a run to his name. 7 for 1. In strode Danial Khan, playing his first game, for Captain Scott, this season.
Slatts and Danial proceeded to rotate the strike and keep the rate per over looking good. Danial fell to a catch that I’m unable to describe adequately. Firstly, because I failed to see it and secondly because those that did see it could not fathom the adjectives required to turn the observation into a succinct spoken or written account. Suffice to say, from the awe and mutterings, Danial smashed, and those best describing the event mean SMASHED, the ball back to the bowler who miraculously managed to hold onto it. From the accounts I got, I understand that the ball had just about reached terminal velocity off the bat and the only way they Danial would have been able to get the ball to go any faster would to have been playing at a ground where there was minimal humidity, resulting in minimal drag. I guess this means he hit the ball rather well and the bowler did even better in grasping and hanging onto the leather comet bound for the outer reaches of its small galaxy and across the boundary. Unlucky is the best way to describe that dismissal. 59 for 2 in 10.5 overs.
For those long time Captain Scott fans and players, the next players stepping into the field of play for his season debut, was long time Scotty’s superjock, Dan “Jock” Vale (so named for his heritage and not his sporting prowess, though previous outings in the past could cause some debate over the origins of his soubriquet). With Jock finding the middle of the bat, this being his first outing with willow in-hand, Slatts was now hitting the ball to all parts and quoting lines from his favourite episodes of Midsomer Murders, every time the cherry crossed the plastic-flag-marked-boundary. The pair of tenured Captain Scott Invitation XI bludgeoners put on 64 runs in 39 balls, before Jock very tamely gave the young lad in the covers some simple catching practice. 1 2 3 4 5… not actually, but if would have been mathematically pleasing on the eye. It was 123 for 3. Jimmy, unbeaten on 78, was joined by the Skipper.
Old Sean, Skippering the Captain Scott Invitation XI for as long as he has, obviously has his promoters and detractors (you can’t please everyone all the time and I refer you back to “Hatgate” – for those that have read the previous match reports and namely the one describing the on-field antics against Butlers) but I didn’t think he’d convert our Scorer as quickly as he did. No mean feat… I should know, it took me 35 years before I managed to make our scorer and my lovely mother one of my promoters, but I digress. Laurie, having dutifully recorded and thus observed that Sean is presently going through a lean period, ignored my signal of a leg-bye after Sean had clearly been rapped on the pads before strolling down to the non-strikers recorded a single against his name and got him off the mark.
Jimmy had plundered 20 runs off of a opposition bowler’s first over and when the guy saw Sean and his fantastic willow facing the first ball of his second over, made a very audible gulping sound. I inwardly smiled as this is the type of bowler Sean eats for breakfast. This was going to be fun! In he ran and bowled a ball a foot outside the off stump, but it didn’t get half a foot off the ground and Sean having a look tried sensibly to move his bat out the way. Moving his bat sideways and up, proceeded to nick the ball with the bottom corner of his bat as it ascended in its parabola, deflecting it onto his stumps. A terribly unlucky way to get out and an extremely charmed way to earn a wicket. At least it wasn’t a duck… a solitary run (leg-bye?) had been added to the total. 124 for 4, 18.1 overs complete.
In strode one, who would not be remiss as the villain in an episode of Midsomer Murders and has spent more time in the Miami Airport interrogation suite than Sean’s spent in Bolton recently. I’m talking about none other than Aidan “no apt-nickname” Naude. With the bit between Jimmy’s teeth and Aidan, as juiced up as Epileptic Apache Telegraph Operator on Benzedrine, the run rate sky rocketed as the two mates cut lose. A partnership of 133 in 14 overs saw Jimmy bring up his century with the 19th four of his innings. Slatts’ acceleration could be likened to that of a television series murderer in a frenzy. His accomplice, was happy to rotate the strike and only put the bad balls away, reached his 50 after getting into the forties (41) relatively quickly and then took seven singles and a two to reach his fifty.
Slatts reached his 150, off 96 balls, smashing another boundary, which included 26 fours and three sixes. At this stage the Skipper had made a tactical decision to join Aidan and Slatts in the middle, so he could declare when he was ready too. The imminent declaration was communicated to the two batsmen, who again looked to raise the run rate. Stealing one single too many, Jimmy hared down the pitch towards the striker’s end, only to look like Forest Gump, clutching his butt in the Vietnam scene. It wasn’t quite a sniper, but Jimmy was injured… no other option to retire with a red 150 next to his name and a season average of 96.
Brett joined Aidan and one run later, courtesy of a wide, the Skipper declared with 258 for 4 off 33 overs on the board. Time for tea and some exquisite Victoria Sponge. The sandwiches were good too.
30 minutes later it was time for Little Missenden Misfits’ captain to ponder his batting line up and for the Scotties to take to the middle to take 10 wickets and prevent the opposition from reaching 259. Opening with pace of Aidan and the nagging length on Ant Thickett, the boys were fired up. Well nearly everyone… Slatts was keeping wicket and moving as lithely as a 90 year old with arthritis. Mind you we had no other options as we only had a team of 10 and keeping wicket was the best option as it would involve the least running.
It took less than five overs to take the first wicket. Aidan induced the edge and Jimmy forgetting that he was injured moved to his left and took a great catch down the leg-side. 9 for 1. Their number three was not going to get out wondering and liked playing across the line. Ant, into his fifth over, planted the ball on the off-stump on a good length, the batsman, looking to deposit the ball over cow-corner, missed and had his off-stump dislodged. 30 for 2 after 10 overs.
This brought the Misfits’ tenacious number four to the crease. He hit one of his first balls straight to a lonely mid-wicket, resulting in no run, but also the comment of the day. Jimmy, I’m assuming had taken some painkillers which were stronger than he realised, trying to keep the enthusiasm up, stated that the fielder had been surgically placed. There were some bewildered looks and Jimmy realised that he meant with surgical precision, tried valiantly to correct his faux pas – the damage had been done and after that any action was surgically done.
Inspired bowling changes were done surgically and when the Skipper replaced pace with spin and Aidan with Danial resulting in the third wicket, it was a surgical change when a surgical ball ripped, gripped and bowled their opener for 31. The Misfits were 44 for 3. With batsman number five joining the number four, it looked like we’d rattle through the team without much difficulty. It was not to be and the fourth wicket partnership produced 107 runs with all manner of bowling options unable to make a surgical breakthrough. Being a timed game there were only 20 overs remaining from 6:00pm and with this partnership moving along nicely and eating into the remaining overs it like there was a extremely minute chance that they would chase the total down as they needed 123 with 15 overs still remaining. It took the wileyness of Jock and another great snatch from behind the stumps to procure the fourth wicket and break their largest partnership. 151 for 4.
This started a mini collapse and Ben Smail, Jock, Danail and Aidan each claimed scalps, 156 for 5, 163 for 6 and 7, 175 for 8 and 9. We could smell victory. Nine wickets down and 29 balls to take the 10. Danial from one end and Aidan from the other. Batmen numbers 10 and 11 were also 10 and 11 years in age and this plucked at Aidan’s heartstrings, which meant he went from his usual competitive self to a large wet blanket and started bowling spin.
With spin now operating from both ends and nothing full and straight on the stumps, the youngsters faced no real pressure and with great credit to them, saw out the last 4.5 overs without any incident and snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat.
Not a win, not a loss, but a winning draw when you factored in the two run rates. A great game, but the final result had the team divided on whether a draw was a true reflection of the game and had our mind-set been different there might have been a wicket from one of the final 29 balls. Certainly not surgical.
Would Midsomer Murders be content with such an ending? Only a massive fan will truly know.
If you’d like to cast your eye over the finer details, the scorecard can be found here.