Oak & Beech 31 Aug

By Mark Gilkes

Bovine, Posterior, Ukulele…

…And so to Barn Meadow playing fields in Amersham for the match against Oak & Beech. Skipper Adam Wood expertly won the toss and sent out Will Towers, who had demanded an opening slot, and James Tait, who is as happy to bat at eleven, be scorer, umpire or start early on the tea. Neither opener can do anything as proper-cricketer-like as read a pitch, but both immediately attempted to do what proper-cricket-commentators like to call “wearing the ball on your teeth.” With the fast and swinging bowling rising sharply off a length, Towers took two nasty blows on the hands (democratically, one on each), but battled grittily. Equally gritty – which, coincidentally, is the way he likes his porridge – was Tait. He bravely thrust forward at the spitting, rising balls, until, with a healthy stride of the front foot, he nicked one that rose viciously off a length and was caught behind for 0. Gilkes, having seen Tait’s dismissal with less enjoyment than usual, came to the crease and fended off his first ball two inches from his throat. The next ball was more placid, but was made to look lethal by a decision to go forward and back and also to each side. It wasn’t long before Gilkes found a way to escape both the barrage and the mortification of looking inelegant – by inelegantly sticking out a foot to deflect a wide one going down leg side onto his stumps. Towers, emotionally roughed-up, eventually succumbed to the softer bowling at the other end for 8, and, although lustily striking several boundaries, Phil Sessions soon followed for 12. By now nobody was in any doubt as to the personality of the wicket. Jim Monahan was fearless in his short innings of 8, but was yet another victim of the Oak & Beech bowler’s ability to move the ball in the air and off the pitch. Chris Hip Replacement Packham (incidentally, there is no truth in the rumour that James Tait has pointed out this nickname should be his because he has no idea who Beyonce Knowles is) then came to the pitch and attempted to counteract the variable bounce by batting half a metre down the pitch. It worked for the top score of 17 (equal with Extras) until he dragged one on. Adam Wood and Mike Fox both made nice round figures of nought. Joe Fox stroked two beautiful boundaries, including a low hook off his ribs, before he went for 9, and Paul Brasted and Nick Duckett battled as well as anybody for their respective 1 and O not out. Salmagundi amassed (it’s a lovely word – and quite inappropriate) 75.

Now I know Bovine Posterior Ukulele is a well-known saying that needs no explanation, and I know it was a tough pitch to bat on, but, it has to be said and said loud, that when it came to the Salmagundi batting, we couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo.

Still, how many times has Oak & Beech assumed victory only to collapse? Was not 75 perhaps a tough score to get on such a wicket? Oak & Beech had bowled exceptionally well, even without the help of the pitch, had fielded superbly and had clung on to (six) every catch that had come their way. If Salmagundi held on to everything and their nerve, what triumph would be theirs…

Fox Snr and Monahan opened the bowling. Both openers were dropped early, the first off Monahan, the second by Monahan. It’s likely Jim devised dropping his chance as a way of making Phil Sessions feel better about the one he’d dropped, but, after 6 overs with the run chase already at 45, such psychology seemed as overgenerous as it was half-baked. Then suddenly Jim and Mike got reward for their effort and 45 for 0 became 46 for three – with Sessions showing that after all he could do what he should’ve done the first time. The collapse had begun. Confidently Oak & Beech sent in their lower order to see if they could get the remaining 30 runs from the remaining 28 overs. Would this backfire? How quickly the pressure would mount if other wickets were to fall…

…and fall they did, with Gilkes taking a good catch in the covers off Fox, and Fox taking an even better one at mid-off off Monahan. A move to mid-off from backward short leg had been earlier requested by Fox and denied, so he can feel huge vindication in taking a catch where he’d asked to be moved to – although it may irritate him a little to learn that, having had it denied earlier, it was only after Monahan had acceded to Gilkes’s suggestion that the repositioning was sanctioned. (Skipper Adam Wood might wonder at all these unofficial discussions and sidebars – so let’s not tell him.)

The taking credit for a wicket by spurious and periphery involvement, as exemplified by Gilkes here, was even more brilliantly illustrated by Nick Duckett in the garden of the Eagle public house later that evening. Joe Fox, whose sharp fielding had caused nervous running in the batsman, had effected a brilliant run-out from mid-wicket with a very sharp throw on the turn, which was well gathered-in by Tait, but it was Nick, watching from long leg (as he was quick to point out), who had seen exactly what was going to happen – and so was in no small way instrumental.

By now Oak & Beech’s regular batsmen were having to pad up, and as they got more nervous, belief spread through the Salmagundi field. Which would run out first, runs or wickets? 59 for 4… 63 for 5… 72 for 6… 73 for 7…

Let us sportingly turn our attention now to the LBW decision denied to Mike; to the caught behind taken by James and not even seen; to the moment he swept off the bails with the batsmen’s foot just touching the line (and the associated moment later that evening when more people than just the umpire who didn’t give it admitted they didn’t know that on the line is out)…

Or, let’s not. He who has never made a playing or umpiring mistake should now raise his finger (or, better still, save it for the next time Mike Fox’s pads are struck outside leg stump).

Instead let us think again about the catches we dropped – the two openers who put on 45 having been dropped on 0 and a few; and the dropped catch at 73 for 7

Yes, even on that pitch, 75 was too small a total to defend – despite the valiant effort.

Bovine. Posterior. Skillet.

It wouldn’t be Salmagundi if there weren’t days when we couldn’t catch a cow pat in a frying pan.

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