Middleton Stoney Vs. The Authors 2017

Middleton Stoney Vs. The Authors 2017

Our opposition this week included writers of biographical, archaeological and sports history. As all good classicists will know, the father of historical writing is Herodotus. His most famous passages describe the supreme example of courage in defeat, which occurred on the hallowed fields of Thermopylae in 480 BC. In three days of bloody battle, the infamous King Le{e}-onidas of Sparta and just 300 Spartan men sacrificed their lives in a brave rearguard action against 120,000 invading Persians. This Spartan heroism, in the face of overwhelming odds, led King Xerxes to abandon his conquest, thus saving the western world from barbarism. So we were in good company for a game in which the best which could be said about us is that we showed some courage in defeat.

 

Our captain was on Radio 4 the next day discussing his favourite authors and has drawn attention to cricket captains learning from ancient Greek generals (see https://sixtybookworkout.wordpress.com/2017/03/23/sixty-book-workout-day-59-mike-brearley-the-art-of-captaincy/) but on this occasion he was fooled by our wily enemy. He won the toss and decided to take advantage of what he thought were our superior numbers. It might have seemed that way at 2 o’clock, with the distorting effect of Vadivale being on time (marriage having already transformed him) and indeed we started to bat against nine Authors. We offered substitute fielders but they clearly wanted to bring on their stars to bowl on arrival and said they would make do until then.

 

Meanwhile, they opened with Beckman (Amazon author ranking 4 stars; £9.44) and Wilson (4.5 stars; £6.29) who bowled straight and true. We once again opened the batting with a pair of Tims, this time House and Cranston. Nothing much happened in the first few overs. Cranston looked in determined mood and in due course House started his elegant straight driving. This prompted one noted Middleton sage to remark, from the safety of the pavilion bench, that, ‘House looks like he’s set and about to make a killing.’ To which another, possibly even wiser, sage replied, ‘Ah, but it’s very easy to get yourself out here!’ As a prep school cricketer would shout, ‘JINX!’ The sentence hadn’t even finished when House was bowled by a Wilson drifter for 10.

 

There was no undue concern in the Middleton ranks, with the skipper, King Le{e}-onidas, who had been umpiring, noting, ‘We’ll get some runs here.’ Again, ‘JINX!’ The enemy revealed their true strength when The Authors’ strike bowler, Lee (no relation, no Amazon ranking found, possible lawyer, who no doubt qualifies as an Author due to his chargeable emails) finally arrived at the ground, and proceeded to pass the bat with some pace. He was joined by Pritchard (no Amazon ranking found) another very useful medium pacer.

 

Vadivale came in at no. 3, and with time on his side, worked himself in, using a 5 day test match approach. After 20 overs, and with only 55 runs on the scoreboard, Vadivale began to increase the run rate, with some lovely cutting and driving. But then disaster struck. What happened next was discussed at the bar late into the night, but even with the help of beer, wine and whiskey, no proper conclusion as to what actually occurred could be reached. Vadivale had admittedly arrived early (for him) at the battle-ground but he had recovered his composure and thereafter was unhurried. He had strolled out to the crease. He was unmoved when The Authors appealed vociferously but to no avail for a caught behind. But then he did not hurry back to make his ground after a mix-up of epic proportions. Utter confusion from the batsmen, even some confusion from the fielders, and lots of shouting from the crowd, resulted, eventually, in the run-out of Vadivale for 18. Cranston, who had batted with industry and purpose, was perhaps unnerved and departed soon afterwards for a solid 21, caught at second slip.

 

No. 4 Ford-Langstaff had been pondering on the pavilion bench whether to go for big shots or not. Thankfully the answer was ‘not’, and he hit some wonderful shots along the ground and through the gaps, making quick runs, picking up the crowd’s spirit and wielding his ancient bat (widely admired by the slip cordon). Unfortunately, just as he was really cracking on, he popped one up to the close field, and departed for a sprightly 15.

 

After a dashing little knock by Selway (one of the home team’s authors - Amazon 5 stars!; £125.57!!!! – see it to believe it, shurely shome mishtake?) for 4, Silverman stepped up to the crease with the score at a lowly 71 off 26 overs. Thankfully Silverman proceeded to add some respect to the statistics. He batted with purpose and panache, while running with exuberance. Several boundary hefts over mid-wicket were particularly punchy. Unfortunately none of the tail, bar no.11 Lee-onidas, could stay with him, and Silverman ended the innings top scoring with 34, for which he rightly shared the Champagne Moment Prize. It was a wonderful innings, which quite simply saved our blushes. The only other notable innings was that of his fellow prize-sharer, 14 year old Max Langdale, who on his club debut batted with spirit and ran hard to get off the mark quickly. Middleton Stoney were all out for an embarrassingly low total of 112 runs. It was not quite the humiliation it seemed, as the Authors had bowled very well, with Marshall (5 stars!; £7.33) annihilating the tail with figures of 5 overs, 4 wickets for a measly 6 runs and Hogg (4.5 stars; £8.99) bowling 6 overs, 3 wickets for 20.

 

Turning back to our bard Herodotus for a moment, Middleton Stoney just hadn’t mustered enough runs. Like the Spartans, we didn’t have the numbers. But we did fight hard.

 

The Authors opened their innings with two seasoned campaigners, Smith (no Amazon ranking found) and Owen (5 stars!; £9.99). Cranston opened the bowling for Middleton, and took up where he had left off with his batting. He was all hustle and bustle, bowling a good length and line. Owen survived one appeal for caught behind in Cranston’s second over, but could not survive an LBW shout in his third, departing for 1. The most heartening aspect of those opening overs was the energy of Middleton Stoney. With such a small total to defend, every man knew it was time to do their duty. House was bouncing behind the stumps like a jack in the box, Swan fizzing like a sherbert lemon at mid-on. The Langdales, senior and junior, were chasing down the ball like greyhounds, Vadivale shying at the stumps at any opportunity. The team clearly had the words of Queen Gorgo ringing in their ears, “Come back with your shield, Spartan, or on it!”

 

While Cranston was bowling majestically, the same could not be said at the other end, where your scribe Watson was bowling his usual slow, erratic swing. Owen’s departure ushered in Craig (5 stars!; £6.99) who with his deft footwork and strong hitting was clearly the batsman to get. He made hay from the start, smashing 16 in his first two overs. The end suddenly seemed rather nigh. To Watson’s speciality ball, the going-well-down-leg-long-hop, however, Craig smote yet another pull to the boundary. That man Cranston again opened the catching, as well as the batting and bowling, sprinting and leaping to take a tremendous catch just inside the rope. Craig was out for 18.

 

The General of the Middleton Stoney army, Lee-onidas, replaced Watson, and started bamboozling the batsmen with the variety of his arsenal. No.3 Masefield (no reviews, £41.61!!) got off the mark quickly, but was trapped by Lee LBW for 10. Vadivale came on to replace Cranston, tweaking a tight line that the batsmen found hard to get away. Lee pushed on, and in his very next over removed Smith, that stoic opener who had nudged his way to 18. The catch at mid-wicket by Watson was a comedy mix of Darcy Bussell pirouetting and Coco the Clown juggling, but it was the breakthrough Middleton needed. The scoreboard showed 53 for 4, and a whisper went round the field, ‘This is on!’

 

Belief coursed through the Middleton ranks, but unfortunately Lee the batsman came in for the Authors. He survived a few early worries and nurdled his way into an innings. The run rate ticked up as the overs passed by. And then Captain Lee did what all good generals do, making way for fresh cavalry and bringing Cranston back into the front line. His good game continued, and with the very first ball of his second spell he removed Hogg’s off-stump. The Authors were 80 for 5 and Middleton still believed! Perhaps another wicket or two would reveal a tail and an unlikely victory might still be possible.

Alas, the next man in, Pritchard, was too able a cricketer for us to discover what might have been. Pritchard and Lee had the technique and the time to see off the good balls and punish the bad. As the heavens opened, the Authors made their target of 113 in their 37th over. Still, despite having such a low score to defend, Middleton had managed to make a game of it. It was a brave rearguard action that was courage in defeat personified.

 

Thanks to Patricia Lee and Georgina and George Lamb for a sumptuous tea, accompanied by bunting celebrating England’s world champion women cricketers, thanks to Marc Swan for barbecuing in the torrential rain, ably assisted by Rona Hickman before Mark Ford-Langstaff saw us home and to Tim Cranston for manning the bar and locking up. And thanks of course to our visitors, the Authors, who played marvellously well and in a great spirit. They were delightfully reluctant to leave the battle-ground, despite the monsoon. We trust this is only the first of many battles against them and that victory might one day be ours.  

Jim Watson.

 

Stop Press – A used copy of Fixture Secretary Selway’s book, the one that costs £125.57, is also available for £309.88!   


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