On winning the toss, I put St Clement's Strollers in to bat. Rob Barton and Mike Simpson opened the bowling splendidly. In their allotted four overs each, Rob Barton took 1 for 14 while Mike Simpson took 3 for 27. Mike bowled one of their openers for a duck, then bowled their number 3 for 2, before trapping their number 5 lbw for 2. Their number 4 was caught by Russell Turner at square leg off Rob Barton’s bowling. Their other opener, Dan Savin, hit Simon Pettit’s first ball for 6 but lobbed up his last one for me to catch, also just in front of the square leg umpire. Dan scored a fine 52. This brought his father, Graham, to the crease. He hit Mark Ford-Langstaff rather more firmly to me at short extra cover and was also caught. Their number 6 was 44 not out, having played and missed at enough of my deliveries to make my figures almost as economical as Rob’s, 0 for 18. Simon Pettit took 1 for 28 and Mark Ford-Langstaff rose to the challenge of the fifth stint, bowling the last four overs from the church end, taking 1 for 32.
Our fielding was above par, with Alex Silverman, Ben Breaker, Howard Lancaster and Elliot Barton all running well in the deep and Tim House sprinting from behind the stumps to cover several closer fielding positions. We held all our chances. A few overthrows were the result of at least trying to run out opponents who were, for the most part, adventurous between the wickets. To restrict St Clements Strollers to 126 was a good team effort, especially as the dry ground gave batsmen every chance of boundaries.
Russell Turner and Mark Ford-Langstaff opened our batting. The latter was lbw for 3 to one that kept very low. Or perhaps it was that Mark was unaccustomed to having bowled the last over before going out to bat. Russell anchored the innings for 9 before becoming the first of three batsmen to be well caught in the deep. Elliot Barton joined Tim House until he didn’t make it back in time for a second and was run out. Tim House hit that opening bowler who had taken the first two wickets for two 4s off successive balls in a swift 23. He was out to their first change bowler, again well caught. Alex Silverman, making his debut for the season, and Ben Breaker each hit an impressive boundary before an authentic hook by Alex was superbly caught at fine leg for 6. Simon Pettit came in to accompany Ben in a thirteen feet tall partnership before Ben was bowled for 11 as we attempted to accelerate. Mike Simpson looked in no trouble from the bowlers during his 10 before he was run out. Rob Barton joined Simon and scored 5 off 5 balls. He was not out, alongside Simon Pettit who top scored with 28 not out, leading us to within 8 of the opposition total. Wides in the last over helped us get closer than had seemed possible for much of the innings. There were only two points where we really looked to be up with the required run rate, when Tim House hit those two 4s and when Simon Pettit hit his first four deliveries for four 4s. The latter sequence was judged to be the home team’s champagne moment.
The other contender for that award was the barbecue chef work of Rona Hickman, which was much appreciated by a good crowd and by both teams, especially Elliot Barton who was quicker between his brother Matthew and chef Rona than he was between the wickets. Simon Pettit ran the bar as he had run in to bowl, run in the field and run between the wickets – tirelessly - and seemed to be coaching Howard Lancaster in bar craft. Not that Howard needs any help on the customer side of the bar but the whole club could usefully volunteer to help one way or another on Tuesday, when we play our new Australian visitors, Goodwood CC from Adelaide. We have professional help that evening with a fish and chip supper but there will be plenty of bar work to be done, lagers to be chilled, and such like. Before then we have a House family tea and a Jay Mumtaz barbecue on Sunday against the Cricket Society, another club who will give us plenty of practice behind the bar, as did St Clements Strollers who have now beaten us twice, and handsomely so, this season.
A heartening aspect of this game was that, as various players fell by the wayside for diverse reasons, Howard Lancaster offered to play despite being injured, Elliot Barton and Russell Turner stepped up during the week to take us to ten and then, on the morning of the match, Mike Simpson completed our XI. At this stage of the season, it is greatly appreciated when people answer the call for help so that seven can become eleven. Thank you. Now that we have slipped into a results deficit, played 15, won 4, drawn 6, lost 5, is there any hope of returning to a healthier balance by the end of July, given three difficult opponents, the afore-mentioned Cricket Society and Goodwood, followed by The Authors, who beat us in our inaugural fixture last year? Healthy competition between our leading accumulators of runs, wickets and catches is one sign of hope. Mark Ford-Langstaff’s 3 took him to 305 runs for the season, the exact total reached by Tim House’s 23. Simon Pettit’s wicket brought him to 19 for the season, one behind Tim Cranston. And so on: watch out for the all-important list of most catches. Just saying.