It’s not often that I win the toss and it’s very rare indeed for me to put the opposition in but that’s what Howard Lancaster and Tim House advised so that’s what I did. Some had their doubts, until Matt Dipple, opening the bowling up the hill and into the wind, clean bowled their opener for a duck to turn his first over into a wicket maiden. He went on to bowl four maidens in a row. At the other end, Tim House bowled their number 3 in his second over. Paul Wordsworth came on and had their number 4 caught by Mark Ford-Langstaff at slip in his third over. After Matt Dipple’s 8 over opening spell, I brought myself on and bowled their number 5 for a duck. As various people pointed out, the ball only just reached the stumps but still, it was my first ball and it was on target. This wicket maiden could have been even better had someone not then dropped a catch. Sadly, that person was the bowler. Much the same happened an over later.
Their other opener was still there at the drinks interval. The first ball after that, he tried to hit me out of the ground, missed and was well stumped by Jamie Lumb. A couple of balls later, their number 7 tried the same trick and succeeded with a 6. He tried again and manged to find the narrow gap between long off and the boundary for a 4. I soon brought back Matt Dipple. At the other end, Joe Moorman took over from Paul Wordsworth. Jamie Lumb did well to keep to Joe as two balls reared for byes-with-boundaries and two came through to be caught behind, both of which Jamie took. If he hadn’t intercepted one of those, it might have gone for a six. Ringing the changes at the top end, Andrew Thomas took over from Joe and then Tim House came back for a final over, Meanwhile, Matt Dipple took the last two wickets to fall, one bowled and one superbly caught by Mark Ford-Langstaff who hadn’t been able to hold on to an earlier chance but took this one, which was so sharp and wide of him that it wasn’t really a chance at all. Their number 11 was a 15 year-old Dulwich schoolboy who batted impeccably for his 14 not out. Invalids declared at tea on 144 for 9. Matt Dipple bowled 14 overs, taking 3 for 49.
Howard Lancaster and Mark Ford-Langstaff opened against two very quick bowlers. Mark was still incredulous hours later that gully had caught his firm hit. He was out for 7. Howard was determined, as so often, to see us through to the last 20 overs, which he did before he too was caught. Howard's 15 was worth many more to us as he blunted their impressive opening attack. Andrew Thomas at number 3 played delightfully, hitting the bad balls soundly and playing the good balls with respect. I thought that the only way he was going to get out was if he miscued one, which he duly did, skying the ball to short extra cover but nobody ran to catch it. By now, many of us were gathered on the far side of the ground, around the Chairman’s benches, where the sun was, and the sense was growing that perhaps Andrew would make a century, even though we were only chasing 144, and our revised theory was that the only way he could be out was if he were to be run out by his partner refusing to run on Andrew’s call. Sure enough, Andrew played an on-drive and called for a single but Joe Moorman declined to run. I was going to write that Joe sent him back but Andrew, limping from an earlier fielding incident, was not inclined to turn round. He was out for 64. Squiff Wordsworth came in next, hit two elegant boundaries, got to double figures but then joined the ranks of those caught. David Cole at number 6 joined Joe Moorman and they saw us though to victory with 146 for 4 and five overs to spare. Joe was not out 24 and David hit the winning runs with an emphatic drive for 4 and a look towards his massed ranks of supporters on the boundary.
There was so much to celebrate in this game that it was a three-way tie for the champagne moment between the catch by Mark, the catch of Mark and their number 11’s elegant boundary. Yes, three bottles were given. Yet again, Chris Greer scored for the whole game and Richard Lumb umpired for the whole match. Many thanks to both of them and to the visiting team’s umpire and scorer. The Invalids are delightful opponents. The ground once again looked splendid, as did the crowd. One spectator was unwell. The chairman and two doctors were on hand, Paul Wordsworth and Marc Swan. An ambulance was called as a precaution. It came within a few minutes, the paramedics were great and all was well. Tim House had been at the ground first, getting everything ready, such as putting out the flags. After the game, Paul and Squiff Wordsworth collected the flags and Tim did everything else, donning gloves to dispense beer and clean up everywhere. Many thanks. Who were the last six people to leave? Yes, the first four are easy: George and Georgina, Caroline and Tony. Who else? The duo who couldn’t bring themselves to go were the Invalids’ umpire and scorer. This was a good game against high quality opposition who almost all said that they missed our teas, our barbecues and our bar but they loved the ground and the cricket. Many of them had fond memories of last year’s all-day match for their centenary. Indeed, some were only just recovering. Well played, Middleton Stoney, and well played, Invalids.