It is a shame that cricket post-dates ancient Greece as it would surely have inspired Homer et al with a structure that lends itself splendidly to the origin of myth. The match against Islip CC yesterday had a difficult birth, early tests, conflict, several heroes’ journeys and the reward of victory.
Scene 1 – Welcome to Olympus
Olympus, also known as Middleton Stoney Cricket Club is where we meet Zeus (Simon Pettit) a couple of days before we play, surrounded by other gods (Dan Harris, Ben Breaker and Jonny Hough) showering him with the gifts of grass-cutting, pitch preparation and equipment repair. Olympus is a botanical picture and the gods are happy.
Scene 2 – Stealing from the Gods
Saturday afternoon and Hermes (Microsoft) delivers an unwelcome message: the oppo are three short and the game is in question. Prometheus (Euro 2020) is assigned the blame.
Scene 3 – The God’s Rage
We didn’t rage too much actually and if you have already recognised the story of Pandora, you will right now be expecting the creation of a ‘beautiful evil’ to gift to Islip. Instead we found Ben Breaker, Rob and Elliot Barton who brilliantly agreed to play against us and the game was on.
Scene 4 – Gift of the Gods
Our very own Pandora (skipper Tim Riley) lost the toss and was asked to field first. Resisting his box of tricks for the moment, Simon Pettit and Max Nalborczyk (on debut) opened the bowling with the hot sun on their backs and a supporting cast of cap wearing Titans in the field. Both started well with Simon trapping one of the openers LBW for none and Max bowling economically in his first spell for several years.
If you’ve ever wondered how suntan lotion and hand sanitiser mix then you had come to the right place. A couple of dropped catches were blamed on the oily result although that didn’t stop Dan Harris run out the other opener with an excellent throw from mid-off.
Islip’s number three looked to be in form and played well for a run a ball 39 before Asif Kamal took a fine catch at deep square leg to bring about Simon’s second wicket.
A change in bowling at both ends followed and it proved to be a turning point. The indomitable Mike Simpson quickly saw off the number five batsman and then the umpire as hot heads debated what does and doesn’t constitute a no-ball. Meanwhile the ever-cheerful Asif bowled the number four batsmen in a tight spell that began a period of conservative batting.
Number six had scored just one when he was called through for a quick single and Dan Harris proved once again how good a fielder he is with his second run out of the day.
Middleton players Elliot Barton and Ben Breaker now occupied the middle. Our gifts to Islip consolidated after the earlier wickets and determined not to get out to their clubmates with a net result of a diminishing run rate. In one extraordinary moment, Elliot left a delivery from Simmo that tickled the bails but left them balanced on top of the stumps – not out. Jonny Hough and Tim Riley came on to tempt and cajole the batsmen into a mistake and it was Tim who got a double breakthrough when he bowled both of them in quick succession.
With only a few overs remaining until tea, our third gift to Islip (Rob Barton) hit out and added 27 valuable runs to the total. This came at more than a run a ball before a returning Max took his first wicket for the club, bowling Rob who finally missed one.
Islip’s innings closed after 43 overs with a total of 133 all out.
Tim and the rest of us opened our lunch boxes. Gluttony escaped and we all enjoyed our various sandwiches and rehydrated in the shade.
Scene 1 – The Sins Escape
You may well remember that when Pandora opens her box (potentially the very first instance of jug avoidance), all manner of sins escape. If you’re still with me so far, I’m going to name them all but please don’t take it personally if you don’t like the one assigned to you! Like a badly designed flugelbinder, they don’t always fit perfectly.
Scene 2 – Wrath & Envy
Wrath is rage, irrational and blind anger lashing uncontrollably at the target - the ball. Simon connected on a few occasions in a heavily syncopated batting order but then missed a straight one. Dan promised a touch of hope after a fine knock in last week’s 20/20 but was second man out, bowled by the left armer. Mark Ford-Langstaff was envious. He couldn’t hit a thing and stayed around far longer than he should have before patting back a badly timed shot straight to the bowler. 24 for 3.
Scene 3 – Sloth & Gluttony
I’m going to accuse next man in, Max of sloth but only because this clearly talented cricketer hasn’t played in a number of years. Also, he was run out so he wasn’t quick enough! 35 for 4.
We have already been introduced to gluttony at tea. Tim Riley normally has a massive appetite for runs. Not today, caught behind from a ball that just did enough. 37 for 5.
Scene 4 – Pride & Greed
Enter Asif and Jon Springer. Asif was fielding for some time with his trousers hitched up in the style of a Victorian on a trip to the seaside. A distinct lack of pride in his appearance! After four balls he was caught and returned to his deckchair. 42 for 6.
Jon hit a beautiful cut shot for four and looked greedy for more. Alas, not today. LBW. 47 for 7.
Scene 5 – Lust
Thankfully, lust can be used to describe many things. It is a desire for example, for power, money or knowledge. Jonny Hough has a lust for cricket which is good because he had a long chat about it with George after the game. Two fine fours but then everything seemed lost as we succumbed to 52 for 8.
Scene 6 – Hope
Hope, the bane of all sports fans. It’s what hurts the most, engraves the most painful memories, abandons us on a Sunday afternoon. The evergreen Mike Simpson and steadfast Howard Lancaster are never beaten. Playing watchfully under the beating sun a flicker of hope was kindled and if their dripping sweat didn’t put it out, it had the potential to grow into a roaring fire of heroic deeds. Howard began to hit out, four lovely boundaries. Simmo breathed deeply, remembering past glories and believed.
Kevin Crawford of Islip deserves a mention here. He bowled 16 miserly overs of metronomic line and length taking four wickets at an economy rate of just 1.6 runs per over. Simmo took him on by nudging and nurdling singles, playing carefully and chipping away at the lead. Howard and Simmo put on 53 runs for the eighth wicket before Howard, visibly disappointed was LBW to the aforementioned Crawford for 30. 105 for 9.
Twenty-nine runs still needed. Jamie Lumb up for the challenge but one more wicket would win it for Islip. Islip turned to a spinner with the clear tactic of lobbing it up on leg stump but with three men back on the square leg boundary a mis-timed shot would cost us the game. Jamie decided to go over the top of them. Six runs and the ball ending up in a convertible’s driver seat! Lovely shot, Jamie.
Hope can come but it can quite easily go. Not today! Islip’s heads were down, the runs were picked off and an epic one wicket win achieved. Simmo finished on 23* and Jamie 17*.
Beers in the shade were enjoyed afterwards with Islip – Olympus had not fallen.
PS: Asif's daughter Aliza did a wonderful job keeping our scoreboard up to date especially during the very tense closing stages. Thank you, Aliza!