Date: 08/05/2021
Opposition: Epsom CC
Man of the match: Ian Collier
Prat of the match: Phil Linter

As day broke across SW4 on Saturday the 15th of May, there was a sense of déjà vu for your scribe, with the grey skies leaving the feelings less than optimistic about getting a game in. Luckily, this week he had indeed opted to play the rain card, so despite feeling less than optimal, with the damage being done by a few too many espresso martinis, he was still somewhat smug, having clearly made the right call knowing he would be back horizontal in just a few hours. However, ever the professional, he duly donned the Wick kit (highlighted by a lovely contoured thermal jacket) and headed for Clapham Junction for the journey south to Epsom. New lad Rory, fresh off 75 in the 3rd XI, had arranged to Clemmo on Platform 11. However, in his exuberance to meet the club stalwart (completely understandable), he cosied up to someone else on the platform before being told “I am not Clemmo”. News of this on Clemmo’s arrival did not fill him with much confidence of the IQ of the next generation of Wick warriors, but you’d expect that from someone who believes so passionately that Heinz is the superior condiment brand to Hellmann’s.

As your 2nd XI warriors assembled at Epsom HQ, for the second week in a row it was noted that despite the amount of rain in the preceding days, the locals had turned out a good pitch. It would however be some time before it was put to use, with the rain delaying the start by a fraction more than an hour. This was good news for some, who took the opportunity to rest the eyes for a few moments. Before too long the skies were clearing and we were donning the warm-up kit. Then, something rather extraordinary took place, on a day where the extraordinary seemed ordinary. As deputy vice-captain Clemmo lead the team through their paces, tagging along at the back of the peloton, 2nd XI captain Linter. Nothing unusual about that you may say, the captain joining in on the warm-up, and on face value that is a fair assertion. However, not only was Linter not in the starting XI (owing to a broken finger you’ve all heard about), he was not even in the appropriate attire, choosing to warm-up for a tough day on the ink in jeans, Asics trainers, and a radiant blue camisole piece. Sometimes it is about the optics, and having 10 strapping lads go through their paces in a professional manner only to be thwarted by our Papa Smurf Scorer was no doubt fodder to the opposition’s best wordsmiths.

It came as no surprise then, under the supervision of Papa Smurf, co-skipper Blanchard lost the toss, and it would the good guys who were sent in. Clearly still blinded by standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Papa Smurf and his blue poncho at the toss, Blanchard did not last long, clean bowled by their opening spinner in the early overs. Depending on who you believe, he was either playing down the Jubilee when the ball was on the Piccadilly, or beaten by the best delivery of all time. Regardless, we were one for not many, and needing some stability as the skies began to open up ever so slightly. Young Buck Khaira joined Old Bull Collier and the two went about rebuilding the foundation. Collier provided the wise head needed for KK, and despite it not clicking from ball one, it was pleasing to Keerat knuckle down and get through those challenging first 20 balls. What was not so pleasing was seeing him try to put ball 21 into orbit, and having had an earlier life, it would be 2nd time lucky for the young Epsom side, and Keerat was out for 13. By the time Hellmann’s aficionado Rory Kennedy got to the crease, the drizzle had turned very watery, much like the Heinz range of condiments, and it would surely be only a matter of time before the covers were back on. But, they breed them tough up Norf (I am told – I personally have never been further North than The Ivy Chelsea), and Umpire Riley had no hesitation in staying out there, despite the fact that even the ducks were running for cover.
Thankfully, this did not phase Collier or Kennedy, who started to put together a healthy partnership. Before long, the score read 77 for 2 from 27, they really were singing in the rain (lolz). Collier playing the anchor role (despite forgetting his age at one point and sending their strike bowler over his head for a one-bounce boundary), and Rory being more like Hellmann’s range of condiments when compared to Heinz, a little sweeter and more expansive. It was at this point that Umpire Riley decided to call time on the session, and all it took was stage 3 flood warnings from the Met Office.

Rain breaks in cricket are always fascinating, with some calling them the real classroom of the streets. You learn more sitting in on an HWRCC XI rain break than you’ll ever learn in the classroom, that there is no doubt. There are always 2 or 3 blokes who take themselves out of the mixer to chill out, maybe read the Mogul Dynasty and catch-up on current affairs, your Dale’s and Henry’s of the world. Then there are the blokes who think they have a meteorology degree, coming up with superlatives such as “water actually helps things dry”, looking at you Nick Browning. There are your younger extraverted units like Khaira and Kennedy who speak words I, and I dare say many of you readers, have literally not heard of, like “peng”, “spiritualing” and “Heinz is quality produce”. Of course, there are then your luminescent-blue mumu wearers who try to solve the Duckworth-Lewis riddle with 4 clipboards and a plethora of pens (no prizes for guessing that one). And then there is the rest of us, the wise old heads, your Tong’s, Collier’s and Clemmo’s of the world who sit back and simply revel in the cultural musings being dished out, learning valuable lessons of youth culture whilst also trying to make notes for the match report. And readers, you will pleased to know that this rain break proved to be no exception. We covered an array of topics, such as “when does a leap turn into a jump, and a jump into a fall”. And “Does being on the international space station ledge change your answer”. And let’s not forget “can clouds be blue?”. I told you so. Baffling.

With the discussions turning to the likelihood of HWRCC producing a world-cup player, and the hieroglyphics that Cheltenham-based company Superdry use on their Japanese garments (yep), it was a relief when the rain parted, if nothing more than to put a stop to this incessant nonsense, as your scribe was developing RSI trying to get this all down. Unfortunately, it was a while before any match official recognised this, and so we sat around for a further 30 minutes whilst the outfield was made safe. What exactly happened in that 30 minutes to make the ground safer I will never know, but thankfully the covers were off, and we would be back underway. Some more bad news was to come however.

Obviously the cultural buffet of the rain break had all been too much for Rory, who succumbed shortly after without adding to his 26, despite claiming that he was a lock for back-to-back 50s, the type of confidence enjoyed by your scribe to be fair. Clemmo then strode out to the crease to join Collier. With the espresso martinis now out of the system and a typical edgy start, the two were working into it nicely. They say you cannot buy experience, which is a shame because we could have used some, as Collier perished for a well-made 41. It was Nugget Mitchell who then marched out to the Epsom centre, fresh off a 50 in week one, and the two continued the work which Collier had done. The 2 premier wicketkeepers of the club batted extremely well, if I don’t say so myself, and despite some more dodgy running and calling from Nugget, they managed to push the score upwards of 150. Credit to Epsom, the bowling was extremely disciplined through the middle stages of the innings, with the bad balls limited, and Keerat’s cricket friend Tucky in particular putting in a good shift, taking the points in the “battle of the buddies” for the day. Good mates. Top bantz. With four overs remaining, Clemmo fell for 43 when trying to accelerate things, and shortly after Nugget also crumbled (more lolz) for a tasty 24 (back-to-back lolz).

By this time, Boom Boom Charlton had well and truly arrived, smacking two big sixes to get the mighty 2nd XI to a score of 177 off our 50 overs. It was about par on this track. The opposition bowling was extremely disciplined throughout, the bad balls were limited, particularly late, but nonetheless, 177 was definitely a competitive score.

Because of the delays, the turnaround was quick. In a sign of the times, your 2nd XI ninjas were limited to BYO teas, despite Blanchard doing his best to flirt with the Epsom tea lady for some extras (food, I think). Yours truly opted for an M&S mozzarella and pesto wrap, accompanied by a Belgian chocolate flapjack. A strong choice, but not a patch on an HQ tea. With that out of the way, Papa Smurf had finally mastered clipboard calculus, and informed us that Epsom would be left with 20 overs to chase 100. It felt a fair total all things considered, and as we were soldiering out to defend this total, the clouds were closing in. Remarkably, we managed to squeeze in an over early, and it was Browning who continued his form from week one, and cleaned up their opening batsman with an absolute peach to give us the early momentum. Unfortunately, the rain stymied our charge, but in some good news, it meant Blobs was able to get back flirting with the tea lady, as the two shared some great back and forth debating the merits of vegan sausages.

A shorter break this time around, as the blue clouds showed up for us, and we were again back out in the field. It will forever be a mystery to us all, but obviously the tea lady whispered something pretty special to really fire up co-captain Blanchard, who was thrown the ball shorter after the resumption of play, and boy did he get it talking. Epsom went from cruising at 50 for 1, to being put right on the back foot. Pretty quickly, Blobs had picked up 4 (should have been five but someone dropped one at cover, think it was Collier but my memory is dodgy), Dale, bowling without too much luck, chimed in at the other end with one, and soon enough it was clear that this one was going down to the wire. Epsom needed 24 off 24. The key would lie with their young opener, who despite some friendly words of encouragement from your Wick combatants, was batting with the temperament of someone several years his senior.

Overs 18 and 19, bowled by Blanchard and Browning were things of beauty from a HWRCC perspective. The strike was starved from the young opener, lines were impeccable, and the runs dried up. Having gone from needing a run a ball, all of a sudden, a long day’s work would come down to the final over. 13 runs would give victory to the home side, anything less would see a topsy-turvy game go the way of the good guys.

It would be week one Man of the Match Graeme Tong who would bowl the final over. The game really was on a knife’s edge, but we felt as though we had the ball in the right man’s hands. The first ball went for a single and that saw the young gun back on strike, facing G Tong with the game on his shoulders. The second ball was a dot ball, but when the third and fourth balls were sent to the boundary, the equation was now 2 off 2. With the penultimate ball of the game, the young opener drove one through cover to give the home side victory.

Despite the loss, we were a fingernail away from that one going our way, and credit where it is due, the young opposition opener batted superbly, meeting every challenge thrown his way to single-handedly carry his team to victory. As one of the more fancied sides in the competition this year, we left Epsom with no fear of what we would face this season in this league. If we bring our best cricket week in week out, with sensible batting and diligent bowling, we will be right there at the pointy end of the season.

Man of the match for his anchor innings of 41 was Ian Collier. In a game where we had a pretty even contribution across the board, Colly gets the nod just ahead of the lovestruck Blobs. Rory Kennedy put some mayo on his performance, Nugget and Clemmo did some good things with the bat, but Collier was the wise head first-up on a tough Epsom track.

Now we turn of DoD. As you’ve read, the rain delay gave your scribe plenty of food for thought here. Plenty of (dis)honourable mentions. Keerat for his “I am on a path to spiritual enlightenment” in reference to his love of Jim Beam, Nick Browning for declaring “It’s not raining now” when looking at his phone weather forecast and not his surroundings (it was pelting it down), and Rory Kennedy for proclaiming “my club average is currently 101” before going out 2 balls later. But, there can only be one winner. And it is a clear and obvious choice. Captain Clipboard, the blue badger, for warming up for a day or pen-holding and occasionally throwing up an arm, and doing it having obviously got dressed in the dark takes it.

We are back at the home of cricket next week, against a ladder-leading Cheam outfit, and we relish (Hellmann’s of course) the challenge.

Up the Wick!