Utter Vandalism – or how it’s possible to win everything with kids

Date: 17/07/2021
Opposition: Weybridge Vandals 3's
Venue: Kings Field
Man of the match: Euan Cole
Prat of the match: Ross Cathcart

How often have you heard this during a game: “Just a couple of quick wickets and everything can change” ?

This match was a sort of love letter incarnate to that facet of this beautiful game.

It was also a sort of Surrey Championship Division 5 West advertisement hoarding to Shane Warne’s global franchise…”You Gotta Spin to Win”ä

Wow. It had just about everything; sunshine, a true-ish Kingsfield pitch that gave us an above par score, batting and bowling heroics, two game-changing catches, batting and bowling tragics, some oppo skulduggery, the largest six in KF living memory and more than a dollop of fielding tragi-comedy…yes lots of fielding tragi-comedy.

Personally – even though I’m a relative newcomer to the Wick with only about 50 games under my belt – there was a 90-minute spell out there that was by far the worst and the best, most enjoyable passage of pendulum cricket I’ve ever been part of.

Here’s what happened.

First - the batting.

Captain Campaigner won the toss. Although rumour was there was some kind of Gentlemen’s Agreement with the team we rolled for 23 away at theirs. No one can be sure.

Certainly a day to bat first. Even the gazebo was struggling in the heat.

And heat can do funny things to people. Exhibit A: Depeche slapped a very un-Modish wazoo straight to mid-on after about 15 minutes. Our slow start just got a bit slower.

So in comes Alex M and bit by bit they start to inch things forward. Houghton gives us a glimpse of things to come with a couple of glamour drives up the hill to extra cover for four. We settle down. Loads of time in this game.

On the sidelines grabbing what shade we could we were joined by Lucy Spray, mother of U14 rising talent Olly Spray. Which sets the scene for our dead cert Dick of the Day moment. Well, the first of them.

In the run up to match, Lucy had been texting your correspondent from her base in Kingston to see how we were doing and what the chances were of Olly getting a bat. I had tempted fate by advising her thus: “Actually Olly has a good chance of batting today. He’s been put in at No. 4. So I think if everything goes to schedule you should probably plan to get over here by 2pm.”

Guess what? At 1.58pm – as clocked by Kempo, Lucy Spray takes her seat in the tent.

At 2.01pm Alex M has a swing and gets bowled. Lucy will definitely get to see her son bat.

Hear me now. For the rest of the season I will keep my trap shut. Sorry Alex – I caused your momentary lapse in concentration. Is there any way I can take the hit for you on Play Cricket?

Back to the game…

Houghton basically started to boss things. Once their pretty decent openers came off – especially colt Zach Powell (3 for 29 off 8 - well done young man) - his game became modular. He adapted his approach not only to who he was facing – a typical 4s-level mixture of Greggs pie stand and some actually decent, tight-something-or-other from their interesting looking No 5 bowler.

But Houghton also adopted his approach to who his partner was. Be it Colt or Vet. Slow, slow quick, quick, slow…Before the game he’d given clear instructions on what the plan had to be. We want 50 after 10. 100 by drinks. 200 min by the end.

Ooo. That’s a bit supernatural powers all that given where we ended up. 47 by 10 and 98 by drinks.

He coached Olly through his useful 13. Kempo just wasn’t at the races (1) – then put on the highest partnership of our day with Lord Steans where they both showed their class and hit 34 dealing mostly in 4s. Easy when you’ve got all the time in the world.

The supporting-cameo roadshow continued via Mitch, Euan and Risko – who all did their job: Keep Houghton on strike, hold up your end, do not run him out. Etc etc. Chorus line support to his front-of-house star basically.

And it worked. Well…nearly.

We were only in the bloody last over weren’t we? And he was only on 97 runs. Opinion in the gazebo was split down the middle: “Do we tell him? Do you think he knows? Oh god? What should we do?”

The Elders including 4s performance psychologist and spiritual weather vane Richard Cole were in no doubt. “You’ve got to F*****G tell him”. Performance psychology you see is a subtle, nuanced business.

So we told him. In fact yours truly wins the statue for Dick of the Day II. I told him not just once, but twice. “Three runs skip!!! Three runs!!!” Just to make sure he heard me you know.

And that’s when he got trapped. LBW – swinging and missing. 97 including 13 fours.

Aaaaargh.  Still, for the first time this season I got to have my bowlers tea thinking…”Blimey our batters have done us proud today. 203 on the KF. We can defend that. Especially against these duffers right…”  (Dick of the Day III – kerching).

Kerching indeed.

I have never seen a six like it. It wasn’t too bad a ball. Not much width or waywardness. Maybe just a little over pitched. A bit ‘slottage’ as Bumble might say.

And bugger me. My neck is still sore from the strain of watching it lift and lift and lift – up the hill, clearing the sight screens by easily 60-70 foot and still it kept going. Rumour has it it landed over in Cobham.

No one on the field including some real Kingsfield pros could remember seeing a ball clear the wall on that side.

You see we were getting bullied.

The team that we rolled six or seven weeks earlier during the autumn of May 2021 had clearly spent some time on the phones.

“Hello is that Ringers R Us? Can we have two absolute butchers on standby for the 17th July up at the Wick pls? What should they bring? How about some fancy black trainers and some non-cricketing apparel just to give the appearance they’re new to the game. How about one of them has a shirt with calligraphy all down his back just to add a splash of confusion. Usual going rate? thanks!!!”

We can deal with the dross called their top three quickly. All bowled out. Higgins got two trademark early wickets. And Spray very calmly from down the hill took the other.

A quick side note on Higgins this summer. My heart lifts when he’s on the team sheet. He’s exactly what you want in a strike bowler – he’s got doomseed inswingers on tap. And he takes wickets. Early wickets. Ok, the oppo might be dross but you’ve still got to get them on the stumps. He’s in real danger of assuming three jobs in this team: milk man, post man and UPD driver…he always frigging delivers.

So they’re three down in the 8th over having made 17 runs. Is this the best you’ve got?

Ah…of course here come the two strange clobber dudes – clobber as in clothing, and clobber as in – take a dirty big piece of wood to a ball and start ruining dreams.

We got a taste of things to come when Charlie the milkman went for 15 off one over. Riskovitch at first change nearly lost a finger - twice with the same straight smash right back at him. Real stingers.

And yet to Risko’s credit – despite the pain all he could think of was: “I should have taken those catches!” Moment of truth, Risko. Can you stand the heat? Do you stay in the kitchen? Bravely he did – one more over – curtailing the damage a little despite the onslaught.

Then yours truly had a go. I can’t blame down the hill entirely for getting pumped so badly. In fact two of my overs went for a measly six runs. It was just a shame the other two went for 31 runs.

At this stage I won’t mention Kempo’s DOTD III fumble at mid-wicket in my 2nd over, which would have spared us about 12 overs of pain. Oops – I just did.

This is all just to give you an idea of the full-willow-jacket horror show being offered up by the two gentlemen of bad clobber.

They’re now on 117 just before drinks. The pendulum has completely shifted.

In hindsight we probably should have made the switch to spin much earlier. It was only two weeks previously against the Egham Exterminator that we saw the full bamboozlement our spinners – especially Euan Yours - can cast over visiting muscle men.

Note to skipper: next time we meet any roaring lions – get the dobbly boys off quick and get the tamers on.

Thank god we did make the switch. And boy here’s to the utter fearlessness (and skill) of our colts division.

Euan Cole had the clobber boys on a stick from…about the third over. Both he and Mitch did start off a wee bit expensively…but importantly they were working them both out.

And then comes the reward….It was all going cow or long on. So Olly is sent back.

I’ve seen Olly take some real head scratchers this season in the U14s…”How the hell did he manage that?” sort of stuff. But boy was he about to take it up another gear.

Euan dangles one in the slot. Prince of Clobber can’t help himself and he clubs it. Fast, but high arc stuff – and on that annoying “it’ll fall safe” trajectory. We think. But young lads are fearless – and they’ll chase everything. And that’s what Spray did…sprinting forward, and forward and…he’s diving on the ground and…just hold it Olly…please…and he’s frigging done it!”

Scenes. Scenes. Beautiful Scenes. All social distancing between Coley and Spray is forgotten. We have a breakthrough. Wick 1. Clobbers United 0.

Except we’ve still got a loose tiger on the prowl. They’re wounded for sure. But it could still get nasty. We’re at 131 for 4.

Euan goes again. Mitch coming in from the other side. And comparatively the runs are drying up. Going at threes and fours per over. We’re still bleeding a bit. But it’s all about getting Clobber 2 out.

Euan goes again…and his magic wands works again. Same spot, same swoosh. Same direction. Same Olly. And now bagging comfortably. Oh my! Oh my! Oh my beautiful, beautiful days.

The full context of this passage is this.

Our two matey boys in calligraphy put on 114 runs in roughly 10 overs. It was a brutal passage of play, forcing me to consider retirement, some salt water from Harris and a strong minded 4s unit to get the whiff of the jitters.

You could sense the clouds descend during the spell. It went from “Are we seriously going to lose this?” to “We’re probably going to lose this - and that’s probably not fair” in about six overs.

And yet for me, we have above all three of our team mates to thank for this one. Euan who didn’t choke in the face of two monsters. Olly with those two glory moments. And Mitch for coming in with his spanner at the other end and going “stick that where it doesn’t shine”.

Make no mistake – our backs had been against the wall. And yet how we dug something out.

Recreational sport in the suburbs eh?

Once our big game hunters had done their stuff…it was (mostly) a stroll. Lockwood and Cole mopping up the next five wickets for about 20 runs.

This included a sort of gymnastic comic turn at the end by yours truly, who did an impression of a gazelle / salmon interbreed going on an apple plucking mission to take their last batsman at mid-off. (You figure it out).

Their attempts at skulduggery – and let’s be honest, that’s what it was – had failed.

All out – 167.

Wick played 10 / won 9.

League Rank: Number 1.

Campaigners Campaign. Never forget it.