WOODPECKERS V BLACKHEATHSunday 16thJuly 2017
And so to Blackheath, the scene of last year’s successful chase of 242 largely thanks to AJ’s unbeaten 139. Even without the now-deported AJ, on paper our 11 looked good. I had informed Blackheath we had a fairly strong line-up, which POB immediately castigated me for. Many years of captaining the Peckers has taught POB that things never tend to work out quite as intended.
Our fantastic band of supporters, comprising Pughs(x8), Palmers (x5), Millers (plural, if you include the bump) and Gowars(7) made it a lovely family affair. LP and Jim also very kindly came along to umpire (LP even keeping the trigger safely tucked away). However, would the contest be more even than that playing out on Centre Court 30 miles away or that up at Trent Bridge?
Early on Saturday, our fairly-strong 11 was upgraded to a more athletic 10 with the withdrawal of Cannon, who claimed, to much mirth, that a sore ankle was limiting his mobility even further. And overnight on Saturday Taters also had to sadly withdraw, leaving us with a now weaker 9. A call to arms went out, Twitter, Instawhatsit and everything else went into overdrive for an extra player or two. At the end of which, a simple call out to the oppofor an extra player turned up trumps(more of which below), the Horse was roused from his stable with his foals in tow for a knock, and young Charlie Pugh was primed for his debut in the field at the grand age of 8.
Nick Harrison, Chairman of the club and captain of the Sunday XI, claimed that he didn’t have a particularly strong batting line-up and suggested we bat first to ensure a good game. What he didn’t know is that ourform batsman of the season, Botty, had had barely any sleep and whose eyes weren’t quite working as normal.
The same applied to his brother, playing as a batsman, who had been whatsapping complete nonsense at 4am. Cuddy, sensible as ever (other than his laughable choice of car which is going to cost him a fortune in time) could at least see straight when he and Botty strode out.
The Sunday XIs we face don’t usually include many Saturday 1st teamers, but Blackheath like to include 4 or 5 each time we play them to ensure an even game (which, to be fair, has always worked well in the past, as this beautiful ground tends to attract our better players). And so Botty and Cuddy found themselves facing 19 year-old Taylor, their 1st XI new ball bowler, who bowled with decent pace and control. Both initially found gaps through the rapid outfield, but thereafter fell in identical fashion to Taylor nipping one back. O Mott at 3 also played some lovely shots for 18 before nicking off to the first change bowler (a 14 year-old with shoulders like Chris Gayle) with SP falling quickly for 5. At this point our recruit from the oppo was called upon. Danny Harrison, son of Nick, is a 1st team regular and well-regarded coach at the club. However, Danny is a kindred spirit of brothers Mott, and had had even less sleep than them (Nick had got up to let the dog out on Sunday morning to see his son walking up the path). Hence their seemingly kind gesture of lending us a 1stteam player was anything but, as Danny was out for a third ball duck to one of the 14 year-olds that he coaches.
At this point we were 63 for 5 and in trouble. Runkyhad by now arrived (no explanation provided, just an amiable “Hi man” as he wandered off to find adders in the heathland). Big Merv, keeping up the tennis theme with his Borg-esque headband, was doing well to keep one end up. The only problem was that he was also failing to score, wafting hopefully outside off but hitting more of the prevalent flying ants that any cricket balls. When he did fall, the scorebook showed 1 run off 10 overs, much to Merv’s discontent (“I definitely scored 2”).
POB and the Horse steadied the ship admirably and took us past 100 with excellent running (although this cost Horse one of his hamstrings) whilst Botty, fortified by the now open bar, went to task on trying to persuade Greggles that he should abandon his young family in favour of a knock in the lower order. Greggles, understandably not wanting to be associated with this sh1tshow, stuck to his guns and left the tail to fend for themselves. POB went for a hard-earned 26 and a now-lame Horse was caught on the boundary for an excellent top score 30.
The tail failed to wag, with Pug and Windy falling quickly to the returning opening bowlers to set a total of 145 and the Baron again protecting his average.Windy a tad early as Pug and LP look on
Tea was a pleasant medley of hot and cold offerings, much of which was hoovered by the Puglets, Palmerinos and Foals, washed down by tea or, in some cases TEA (Hog’s Back, 4.2 ABV). During the break a timely shower set in, which wasn’t going to help keep the new ball dry. The big screen was showing South Africa’s dogged resilience up at Trent Bridge, but which example would Blackheath follow –Amla and du Plessis’s doggedeness, or Bairstow’s hot-headed attacking nonsense?
So that Horse would rest his injured pin and teach his boys the art of forward defence in the nets, we brought on Charlie Pugh aka Chuggyfor his debut (having fielded for a couple of overs last year). We agreed with Nick (his club coach) to keep him behind the bat, so he ran fine leg to fine leg for 35 overs. Windy, clocking this, suggested he wear his fitbit to improve his stats, but to no avail. Chuggy fielded with great enthusiasm and one sliding stop in particular drew applause all round.
SP opened downhill and Windy uphill. Both bowled with good wheels but, without much of a total to defend, the experienced Blackheath openers were able to use the pace of the ball to find gaps through the drying outfield for boundaries we could barely afford. SP castled one opener with a good yorker but the left-handed Hardcastle weathered the early storm. Windy, charging in like a bull and filling his shirt like one, bowled very well but for no reward.
POB brought on Cuddles downhill for 6 tight overs (1-15) and he took the much-needed wicket of the other Harrison 1st team brother, Ronny. After a couple of loose Pug overs, the Baron was brought on to bowl up the slope. Other than a couple of early ugly half-trackers (one of which drew a barely-deserved wicket with a close catch from Pug that the Baron refused to celebrate)This was a brilliant catch by Pug diving forward, clearly turning it on for his son and local crowd), the Beearon (3-30) cemented his place as our go-to bowler when wickets are needed and he was too much for a succession of Blackheath youngsters to handle. When Botty ran out their keeper with a superb direct hit from the deep, Blackheath were 114-6 and it was very much game on.
However, at the other end Hardcastlewas playing the paternal role, keeping things very steady whilst his young charges threw the bat. Botty was brought on to flight his twirlers downwind but was unable to find the breakthrough. Pug came on downhill and Cuddy took a great catch on the drive to expose the tail further. A mention for Mervwho kept excellently, with one superb juggling catch ultimately not given as POB kindly reprieved the batsman who pointed to his hip.
However a few boundaries later Blackheath were nearing the required total. At which point POB threw the ball to Chuggy for his first ever couple of overs with a hard ball and on a 22-yard strip. Hardcastle managed to see out the first six to give Chuggy a maiden, with a few off the second. The boy was absolutely stoked, the oppo enjoyed it too (he being of their stable usually) and it was a nice way to see out the game. The winning runs came with 3 overs to spare with Hardcastledeservedly 60 n.o., and Charlie and the Baron led us off the field to handshakes all round with the oppogivingthe match ball to Chuggy.
Another fantastic day, no quibbles about losing to this great bunch of lads.
Blackheath won by 3 wickets.
MAN OF THE MATCH -CHUGGY
PROUD DAD AND MATCH MANAGER