REPORT BY HORSE. Cousin de la Davide in Italics.
We live in troubled times. War beckons on multiple fronts, natural disasters befall us, our politics, economy and currency are in freefall. Ahem ... Exporters utopia atm...
But standing on the Dunsfold outfield, amid the throng of Surrey plane spotters, it was hard to think of a better time to be alive: here, pre-Brexit Britain was buzzing with the thrilling possibilities of life outside the European Union, the sweet hoppy Loxhill Biscuit was flowing from the Sun Inn, vintage motors were prowling, and the glorious Red Arrows were whistling through the deep blue sky like a Motty seamer penetrating the defence of a tentative opening bat.
Using the spongy Dunsfold wicket as a target point into the Aerodrome, the magnificent men in their flying machines buzzed the ground a number of times, hinting at the excitement, tension and terror that would soon be played out in the middle. We were relieved to see Max Bell, Dunsfold’s star performer from recent years side-lined after a recent major op, unable to take his place in the side. Could life get any better?
Yes! Before the game, the marvellous hosts of Dunsfold had cued up a BBQ, and Peckers had brought an assortment of meats and salads, highlights including Potty’s terrific home-made burgers. Botty and he (so often the case) took charge, creating some terrific char, richly scented with aviation fuel. A delayed start was agreed by all.
As POB headed to the middle, the first shadows of concern troubled his richly seamed forehead. Should he insert on this mossy trampoline, taking the opportunity to get into them quick? Or should he let head rule and bat, with several Peckers groaning with the potentially toxic combination of Loxhill and selectively cooked pork? Worse, with a Dunsfold replacement required, Max had decided he was fit to play and had rushed home to get his kit, much to mother’s chagrin. Unlike the Sun Inn’s fruit machine, Dunsfold would ominously line up three Bells.
A relieved POB lost the toss and we bowled. The new nut was thrust into Pug’s hands and he set about his work, creating lively movement and bounce from a length, a wicket maiden in his second over. Motty bustled up the hill, his strong forearm creating nip and swing. He even pinned Coveney with one that reared off a length, striking him in the temple. He manfully shrugged it off and batted on.
Max however was up to the challenge, hitting the bad ball crisply whilst his partners played an array of poorly conceived shots or were undone by the variable bounce, and fell with rhythmic regularity with the bowlers sharing the spoils. Cuddy was summoned to relieve the boat-party-weary Motty from his tight and controlled spell, and bowled with great determination. Max doggedly remained, hitting more lusty blows over the slow outfield.
The first seeds of doubt were sowed soon after: Cousin le Davide was brought into the attack, bowling with considerable… variety, but ultimately winning the first mis-timed stroke from Max. It rocketed low and to the right of the Skip in the covers, who made a valiant effort but shelled it, to great derision. Tired of the slips, Botty shifted to graze at deep mid-wicket, valuable hunting territory for Bell, which encouraged him to belt one into Horse’s pasture at square leg. The danger man was gone for 26 and the Peckers looked in control with the hosts 55-5.
Buoyed with misplaced confidence, POB employed Horse down the slope who struggled to control the swinging ball, and the remaining Bells and Whitney both struck the ball majestically to bring Dunsfold back into the game. Big Bell particularly attacked the ball authoritatively, and the home team quickly accelerated to three figures, before falling to an unlikely equine C&B. Some chaotic fielding by Cousins les Davide et Simone paid homage to the Red Arrows display, arcing towards each other before a near miss, with both collapsed in a heap, the ball safe in the meadow grass.
POB needed to regain control and, who else but, Baron von Runkel came on up the slope, turning the ball devilishly and with pitch perfect flight. He bagged three quick wickets returning the match best figures of 3-16. Dunsfold’s #3 came in at #11, having had a late night and overslept, but couldn’t change the dynamic and some quick thinking by brothers Mott had the innings brought to a close with a smart run out on 131. An excellent performance by Merv behind the stumps mustn’t go unmentioned, a couple of overs from Potty perhaps should.
TEA! What an affair. Excellent sandwiches, cupcakes, Battenberg from the hosts, more Loxhill, a homemade jam cake from Sue / Freddie / Jack for Horse’s birthday, and the screeching arrival of the Eurofighter jet (“NOT funny”, said Jack, covering his ears) made for a carnival atmosphere in this most beautiful of English country grounds. Egg sandwiches were on serious form and brownies also stupendous.
Cousin Le D and Runky made an impressive start to the Pecker reply, Cousin swinging marvellously – but, though he remained in the middle, he was swiftly in the dog-house, after a calling mix up left Runky stranded. CLD blamed a passing fighter jet, but Runky was having none of it, storming to the pavilion. I called perfectly loudly, but just as the Eurofighter came over... unlucky timing. I was well over halfway down the wicket before Bearon stopped ball watching and followed orders... but far too late. Perhaps a bad call but in the heat of battle - one must surely follow orders or prepare to be left stranded...?! Cousin kept lashing though, eventually finishing with a crunching 26, even taking runs off the bustling and pacey Young, who was winning violent away swing and seam.
The top order batsman took the unstated cue – get out quickly to bring them into the game – and the Peckers were quickly in trouble, losing Botty, Horse, Cousin Simon, Motty and Big Merv in quick succession for single figure scores. This had caused a scene in the changing room, with no one padded up (or even in whites), a near scuffle occurred as Motty, Merv, Cuddy thrashed around the dressing room looking for pieces of kit, POB remonstrating at the door. Dunsfold politely awaited another victim.
Frankly the less said about this passage of play the better. Only the entrance of Cuddy at #8 brought temporary respite at one end, with POB falling at the other, Pug came in with the score a lowly 70-8. The end was in sight and inevitable.
Or was it? Whilst we swigged (swug?) Loxhill, a quiet accumulation was happening in the middle. Cuddy played some of the finest shots of the season, including a cover drive that I suspect has not been bettered on this ground all year. With Pug doing a lot more than holding an end up, playing some wonderful, if occasionally agricultural, shots the Peckers’ score was ticking up… 80..90… 100. Could it happen?
With the Peckers nearing a competitive total, the Bell Sr unleashed his dog of war – Bell Jr. With mother fretting on the boundary, the Dunsfold Skip saw that the opportunity to grab this victory was in the hands of his (and the Cranleigh XI’s) injured pride and joy. He bowled down the hill with pace and verve, but Cuddy remained up to the task, he and Pug both survived near misses but ploughed on.
The score continued to stagger forward and suddenly we were just 2 shy, at which point Pug and Horse’s chum Jack turned and said “if you win, which looks inevita..”. He was interrupted by Pug’s leg stump being smashed out of the ground by a rocket from St Aubyn. Pug’s departure for 24 brought a rare nervous energy to the pavilion. POB put an arm around Potty and gave some very strict advice which essentially amounted to “leave it at all costs”, but Potty strode to the wicket practicing some very purposeful forward defence strokes.
With the scoreboard announcing 129-8 with 132 the target, St Aubyn started his over with a ball wide of off stump that raced through the slips. RUN! we cried. Confusion in the middle but they scampered back for 2 with the scores tied, the crowd blissfully unaware of this, believing 132 was Dunsfold’s score not the target. The Peckers held their breath as Potty gamely and nervelessly ducked and weaved, leaving the ball as per POB’s instructions. He would end the game 0 n.o.
We needed a single. Cudd surveyed the field, eyeing gaps in the field where it could be snaffled. Potty tensed at the non-strikers’, ready for the quick sprint to victory. Bell charged in, the ball swinging towards leg stump, Cuddy played, missed, was hit. Dunsfold went up… as did Umpire’s finger. One short! Dunsfold win… No! A tie! Pandemonium and chaos reigned.
As ever, Captain POB quickly brought a sense of order and perspective and the tie was overwhelmingly celebrated at the Sun and then at Potty’s long into Monday’s Bank Holiday. Pu-Cud’s 55-odd 9th wicket stand was not a record but an incredible achievement, and this marked the Woodpecker’s first tie since 2010 at Ripley. Well done on keeping cool lads - as POBS so wisely said afterwards when some were showing signs of being potentially upset - such decisions can be given by any one of us or our own - and that is cricket! I for one am almost glad the last ball resulted in a tie - it only strengthens our relationship with the club and tests our love of the game and confirms our resistance to temptation to play in the dark side (L**gue atmosphere).
What a fantastic day enjoyed by all - plenty of little ponies and peckerettes including Emotty, Tictac and Cousine Madame Poppy sunbathed on a hot outfield (which we (Bearon and others) enjoyed inspecting every corner of...mmmmm 2016 vintage...))
Thanks as ever to hosts Dunsfold for a wonderful match, played in great spirit, a true highlight of the Pecker fixture list. On a personal note, thanks to all for the kind birthday wishes, it was one of the best day’s out I can remember for a long time.
THE OLD HORSE.
After the beers at the Sun - some of the Peckers (mssrs Bott, Mott, Emott, Kim Jong UN, Bearon N V R, C' de la D', TicTac (Taramasalata) Potty, and Texas Ranger) headed to the famous Potter Towers... where many games of American Pool, Table Tennis and then Kubb were accompanied by Bearons 2016 Vintage AND 2017 Vintage, as well as some bottles of Potties rather impressive wine cellar...
Potter Towers was used by the Canadian Army for many years, which means it boasts not a MAN CAVE or a POOL HOUSE or other such areas for hedonistic activities - but an OFFICERS MESS!!!
On the rather slow start Monday Bank holiday Kubb was played and Goquet invented (a combination of golf and croquet) with Daisy and Helmsdeep proving tough competition and showing an eye for a ball that we should have officially contracted for the future success of the Peckers...
Potter Towers Afterparty Mayhem...
Lastly - this year C' de la D' parked a good distance from Bearon in the hope that he wouldn't give him another budge... this meant going deep off road...