The Honourable Artillery Company is the oldest regiment in the British Army and the second most senior unit of the Army Reserve. The Company traditionally dates its origins to 1537 when Henry VIII granted a charter to the Fraternity or Guild of Artillery of Longbows, Crossbows and Handguns for ‘the better increase of the defence of this our realm’ and ‘the maintenance of the science of artillery’.
Cricket has been played on the Artillery Garden at least since 1725. In the 18th Century the game fell into disrepute on account of the substantial wagers it attracted, and was eventually banned (ridiculous in my book). The Court finally was persuaded to allow cricket to be played, subject to rules and restrictions, in 1846, and the game has been seen as a useful recruiting attraction ever since.
The Beearon Von Runkle is a regular player for the HAC and the Hon Fixtures Secretary. On arrival I was told he hadn’t been selected having played on the Saturday for the 'A Eleven'. Apparently he prefers to play for the A team and I was already suspecting a stitch up as the 1st 11 looked like a serious bunch of cricketers. We looked fairly young and fit too as Charlie ‘Cyoungy’ Young had recruited two mates through the New Mrs Lucy Young, James ‘Kenny’ Kenyon and Nick ‘Pidgeon’ Priggen. I was concerned that I seemed to be the only Pecker without a raging hangover, completed as Kippers meandered towards us looking very green around the gills after his leaving do 4am finish. Pidgeon added to the delicious Peckers Smorgasbord of Fish, Kipper, Spinach, Taters and Doner –Spud, Maris (Piper) and Horse were supporting their young chargers too and we'd have made a fine Masterchef Larder challenge. One of the HAC umpires later complained it had made him very hungry listening to our banter.
BBC had raised alarm bells by forecasting heavy rain all day –their forecasts are really useless , so I had been fielding ‘is the game on?’ messages all morning. Anyway, It was drizzling lightly, but we lost the toss and HAC predictably decided to bat. I pushed for an overs game on what’s normally a batters paradise, but HAC skipper Liam Casey (perhaps under instruction from the Beearon) was immovable from a timed game.
Cyoungy and Spinach opened the bowling well, but it was tough on a decent batting track against quality players and we needed to take half-chances. Kipper perhaps understandably was laborious to move to an easy chance at gully and got his hand to another fizzer. SP seemed to leap up for two low chances at slip, Doner missed a sharp one at Mid On, and Pidgeon who kept well generally also missed a half chance, and a few fell in gaps that may have closed
60 for 0 off about 11 and the ball starting to thud off the walls behind the short boundary, I was very worried and then Youngy produced an absolute pearler pitching middle and hitting top of off to remove the hard hitting Ulster-man Spinach who produced an excellent spell of lively medium pace also produced a beauty to remove the Sri Lankan Harry, and then Taters who bowled beautifully also hit off-stump to snaffle skipper Casey and we were in the game. Still at the crease however was an old Durham University pal of Kenny’s Sean Perry. He had a few lives, one from the immovable HAC Umpire Misha who turned down too plumb lbws off Taters much to his chagrin…..
Kenners himself started well before losing his length and Fishy was suffering from blisters, so the score rose to 245 at which point HAC sportingly declared. Tea coincided with a splattering of rain that had also delayed the start, but is was supplemented with an assortment of Chockies and Wine Gums from over the road as several peckers indulged in watching the earlier highlights from Lords.
I stuck with the successful opening Kiwi combo of SP and Kipper and they did very well to see off a lively opening attack. The run-rate stayed steadfastly on 4 an over though and the required rate rose from 6 to 9, so we felt with 10 wickets in hand we should give some encouragement to get a move on so to speak. The Kiwi jug avoidance conspiracy continued with Kipper making 38 and Sp 47, but their departure coincided with the arrival of the same Exeter game-changer from the HAC Innings. Sean Parry bowled medium pace off-breaks that leapt off a length and made batting almost impossible. I had been warned that it was a well worn pitch (9 matches according to the groundsmen) that may misbehave, and Sean’s combination of pace and rip was just right. Botty claimed that during his (early) shower he heard at least three sets of panicked studs enter and leave the changing rooms.
Much like the Indians at Lords, wickets fell like ninepins leaving our two opening bowlers Cyoungy and Spinach to see out the last six overs of the tricky Perry and lively left arm opener who returned and secure the glorious draw. Cyoungy batted superbly, counselling his partners(normally deaf ears) and keeping the strike sensibly. Spinach's concentration may have been somewhat been heightened by the fact he had forgotten to source a box before walking out to the crease. They saw out the remaining overs and secured us the draw. A great performance by the two to top and tail the match. Sean Parry ended the match with the incredible stats of 136 not out and 8-28, but didn't win the match. Also he's a great lad and a big fan of the Runk-Meister. Although we got a draw, we were out played in every facet of the the game by a very good team....Kindly