The well-heeled, Michelin star adorned town of Marlow, home to the Paralympics and for one Sunday afternoon a year, home to the Woodpeckers annual fixture on Higginson Park. The Paralympics motto is “Spirit in Motion”, an accurate description of Woodpeckers at any point in the cricket season but without question it epitomised this performance.
No call for an 11th player the day before, despite the challenges of Ride London shutting down major routes out of the city, despite 2 days at the Edgbaston test with the Barmy Army, despite an awkward 7:30am moment that morning of a pecker being caught in flagrante and the expected plethora of hangovers, all were present and correct, ready to roll, ready to shine. Take note Paralympic committee, this is overcoming adversity, this is spirit in motion.
Le Daviiide, shaking off the effects of a long drive from Dorset, which was punctuated with a bed purchase now expertly strapped to the top of his Land Rover, led out the peckers on a “nibbling” track. In the modern era of the game, it shouldn’t surprise us to see spin open from one end, it didn’t surprise Le Daviiide, dispatching the first two balls for well hit leg side pulls. What did come as a surprise to David was the spin on the 3rd ball, what came as a surprise to the umpire (Henners) was his decision to not offer a shot, out, lbw for 11. This would be something of a theme throughout the day, the nearby finish line of the Thames half marathon with professional PA system, was regularly outshouted by this cricket match.
Batting at 2 - SP with his wife Bugsy, and fresh after his birthday where he had been surprised by the arrival of his parents Horse and Caps over from NZ for a 2 month jaunt. Bugsy’s family were also on hand and the strong support for the peckers rewarded by a fine opening batting performance from SP, doing the openers job, seeing off the new pill.
Now joined at the crease by Botty, the pitch was starting to nibble more and more. Not a problem for Ben as he joined SP in crashing short balls to the boundary and grabbing invaluable singles. The previous night’s escapades and that mornings event which had lead him to know his brother “just that little bit more”, bore no obvious, negative effects. After reaching 11 a ball that kept low produced another loud shout for lbw, not before Botty had set for a single and SP had reciprocated, decision given (for lbw) not before Marlow also made sure with a run out at the strikers’ end. The ensuing chaos meant both batsmen were now walking back to the pavilion, a “double out” something never seen before in the game and Botty lbw for 11.
Next Karl with a K at 4 batting in front of parents (drove down from Koventry with a K) also on debut and family flattered to deceive with just 6 runs before a skied off drive to deep mid-off, back in the pavilion to make way for Henners at 5, thank god he did.
SP was eventually out for 37 before another lbw decision given to Marlow despite a strong stride out of his crease. SP holding his almost yoga like pose for several seconds before having to trudge back, fine work. Henners continued in typical fashion, fierce driving and hellish pulling of the ball meant dog walkers, ice cream enthusiasts and canoodling couples around the boundary were at times in grave danger. For those fielding inside the ropes, one shoulder injury, a firm strike in the pills and a dislocated finger, much like writing this report, the experience of fielding that day was harrowing. In total Henners would hit 110 with 10 6’s and 7 4’s, this wasn’t just bludgeoning, this was full face of the bat, well timed and well executed shot-making… when I grow up I want to bat just like Henners.
Whilst our number 5 remained at the crease for much of the Peckers innings, the team provided ample support, Milky Milky (15- talented hockey player and son of Don) rotating the strike effectively keeping the field on their toes with his lithe youth and intimidating display of bare ankles to the opposition. Making a stylish 3 before making way for skips at 7.
This change of batsman also necessitated a change in umpire, step forward Cousin David to the middle leaving only his lovely girlfriend tic tac and the dachshund in the stroking arms of Motty back in the pavilion. Tobacco, papers, filters, beer and appropriate redneck shirt all went with him to perform his duties.
What happened next is common in many village cricket grounds around the country: team mate (Le Daviiide) umpires, captain gets caught on pad -well forward, team mate (Le Daviiide) triggers captain, stand off…. moments pass, skipper walks back. POB’s lbw for 4. We are now up to 4 lbw’s in the 1st 6 wickets, this wasn’t normal.
Motty having shaken off his hangover(still drunk) with his early work out that morning had already attempted to sneak up the order at 7, now in at 8 approached his innings with two attempted reverse sweeps before a chip to the inner ring, “total cricket” out for 0.
Phil OOOO on debut, Marlow local refused to surrender his wicket at 9 for 4 runs, would see off the innings and see off several jugs of the clubhouse beer. Donny ( Marlow local and oldest prep school chum of POB’s) after a well hit 4 applied a head down strategy to ensure we used all 40 overs, clearly counter to his instincts, out playing a defensive shot bowled for 4.
Spinach, fresh from 2 solid days with the barmy army in Edgbaston and 2 nights’ sound sleep in a £16 a night Airbnb had been steadily working his way through a 6 pack of all butter brioche during the peckers innings. Now rounding things off at 11 with a well struck 4 and single, bowled for 5, off just 32 overs peckers had a total of 214 all out.
So, to the Woodpeckers bowling, Spinach opening it all up from the top end, aside from a loosening opening over Spinach gave nothing away, extracting movement off the pitch, bowling with genuine wheels and taking proper wickets. The all butter brioche had clearly worked to deliver the best bowling spell many had witnessed from Spinach, these were proper wickets: beaten for pace, beaten for movement, leaving nothing out there, spent and exasperated Spinach had 3 - 25 from 7 overs, Chapeux!
From the other end an equally destructive spell was provided by Motty, his 1st over delivering a 2-wicket maiden from catches at cover. This was the catalyst to the woodpeckers destructive bowling spell which would see their 1st 6 batsmen back in the pavilion for just 24 runs. Motty’s juices were clearly flowing clearly recovered from his groin strain) whatever his pre-match warm up was it was enabling blood flow to all reaches of his body to deliver a bowling performance that delivered 3 wickets for just 2 runs off 5 overs, tremendous.
The support in the field was strong with catches from Milky Milky, Phil OOOOO and Karl with a K, field placement was key, expertly executed by POB’s aside from one discussion with Motty to “stand wherever he liked”, the very next ball went directly into Motty’s out stretched hands above his head, and then directly out.
The father son combination of Donny and Milky Milky, delivered impressive figures of 1 for 2 from 4 overs (Donny) and 1 for 4 from 1 over (Milky), clearly in the genes, woodpeckers were now clearing up the Marlow tail with tight wicket to wicket bowling.
Phil OOOOOO on debut contained some tail end hitting to bowl out the final resistance from Marlow, 1 for 22 from 2 over before Karl with a K was given the pleasure of 2 balls to wrap up the Marlow innings, all out 57.
So, a victory for the Woodpeckers by 157 runs, leaving sufficient time to enjoy the clubhouse beer on a warm Sunday evening, just how it should be.