Well, how soon the season returns. No sooner have the fresh green shoots of Spring budded into life, and the lowly daffs have withered back into their dun shrouded bulbs, do we return to start a spanking new season of cricketing festivities.
Coach Christoff had been fine tuning the squad to perfection in his closed season off shore training camp, the next bay down from Guantanamo and early season signs have shown obvious results.
Our decision to blood the boys into an age league higher in the Newark league will no doubt be judged at the season’s end. A relatively smooth passage to glory last year, had indicated our need for more competitive battles, and we were treated to an immediate clash of the titans.
Bert Millichip’s velvet fixture ball bag had thrown up a pearl of an opening match against the mighty Belvoir under 15`s. This powerful squad were not only full to brimming with talent, they included some high profile wounded lions from last season’s thrilling shield final battle. The highest rated of these was the ever vocal human megaphone Will Bray, a fellow sub county member to no2 son and Willie Wilson.
The earlier weekly viewing of the BBC weather APP had indicated light cloud with occasional light shimmer of our nearest star, whilst the possibility of a light gauge cricket weather proof for later in proceedings may be needed.
As I stepped out of the confines of `Phoeno` Towers I was sternly hit in the face by a whistling North-Westerly that immediately blistered my skin, and would have had Captain Oats returning to his tent immediately.
I secured my fourth weather proof, checked my gloves were in my pocket and clambered aboard my car with No2 in hot pursuit, not before checking my snow chains, high viz jacket, blanket and shovel were in the boot, along with No2`s kit.
On arrival, Mr Dakers, as always had everything sorted. This remarkably included him in shorts! However, I did notice a fan heater ready plugged in the insulated score box and his Iceland issue pencil case and crayon set already precisely laid out. I would be pitch side with Major.
As always, I ventured over to the tall elegant mahogany-skinned gentleman who was the Belvoir coach. From a good distance you could feel the military reverberations emanating from his pores. I introduced myself and with regimental rudeness The Major - as I had instantly Christened him- mumbled something that was clearly not his name and carried on his warm up.
Steve Singh, father of the Stinger Josh, was already assisting with the warm up catching drill. He was pummelling the ball off Christoff’s paddle bat with the velocity of a hippo in a runaway dodgem. Boys were left strewn all over the outfield like an exploded mattress following his high intensity drill. Coach Dakers checked his beloved bat for damage after its Klichko / Joshua battering. Fortunately for Chris you only cry once when you buy quality and his fine pitch aid was placed carefully back in its case still intact. I get the feeling Steve may have to find alternate sources for the next game.
Our squad had been reduced somewhat with Fin `Whacksome` Jackson and Jay `Destroyer` Jumatt missing due to final footballing commitments. Also absent was Rhys At the Crease Jenkins who suffered a late wrist injury from his Karate exploits. Either that or it was caused by his dad John`s insistence of his ‘wax on - wax off’ Mr Myagi style car cleaning, which induced a repetitive strain. Whatever the causes, we were missing some fine players.
We did however include in our ranks, our new signing, snatched from the tangled claws of our foe down Station Road at Plumtree. In the fine form of Ben `Widdie` Widdowson we have claimed a genuine all-rounder whos game combines belligerent batting and bamboozling spin bowling. He will be a fine addition to the team in cricketing quality, general attitude and his positive personality.
As is customary, home side to bat first under a rapidly blackening sky that would have Professor Bryan Cox fumbling for his extendable telescope. The light along with the temperature was rapidly diminishing. The assembled supporters were beginning to form a couple of huddles in an effort to keep the arctic breeze from penetrating their marrow whilst still keeping team impartiality.
Willie Wilson to open with Fin Dobbo Dobson who had earlier thrown back his head in dismay when told he was to start. But they started brightly and claimed some quick runs to calm the early season butterflies. Dobbo then attempted to get run out for the 17th time in his career, by bounding down the track with his bat aloft like a manic lollypop man, but the ball was surprisingly flung to the wrong end.
Dobbo was undone by a straight one from the speedy opener and Willie Wilson spooned one to mid-off after a few lusty efforts and we were 2 down for 15.
Mr Decibel, Will Bray then came on to bowl. Pulled of his jumper, which he hurled towards me, and said in his booming 14 year old mid drop foghorn voice“ Old that will yer?” to which I immediately replied ``PLEASE, AND THANK YOU WILLIAM??``
Uhhhhgh? Was his unsurprising response.
He is however, a fine cricketer, and he instantly thundered down the track to fling some fierce deliveries towards our fresh batters Josh Stinger Singh and Ben Widdie Widdowson. The temperature had fallen further and my purple digits were struggling to hold onto my counting stones as Widdie`s stumps were splintered by Bray, and Stinger soon followed. No2 son was up next and, ably supported by Angus Angie Simpson, started to put a small spanner in the heavily oiled Belvoir machinery. No 2 son`s love for the behind the wicket shot began to wind up the Belvoir attack, as he deftly clipped the ball behind square with regularity. The score ticked over steadily but Angie was claimed by a scudding bowled delivery. With the overs evaporating, no2 went for broke, a rare wild shot and his bails were toppled for a fine 22. My hands resembled Randolf Fiennes and were now blackened by impending frostbite, as Alex Roe and Ollie Gunner Glasgow did their best to gain some vital extra runs in the bank in for the last couple of overs.
Innings ending 77 for 5
Not a great total, but a solid effort against a very strong Belvoir attack. Our greatest ally now was the weather. The sight of senior Mellor in bubble jacket and full Deputy Dog deerstalker, with flaps firmly covering his lugs, clearly indicated the demise of all seasonal meteorological sense. A good Samaritan in the shape of Stuart Wells appeared like a heavenly vison, with a warming cup of coffee at the break. Unfortunately it was time to reconvene at the square before my hands had stopped trembling enough to be able to drink it.
The Major was mumbling something about getting on with it before the snow came as Alex Full Flow Roe and The Stinger Singh started up against the two towering Belvoir openers. The greenhouse in the orangery of Belvoir castle where these two giant cricketers were cultivated, had created not only two monstrous physical specimens, but they were also fine-tuned at the cricketing school for wonderful cricketers. Our bowlers were picked off at will as the ball was sent packing to the furthest reaches of our splendid fortress. The boys were downhearted, but still bowled tightly, but the Belvoir boys were playing classy shots to these decent deliveries . A solitary ray of sunshine as Willie Wilson claimed the ball stump side and cleaned up one of the grow bag Belvoir openers with a stunning run out. Unfortunately this was the only way a wicket was to appear, as another elongated mutant from the Belvoir monster cricketer conveyor belt strode to the wicket. It was then a case of not really how long it would take, but how many balls it would take to reach our total.
The answer was not many at all. Ben `Widdie` Widdowson`s bowling baptism was just unfortunate timing as the Belvoir boys were on full throttle. Now Wid will certainly claim many victims this season with his devilish spin, but he will need a wicket as dry and cracked as Dale Winton’s boat race to able to assist his Abdul Kadhir like flippers. But with track like a pistachio memory foam mattress, his deliveries were as docile as an overdosed sloth. The Belvoir boys sent the battered pip onto the football club house roof and into the car park. The congregated supporters were more concerned whether they had caught exposure than the safety of their vehicles as the total was reached with ease.
The Major made a run for it before I could shake his bucket- like hands, and to be fair I think he may have pulled my frost -bitten fingers from their knuckles had he done so. It was the quickest I think that the ground has ever cleared. However Mr Dakers still remained to clear up like Scott of the Antarctic. A constantly reliable figure head, who demands our respect for all his efforts. Mind you he does work in Iceland!!
Summary- First game, and pitted against one of the best we`ll face- Onwards and upwards.
After our super opening win against a strong Flintham squad, our next foe were a pretty much unknown quantity in a Coddington CC side haling from the Eastern backwoods of Newark On Trent. An unspectacular little village, who`s only claim to fame is some very minor ruins of a very old windmill, and the fact the A17 built in 1937 flows through its meagre conurbation of houses, which houses a total of 1,648 individuals. Not an ideal catchment for creating an under 13`s cricket team?
I rocked up a little behind timescales, sweating heavily after a whistle stop child care juggling scenario, which basically involved me throwing Oakley into Mrs P`s open car window whilst in full flow along Normanton Lane in my stealth wagon!
Mr Dakers had, as always got everything organised to the finest detail. Flags out, measured to 1.25 meter distances, stumps and bails installed, chairs and tables dragged to the boundary, freshly cooled water bottles etc etc etc.
Coddington it could be said ,could have done with some Dakin like organisation. They had arrived in splintered form. Only 7 players pitch side, with the remaining chards at various points of the A46 between Platt lane and Newark. The ones that had made it were a rag tailed bunch. As noisy as a rooster with a megaphone, their unorthodox warm up routine basically involved the pre-pubescent boys chasing the two girls in their ranks, and trying to rugby tackle them, All without any cricketing based equipment in sight.
Mike the Codds coach, was a friendly fine featured gentleman with sensible outdoor clothing. Cloaked in a fine goose down lined North face Gillet and rugged full length cargo pants, he wore a smile of wind proof confidence. I, on the other hand, had once again committed the Platt Lane clothing schoolboy error to the highest level. My standard coaching outfit of shorts and t shirt felt fine within the confines of Phoeno towers, and its positively luxurious sensibly monitored temperatures. And whilst rustling up some pre match scrambled egg on toast for No 2 son , this clothing was bordering on uncomfortable. In the car on the way to the ground the ambient temperature shown in my digital car display was 18 degree with accompanied sunshine- perfect!
But never be fooled by high tech barometers, because the Platt Lane eco climate is like nothing on earth. The laser like North wind, scuds down the hillside and cuts you to the marrow, piercing into your soul, leaving behind a frozen limp numbed shivering shell. All extra layers had been claimed by the surprisingly large gathering of parents , who had all obviously been fooled by the conditions, but rather sensibly had Bear Grylls emergency clothing rations. Jane and Roger had also kindly provided a team sized camp chair and blanket which could accommodate most of the batting order.
We were on Newark orders again and were to don the pads. The Force North showing some uncharacteristic nerves, had indicated his wish to drop down the order after struggling with his bat and confidence in the last match. Christoff and I agreed to try and fit him in elsewhere, and we sat at the scoring table like two chess grand masters, scratching our heads. Having to set our batting order now, is like being on Mastermind with a specialised subject of history of the most difficult mastermind questions ever. Willie Wilson and The Hammer who was to replace the force were to open. Willie fresh from first match retirement was cucumber cool as always, with the Hammer shuffling and bouncing to the wicket alongside, they looked hungry for runs, and they didn’t disappoint. A steady start, progressed to a full on dismantling of the the Codds early bowlers.
The boys relentlessly bolstered the ball toward the boundary marker and quite regularly at the expense of poor old Jamie. He had been placed in Willies favoured deep square birth, and Tom administered almost continual peppering the Codders Timmy Mallet lookalike. Admittedly they were not the most taxing of attacks, but with bowling of this nature, concentration is the key to returning a score. A lapse of focus on a straight one and that could be that. Willie and The Hammer maintained their composure and played as steadily as a dead whale on an orthopaedic bed. The question was which would retire first. Christoff`s bellows of their rapidly increasing tally’s stirred them further, and Willie took the crowds applause first, and was almost immediately followed by the hammer! This was the first time that we have had both openers had retire, a great effort!
In came Fin Whacksome Jackson and Alex Full Flow Roe. These two were slightly more measured in their approach, but there shot making grew and so did the score. Christoffs voice was becoming hoarser every over, such was his joy at announcing our ever flowing total. He eased off soon after for fear of end up sounding like Sean Dyche with laryngitis .
With the score rattling past one hundred, Full Flow Roe toe ended a drive to cover and was claimed after a very useful stint. The Force now in his lowered roll of no 5 had emerged from the pile of blankets on the boundary and sprinted like a stung tiger towards the wicket. My calls of ‘relax Josh!’, flew over his head and into the adjacent field as he sped past, with his enormous lucky pads flailing in the stiff wind like a clippers mainsail. Unfortunately for the Force, the only consistently dangerous Codders bowler returned. He then proceeded to fizz a middle stump yorker into the Force`s sticks for a golden water bird. He teetered for a moment on his toes like a new born Giraffe. Then almost immediately regained his strength, pulled back his shoulders, and strode back to the pavilion head high, you could sense then, he would make amends.
No 2 son had the dilemma of coming in for the last 4 balls with 130 already on the board, but a couple of solid pulls he managed to secure a rare not out along with Whacksome, who`s mature innings of imp quick singles, and smart powerful cricket shots, left him with a fine bat carrying mid twenty haul.
Overs bowled and we had returned our best score ever. 134 for 2. (with two retirements)
With a solid total of that magnitude Willie announced his idea to give everyone some bowling input. He opened up with Tom Mighty Mellor and Angus Angie Simpson. Angie`s butterfly light floating deliveries, caused ball after ball of trouble. At the other end, Mr Mellor who must have spent the winter months ankle deep in a John Innes compost bag such is his rapid growth, trundled in and looped in his first delivery and the Codds skipper who spooned the ball up to Whacksome at silly mid-off.
Next paring of Dakers Junior and Josh Stinger Singh appeared and the ball either zipped past the stumps or was uneasily prodded back down the track. The Codds runs were shorter than antman`s address book .
This pattern continued as the young Millers showed the depth of quality that is throughout the squad. The wonderfully improved slow left arm cultured wobble balls of Fin Dobbo Dobson hit the mark, followed up by some military medium streamline seam from No2 son. A couple of lightening Meerkat quick overs from Whacksome and then the arrival of a returning Northerly . The Force when asked by Willie if he would like to bowl didn’t shrink back into his shell to mope about his previous misfortune with the willow, like a tortoise with a surprisingly visible carbuncle. To shouts of “yes please“ he bounded over like a Labrador on a pogo stick. His cultured flippers then danced through the air bamboozling the Coddington batters. A swift Hammer stumping was rapidly followed by a Full Flow catch and a direct hit bowled. The huddled spectators and myself had witnessed all evening the force of the Northerly wind as it tore into our bruised blue carcases, but with my numb hands struggling to grasp my faithful 6 dirty counting aids a warming thaw had finally returned via the joyous face of the Force North who`s triple wicket salvo and had erased any thought of his earlier batting mishap.
The final over was delivered by Willie Wilson replacing his usual high octane pace with respectful slow spin to avoid any possible Codders injury. Innings completed with Coddington struggling to 54 for 6.
Mike shook my cold hand warmly in defeat as he was as toasted as freshly cooked jacket potato in a sleeping bag, wrapped in his thermally efficient daywear.
Summary- another fine victory. Great batting , super bowling from the entire squad. And some fine stand out individual performances.- Onwards and upwards.
It feels like we have only just finished the cricket season courtesy of Mr Dakers SAS styled waterboarding winter cricket roster, and we are already bouncing into Spring with a bloated fixture schedule to worry the massed parents and associated carers of our fledgling cricketers.
Mr Dakers full on training schedule was magnificent prior to the Christmas break in the positive luxury of Trent Bridge, with its manicured foyer, supersonic lift and pristine array of nets. His continued commitment after Christmas was highlighted in his constant travelling pursuit of sporting venues in the East Midlands, searching for available cricketing practice space. Eventually after bunging the caretaker at Farnborough school with an unlimited supply of four bird Iceland roasts, he struck lucky, and the boys continued their education most Saturdays throughout the first quarter of this year.
This coincided, with some Clough / Taylor like tapping up of potential defectors from rival forces. With the persistence of JR Hartley in search of his fly fishing paperback, we stealthily prised a few cricket nuggets from the goldmine seems of West Bridgfordians, and most pleasantly from our good friends Plumtree. The arrival of Josh `Stinger` Singh, and Alex `Full Flow` Roe from Bridgford, and Finley `Whack-some` Jackson enabled us to fill our squad’s ability tank to the rafters.
Our first match of the season was a swift blast down the Fosse to the home of Flintham Cricket Club. This club have come a long way from when the old home pitch was across the Fosse at the disused Syerston Airfield. A secluded rose bowl ground, new but beautifully traditional, was awaiting our eager pups. Barry the ebullient home coach greeted us warmly, and indicated that he was pleased to be able to allow the fixture following a recent tsunami in the area causing his outfield to droop. It looked magnificent from the boundary. However, a short walk toward the wicket, and we sank into the emerald quicksand ankle deep. If it were a pudding Mary Berry would have had a seizure, such was the sogginess of its bottom. We agreed to put up with the Somme like bogginess and get down to business. Barry with mobile in hand, chirpily announced the future to all umpiring at grass roots level. A superior umpiring APP, that gives you accurate readings of the players shot making, averages, runs per millisecond, calories lost per ball, and so on. I agreed at the marvel that is modern technology, and proceeded to collect six dirty stones up from the car-park to use as my high tech officials counting device.
The Flints as home side and as the law of the land in the Newark League were to bat first. Mr Dakers prized paddle bats were removed from the kit bag looking worse for wear due to Chris`s off season marital shenanigans!! I suggested Jackie should be asked to provide new grips on this basis. Christof as always took this in good humour, although his blush like a teenager on a promise told the story! The lads’ energy in the in warm ups was infectious and with the vigour of Hugh Heffner after a long holiday they bounded out to field.
We had shuffled the pack due to the increased bowling quality that had arrived closed season, and given the job of wicket minder to Ollie The Hammer Hammond. This wonderful young man, could attempt any sporting task and would be accomplished at the highest level. As soon as the gloves and pads were donned, he looked at home. Skipper Tom Willie Wilson was to open with new signing Alex` Full Flow` Roe and devastation was imminent. These two bowled with Vardy like pace, and the precision of a Swiss watch maker with extra steady hands and two sets of reading glasses. Willie destroyed two batsmen`s stumps in his first over. Full Flow then accounted for another in his second over. The Flints were all at sea, there only saving grace was their skipper. A mate of Wack-some from sub county, the Flints blond surf dude front man was solid and lusty with his shot making and gathering a score to add some respectability to their total. The pairing of Fin `Whack-some` Jackson and Josh `Stinger` Singh was a turning point. They were both primed. With Fin attempting to fell his buddy, and Stinger fuming, after a Dukes of Hazard style cross country rally car run from a full football match only an hour earlier. Whack-some`s wispy pace caused immediate concern, but Stinger was to complete a spell of bowling that would tear the Flints middle order apart like Vanessa Felts eating a pasty. His elasticated pacey spinning deliveries where un playable from the first rubber armed ball. The Flintham batsman succumbed one after the other as stinger peppered the pegs with incredible dexterity. A swift four wicket haul splintering the oppositions order. No 2 son, and Angus Angie Simpson ably assisted by Jack Dakers Dakin , mopped up the remaining number with some beautiful accurate bowling. I commented to Dakers junior that his father must have some form of underground training camp for young cricketers in the Toro Bora mountain range where he has confined them to a relentless schedule of drills, such has been their improvement. Not just in Dakers juniors form but all the boys over the closed season.
The shell shocked Flintham squad shuffled into the pavilion with 61 on the board. However, Barry`s incredible mind blowing APP had the score at 64? So we bowed to technology, and Christof pulled his Staedler high velocity rubber from his pencil case and adjusted the total accordingly.
Pavilion orders- just knock them off and quickly, as I had five a side at 9 o`clock!!! Sensible shot making and partnerships actually, and the total shouldn’t be any concern.
Josh The Force North and Tom Willie Wilson were scribed to be the opening pair. I had spotted a familiar hobbling gait from the force as he returned to the pavilion, and fearing one of his Darren Anderton tallying injuries, I tentatively enquired into his health and was met with ` No problem just tight boots! `
The Flints skipper and fellow opener were dangerous. Early exchanges were as tight as Katie Price`s forehead, and runs were surprisingly short. The force nicked a couple of singles, before holing out to mid-wicket. But Willie looked set and unruffled. Fin` Whacksome` Jackson arrived mid-wicket, and looked lively. Unfortunately, he was sent a packing after looping one to square leg. I must have been the only person watching, that noticed the ambling figure of Whacksome`s dad Ash, strolling nonchalantly, and directly behind the arm of the wicket taking bowler at the time of his sons batting demise. Thankfully Fin didn’t, and family harmony was maintained. The Hammer Hammond was next, and sprinted to the square eager as ever, to pummel the bowling. His innings was as swift as his entrance, as he was superbly claimed by a salmon like leaping double handed clutch at cover. The Hammer froze, momentarily rooted by shock at the fine effort. No2 son arrived, and was shortly done by some ridiculous misfortune. A Flint erratic bowler flung down a straight one that lifted no higher than Frodo Baggins big toe nail, and scuttled onto the bottom of his stumps. A brief, but stern Vader like glare at his father at square leg was fruitless, and he grumbled back to the hutch. Willie was now fortunately seeing the leather like a beach ball, and was placing it to all four corners of the Bakewell pudding soft out-field, and a fine retirement score duly arrived. Howitzer Howell then blazed a couple of his customary artillery shell blows to scatter the infield, but also succumbed caught wicket mid-wicket. It looked as though Willie Wilson could be recalled such was the disintegration of our line-up. Angus Angie Simpson arrived and looked classy. A fine early drive to mid-on and a swift single, was accompanied by an equally speedy gather and bung from the young Swayze like Point Break Flintham skipper. The bails tumbled, as did young Angie`s usual calmness, as he implored with me that he was across the threshold. A call for the third umpire and TV replays would have clarified my decision that Master Simpson was regretfully left adrift with bat aloft of the crease. The temptation to ignore this was unbearable, but never the less, fairness was the winner, and as my finger trembled heavenward Angus stomped towards the pavilion fuming like Gordon Ramsey with a migraine.
With just three runs needed, we had two lads in the hutch, and the prospect of Willie Wilson returning from his rest should he be required. Ollie Gunner Glasgow was then scarily close to being the first ever junior cricketer ever to be timed out, as he and junior Dakers wrestled like Daddy and Haystacks with pads and ill-fitting helmets before emerging wicket side a full five minutes later. With the glorious evening sun disappearing behind the surrounding emerald vegetation, the temperature dropped from equatorial, to arctic in milliseconds. My umpiring garb, of light gauge fitness shorts and t-shirt was no match for the plummeting temperature, as my perspiring forelock was now starting to ice up. I was now praying for the final illusive runs, or dare I say it, as my hands started to resemble Sir Ranolph Fiennes blackened frost bitten mitts, my lads few remaining wickets. As luck would have it, Gunner then carved a beautiful half volley through mid-wicket to save the day and my deteriorating digits.
Barry was very gracious in defeat, and even indicated he would forward a link for his electrical ump APP. Whilst I appreciated the kindness of this gesture, some things need to stay old school. So with that I tucked my six dusty pebbles into Christof’s rucksack, and prepared for a very quiet drive home with No2 son.
In summary- What a start! Brilliant bowling / fielding performance, super batting, with some smashing debuts and all round examples of massive improvement. Keep it up boys- onwards and upwards.