GHOSTS OF BLOODY CONFLICTS PAST RAISED ON ANCIENT BATTLEGROUND
First came the celts to this sought-after corner of West Sussex, then the all-conquering Romans followed by the Saxons, the Danes and the brutal Normans. Setting off from central London shortly after the Normans, but still not quite early enough, came the Weekenders, hell-bent on laying siege to the Harry Baldwin XI in the shadow of the historic Elizabethan manor Parham Park.
For the first hour of the match the M25 held all the answers as half the Weekenders side, frugally squeezed into two cars, steamed in the traffic. Skipper Simmonds and match manager Harvey remained admirably calm and confident and decided to make a start at 1.45 with just six players. By the end of the second over two of them were back in the shed for nought.
Mike Harvey and debutant Greg Man transformed the situation with a sparkling partnership of 89 making good use of the short boundary at third man. Mike Harvey cleared the rope by 20 yards with a top-edge on his way to a blush-sparing half-century.
The rest of the side arrived just in time to pad up and surrender their wickets to a leg-spinner who earned his first ever five-for. A bit of bucking and rearing from the Mule produced a quick 15 and Fergus Bloodaxe achieved a strike rate of 300 from his two deliveries faced. Johnstone blazed away at the other end until joined by the number 11 debutante Alison Frappell. Ali played the leggie rather better than her predecessors but was unlucky to cop a sharply turning off-break at the other end. Johnstone was left alone and undefeated, growling like a Viking warrior still lusting for blood after his enemy has quit the field.
The Weekenders’ total of 144 looked twenty-five short but the home side struggled to make runs against a steady opening attack. Vettickat was especially unlucky that his lively outswing went unrewarded. The fielding was a vast improvement on last Saturday’s at Avebury where the 4,500 year-old Standing Stones attacked the ball with more urgency.
WCC kept a lid on it until the sixth over when the ground lived up to its bloody history. Masefield drove powerfully straight to Man at cover who got into good position only to have the third finger of his left hand broken, cut and dislocated in one of the nastiest-looking injuries since the Normans arrived. Dr Hajela having excelled as emergency ‘keeper stepped in to administer first aid and a kind spectator named Tony drove Greg to Chichester A&E (where he said there are fewer fights than at Worthing A&E).
Webster replaced Vettickat with brisk inswing which brought the vital breakthroughs – Masefield leg-before and a mysteriously tame c&b that got rid of Hollywood’s Jonathan Cake in ominous form. At 90-6 the home side were beaten but wicket-keeper Evans played superbly to get them back in the game. 139-8 it looked like they’d done enough to pull it back but Evans suddenly charged at Simmonds and was bowled.
It seemed that at last another side had emerged onto the club cricket scene to rival the Weekendrs as the choke-meisters of southern England. But not for long. Scampered leg-byes and a hoick to mid-wicket were enough to carry the day for the Baldwins.
WCC lost the fight on the pitch but after last week’s romantic conquests in the west country interest swiftly switched to how we would perform in the all-important physical beauty stakes in the pub afterwards. On paper, Richard Maloney’s absence left us struggling to attract even a sideways glance from the locals. And in film actor Jonathan Cake, the home side surely had a match-winner - it’s no exaggeration to say that Cakey would push Maloney very hard indeed for a romantic adventure nod in any hotel in Marlborough. But with the addition to the squad of Frappell, and ‘Fast Twitching’ Fiona Blair plus the exotic charms of Vettickat and Man, not to mention the Mule who, on his day, could tempt any elderly gent off the straight and narrow, Weekenders managed at last to salvage some self-respect.
A glorious end to an absolutely cracking game played in great spirit and stunning surroundings.
WCC 144 all out.
M. Harvey 54, P.Simmonds 0, A. Hart 0, G. Man 26, Desmeules 15, Douglas 1, Hajela 2, Johnstone 26*, Vettickat 0, Webster 6, Frappell 0.
M. Evans 53, Masefield 19, Cake 18.
Douglas 13-5-29-2, Vettickat 8-2-25-0, Webster 9-3-27-3, Johnstone 6-1-19-0,
Hart 1-0-10-1, Simmonds 3.1-1-9-2.
Catches: 1 each, Desmeules, Webster, Hajela (kpr), Douglas.
Run out: Simmonds 1 (from 1st slip as the batsman was standing waiting for an lbw decision)
Debuts: A. Frappell and G. Man.
Best wishes to Greg and hope to see him next summer