Finally waking up to a sunny Saturday morning and reading our Captain’s ‘inspirational’ pre-match text; some of the more keener Knights (ie. Sam, Myself and Jason) wanted the honor of arriving at the meeting spot first and thus were 15 minutes early. Using this quiet time, Sam had the idea of trying to size up our opposition by finding where they placed in the league last year. Well deciphering this from the handbook certainly proved a challenge as all three of us rifled through each page of the book twice in desperation to find this information. Upon realizing that we had been reading the averages for 10 minutes we then managed to discover that Paultons finished fifth last year and thus on paper were most likely a similar strength to ourselves.
With the rest of the Knights now beginning to arrive, Barber began having his lunch when disaster struck, as we had to make our way to the ground without time to head into the pub so he could add gravy to his chicken and stuffing sandwiches; hopefully this distinct lack of a gravy dinner wouldn’t manifest itself in a bye fest later on. Arriving at the ground, our Captain in the lead car decided to park in the public car park in order to provide the Knights a warm up in the form of a long walk to the pitch across a long field. However with this field being full of burrows, cow pats and horse manure it was more a test of agility and orienteering a safe route to the pavilion.
Now safely arrived, all the Knights now marched to the sloped middle for the pitch inspection; watching as the wicket undulated under everyone’s weight it was very much apparent that we were standing on a lot of moisture and a ground which was going to completely tear to mud later on. Instantly realizing that we were at a major disadvantage and with memories of Calmore re-appearing across many of the seasoned club members; it was decided that bowling first would be best to determine exactly what the “bad score” from the opposition would be.
As Lee won the toss and decided to listen to the team majority this week, the Knights were to bowl first and to this effect everyone was very sure to tell Pete not to bowl short on such a damp Wicket. With Darren and Gusher ahem Graham arriving, the Knights were at full strength and marched into the field. Opening the bowling, it was great to see Pete had listened to everyone’s advice as one of the openers was bowled for a duck. As the pitch resembled that of a sponge, Denis was to partner Pete and it wasn’t long before the sticky wicket claimed another batsmen through a solid (one-handed) catch from Dan. Following up next over with another slowly bowled wicket of batsmen 3, Paultons were 13-3 and the Knights certainly felt that this could be a very short innings indeed. With Denis and Pete continuing to pressure the batsmen and Darren actually being silenced for a few minutes from being mesmerised by the pitch-side horses; another ‘slower’ ball from Denis bowled batsmen 4 creating yet more pressure on the opposition.
As Pete was still bowling and offering chances, unfortunately the Knights showed the same fielding finesse from previous years with Lee skilfully diving into the ball and Kev attempting a catch with his stomach. Pete then decided just to try and break the batsmen’s foot with a savage Yorker for LBW. As Paultons now found themselves 24-6 with the Knights now discussing what drinks they were each going to have at the pub and maybe the possibility of even stopping somewhere for food. With Pete finishing his 6th over, it was determined that due to his tight hamstring and the fact some rare minerals were now being unearthed from the crease due to how deep the landing area was becoming; Jason and Kev now entered into the attack. As the Innings progressed, Paultons 7th wicket partnership seemed to be showing a display of temperament as they managed to almost double the score by drinks to 53-6.
As the Scoreboard slowly ticked along, the Knights already recognized that a score of 80+ could be a challenge to catch in these conditions (although it usually is a challenge for us anyway). Having a vision of our plight similar to that of the Shining; Kevin knew we needed his support and arrived at the ground to watch us finish skittling the opposition (if only). With Jason and Kev both bowling tights lines, the batsmen now began running tactical singles and making the most of our misfields with Danni even showing how you can skillfully let the ball through for 4 even with a perfect looking technique.
In an effort to stop the singles, the Knights certainly began being more driven in the field to the point where Kev almost wiped out the square leg umpire in his hurry to the ball. However with the score surpassing 80 a great deal of concern could be felt across the field; to this effect Sam and Darren now entered the bowling. With the batsmen feeling comfortable at the crease and Darren finding it difficult to bowl towards the stumps, the score still moved along with Paultons now surpassing three figures.
After enough punishment from this crucial partnership; it was decided that Pete was to re-enter the fray and after only 4 balls batsmen 8 was finally dismissed from an excellent one handed diving catch from Graham. Feeling that the Innings was all but over, the better batsmen 6 now also holed out to a solid catch from Darren and Paultons were now reduced to the tail-enders. With Pete making the best of a slower ball to take the 9th wicket; the 10th then fell in the most controversial way as an excellent delivery from Sam clipped the edge of the stumps. However was Barber too eager (for once) with his glovework and dislodged the bails himself…… the square leg Umpire fortunately didn’t think so and Paultons finished on 132.
Reflecting at teas over an array of sandwiches and ginger cake for which Lee feels is just as special to him as Barber’s gravy (oh how wrong he is); the Knights were now refreshed for the run chase. With Barber assuming his position on the book, Darren felt that with our batting strength this was to be a simple run chase for which I fully supported with my silent response. Clearly given the conditions a slow steady innings was going to be the best way forward. As per last season’s batting displays, the Knights certainly showed the same talent with Steve and Dan both mistiming the ball and the score reading 11-2 off 5 Overs.
With Danni trudging off to spend more time with his girlfriend (now we know why he ‘missed’ the ball), it was steady headed Graham and Lee who were to try and build the much needed 98 run partnership which Paultons achieved. The issue faced by the batsmen however was that due to the Knights ability to destroy the wicket in the first Innings; the amount of divots, lumps of turf and other random undulations made the track a minefield to bat on. At least this ‘minefield’ is what our esteemed captain blamed for his demise after a simple chip to the bowler dismissing him for 5. With Kevin now realizing the truth of our plight and making a swift exit from the ‘action’, Darren was next in to bat to support the remainder of the ‘strong batting lineup’. With Graham looking to show a controlled temperament whilst Darren just tried hitting every ball, the score slowly creeped to 30 off 12 Overs.
As Denis recognized Graham’s ability and complementing that he would be the last man standing, through using his gloves instead of the bat Gusher then was caught for 7 and the Knights were now expecting yet another sub-100 score to be added to the club records. Sammy now at the crease….Sammy now back at the Pavilion and Pete was the next man marching to the middle with the score only on 40 and over 90 runs still required.
With Barber padding up only to be joined by Darren in the changing rooms, would Denis be able to at least make some runs to pull the Knights back into contention? Deciding to take the attacking approach, Pete began targeting Ponies with a couple of excellent sixes before then tightening his hamstring even further. Reeling from injury and still listening to Darren’s continuous chat from the sidelines, Pete had no option but to try and whack everything for maximums which led to him being promptly caught. With Denis still ticking the board over, it was now crucial for the tail to remain positive and solid and show why the Knights have such a deep batting core……… 5 balls later and the score not advancing, the Knights were all out for 67 showing such an achievement with our second lowest score in the club’s history.
Darren mentioned that maybe these match reports could potentially be placed into the local press; however with the combination of embarrassing performances, untoward sledging and shockingly explicit banter which no doubt will be heard throughout the season… it’s probably best we all remain anonymous to the world for now. At least we achieved a full game of cricket albeit on a sloped sponge, and with the weather forecast unfortunately looking ominous we may well have the fun of similar conditions next week.