Report by Dave Williams:
How would the PBs manage without the presence of their charismatic and talented leader, yea, his Spellerness himself, viz. George of that ilk, founder of the PBs, sometime of this parish and now esconced (as word had it) in Oxford with wife and wee bairn to boot? Read on . . .
In a brave attempt to pre-empt our current glut of defeats by, football-style, bringing in a new manager, it was John Richer's turn to captain. John's first loss of the evening was the toss; and so it was that under the lapis lazuli of a gorgeous early-July sky we took the field two short. Where were they? Harumph . . .
First up was Jeff Beaumont. Jeff's compact and purposeful action, allied to a well-disguised slower ball and sharp cricketing brain, served up some well-thought-out fare that immediately created problems for the PB openers. A sharp short-pitcher only three balls in induced a false hook that flicked the edge, nicely pouched by Tom Collett behind the stumps. Tom's fortissimo was the only appeal - maybe the day was too beautiful to bother with appealing. The batsman sportingly walked. After a tidy three opening overs, the second pair of batters started to open up their big guns, with three consecutive fours in the second of Shivaji Patil's overs. John's timely bowling change to Mihir Chandrakar brought another wicket, top-edged and taken by Tom again. Our own Ferdi Rex, temporarily Pretty, biffed the PB's top score of 23 against us, before smearing across Nick Johnson's faster ball. The man with the golden arm today (to go with his aching thumb), however, was Eli Ellwood. Eli's neat action was well backed up by four of today's six tidy Remnants catches, giving him a final analysis of 4/22 from his 4 overs. An economical final couple of overs from Shivaji (0/21 from his 4 overs) reined back the PBs to a barely par 122 for 7. Mihir finished with an excellent 1/22 from 4 overs and Jeff's very impressive figures were 1/13 from his 4.
In English Test-side-speak (Cooky, Swanny, Broady, etc.), Belly and Willy opened our reply. I played over the top of a yorker for an abortive 5 (off 9 balls). Andy flat-batted effectively for some of his 23 (off 17 balls), joined by Mihir (24 off 35 balls) looking classy, specially when going back to the leg spinner's short-of-length stuff and smashing it through vacant mid-wicket. Tom Collett was running through a full repertoire of pre-meditated random nurdles off the leg spinner, including a reverse sweep off the wrongly picked straight-onner heading straight for middle stump, before departing to a looping slip catch to the PB's captain for an entertaining 16 (off 17 balls). Nick Johnson seemed to struggle for his timing for his 8 (off 17 balls), before going to another well-judged but sharper slip catch to the PB's Captain Marvel show. By this time the required run rate was starting to go sky-high: at 14 overs gone we only had 69 on the board. Could we get 54 off 6? End of over 16, 39 needed off 4? Could John manage it?
The following passage of play was one of the most enjoyable I have seen in this or many other summers. By force of will and ability John started to impose on the PB bowlers, tension making them drop short, feeding John's favourite, stylish and powerful pulls. When captain Chandler brought himself on for the penultimate over, the PB wheels looked like they were falling off: two wides and plenty of long hops resulting in 14 off the over, even with the very deep-set fields. John had wrenched it back to 10 needed off the last over.
The implausibly nicknamed "Bambi" was to bowl at the death: Eli on strike, 1 off the first. John on strike, short ball, pulled behind square, rapidly run two. Third ball short, gloriously pull-smashed to leg, bouncing an agonizing two feet short of the pavilion boundary for 4. With two needed to win, three balls to go, the money is now on John to finish the job; the PB captain brings all the boundary fielders in. I'm not, even in hindsight, sure of the rationale for this, but the close field for the fourth ball seems to have influenced John to try to leather the thing into Suffolk, with the unfortunate result of him getting bowled, for a magnificent 34 (off just 19 balls) - the highest score on either side today and a very fine batting display indeed).
Still, two balls to go: Jeff on strike, gets some bat on it, fast-run single. Last ball, 0 to lose, 1 to tie, 2 to win. Eli on strike; Bambi beats the bat, the 'keeper fumbles, Jeff lungeing at the crease just fails, by 18 inches, to get home.
Still, that was fun. A loss, yes, but a lovely evening's cricket.