Detail: 18-07-2020 - Barbarians

Result: Won by 7 runs
Match report on Saturday's game vs The Barbarians

Blues vs The Barbarians

The long awaited day had finally arrived, the resumption of village cricket and a return to normality beckoned. Today the Blues were facing a Barbarians side of ex-Durham boys assembled by Harry Tawney, for a re-match of last year's nail-biter of a fixture where The Barbarians won in the last over to take the title - by the barest of margins.

The two Harrys got there early arriving to inspect the wicket. Upon finding a football game going on across the outfield, a lot of arm waving, gesticulating and warnings of the peril for any outsiders coming anywhere near the 'vector of disease', it was agreed that the lads should move their game. However, fielding at fine leg were a more stubborn set of parents, lying prostrate who were rather reluctant to interrupt their picnic. After a quite unintentional barrage of errant warm-up bowling, the warning shots across their bows proved sufficient to disturb their cucumber sandwiches and move them on. In dribs and drabs the 22 boys assembled, all looking resplendent in white, tanned after months working from home and each man itching to see if this year would be the year they tonned up.

An early pitch inspection showed that yes, this was an astro-turf wicket and therefore a batting track. Fingers crossed it was not 80 plays 60 and all over by 3pm.

A big toss to win, Harry J won the toss for the Blues and decided to bat first. Our first debutant Hamish Fyfe strode to the crease partnering the ever-reliable Blues stalwart Steve Metson. As the Barbarians boasted an average age of 26, there were no dodgy shoulders, elbows, knees and toes in sight and to a man all 11 seemed capable of hurling down the occasional thunderbolt - albeit some landed very wide of the crease. Resisting this onslaught of liquorice all-sorts bowling Hamish and Steve moved to a very respectable 50-0, earning an approving nod from Club Captain FitzGerald enabling him to finish his morning coffee and move onto the sports pages.

Alas, all good things come to an end. And after a few Gower-esque flicks off the pad Steve Metson was dismissed for a solid 29. Youcef, the 'Brummy nerdler', buoyed by a century in the last Blues game joined Hamish at the crease. Up to this point Hamish had played an unflappable innings, amassing 18 runs without hiccup. Rather too unflappable, thought Youcef, who sensed a younger rival for his batting crown. Needless to say, if the oppo can't get you out, your team-mates can. Youcef, having seen enough of Hamish, burnt him and sent him stalking back to the hut. "Welcome to the Blues mate". 56-2.

FitzGerald moved to the crease and quickly crashed one away to the boundary. Then outraged by the acrobatics of the keeper, who was certainly very 'un-village', managed to nick off for 4. Furrowed brows all round.

Harry Jenkins took his place and joined Youcef for a time. Surviving a few choppy overs the pair managed to accumulate slightly. Approaching the heady heights of double figures Jenkins could not resist a half tracker, and in a traditional English middle-order brain fade, picked out the tallest fielder and lobbed one down his throat. Out for 9. 97-4.

Alas, more of the same followed. Sam R, a recent lockdown cricket convert making his Blues debut, away from his more familiar hockey field, got off the mark with a drag flick away for 4. Predictably the cross-batted shots could not bear fruit for long and Sam was dismissed for 5.

Another debutant, the overseas pro Sam Dawson fresh off the plane from Malaysia stomped to the crease. After passing stringent covid tests in order to play, he had brought with him a small crowd to watch his exploits. Epitomising 'here for a good time not a long time' Sam crashed his first ball straight to a fielder along the ground. Second ball followed suit, this time taking the aerial route. Sadly the fielder also took to the skies, pulling of a worldie catch and dismissing Sam for 0. Off he trudged, popped open a can and sat back down with his posse, sensibly spending the rest of the innings with the fairer sex rather than a bunch of sweaty boys. 110-6.

Youcef, despairing at the other end as all around him fell, seemed to rather regret running Hamish out at this point. However, cometh the hour cometh the man, and in stepped Mo who decided to get his head over the ball, play late and stick around. The 2 put on a fantastic 7th wicket partnership to move to 197-8. The oppo tried all their bowlers in order to dislodge either Mo or Youcef, but to no avail. Finally Mo was dismissed by a good catch. Not many overs left and the remaining Blues were given license to 'express themselves'.

Youcef after ratching up his 50, proceeded to shed his skin and dance down the wicket to their leg-spinner and attempt to clear the boundary. On one such occasion he picked out the oppo skipper Harry Tawney on the boundary. Our hearts were in our mouth. After 6 drops in 2 games last season, Harry Tawney quickly back-pedalled away from the situation, running furiously in the opposite direction of the ball to ensure it safely bounced before reaching him. 'Brave brave Sir Robin' rang around the ground. Any probable shame outweighed the unlikely glory. On Youcef marched until finally out for a fluent 64, doing his job for the team.

Tom Rooke making his Blues comeback did not waste time and smashed 3 to the boundary, accumulating 12 of about 3 balls. After he departed another debutant George took up the reins in similar fashion. George had been despairing that he wouldn't get a bat, batting number 10 on an astro-wicket, despite frequent and vehement reassurance from all the Blues around him, "trust me, everyone ends up batting". George wasted no time and smashed a speedy 7. Glenn More brought up the tail and re-invented himself as Stuart Broad before the infamous bouncer, and bipped a 6 to the boundary finishing on 9 off 3 balls.

A very respectable 228 of 35 overs. The game would go deep. A strong top order, soft middle order and a bombastic tail helped amass runs. It must be said that credit should be paid to the opposition bowler's as Youcef top scored on 61 with the 2nd highest accumulator being extras on 40. Could those extras be crucial?

After a self-sufficient, socially distant tea, the Barbars took to the crease. Intent on scoring big from the get-go, Harry Tawney led the charge nobly. Showing a promise which is yet to yield fruit for The Blues, he proceeded to 'tee off'. Taking full advantage of the astro and the lack of swing, Tawney swiped away a large 6 with ease. This prompted a Blues conference and the field was tinkered with repeatedly. As if in mockery, Tawney lifted another one away for 6. "Put a fielder there mate" he did not quite have the balls to say to a growling FitzGerald.

The Barbarians also moved to 50-0 and in short fashion. The chase was on. The other opener Ryan played beautifully stroking the ball to the boundary and creating a real despondency in the Blues' fielding team. This was not going according to the script.

Finally the wily-fox Glenn tried all his tricks on H Tawney and eventually cramped him for room and clean-bowled him. The head was cut off, would the snake survive?

Out came a lamb to the slaughter, a Barbars sacrifice, who was quickly dismissed by the remarkable Mo, bowling leg spin faster than most of us can throw it. Alex Pike, co-captain strode to the crease. Alex proved the difference last year where he chalked up an un-beaten 70 odd to take the win for the Barbars. Alex and Ryan played fiercely and moved to the mid-innings drinks break 129-2. The win looked there for the taking.

A lift in the field was needed, our bowlers had all had a go at dislodging Alex and Ryan with no luck. Suddenly a ripple went through the fielding side. El Presidente had appeared to watch his troops do battle. Like the Headingly crowd on day 5, the Blues were re-charged and upped their game in the field. The Mullet huffed and puffed and dismissed their opener.

After doing some quick maths in his head Harry J realised that 4 bowlers bowling 7 overs each does not equal 35, and had no choice but to bowl himself. Mullet moved over to mid-off for a ball-by-ball coaching masterclass. After being told loudly to hit the top of 'off', the advice had done the trick. Hey presto, Alex Pike was dismissed. Demonstrating ably that 'every dog has his day' Jenkins managed to somehow move the ball away from the bat and cannon into the off stump. Alan Shearer, Imran Tahir, all were put to shame by the celebration that followed.

Sadly, the Barbars batted deep and all could crash the ball to the boundary. No bunnies in sight, 4s flowed thick and fast and on a lightning outfield, although wickets fell the score kept adding up.

Then a bit of magic from Mo, skittling 2 in a row, one of which was a golden duck, and he was on a hat-trick ball. Wickets would be key. Would the Barbars run out of batsmen?

Golden-haired Digby coming in at 9 and played all around the wagon-wheel, chancing some interesting scoops and Chinese cuts for 4. Youcef's knees broke down and a change of keeper for the Blues saw Steve Metson don the gloves. Rolling back the years Steve stopped many a bye and crouched there waiting for an edge. Mo, taking his 4th wicket, found the edge and somehow, taking it 1 handed, Steve grabbed it. Remarkable.

The Barbars needed 40 off of 40 balls with 2 wickets remaining. It was anyone's game. Digby looked imperious and the tail-enders coming out all seemed capable of clearing the ropes.

Enter Tom Rooke, aka the Balham express. Leaving nothing in the tank he steamed in, getting the speed-gun excited by his velocity. Again, another edge was found and this time an even better catch by Steve was pulled it off. Great cricket all round. Digby gone, just 2 tailenders left.

With 12 needed off the last 12 balls and 1 wicket to go, there were no finger-nails left in sight. A small crowd had gathered, the 'Lords hum' was in the air. Who would hold their nerve. The skipper knowing he had to bowl the last over, had one over left from his premier bowlers and on the last ball of the 34th over 'Rookie' found a leading edge which flew skyward. A tired Youcef moved under it. Eyes set. And took it cleanly. Jubilation. Unbelievable scenes all round. Revenge had been accomplished, setting the series up 1-1, awaiting a 2021 decider.

No one wanted to leave the scene of such a glorious day and the Londis on Trinity Road had a field day. San Miguels all round, strawberries, cool boxes, cocktail sausages. It was all kicking off. After a bit of refreshment the group moved to the Brewery which was soon shutting. The vanguard of Youcef and Harry T were left stumped when the barman refused to serve just 2 boys 35 pints with only 20 minutes before close. After buying a bit of time for the rest of the merry men to join the party, Mullet moved in. Sweet-talking as ever, he spoke to the owner, no doubt signing him up for next week's fixture, and suddenly beers were being produced from all angles by all staff available, faster than we could drink them. Remarkable. The sweet nectar flowed and quickly the Durham boys were keen to seek their first victory of the day challenging the Blues to a boat-race. Youcef stuck to his guns and drank as slowly as he batted and the Barbars could leave triumphant. Head pats all round.

A great day was had by all. What a curtain raiser of a fixture to kick off what should be a glorious season for the Blues.

We have a game now every Sunday until mid September so there's ample opportunity for runs, wickets and dropped catches this season. Next fixture is Sunday 26th July vs Richmond CC. All are welcome. Hope to see you all soon.

Harry Jenkins

[updated 21 07 2020]