Detail: 09-05-2021 - Hampton Wick
Result: Won by 46 runs
Royal Hampton Wick CC v Blues CC
40 overs - Blues won by 46 runs
As dusk fell it became clear that word had spread. A crowd gathered on the boundary. Slowly, they edged towards the square, to see for themselves where the day's great deeds had taken place, to play homage to the batters, bowlers, and fielders of the all-conquering Blues.
Bambi and company clearly knew their cricket, but what had the herd of Red Deer appreciated most? Was it the devastating opening partnership, featuring Alex Pike's coruscating century and Mo Bryce's obdurate fifty, both landmarks brought up with sixes? Was it the Blues' fearsome seam attack which kept Royal Hampton Wick in check on a fine surface and rapid outfield? Or was it the fly-paper hands of Alex Bobak, rolling back the decades in a one-man slip cordon?
But we are getting ahead of ourselves, ruining the plot for absentees.
One of those, unfortunately, was Das, laid low by the after-effects of the AZ/Oxford jab. Worth it in the long run, but he missed out on the chance to open the innings on a lovely wicket. Into the breach came Bobak, who had waited patiently for a call-up after his Blues debut was ruined by rain at Frensham a few summers ago. This also had the happy bonus of ensuring match-manager Glenn Moore was not the oldest Blue on the pitch.
Hamish Fyfe was pencilled in to take Das's place at the top of the order. Alas, Hamish was delayed en route so Mo was handed another chance to prove his batting credentials. So too, was Pike, as Moore re-jigged the batting and bowling orders having been forewarned that a fixture clash meant the opposition were down to what Harry Redknapp would have called their 'bare bones'.
This, it would transpire, was something of an exaggeration (just like it always was with Redknapp). Royal Hampton Wick had a decent hand of bowlers and batsmen. One of them, bowling with the wind, kept Mo pinned down in the early overs. At the other end, however, the oppo skipper struggled with length and Pike took full advantage with some brutal blows. After one savage over the sanitation bottle took the full force of the bowler's frustration. Now there's a sentence that hopefully won't appear next season.
Pike and Mo reached the century opening stand in the 20th over, an excellent platform. A few overs later Pike smashed his way to his maiden Blues century and the club's first since Youcef's ton at Frensham in 2019. Pike had ridden his luck, giving a sharp chance to gully early on and a tricky skier later, but had also displayed powerfully clean hitting with 12 fours and four sixes.
After reaching the milestone he was compulsorily retired as there were nine other Blues hungry for runs. Next up was Mullett who seemed determined to overtake Mo before perishing for a rapid 28. By now Mo was going through the gears, moving into the 40s with his fourth boundary, then into the 50s with his first six. However, with less than eight overs remaining the Blues on the boundary had long grown restless. Even Youcef, glancing up occasionally from watching Villa lose to Manchester United, had come to appreciate nurdling is more fun to perform than to watch.
So Mo, despite his chanceless, well-crafted innings, was retired, with extreme reluctance. Inevitably there was then a clatter of wickets as Bobak, Moore and Jenkins perished in swift succession, the latter two generously sacrificing themselves so Blues could demonstrate what good opponents we are by giving a brace of leg befores.
Fortunately, at the other end Bruce Carmen, in his first outing of the season, was batting serenely. Assisted by a some typically lusty blows to cow corner from Fyfe Blues moved towards a commanding total. However, the oppo skipper had returned, regaining his line, length and composure, and showing decent pace, and Fyfe became his third wicket.
As Gaunt headed for the crease Youcef was able to enjoy the full tailender experience having been demoted to No.10 (it would have been 11, but Rory had been taken on a tour of the park by Mullett and was nowhere to be seen). He scrambled for his pads, he enthusiastically thought he might get a bat, he counted down the balls in the last over... and as the penultimate ball was safely dealt with he slowly took off his pads, gloves, thigh-pad...
Welcome to my world Cef.
Blues closed at 254-5. A challenging total, but gettable.
Feeling it would be rude to pen the bowling after batting 6, even if he had faced only two balls, Moore entrusted the new ball to Collett and Hassaine. However, despite both bowling well the hosts were 60-0 after 12 overs with Blues needing a breakthrough. The cherry was thrown to Will Gaunt.
His second ball found the edge, but seemed set to whistle to the boundary to bring up the opener's 50. Then Bobak flung out a hand, low to his left, and took a stunning catch. The catcher seemed as surprised anyone, but a few overs later, to prove it was no fluke, he took another sharp catch off Gaunt. Whisper it quietly, but Skip's position at first slip could be in peril.
At the other end Youcef was in his eighth and last over, and chuntering. A DNB and no wickets was not his usual Sunday return. Then a pad was struck, an appeal yelled, and Cef had his wicket.
Gaunt continued to make it difficult for the batsmen, and not just because they couldn't reach most of his deliveries. He soon collected his third wicket, Moore gratefully gathering a drive at mid-off.
At 86-4, Wick had work to do but their fifth wicket partnership rebuilt the innings. However, tight bowling from Moore and Fyfe put them behind the rate. The wides finally dried up (we bowled 34, following 30 last week). Mullet and Mo kept the pressure on and soon it was ten-an-over, then 12-an-over, and, as Cef kept telling everyone in earshot, 'big shots' were required. Collett returned to collect a deserved wicket and after Fyfe claimed his second run-out in successive matches Pike, who'd faced the first ball six hours earlier, fittingly bowled the last.
A few beers followed with the opposition, who have already said they'd like us back next year. Lovely venue, good facilities, nice oppo, wildlife for the city boys to take photos off... we've obviously accepted and might even fix up a midweek afternoon fixture later this summer if there's enough people prepared to pretend they're WFH while actually playing cricket in Bushy Park.
Four wins from four and the baton now passes to Youcef, who probably won't bat himself 11, and faces the unique challenge of setting a field at Shamley Green (if Skip lets him).
Blues 254-5 (A Pike 101*, Mo 53*)
Royal Hampton Wick 208-6 (Gaunt 3-36)
[updated 13 05 2021]