It was a crisp and chilly morning that greeted the First XI at the Bluebell carpark, however it wasn’t a typical preparation for much of the team. Not only equipped with cricket bags and whites, extra space on the bus was required for items such as peasant rags, baguettes and Jenga. With a full day’s antics ahead the mood was buoyant. That was, until it took us a good ten minutes to get out of the carpark due to a stubborn boom gate. With Goodyear engaging in a terse phone conversation with whoever operates said boom gate, we were eventually liberated from our own prison and order was restored.
Following a brief and unscheduled tour of Nottingham Trent University thanks to our slightly disoriented bus driver (Root: ‘There’s a map just here. If we go left further up we’ll actually be right there.’ Rhino: ‘Not sure the bus driver’s interested in your opinion though’), the lads and baguettes disembarked the vessel close enough to the ground. On a grassy but firm wicket, the skipper had no hesitation in losing the toss and being invited to bat.
After losing a couple of cheap wickets (Bex and Root both putting forward very compelling TFC cases), the third wicket steadied to put on over a hundred as UWMCC tested out Notts Trent’s bowling depth. Goodyear, at one stage on a breezy one off 29 balls, took advantage of an early reprieve at first slip to put us in good nick heading into the final fifteen overs. Steadying from an inauspicious start, his punishment of the short ball was especially authoritative and gave us an excellent chance to accelerate. Notts’ frustration soon became apparent as they turned to verbal barbs to unsettle the captain, which rarely made sense let alone imparted any psychological damage. It was a relief when this phase passed, and they returned to concentrating on bowling and fielding.
However, following Goodyear’s departure for a well-made 41 the wheels not only fell off, but shattered and fell into the abyss as the away change room adopted a Wall Street-like air of tense confusion. Having once been 2/129, the away side extended the hand of generosity to our opponents to lose 8/51 (Millman and Randall joining the alarmingly large TFC party). Where perhaps we should have finished with upwards of 220, we were left to scrounge a total eerily similar to the week before. Mihir continued to bring a good name to the number eight batting position, helping prevent the innings from completely tanking. Another strong performance in the paddock was required.
At 0/80 after twelve overs the die appeared to be cast. Strong aggressive batting from their opening batsmen placed the UWMCC bowling firmly on the back foot (if one can be on the back foot while bowling). It took a sustained period of punishment for Mihir to eventually claim their danger man for a brutal 80-odd, caught trying one too many maximums. From that point, two pretty helpful things happened: the first was they pretty much stopped scoring. While this didn’t actually appeal to Bex (‘I’m bored’) and Randall (‘I haven’t moved in over an hour’), it did serve to give us a fraction of a chance as we could start to attack without fear of being whacked into the nearby woodland.
The other helpful thing was we started to jag a wicket here and there. Rhino pinned their number three back LBW, stone dead as a statue. I kid you not, a more plumb LBW you will not see. Actually I just remembered Tasty’s LB in Cape Town. Never mind. From this point Mihir and the inspired Ferdy Rex tied down their middle order and the threat of spin set in. A fourth wicket straight after drinks put the two teams in a titanic struggle. Questionable appeals came from everywhere as anything near the bat or pad prompted screams from nearby fielders. To Notts credit, they dug in to get within ten runs of victory with five wickets in hand.
This was when the game began.
With Kit proving desperately unlucky in his second spell, the ball was thrown to Charlie Yorke-Starkey to either pick up a wicket or distract the Notts lower order with his enormous smile. Whether it was the delivery, or the quality of the teeth on the man delivering it, we’ll never know. But we do know Sharky’s two wickets for very few tipped the scales right back in the balance. As Ferd accumulated bunnies from the other end the maths suddenly became incredibly interesting. At its climax, they needed four to win. We needed a wicket. Here’s what didn’t happen:
Ferdi bowls a length ball which their number eleven swipes at, but doesn’t really get hold of. With the ball bobbling towards mid-on, their number eleven takes off. Their number ten, ball-watching, has no idea his partner is within a metre of him. He’s that close he could shake his hand. So they both take off in the same direction, leaving both ends available for a run-out, before it becomes clear the striker’s end is where the damage will be done. Rhino’s throw only reaches the non-striker’s end. Ferd collects, and must lawn bowl the ball to the wicket-keeper who at this stage is beside himself with nervous excitement. The ball leaves Ferd’s hand. It rolls, seemingly unaware of the central role it is playing in the surrounding chaos. It rolls, casually overtaking the two batsmen who are borderline having a domestic as the game literally slides past them. It rolls, safely navigating past the footmarks from the previous ninety overs. It rolls into Goodyear’s gloves. The bails are whipped off. Pandemonium ensues. Tears are shed. On the rack half an hour earlier, UWMCC win by three runs.*
Their number eleven struck a sweetly-timed six over long-on to hand Nottingham Trent a one-wicket win. A painful finish to a game we should have made more of, but at the same time, one we did a great deal to salvage. Suffice to say a hefty price was paid for being light on with the bat.
Baguettes in hands, tails between legs, the lads made for the bus. Disappointed with the result, circle was cancelled and all players were asleep by nine o’clock.