Report by Daniel Mortlock:
Coming into today's match, all the talk was about whether we'd get one at all: in four games this season a grand total of 18 players had taken the field for Burrough Green, so the general sense was that it was about even money whether they'd forfeit (for what would have been the third time) today. In the end they managed to get eight names down on the team sheet (albeit not the standard white card, but a curously anachronistic brown envelope with the sort of gothic writing more commonly associated with, say, a schnitzel house in Bavaria), although only four of those were present at the start time, so it was no surprise that their captain opted to bat first upon winning the toss. Still, the match had to wait for their second car-load of players to arrive before it could start, as otherwise we'd have had to do our own umpiring while keeping score in our heads.
Everyone was finally in their places by 1:40pm, at which point the umpire withdrew his arm and announced "Play!" The batsman looked up, tapping his bat expectantly, and the bowler went to take his first steps towards the crease . . . but had to wait another 30 seconds or so while the unbelievably loquacious non-striker, Dennis Willis, finished what turned out to be a fairly detailed summary of the various reasons his club had been struggling to field teams this year. When it did come the first ball was at least suitably eventful, Daniel Mortlock going close to an immediate breakthrough, only for the ball to take the edge of the appropriately-named S. Batting's bat, from where it squirted off his pads towards Catherine Owen at square leg. That should have been that, but Willis couldn't resist the opportunity for another vocalisation, calling his surprised (and hungover - he got in at 5am, apparently) partner through for a risky single. Heeding the calls of "Bowler! Bowler!", Catherine's superb throw was almost a direct hit . . . although Batting's aim was not so good, as he slammed into the umpire, winding himself in the process.
239 more balls like that would have been a bit much for everyone, and things then calmed down a bit as we asserted a clear early dominance, Daniel (3/11) and Karan Gupta (1/29) both making breakthroughs, after which the scoreboard showed an unbelieveable 15/6. Sadly, it really was unbelievable: the "6" was only there as Burrough Green had pre-emptively included their three missing players as wickets. Still, when Karan induced the opposition number five, F. Bhatti (ironically, rather than appropriately, named it turned out), to edge the ball to 'keeper Andy Owen, Burrough Green were 19/4 for real . . . or at least should have been, but for the fact that the batsman refused to walk, making the absurd claim that the noise of ball on bat was his glove hitting his pad (which would have been a most impressive feat of contortion, given that he was attempting a cut shot to a chest-high ball some way from his body). Ordinarily the "opposition batsman didn't walk when he nicked it" trope wouldn't warrant the wasted keystrokes, but the remarkable thing about this case was that his batting partner agreed that he'd "middled it", and was overheard asking Bhatti why he didn't walk at their next end-of-over conference. (The umpire's take on all this is not known, but the fact that his response to a later stumping appeal was a surprised "Dunno?" suggests that he was maybe not concentrating on the action to the customary degree.)
Frustrating as this was, it didn't really seem important at the time, as the next wicket would surely come soon . . . except it didn't. In the end Bhatti and the Burrough Green number three, Ian Beeby, stayed together for 19 overs and combined to put on 70 runs (a figure worth keeping in mind for when you produce your final match summary for Ceefax) in what turned out to be by far the longest and most productive partnership of the match. The fact that they shouldn't even have gotten the chance was then compounded by the fact that we started spurning the chances they gave us. While our ground-fielding was awesome, Tim Cannings, Faruk Kara, Rod Dennis (back at 100% just three weeks after getting hit in the face during the Saffron Walden game) and Karan all making some superb stops, our catching was awesomely inept. We put down seven fairly regulation chances, three of which were real sitters. Still, change bowlers Faruk Kara (1/29), Catherine Owen (1/25) and Andy Owen (1/7) all got wickets, the latter courtesy of a superb running effort by Richard Rex who, seemingly on a mission to atone for one of the earlier drops, hared around from mid-on to mid-wicket, calling off Daniel (who was mere metres away from completing our eighth drop of the day) and clutching the ball as he zoomed past in the direction of square-leg, eventually pulling up somewhere near the tennis courts. With a seventh wicket the next over the Burrough Green innings was over, their 125/7 being converted to 125 all-out; but, really, it was about double what we should have allowed them to get and, more importantly, our previous match showed us that it wasn't going to be an easy chase, even with only six outfielders.
Still, we had our two form batsmen opening the innings, with Cam Petrie (147 runs off 122 balls at an average of 49.00) and Richard Rex (150 runs off 272 balls at an average of 75.00) good to win the match without any further help if they could keep up their seasons' levels today. Which they might well have been able to, but for the fact that they both got true shooters from Burrough Green's sharp opening bowler, one of their A. Khans. He took 3/7 from his 6 overs by bowling fast and straight, safe in the knowledge that the pitch would do the rest. Cam and Richard's combined contribution was hence restricted to a grand total of 2 runs, which does at least open up the batting award for the rest of us . . .
. . . or at least would have if we hadn't, paralysed by these early breakthroughs, batted like rabbits caught in the headlights, combining tentative defensive prods with the occasional wild swish, most of which either failed to make contact or resulted in a catch (no mean feat given the inevitably gap-heavy field settings). With Anthony Haynes (3/29) giving us no pace, the aforementioned Willis (0/6 off 8 overs) giving us no width and the also aforementioned Batting (4/9) giving us not much more pace than Haynes, it felt as if wickets were coming more often than runs.
At 32/6 it was pretty clear that the game was over as a contest, and about the closest we went to any sort of "victory" was Daniel Mortlock (a scintillating 12 off 48 balls, with three scoring strokes) and Catherine Owen (0 off 21 balls) at least facing 20+ deliveries, something nobody else managed. In the end we were bowled out for a dismal 66 off 27.2 overs, fully 12 of which were maidens.
We could only congratulate the Burrough Green bowlers and fielders for achieving the seemingly-impossible in easily defending a total of 125 with just eight players. In the end they dominated all facets of the game: the top three scores of the day (48, 25 and "24") were all by Burrough Green batsmen; the two best bowling figures of the day (4/9 and 3/7) were both by Burrough Green bowlers; and they took four catches to our one (from a similar number of chances of roughly the same difficulty). Imagine if they'd had a full team . . .