NOBs vs W&SCC 2014
There can be few more beautiful village cricket pitches than the one that’s home to Warborough and Shillingford Cricket Club in Oxfordshire. The Chiltern Hills roll across the horizon, thatched cottages nestle near to the boundary and the slightest breeze will amplify as it rustles through the ancient trees surrounding the ground. However, this tranquil and idyllic scene is immediately punctured on arrival by large signs stating:
The club accepts no liability for loss or damage to vehicles parked in the area.
This is the first warning to keep your distance – for the players for Warborough & Shillingford Cricket Club have not just been blessed with a beautiful ground but a fearsome reputation to uphold. They are widely known and feared as the bully-boys of Ox and Bucks cricket. Their agricultural approach to cricket regularly destroys their opponents as well as endangering any cars foolishly parked nearby.
Prior to the coin toss, your reporter was fortunate enough to secure a brief interview with W&SCC President, Colin. I said I’d noticed several young W&SCC players warming up and was surprised to hear they were going to be playing. Was W&SCC sending its young lambs to the slaughter?
‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ snapped Colin. ‘These youngsters are would-be juvenile delinquents of the worst kind. They’re only kept in check because of our military-style mid-week nets that have instilled them with the moral fibre and fortitude needed to excel on the cricket pitch. Otherwise they would have turned genteel village of Warborough into the sort of dystopia found in the video game Gran Torino. If you don’t believe me you can drop and give me 50 push-ups right now!’
At that point I was able to nip off and ask NOBs Captain Ed ‘The Chunder’ Williams a couple of quick questions. ‘Why did I choose to field first?’ he said. ‘Well, there’s some moisture in the pitch which should lead to some seam and movement. But most importantly of all, if we field first we won’t have to wash-up after lunch.’
What about his temporary appointment as Captain I asked – was he nervous? ‘Well, firstly, I’m not nervous. I’ve got an innovative game plan, a first class team and a bowling secret weapon. And secondly, whatever ex-NOBs Captain Andy Hobbs says, I’m the new captain. If he really wanted to be here then he would. Instead he’s off scoring ego-boosting triple hundreds against teams of Japanese schoolgirls in Tokyo.’
As the NOBs team took to the pitch they appeared genuinely inspired by their handsome and debonair new captain who huddled them in a circle. Before they jogged out to the middle they were serenaded with operatic arias by fellow team-mate and musician ‘Mr Italy.’ Captain Ed then gave a rousing speech second only in emotional impact to Henry V before Agincourt. He implored his band of gentleman-amateurs to do their best – and to be a NOB with passion.
The W&SCC openers were Freddie Doris and Alan ‘The Fox’ Tilley. The NOBs assaulted them at both ends by the lively medium-slow bowling from Ian Flood and Jamie Burton. Scorecard pressure built quickly as the NOBs successfully prodded away at the corridor of uncertainty. After some streaky boundaries – mainly through the wicketkeeper’s legs or over the slip cordon – a couple of quick wickets fell starting with The Fox. He was brilliantly caught by Hobbs Snr – and these wickets brought Rohan Doris to the crease to join his son.
The Doris family double-act took W&SCC through to lunch. They scored slowly due to the pin-point accuracy of the NOBs bowling and the disconcerting sight of Smaily bowling in whites that would have been better-suited to a more diminutive gent. It wasn’t so much IPL as VPL.
At lunch the score was 89-2. As it tradition, W&SCC ensured the NOBs were thoroughly lubricated and relived during a long and luxurious break.
After lunch the family Doris clung to their wickets like barnacles. Smaily pinned them down from one end while several NOBs took it in turn to rotate from the other end. Captain Ed’s field settings were quite extraordinary – and extraordinarily effective. He initially innovated ‘the wall’ – a line of fielders that included silly mid-off, even sillier mid-off and quite ludicrous mid-off. This line of fielders proved devastatingly effective and the run rate dried up to about 6 an over.
Eventually, Smaily got his man and Doris Snr was sent back to the hutch. This was one of three wickets for Smaily. If it hadn’t been for ‘that’ unfortunate incident at the nightclub in Didcot last year there are few who would doubt that he’d be playing for England now. But in the only criticism this reporter can level at Captain Ed is that Smaily was bowled for a couple of overs too long. Clearly exhausted from his long and strenuous run-up, Captain Ed eventually threw the ball to Mark ‘The Tornado’ Burton.
The game was on a knife edge. It was mid-afternoon and W&SCC had slumped to 190-5. Freddie Doris was still clinging on a nervy 60 or so not out. Where would the game go?
‘Quite simply,’ explained Captain Ed after the game, ‘it was a case of cometh the hour, cometh the man.
Six years ago I watched as The Tornado became a NOB for the first time. His fielding abilities are limited and I’ve often wondering if he knew which end of the bat to hold. But despite all his enormous flaws – not just of athletic ability, but of character – what I saw… what I saw was potential. Sure, I could have called on a player who’d spent almost every summer weekend for 30 years playing cricket. Or, I could trust my instincts and throw the ball to The Tornado who last bowled in a cricket match in 1988.’
What happened next will go down in legend.
‘Up until that point,’ explained Andrew ‘The Rhino’ Ryan, the pitch had been quite sedate. But as soon as The Tornado started to bowl it became a ****ing minefield. In all my years of playing cricket – of which I’ve been sober for at least half of them – I’ve never seen anything like it.’
‘I thought I’d soften them up with a couple of four-balls and a wide,’ said a breathless Tornado after during tea. ‘I’m known for being an off-spin bowler with a complete inability to bowl leg breaks. The last time I tried a leg-break the ball went straight from my hands into square leg’s’. But inspiration struck and I thought lets bowl him an other-one.’
‘It went left, it went right,’ said a bamboozled Freddie Doris who faced the ball of the 21st century. ‘It went up, it went down. The last time a cricket ball moved so much Shane Warne was bowling to Mike Gatting. I was completely flummoxed as I swished the willow and sent the ball cannoning towards Matt at mid-off who snaffled it on the hoof.’
Watching from the pavilion was W&SCC captain Doris Snr. ‘The Tornado finished his over and I thought that would be it. But when I saw Captain Ed was going to bring him back for a second over I knew I’d have to declare rather than subject my lads & lassie to that kind of devastating off-spin. It could scar them for life – so I had no option but to bring the innings to a halt – and I was disgusted by the NOBs unsportsmanlike actions.’
The impact of this single ‘Tornado’ over had reverberations that shook the foundations of the whole game. ‘If they’d even posted an extra 20 or 30 runs I don’t think we could have reached the target,’ admitted Captain Ed after the game. ‘But because W&SCC drew their innings to such an early conclusion our openers went out to bat fired up with confidence and a blazing urgency amplified by the need to get home early and bath the baby.’
At tea the score was something-or-other. Your correspondent can’t quite recall the exact score due to the ½ bottle of port he imbibed as the afternoon wore on. What he can confirm is that Simmo did indeed retire early to go home and bath said baby – leaving the scorers scratching their heads and flicking through Wisden trying to find the correct nomenclature for his early departure.
After tea, the Rhino carried on where he left off before tea – and indeed from the previous NOBs vs W&SCC when he scored a Chris Tavare-esque 100. When this NOB was finally out in the 80s – after giving Ms Fotherington’s Clematis another good seeing-to, his two match average stood at 200. ‘All in a day’s work,’ said the Rhino, ‘all in a day’s work me old cobber.’
The Rhino departed due to the athletic exhortations of Patrick Iron-Hands who took the only catch of many offered by the NOBs. The winning runs were probably scored by Captain Ed, but by this time the whole bottle of Port was finished and your correspondent’s memory of events is a bit fuzzy.
Fortunately, a record of the full post-match events is available on Twitter.
Ed Williams: Delighted to accept captaincy of NOBs after nearly 20 years of deputising for Andy Hobbs #newcaptain
Andy Hobbs: Good luck – I put my faith in the new skip – but remember you’re only captain for this one match
Ed Williams: New era #you #resigned
Andy Hobbs: One match only mate! #captainANDY
Ed Williams: HEY! @WandSCC!!!!! NOBs are coming to get cha! #especiallydoris #captainEDforever
Andy Hobbs: #beagoodsport
Ed Williams: #myturnnow #resigned #haha
Andy Hobbs: I scored 168* against some Japanese schoolgirls this morning. I scored 200 before close of play last night. NOBs need Hobbs. #sewag #NOBs2015
Ed Williams: ‘Biggest NOBs victory ever. Most imaginative skippering, ever. Crowd and team want more.’ #edforcaptain
Andy Hobbs: I won’t go easily, fluke victory thanks to ringers, constitutional change required for full change of skip
The Tornado: Not a ringer #warne
Ed Williams: your constitution hasn’t saved you from the clamour for the “people’s skipper” #Pietersen
Andy Hobbs: catching early flight home. These personal attacks should stop. I won’t resign #cook
Ed Williams: Job is legally mine. I should know, I’m a ****ing barrister!!! #wig #gown
Andy Hobbs: See you at the AGM. Full weight of ICC behind me
Rhino: See you in 2015 whichever one of you flaming galahs is skip!!! #endofplay