Windsor 4xi vs Kew 4xi (Round 3)
This even-handed justice commends ingredients of our poisoned chalice to our own lips. He’s here in double trust. – Macbeth Act 1, Scene 7
“Hi Mate”. Hi Mate? It’s odd way to start a whataspp message to someone you’ve known for 23 years, played thousands of overs of cricket with and sunk multiple more pints with in these times, but those two words are what club chairman Richard Charters used to start his conversation mid-week to fellow veteran Chris Edge in a chain of messages that in hindsight, much like Macbeth knows that killing the king is morally wrong, he would like to execute the action before his morals make him change his mind. “Would you be able to captain the 4’s on Saturday just for the actual game. I will do all the admin stuff”. Alarm bells should have rung, birds should have stirred from their nests into immediate flight, at the very least a red light in a far away facebook data centre monitoring silently all the messages flowing through it’s network should have blinked, alerting someone, anyone, that it’s algorithm had picked up something that wasn’t quite right. It was a request made to someone who was playing their first game of the season, and likely wouldn’t be playing at all if he didn’t take up the offer akin to coming from the lips of Don Vito Corleone himself. Like Julias Caesar leading his army across the Rubicon river, the die was cast.
The midweek progressed serenely. People would go to bed on Friday evening none the wiser of what was about to happen. Another Whatapp – “Hi Mate” – no alarms – A screenshot of 11 players printed out on a sheet on what was a proposed batting line up and bowlers and their relative merits. What excitement! Players like Nadeem, Cameron, Salvin and Oscar. All single-worded, unknown players were listed who we must have picked up playing cricket on the beaches of Copacabana, unable to break into the Brazilian cricket team coming to Windsor to better their career. I knew how the Middlesbrough fans now felt when Juninho signed for them in 1997. A world of hope and wonder where the grass will be forever greener and the sky bluer was upon us. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but in what was assumed an administration oversight at the time, there were only 3 bowlers listed. A 4th was listed as poor. 2 wicket keepers were included. Were Windsor to win this thing we would need 5 bowlers.
To the day itself and the whatsapp messages, a bit like a horny 16 year old on tinder for the first time speaking to a fake Indian phishing account continue
11:28 – “Hi Mate” …. A full account of where the keys are, scorebook, balls, etc. Perfect. Nothing more to do here.
11:29: – (no “hi Mate”) “I’ve just had Yuvraj pull out with a bad back so you’re now down to 10.
Look, this is 4th XI cricket – no problem. Except I’ve just realised Yuraj on the sheet I’ve been given is both a wicket keeper and bowler (Interesting). Down to 10 men, and 2 bowlers and 1 wicket keeper. Not great, but not bad.
The next 15 minutes go a little like a form teacher taking registration of their class but in one of those weird induction days where pupils from a different form are in there:
Are you Harry? Yes. You can bowl right? No.
Nadeem? Yes. You’re a bowler right? Err.. Yeah?
Oscar? Yes. You can bowl? Err…I’m more of a wicket keeper. Well that’s not what’s on my sheet….
James? “Hi Edgey”, What do you do? (Apparently I’ve played with this guy a few times but my reluctance to talk to anyone with a first team cap numbered under 100 which rules out anyone who joined the club after 2005 is in evidence here) – I’m a batsman.
Salvin? Salvin? Anyone? Salvin – he’s always late sir.
Yuvraj – absent
Kew arrive having won all their games so far this season, Windsor 4’s having foretted all theirs due to lack of players and their captain is understandably eager to get the game going. We toss up and have a bit of luck. Win the toss and have a bat seeing as though we’ve possibly only got 2 bowlers at this point.
Theres now a one minute period where a captain with a rookie squad has to give the batting order dedicated by committee out to strangers. First few go ok, a few raised eyebrows as the captain elevates himself to 5 instead of the lumago inflicted Yuvraj, a couple of youngsters surprised at their position but fall in line and its not till we get to Oscar who when told hes at 9 declares “I’m a better bat than that” gets immediately elevated to 8 in front of Nadeem who is not ‘bothered’ about batting lower. We’ve still only 9 as the dilatory Salvin still isn’t here.
As pads are strapped on and battle is about to commence Cameron Mobley declares he’s got a ‘bit’ of a problem. Now I’m old school at heart but I’ve been on a few management courses on inclusivity and diversity. Could this youth of today be confused about his gender? Was he worried that the fungal spores sprouting in the decrepit C3 pavilion were not granted enough environmental protection that he would zip tie himself to the only stumps we had brought across from the main pavilion or lie down in protest on the Datchet Road? Play it cool. What’s the problem? His problem turned out to be more a time and motion study. He had to leave at 4.30. PM. 4.30PM. The game starts at 1pm. Should we endeavour to knock over these upstarts from Kew we won’t get much change out of 6.30pm. We’re already down to 10. 1 still hasn’t turned up and another (no explanation given as to why he has to leave by the way), has to leave at 4.30. I shielded this information from outsiders whilst I informed my Indian bookmakers who were taking advantage on the betting exchanges.
After finding 2 colts that seemed on the face of it to have a basic understanding of the rules of cricket and are sent out to umpire things start well. Rob Dawson looks in imperious form as he sets about the Kew attack. Paul Huggins, affectionately known as Tugboat, playing his first game for 6 years, takes on the moniker of his nickname and like the black knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail declares ‘None shall pass!’. Things didn’t fare well for the black knight in that film and neither did they for the Tugbooat when he got a genuine snorter that took his edge and annoyingly at this level and almost unfairly for the Tugboat was smartly caught by a Kew fielder.
James Eaton takes over and the score rattles along nicely until Dawson on a quick fire 25 and with whispers of a maiden century on the cards if he could stay the 40 over distance middles one over extra cover where unexpectedly a deep extra cover had been set and again annoyingly he never looked like dropping the catch and the dream for Dawson was over for another week. Ben Lickly, who was crowned with the title ‘Most ducks in Windsor CC History’ in mid-week in what can only be described as a sadistic use of cricketing statistics stode out and the Kew bowlers licked their lips. Eaton missed a straight one and Edge, attempting to hook a Kew bowler over Windsor castle, managed only to sky one in the general direction of mid-off and once again the catch was taken. The fielding ability of this Kew team was beginning to become nauseous. Suddenly Windsor were 50-5, with 10 men and still one man absent, somewhat staring down the barrel.
Taking off his pads, Edge consulted the team whatsapp group for the whereabouts of his star bowler and absent batman Salvin. In times of great peril some men rise. In 1879 over 2 days 141 British servicemen withheld a Zulu onslaught of 4,000 warriors to defend the outpost at Rourkes Drift. 11 Victoria Crosses were conferred along with 5 distinguished service medals. Also in times of great peril some men crack. On what we now know to be post traumatic stress disorder countless men shell shocked in WW1 deserted their posts and when captured were shot for cowardice. Whilst I’m not suggesting Salvin’s actions were in the same status of those soldiers, his act of cowardice most certainly was. At the bottom of the whatsapp group chat, an unknown number, presumably Salvin, had silently and without warning or explanation left the group. We were down to 9.
Things continued to go south on the pitch. Harry Pritchard and Cameron Mobley both decided that the use of their bats were unnecessary instead opting to use their pads to deflect the ball away from the stumps. The problem for both is they were plumb in line with their stumps when they chose this stratagem. Oscar, after promoting his batting ability earlier, failed to live up to his own billing and was caught for a duck. Lickley, stranded at the other end now had no other choice than to hit out and was again smartly caught – the 5th catch taken and none dropped (annoying) – Windsor were all out for 60. Cameron Mobely’s 4.30pm rendezvous was in no danger of being disrupted.
The team talk was not quite a Churchillian call to arms but more akin to a vicar conducting the vital passages of a wedding. “Let any person here who knows of any person that can bowl, they must declare this now or forever hold their peace.” The silence was deafening. The only tactic available was for Edge and Nadeem Shakel to bowl their 8 overs straight and then see what happens. Nadeem is given the first over which he then informs Edge that he’s ‘Not really’ a bowler and is ‘more of a batsman’. Too little too late, he had opted to forever hold his peace – he was opening the bowling.
Shakel actually bowled well and was unlucky not to pick up a couple of wickets in his first few overs. Edge at the other end was unlucky not to pick up a wicket in the first over as he was chipped to mid wicket towards Ben Lickley. The king of ducks is a renowned fielder and flipping the stats of his batting to his fielding has clung onto 127 catches for the club, one of the most of outfielders who don’t keep wicket. His hands are usually more electric than Jimmy Saville’s in the green room of Top of the Pops show in the 70’s but they failed him on this occasion. Edge did pick one up the next over as Cameron Mobely took a smart catch as the Kew opener nicked off behind. However keeping it tight and bowling maidens was not what was required and by the 14th over Kew were 50-1 and it was time for one last roll of the dice.
The tugboat pulled up its anchor and chugged its way in from the river end. A couple who had sat under a tree watching the proceedings in the summer sun packed up their picnic baskets and left. Young children were picked up and hurriedly lead to safety by worried mothers. Rumours the Queen closed her curtains in Windsor Castle were not confirmed nor neither were they denied. 6 balls later the game was over.
We did what we do best and got about demolishing a few very cold, welcoming beverages in a hastily opened club bar watching the 2nd XI hunt down their opponents. “What’s to be done?” as Lady McBeth would say, can wait for another day.