Brace yourself for a long one, dear reader.
The following report, on the 2006 match between Tufty Stackpole and The Children’s Society, played at the Tufties home ground, North Crawley CC, runs to over 3,500 words.
But this report is Charles Bartlett’s favourite, so it must have something going for it. I suspect that Charles’s pseudonym, Charley “The Gent” Malloy, which I started using the following season, was born in the first paragraph of this report.
Match report by Angus Martin-Blofeld
Changes at the top
No-one knows precisely why the captaincy of The Children’s Society team changed hands before the match. Some say that Tufty Stackpole insisted upon the change, as they were desperately keen to pitch their skills against a side that was to be captained incisively. Others suggest that it was merely a generous gesture on the part of Charles Bartlett to allow Ian Harris a once-in-a-lifetime chance at captaining a big match. The most plausible rumour, however, is that a major Buckinghamshire betting syndicate preferred the match price based on Ian Harris’s captaincy, so Mr Bartlett was tapped on the shoulder and politely told, “this ain’t your day, Chucky, we’re going for the short-end money on Harris”. So Harris got a shot at the big match and Chucky got a one-way ticket to Palookaville.
The morning before the night after the morning after the night before
Preparations on The Children’s Society side were going badly. Heinrich had already pulled out of the squad a few days before the match with an unspecified squash injury. He was to be replaced by Andrew Britten-Kelly (ABK), brother of Richard Britten-Kelly (RBK). (Presumably the younger of these two might be known as “Little” Britten-Kelly). Problem is, Heinrich can bowl whereas ABK (with all due respect) can bowl the odd straight ball but then shows distinctly Harrisesque bowling qualities.
Then, at the 59th minute of the 11th hour (OK, it was 10.00 p.m. the night before the match), Kyle, the team’s off-spinner, sent Harish a text message to say that he’s been had up for being drunk and disorderly and will be spending the next 24 hours in the cells rather than at the match.
[Editor’s note: the precise nature of Kyle’s excuse is lost in the mists of time. Some say there was mention of injury rather than imprisonment. We find the young offender angle more in keeping with The Children’s Society aims and values, so choose to embellish the tale in that direction]
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Harish was immediately on the blower to RBK. Harish remains cool, calm and collected at a time of crisis like this. “Richard, you’ve got to do something. Kyle’s pulled out so we’re another bowler short. Ian will kill us. Charles will kill us. The Tufty’s will slaughter us. Help! Help!!”
RBK also remained cool, calm and collected. “Don’t panic! Don’t panic!” he screamed, while running around the room.
[Editor’s note: running around the room in a panic, while on the telephone, is a much safer activity than it used to be. In the old days, the telephone cable would get twisted around the panic-monger’s leg, often bringing the poor wretch to the ground and causing an additional injury scare for the team. These cordless phones are much better for pre-cricket-match panicking purposes].
“You must know somebody who’ll play at short notice”, screamed Harish, “you are South African after all”.
RBK thought deeply for a moment, while removing shattered bits of telephone from the wall, and from his left hand, and from ABK’s right hand.
[Editor’s note: Yup, that’s the one disadvantage of these cordless phone beasties, of course; untrammelled panicking is halted only on impact with walls and other people].
“The only person I know who is crazy enough to drop everything at such short notice is ‘Big Bad Simon’ who is as tall as Charles Nall and Will Jefferson, bowls wicked fast and doesn’t take prisoners”, said RBK.
“We’re desperate, Richard, we’ll take him”, said Harish.
Thus, the side had a full complement of eleven, but with far more pace in the attack than originally envisaged.
A tale of two captains
For several days before the match, Trevor Stapleton and Ian Harris were fine-tuning their personal preparations for the match.
Trevor Stapleton wanted the complete 2006 left-arm orthodox spinner look. He sallied forth to the “Sikh and You Shall Find” clothing emporium in Luton and was delighted to find a black sports turban, or patka, endorsed by Monty Panesar, in the style of the great man’s very own headgear. Trevor wanted to sport “a full Monty”, i.e. the beard to go with it, but was politely informed that the emporium does not stock the false strange; it is the Sikh tradition to grow your own.
Meanwhile, Ian Harris, fresh from reading “The Art of Captaincy” by Mike Brearley, also aspired to a strange. Brearley’s Ayatollah look had coincided with a particularly successful run as captain. Sadly, Ian left this strange decision a little late, so he turned up on the day of the match looking more Bob Geldof then Ayatollah in the facial hair department.
Coincidentally, Ian Harris also chose to sport some exotic headwear; a brightly-coloured Guatemalan bandanna of the Ramneresh Sarwan variety.
Captains have a lot of sartorial matters to think about ahead of a big match; it’s not all strategy, logistics and press conferences you know.
A massive erection
For many weeks before the big match, the sound of bulldozers and construction workers could be heard across the verdant fields in the normally quiet village of North Crawley. (Not another extension to Stapleton Manor, surely).
Without so much as a planning application or even a quiet “do you mind?” chat with the neighbours, the village cricket club had decided to erect a new stand in honour of their visitors. No pleas, no injunctions and no threats with big dogs were going to dissuade the Tufty craftsmen from their task.
The night before the match was a particular low point in the construction schedule. The new stand absolutely had to be ready for the big event the next day. Frankly, it wasn’t ready. In fact, work on the stand was still at a relatively early stage. In truth, it had not started.
Geoff Young, a handy fellow if ever there was one, took hold of the situation. Making expert use of existing materials readily to hand, some ply wood and some paint, Geoff rode roughshod over health and safety considerations and produced a massive erection emblazoned with the legend “The Ian Harris Stand”. Geoff figured that the visitors would be so impressed by the quality signage, they might not notice that there wasn’t much of a stand to speak of. Geoff, as is so often the case, was right.
Arrival of the TCS troops
Under the incisive captaincy of Ian Harris, The Children’s Society team arrived well ahead of the match start time for warm-ups, team strategy sessions, nets, throw-downs, throw-ups and all that sort of thing. Last to arrive was the “Britten-Kelly Gang”, with their last-minute signing “Big Bad Simon”.
“Hoezit”, said Big Bad Simon.
“Not out”, said Ian.
“Sis”, said Simon, looking none too happy.
“Simon’s just trying to be friendly”, said RBK, “hoezit means hello in Afrikaans”.
Remembering everything he’d learned from The Art of Captaincy, Ian Harris decided he needed to engage directly with this fellow to get the most out of him. Ian got out a step ladder, climbed to the top and addressed Big Bad Simon face to face. “I’d like to have a quick look at you in the nets”, said Ian.
Big Bad Simon bit the head off a chicken, kicked a passing poodle and replied, “eish”.
“It’s OK, he’ll do it”, said RBK, helpfully.
So off they all went to the nets. No-one is sure whether Ian Harris even saw either of the balls that smacked him on the upper thigh, but Janie certainly saw the bruises the next day.
“Lekker” said Big Bad Simon each time he hit the body. That means “nice”. Ian Harris made careful notes of these one and two syllable words that might make all the difference in motivating his player. Ever box free, Charles Bartlett made his excuses and left the nets pretty quickly. Ian suggested that his bowlers shouldn’t tire themselves out needlessly in the nets.
Enter the Tufties
Meanwhile several Tufties arrived at the stadium. Handshakes all round. Not for the Tufties the early arrival and endeavours in the nets. Not for the Tufties the lengthy look at the wicket and the fierce debate over whether to bowl or bat if the toss was won. Supremely confident in their own surroundings, the Tufty Stackpole team assembled effortlessly, almost imperceptibly.
Glenn Young was baited by Charles for agreeing to play with a broken finger some days ahead of his doctor’s orders. Trevor Cooper tried to unnerve the Children’s Society players by talking up the Tufty Stackpole team. Geoff Young explained that the sound system had been delayed in traffic, so that the match would have to begin without music. Charles Bartlett looked on the verge of tears at this news.
Trevor Stapleton and Ian Harris, in their respective headgear, strode out to the middle for the toss and to agree playing conditions. Incisively, Ian called tails and indeed it was tails. The Children’s Society would bat first, for the first time in the history of this great fixture.
A cheer went up from the Children’s Society ranks. There were plans to carry Ian aloft, shoulder high, in honour of his first and massive achievement as captain. But wait! The Tufty team dissuaded the Children’s Society masses from making that gesture. There was a far more important gesture planned.
Trevor Stapleton gathered all around and made a speech of warm welcome to The Children’s Society, unveiling the Ian Harris Stand. Ian responded with heartfelt thanks. Charles Bartlett muttered about the absence of a Charles Bartlett stand. He also muttered that he didn’t want to go out to bat without the stentorian strains of Jerusalem ringing in his ears, but the sound system was still some miles away.
The Tufty team took these vocal matters into their own hands. Tufty Stackpole formed a guard of honour for the opening batsmen, Charles Bartlett and Ian Harris. Those two veterans of so many matches past, strode out to bat through that guard of honour, who were belting Jerusalem at the tops of their voices while shaking hands with the incoming batsmen. What an emotional moment.
The Children’s Society Innings
The Children’s Society innings started at a furious lick. Tufty Stackpole chose to open the bowling with Geoff “Murali” Young. Although a so-called off-spinner, Geoff has four additional variations; the doosra, the straightonna, the quicker ball and the one that always somehow gets Ian Harris even if it is a pie.
Ian Harris, as usual, started to nudge and nurdle to get the scoreboard ticking and rotate the strike. More importantly, during that first over, Charles Bartlett hit a sumptuous straight drive through mid off for four off Geoff’s bowling. Remembering everything he’d read in The Art of Captaincy, Ian knew that now was the time to motivate the batsman.
“Blimey, Charles, I didn’t know you could do that.”
“Nor did I,” simpered Charles, choking back the emotions.
Another quick single by Harris off Nick Cooper got Charles Bartlett back onto strike. Then, disaster. Charles maintains that the ball nipped back ferociously off the seam. Some wise heads maintain that such a delivery must have been a no-ball, cruelly missed by the umpire. But those close to the action (other than Charles) submit that Charles played the Piccadilly while the ball went straight down the Bakerloo and that was the end of him.
That heralded the arrival of Mat Watson, The Children’s Society wicket-keeper and thorn in the side of Tufty Stackpole in several conflicts past.
Soon after that, Ian Harris tried to heave a Geoff Young pie into Bedfordshire. The fizzing off-break cruelly took a bit of bat, a bit of pad and a bit of the wicket on its path. Wise heads maintain that such a delivery must have been a no-ball, cruelly missed by the umpire. Suddenly the sound system was up and running. Always Look On the Bright Side of Life. Very droll.
Enter Harish, promoted up the order; more incisive captaincy by Ian Harris. Harish and Mat batted beautifully together, maintaining the momentum set by the brave openers at 5+ an over. The rate never fell below 4.5 and was 5+ for almost the whole innings.
The sound system did its worst, especially once Ian Harris added an iPod full of sounds to the substantial collection of Matt and Kerry, that outstanding DJ pairing of fixtures passim. While Mat (the Bat, not to be confused with Matt the DJ) and Harish scored their runs, the DJs played Heatwave, Viva Las Vegas and Dreadlock Holiday. The crowd, well, Janie and Ian anyway, danced themselves dizzy. The afternoon was suspended in that glorious haze that only a brilliant cricket match can conjure.
Eventually Harish fell to a good one. Laurel and Hardy. Very droll. But that only brought Marko to the crease and the momentum continued to build. Wickets fell at fairly regular intervals, but everyone from The Children’s Society chipped in and the momentum rarely faltered.
Nick Cooper was the most economical bowler – 2/33 off his full 8. Trevor Stapleton threatened to keep the runs in check, but a couple of his overs went south – 1/49. The surprise bowling package was star batsman Nick Church, who was pricey but effective – 3/41.
Mat, as is becoming his habit, anchored the innings, 66 runs off 104 balls. Marko Bekker scored a quickfire 45 (lekker, Bekker) and Rob Morley the Aussie bowler with a very useful “40”, although even Rob admits that the scorer probably gave him a few of ABK’s runs. Malcolm from the helpdesk, a genuine all-rounder, chipped in with a quick and useful 20-something. Even Big Bad Simon, batting at number 11, hit the last ball of the innings back over the bowler’s head for 6. 258/9 off 40 overs.
Mid innings pondering and fuelling
While substantial, indeed a record score for the fixture, everyone remembered that the previous year’s match had been a tie: 254 playing 254. 258 was very much “of that order”; it should be enough, but at the same time it could quite conceivably be surmounted. What a fixture. Three innings and only 4 runs between those scores.
Some chowed down. Some ate with restraint. Some were so excited at the prospect of the next innings they couldn’t possibly digest food.
[Editor’s note: the author admits that he didn’t actually meet anyone who was so excited they couldn’t eat. But the sentence does give the appropriate dramatic build to the report, so it has to stay]
Ian Harris consulted with his bowlers and his vice-captain, Charles Bartlett, to plot the defence of their total. Not one cream cake passed the captain’s lips, he was so busy planning and consulting. Such commitment.
Trevor Stapleton, meanwhile, made some serious headway into a hearty tea and advised his players to do their best. What a trooper.
The Tufty Stackpole Innings
They say that captaincy is 90% luck and 10% skill, just don’t try it without the 10% skill. Well, Ian Harris certainly used up his ration of luck on this match. Soon after Trevor Cooper fell early to a good ball from Malcolm, that same Malcolm was lurking down at long leg while Adam Hinks bowled to Colin. A relative whippet, Colin calls Mike Archer for a second never thinking that Malcolm might attempt the bowler’s end with his throw. “Bowler,” screams Malcolm and throws to the bowler’s end in the hope that Adam can gather the ball and run the man out. But Adam wasn’t needed. A direct hit at a vast distance saw Mike Archer go in most unfortunate circumstances.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, soon after, Glenn Young, early in his innings, hits a ball hard to mid off – where Adam Hinks wears it on the body and takes the catch. A yard either side and it would have been four. Had Ian Harris (mid off to the right-hander) and Adam swapped over for the left-handed Glenn, that probably would also have been four, carrying Ian over the rope with the ball, all the way from mid off.
On such small matters can victory and defeat hinge. But in any case The Children’s Society were bowling a consistent and pacey line and length. Adam’s first spell from the Bowling Green End had not been quite his best, but Malcolm’s first from the Bungalow End applied pressure and Big Bad Simon seemed well equipped to cope at the Bowling Green End. Rob Morley was no relief at the Bungalow End; although he went wicketless he was in many ways the pick of the bowlers 0/30 off 8.
Over 15 seemed the right time for a change of pace and The Children’s Society sought another breakthrough. Although the run rate seemed under control and the Tufties were 3 down, everyone knew from past experience how quickly such a match can get away from you. That wicked-fast outfield and the short boundary on the Ian Harris Stand side of the ground. Also, those Tufties bat all the way down and have previous in holding back some surprise hitters into the late order to bamboozle their opponents.
Enter The Children’s Society’s partnership breaker, Charles Bartlett, from the Bowling Green End. As if to order, a simple catch is spooned to mid off where RBK, possibly still picking broken bits of telephone out of his hand, drops a sitter. “Can’t you get your fielders to blooming well catch?” yelled Bartlett. “No I can’t”, replied the captain, “I can put them in the right positions but I can’t make them catch”. Charles Bartlett took some tonk for the rest of the over, which turned out to be a one-over spell.
When Charles Bartlett returned from the Bungalow End, another simple catch went begging, this time ABK (also probably down to the freak telephone/hand injury). “What is it with those Britten-Kelly’s?” said Charles, somewhat uncharitably for the former captain of a charity team.
Meanwhile the asking rate kept creeping up and the wickets were falling at fairly regular intervals. Nick Church top scored with 38 but rarely looked completely comfortable and offered more than one chance before he fell. Harish managed one of those juggling drops where you feel that the fielder had three or more chances to catch it but still didn’t make it. Ian Harris knows all about those and made incisive but sympathetic noises when these rare aberrations occurred.
Eventually, Nick Church hit one very straight but also very high. Marko and Malcolm converged (incisive captaincy that, best fielders at long off and long on at that stage of the match – youngsters reading this report in search of instruction should note). Was there to be a dreadful accident? “Mine” yelled Marko in a masterful voice at which point no-one (apart from Marko) believed for one moment that the catch might be dropped. In any case it wasn’t and Nick was gone for 38.
Trevor Stapleton provided an anchor role and hit some lusty blows for his 33, before falling to a deceptively straight delivery that he fancied sending into the bungalows and probably would have done had he hit it.
Several others chipped in with some good shots and cameo innings, but with 15 overs to go and more than 10 an over required, that wasn’t going to be enough. Adam Hinks returned, this time from the Bungalow End, and bowled a superb second spell at the death, returning 2/31 off his full 8.
The Children’s Society pleaded with the late order batsmen to sacrifice their wickets or retire so that Geoff Young could get a bit of a bat at the end of the match, but the Tufties would not oblige and Geoff was shouting coded instructions from the sidelines, such as “stay out there. I don’t want to bat” and that sort of thing. 188/8 off 40 was the final score.
And so to the pub
The awards ceremony and raffle was held in the pub, as is the tradition of the fixture. Firstly, there was a grand cake to be cut by the highest scoring batsman of the day. Mat was about to leap out of his chair and start cutting cake as effectively as he had cut the short delivery a few hours earlier, but Masters of Ceremonies Stapleton and Archer soon intervened. Relying on an ancient playing condition from the village annals of 1737 (which looked suspiciously like a dusty old ledger from the back of the pub), 7 runs per year were to be added to the score of any visiting player over the age of 50. That made Charles Bartlett the cake-cutter and thus he cut the cake.
Then those Masters of Ceremonies tried to turn defeat into victory by relying on the same strange playing condition, adding 3 runs per year to the home score for each home player over 50. Remembering everything he had learnt from the Art of Captaincy about respecting the strange traditions of far-flung places when playing away, Ian Harris diplomatically responded that these playing conditions sounded perfectly reasonable and had they been agreed upon before the match would naturally have been applied. However, that not being the case, the conventional score should stand. This was agreed unanimously.
In interview afterwards, Ian Harris informed this reporter that he had a further finesse up his sleeve, the even lesser known Edward Rudolf playing condition in which both teams score gains 10 runs for each left-hander inflicted on them by the opposition team. The Children’s Society out of politeness has always withheld from using this playing condition.
Ian Harris further pointed out that the Tufty Stackpole playing condition of 1737 can only remain effective until October 2006, when the new Age Discrimination legislation comes into full force. Mercifully, therefore, this particular debate could not legitimately occur next year.
With the outcome resolved, The Children’s Society accepted their trophy and the match awards were duly made. Nick Church and Adam Hinks won sets of Owzat dice as Man of the Match for each team. Mat Watson and Trevor Stapleton received match balls for their superb efforts.
The raffle was drawn, beer and cake flowed long into the night and a very good time was had by all.
Most importantly, the raffle raised more money than ever and Tufty Stakepole even managed to stiff Ian Harris for £50 a year ground rent (to The Children’s Society of course) for the Ian Harris Stand!