The piece that follows is a ludicrously long match report, authored by me and Barmy Kev jointly. It was published as a three-parter on Middlesex Till We Die (MTWD) over the winter of 2007/2008 when we were desperate for feature material.
It is one of the MTWD “lost masterpieces”; as explained more fully in the posting linked here – Sportnetwork managed to lose all the features that were published on all of its web sites during a period around that time. However, I still have all the features that I wrote and edited. The version below is pre final edits and pre division into three parts.
I realise now that I started using pseudonyms, such as Charley “The Gent” Malloy back then, as early as 2007, prior to my King Cricket piece days. I should note, though, that new dad “Alex DeLarge” in this piece is not the same person as “Big Al DeLarge” from King Cricket pieces such as the one linked here.
It runs to over 4000 words. It is for connoisseurs, not normal people. You have been warned. Here goes:
Ged Tries to Keep Head as Kev Fly Slips
After 2 incomplete 20/20 games Monday and Wednesday, an MTWD editorial representation complete match took part on Tuesday. This match was full of drama and twists and turns and seeing our captain Ged becoming very animated.
Big Match Build Up – Qualification Rules – Ged’s View
The annual cricket match; Ged Ladd & Co v Charley “the Gent” Malloy’s Charity XI has become somewhat of a grudge match of late. Ged Ladd & Co employs 10 to 20 people at any one time, whereas Charley the Gent works for a large charity which employs over a thousand of people.
Team selection has become a matter of great debate in recent years, with Ged trying hard to stick to staff, associates, WAGs/HABs/relatives of staff, close friends and the like. Meanwhile Charlie “the Gent” had found a rich seam of massive Saffers (tangentially connected at best to charity staff), one of whom nearly killed someone last year by bowling proper medium pace to a man in his fifties with a serious heart condition.
Indeed, the Big Saffer qualification situation became severely muddied this year, as one of the Big Saffers, EK, fell in love with a member of Ged’s staff at the match 3 years ago and married her (now FK) a few weeks before this year’s fixture. Did this mean that some or all of the Saffers should now play for Ged? No – we agreed this year that we should be far more strict about the qualification rule. This made sense, but this year left Ged with a bit of a talent-pool shortage, despite having one Big Saffer unquestionably now qualified for Ged’s team by marriage, as several people from last year’s Ged team had hung up their boots to avoid the risk of further injury or worse.
The Pre-Match Encounters – Banter and Sledging – Ged’s View
Banter and sledging starts early for this fixture. March time normally, when the pitch is booked. Charley the Gent was dischuffed this year, as Regent’s Park was already fully booked so Ged’s people booked the synthetic pitch on Holland Park – coincidentally the scene of the initiating star-crossed lovers incident (EK & FK) three year’s ago and equally coincidentally the scene of the most recent victory by Ged Ladd & Co, in unseasonable weather conditions in 2004 (the evening before the abandoned Middlesex v West Indians fixture).
Charley “the Gent” was convinced that Ged had deliberately chosen “fortress Holland Park” to up his chances of a win. Ged would never do such a thing (have you noticed that great captains like Michael Vaughan and Ged refer to themselves in writing using the third person, by the way) but Ged certainly would get in early with the sledging. Ged and Charley had a couple of pre match nets and Ged warned Charley that he’d worked him out but refused to say where he’d set the field for said “working out”. Ged’s wicket-keeper, “The Tazmanian Devil” sent a long distance sledge, telling Charlie that Ged might as well tell him the field he’d set for him as Charlie lacks the talent to do anything about it, even if he knew what was on Ged’s mind a year in advance.
Meanwhile Ged had an horrific second net. Everywhere the ball can go to hit unprotected flesh and cause maximum pain, Ged managed to get hit. Below the pad on the front leg, above the pad on the back leg, both sides of the box and Ged even managed an upper cut into his own eye. Bruised in both body and ego, Charlie’s obvious pleasure at Ged’s discomforture was uncharitable to say the least. Charlie had a super net that day, bowling straight and putting Ged off his bowling line (it doesn’t take much) with some clean hitting.
You’d have thought that these were two bitter foes, but the reality is, once the grudge match is over, that Ged and the Tazmanian Devil join Charlie the Gent’s charity team for the rest of the season (one or two matches). From nemeses to stalwarts is but a few short strides.
Team Selection – Do We Have Eleven People Who Can Walk Today? – MTWD to the Rescue? – Ged’s View
As the day of the match approached, team selection was not going well for Ged. Indeed, Ged himself was struck down with a gastric bug a few days before the match and still felt very weak on the day before the fixture. Ged was thinking about standing aside himself, when he got the call from his practice manager that day, concerned that two of the team’s “dead certs” looked distinctly “uncert” due to illness. Ged decided that he’d have to play come what may. He didn’t want to have to ask Jez Horne to play – Jez is one of the founders of MTWD, a key member of Ged Ladd’s staff and one of the several who had suffered in 2006 and requested not to play.
But Barmy Kev had noticed Ged’s mention of the fixture on MTWD and e-mailed Ged to ask if he and Olivia could watch. Ged thought he spotted an opportunity. “By all means come and watch – copious beer and cake – you might even get a game”, read the e-mail. “I’d like to play – I can sport my Middlesex pink”, came the reply from Barmy Kev. “Got one”, thought Ged.
Big Match Build Up – Barmy Kev’s View
I had a last minute invitation to Ged Ladd’s company cricket event with possibility of playing. They weren’t desperate, honestly. Nor was I. And Ged’s mention of copious alcohol being available was purely incidental in me agreeing to turn up. I told Olivia that duty calls and so forth. I also told her that she’d finally get to meet Ged and Daisy. In fact, Ged has been saying for some time now that he and Daisy believe Olivia to be my imaginary friend, as I keep saying that she’ll be at matches and then she doesn’t come.
As, I arrive I am still uncertain whether I’ll be playing. The Ged Ladd & Co 11th man/woman has childcare issues and someone else had transportation delays. This is a logistical nightmare for captain Ged. And a nerve-wracking nightmare for several people who have turned up on the strict understanding that they do not want to play, only to drink and watch. Does Michael Vaughan have such problems when deliberating on final line-up before a test I wondered? Or Ed Smith when preparing Middlesex for a County Championship match? (Well, possibly…)
I was picked and given an impression my role would be a JD World cup “can’t bat /can’t bowl but hey its always an honour to be there” role.
Let the Game Begin – Ged’s View
A few of the Ged Laddites warm up and Ged realises that Barmy Kev probably can’t bat, can’t bowl and can hardly field (ideally qualified for the Ged Ladd & Co team), but he does have a bit of a throwing arm, so he could be more useful than most in a key fielding position. One of Ged’s favourite positions for amateur cricket is fly slip. Catches go there off slow-medium bowling and the position can often save one or four. It’s no-mans-land in real cricket but can become key in scratch cricket.
Ged also figures that his team’s bowling is probably not going to be strong enough to defend a total this year (crumbs, even Ged is going to have to bowl, the team is sooo short of bowling), so Ged will elect to bowl if he gets the chance. The artificial surface neutralises most if not all “bat first” advantage.
The best laid plans – Ged wins the toss and surprises Charlie the Gent and his team by electing to field. With quite a lot of cloud and a delayed start due to late arrivals, Charlie’s team are in no hurry now. Ged’s elected to do his batting later – in the dwindling light.
Let the Games Begin – Barmy Kev’s View
As I took the field I felt my credentials were extended to can’t field as Ged told me to field at Fly Slip. A rare position normally, in my view, reserved for the fielder you need to hide. I within the wide scope of position occasionally moved around to deep gully and would then sneak closer at times to barmy backward point to add some pressure and be in better earshot for my sledging.
Our team got off to perfect start – 2 early wickets. More surprising the 2nd was a decent batsman top edging one of Ged’s dolly drops. The very next ball the no. 4 batter, who was a woman, was deceived, I think by Ged’s flight, and stumped way out of crease. The umpire gave it not out, claimed unsighted. This woman later proved to be no mug with bat. It transpired she was a regular league player from South Africa and contributed to the bulk of the opposition total. “Co-incidentally”, another female in the opposing team was bowled 1st ball, and the same umpire belatedly called no ball. Ged was not happy and was hoping, if required, for a similar concession for our team for our 1 female and me in Middlesex Pink.
The Opening Salvos – Ged Reports
Knowing the opposition of old, Ged knew that Ged needed to hold back quite a bit of the better bowling for their big hitters down the order. So Ged decided to open the attack with EK’s military medium at one end and Ged himself with donkey drops at the other end. This was expected to give Ged a pop at Charlie the Gent himself, but that plan went awry (or well, depending on how you look on it) when EK sent Charlie’s stumps flying during the first over. Charlie was not having one of his better days so far.
Ged then bowled at a rather fearsome-looking tall lad named Matt, who lacked the Aussie accent that normally accompanies such a name but Matt looked like he could hold a bat and had chosen one with a long handle. It’s hard for most bowlers to get one to float in above the eye-line of such a lanky batsman, but a donkey-drop specialist has no fear of air and the result was as planned – back lift exaggerated, shape to shot diminished, tiny bit of top spin effective and the ball goes vertical. At that moment time stood still. The Tazmanian Devil keeper had not seen the ball and was stationery. It was like one of those horrible car-crash scenes in a movie in ultra slow motion and silence. Ged intervened. “Catch it, catch it”, cried Ged pointing in the direction of the descending missile. Meanwhile (no doubt) air defences were being put on red alert and UFO spotters all over Kensington were pointing their telescopes in the direction of Holland Park. The Tazmanian Devil set off on his run forwards and dived headlong to take a brilliant catch. Ged had taken his first wicket in over 30 years (let’s be fair folks, Ged doesn’t usually bowl) and the oppo are two down.
Next ball, Ged decides to try a similar delivery again. Ged knows that the larger-than-life South African woman before him, Charlene, is no mug. She’s played cricket at a very impressive level in South Africa and is Charlie the Gent’s proposed secret weapon for the late July “UnPro40” fundraising fixture. Up goes the ball (delivery), down the track comes Charlene, unaware of the almost infinite variations that might occur whenever Ged is daft enough to try to bowl, she is beaten hook line and sinker by the “flight” and is stumped by a good many yards. The batsmen had almost crossed in fact. Charlie the Gent’s umpire says not out and Ged is denied a chance at a hat trick. Possibly just as well – Ged did once take a hat trick with donkey drops in a school game, more than 30 years ago. Ged’s still talking about it (it’s a dull story folks, unless you happen to be Ged) and the schoolmaster who was umpiring the game has never really recovered from the fit of uncontrollable laughter the landmark event induced in him.
And Now, Back to the Match – Charity XI Innings – Barmy Kev Reports
Anyway, after a promising start the opposition run rate was increasing and Ged was getting flustered. I didn’t help Ged’s blood pressure by tactically moving myself from fly slip to close in to a new batsman. I was told to go back to fly slip in no uncertain terms.
Next over seeing a massive offside gap, I moved myself to point and was not spotted by Ged. Typically, a thickish edge looped over slip ahead of third man and guess who it would have been a chance for if he had simply done as he was told and guess who wasn’t happy with me??
My next contribution came soon afterwards, Not wishing to wind up our stressed captain any further, I fielded at fly slip about half way back to boundary. A flying top edge came our way, bisecting me and 1st slip. 1st slip was running back and I was running towards the ball at easy catchable height. I was determined to catch this and shouted, “leave”, but either first slip was deaf or equally determined; I spectacularly pulled-out at the last minute, diving out of the way as 1st slip caught the ball comfortably. I’m not sure whether relief was the vital wicket or serious injury being avoided.
I was asked by our Tazmanian Devil of a keeper to move to point, rising the wrath of Ged, but there I stopped a hard hitting shot saving four runs and was pleased I made a tangible contribution in my more favoured position.
After 20 overs the Charlie “The Gent” Malloy’s Charity XI achieved 110 runs – in the context of previous games a good total. I was hopeful the 4 runs I saved would be significant.
And Now, Back to the Match – Charity XI Innings – Ged Reports
Of course, the Charity XI umpire being so generous to unfortunate young ladies was a subtle Charity XI ploy to secure a reasonable score. Bolstered by the umpire and some good players in their middle order, the innings ebbed and flowed as a good 20:20 innings should. We actually play 20:20:20 cricket for this fixture – a successful batsman retires at 20 to ensure that everyone gets a go, with a chance to return at the end of the innings once everyone else has had a chance. Charlene and another Saffer, Big Malc, retired in such circumstances. Ged’s ploy to hold back a fair chunk of the better bowling prevented the better batsmen from scoring too quickly and wickets fell at enough regular intervals to escape that feeling that the innings is getting away from you.
Of course, things might have been even better if fielders stuck to Ged’s game plan. The worst offender was Barmy Kev who simply wouldn’t stay put at fly slip despite the fact that enough action was happening down there to convince him, surely, that this was a worthwhile place to field. On one occasion a catch splintered off towards fly slip, only for Ged to observe a vacancy where the fly slip should have been – Barmy Kev had crept up to gully again surreptitiously. On another occasion, when Kev was doing what he was told (for once), a skier went high up in the air between slip and fly slip, much closer to our (very competent) slip fielder, Martin. Kev lunges in the direction of Martin yelling “mine” and then, just as it looks as though there would be no wicket and two casualty admissions to A&E, Kev bails out of the run, giving no audible warning that “mine” had been switched to “yours”; nevertheless Martin took the catch like a proper cricketer. “Who is that clown?” asked one of the team regulars. “Martin?”, enquired Ged.
110/9 was their final score – very respectable in our terms but distinctly gettable if the Ged Ladd and Co team perform. And 110/9 is almost certainly a very accurate recording of the score. But Charlie”the Gent” Molloy and several of his team mates found it very hard to believe that the scorer, our very own MTWD founder Jez Horne, with a first class degree in maths, could possibly have recorded the score accurately. True, it was a difficult assignment to keep the score in those circumstances, with several members of the Charlie “the Gent” rabble trying to convince Jez all the time that the umpire had just signalled four/six/wide and that Jez had missed the vital signalling moment while looking down to record the events of the ball. But Jez was undeterred and undistracted; he applied all that learning from his maths degree, combined with all those years of following cricket, to complete the scorebook with extreme precision.
Ged Ladd’s Innings – Barmy Kev’s View
Ged read out the batting line out to achieve target. I was wondering what my role was. It was an occasion like at school when playing football and players are against wall and you are last to be picked. When Ged chose 1-10 without me being mentioned, I am sure Ged picked me as 11, after looking out for other latecomers to turn up as my replacement. However, I respected his authoritative “ Kev you’re in at 11!
Ged himself was opening. This would have been clear to any of those present who did not know Ged – indeed to most of Kensington and the surrounding boroughs, with Daisy continually screeching “come on Ged” at the top of her voice. Ged certainly played a sheet anchor (or something sounding a bit like that) role. He successfully was holding his end up and continually nurdling runs, not exhausting himself with any risky running between wickets. With Ged having helped the team put on 45 in the first 7 overs (a great many of which were wides and byes), the South African lady whose stumping had been denied to Ged clean bowled him for a solid 12. I realised that Ged could in fact run straight and fast, as after his dismissal he sprinted to the red wine bottle.
Ged’s Innings – Ged’s View
Ged opened the batting with fellow Middlesex supporting stalwart, Peter Bramley, far and away the best batsman on display that day. An opera company were rehearsing some enormous Wagner monstrosity in the outdoor concert arena nearby. The opening batsmen strolled out to bat to the strains of some heroic Wagnerian overture and for some reason the orchestra decided to strike up whenever Ged was on strike. This noisy stuff seemed a bit distracting at first, but once the innings got under way and Ged got a few runs under his belt and saw Peter and the extras column getting off to a real flier, the heroic music seemed somewhat fitting, nay, almost encouraging.
Of course, you can tell the difference straight away between Tazmanian Devil style sledging and the Old Etonian sledging that Ged received. When Ged said to the wicket-keeper “I’m finding the music rather uplifting”, the reply came “oh dear, I was rather hoping the Wagner was putting you Orff”. Taz would probably have said “you’re such a cr*p batsman the DJ’s celebrating your wicket falling already, you stupid b*st*rd, anyway you could get a whole f*cking orchestra between your bat and your front pad when you try to play a shot”. But mercifully, Taz was on our side and when Peter retired on 20*, Taz joined Ged and merely said, “hey, you’re going really well today mate, keep going”. But soon Taz was also on his way, going for glory too early in his innings and skying one to the only member of the opposition team (Big Malc) who stood a cat-in-hell’s chance of catching that ball.
Ged was then joined by Alex DeLarge, who needed to bat early in the innings so he could go off and be a new dad as quickly as possible. Alex is a regular in the team who sometimes comes off (leave it to him) or sometimes doesn’t (better stick around and anchor). Alex was having an “on” day and got off to a good start with a couple of good 2s and then he struck a really good 4 with ultraviolence. Ged knew that he might as well get on with it now and that retirement loomed soon if he could get a couple of big hits away himself. That is usually a recipe for disaster, Ged-wise, normally in the form of lobbing an easy catch to someone. But Charlene is a better bowler than that, had seen the gap between Ged’s front pad and the bat, and subtly switched tack to off-cutters. It only took two of those to dislodge Ged.
Oh No, Surely We Can’t Lose It From Here – Kev’s View
An all too familiar Middlesex like collapse started to occur. At this stage I was beginning to enjoy the social side of occasion and still thought we were meandering to victory. Then with 7 wickets came a shout from Ged “ Kev get your pads on”. Our no. 8 was a female who didn’t look like could hold a bat and I was frantically trying to get pads on, done in my usual ungainly manner hoping a hat trick was not going to happen. There were enough overs left but wickets were problem. Everyone was crowding the bat around our female who was struggling to get bat to ball. We thought we might have to rely on umpires again developing selective myopia.
Don’t be Daft – Ged Never Doubted Us For A Moment – Ged’s View
The middle order left a little to be desired, once Alex DeLarge was removed, although by that time we’d got within 15 to 20 of the target and still had plenty of overs to go. Also, EK was still there, although he was uncharacteristically going for 1s and 2s, perhaps awaiting the arrival of FK at the crease. At 7 down, it was time for FK to have a go. She has played once or twice before and is a generally sporty young woman, but Charlie “the Gent”‘s team spelt blood and strangely, their umpire seemed to have forgotten about the “no-one gets out first ball” rule when one of our other stalwarts got cleaned up for a primary.
So there you have it – about 12 runs still required, 4 or 5 overs to go so runs is not the problem, a couple of rabbits in the hutch plus one returnee. But most importantly, you have a newly-wed couple at the crease, hoping to get the team over the line. Charlie’s team are trying to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, giving no quarter, EK was offering a great deal of assistance, one might say instruction, to his bride, FK. The odd single here or there. Then, FK plays the shot of the day. After the match, she claimed that she didn’t see the ball properly at first and just went after it once she got sight of it. Ged describes it as a perfectly executed late cut for four – one of the hardest and most elegant shots in the game. The Ged Ladd & Co supporters are in ecstasies and the target is down to very few indeed. Soon, the scores are tied and EK is on strike. He goes for glory – trying to wrap up the match with a big six into the crowd – and guess what? – he pulls it off and the game is won. The honeymoon couple at the crease together winning the match for their team. You couldn’t have made up the ending without seeming like the cheesiest writer since Barbara Cartland died.
Barmy Kev Summarises
Ged seemed mightily pleased with win and I felt his tension on what was a surprisingly competitive match. However, in true spirit of occasion, all parties were friends afterwards and enjoyed some more beers/wine.
It was a really fun afternoon despite my lack of contribution and receiving a few ticking offs. Mrs Barmy was there with a few other WAGS and we were made to feel very welcome. If invited next year I would certainly return and will be working on various aspects of my game, like listening to captain’s orders.