The banter for this match started early. It probably started as soon as The Children’s Society actually won the previous year’s fixture against Tufty Stackpole, at North Crawley; an event which seemed to displease the Tufties somewhat.
In the early days the Tufties complained that The Children’s Society were not putting up a competitive team, but over the years The Society’s access to big Saffers increased while the age demographic of the Tufties…also increased. You get the picture.
However, a message from Charles to Geoff 10 days before the event indicated that all was not well with the Children’s Society selection this time:
I am doing my best on numbers
I have had three players drop out and 2 of them proberly [sic] the best in the team!
Geoff responded within minutes:
If two of your best players have dropped out, does this mean that Ian isn’t playing?
Role [sic] on the 29th
All the best
I think Geoff was straightforwardly paying homage to my skills, but Charles inferred that Geoff’s response was a slur on my cricket ability. Or perhaps Chas wanted to lob another verbal grenade at the opposition. Whatever his reasoning, Chas wrote back a few minutes later as follows:
Geoff, I will have you know that Ian is playing the best cricket I have ever seen him play, so beware with your cheap comments and jibes about Ian!!
All the best
Chas’s role that year had in any case, unfortunately, become limited to organising the event and engaging in such bants, as he was injured/grounded for the match.
As usual, I had arranged nets and I can tell from the e-mail exchanges that Adam Hinks was at the net on Tuesday 24 July. It might have been just the two of us but I have a feeling that Matt Watson was there too. Lord’s looked a bit “after the Lord Mayor’s parade” that evening, I recall, but I don’t really remember what happened in the nets that night.
I have an extraordinary number of e-mails on the system of the “last minute drop-out”, “enforced team changes” and “could you find us another…” variety, from Charles, in the few weeks leading up to the match.
As the day drew nearer, though, Chas apparently abdicated the responsibility to Harish, who had let slip to Charles that he had friends and relations who like cricket. As the day approached, Harish wrote:
Just to let you know that my brother and my 14 year old nephew will be playing this Sunday. That means we are one short and Charles is waiting to hear nack [sic] back from Vishal. The team so far is as follows
4 Matt (Wicket keeper)
6 Nitin’s friend
8 Matt Barker
9 Tarun (my brother)
10 Krishal (my nephew)
11 nephew’s friend
But the weather played a cruel trick on us overnight ahead of the match; heavy rain. Charles called me quite early on the Sunday and said that it didn’t look good; the guys from Bentley CC had called him to let him know that a fair bit of the pitch was waterlogged.
Yet the weather had relented, at least in London and Essex it had, with some sunshine and a helpful breeze. We guessed that we might get a shortened match of some sort; just not a prompt start sort of match. But after some frantic calls between Charles and Geoff from the Tufties, it became clear that most of the Tufties had pulled out and that we would have to cobble together some sort of a game amongst those of us who took the time and trouble to turn up despite the limited match prospects.
When we got there, the first thing we realised was that Bentley CC is a really lovely ground and pavilion – Charles had found a little gem of a place for us out near Brentwood, Essex.
The second thing we realised was that waterlogged really did mean waterlogged at Bentley – but that only applied to some, not all of the pitch. Unfortunately, the bowlers run-ups were part of the problem, so we concocted a small scale game to be played on matting, away from the worst excesses of waterlogging, which would give those of us who had turned up to play a bit of a game.
The picture at the top of the page shows Daisy giving the sopper the full works. I recall Adam Hinks bowling at me in the nets and (to his horror) misdirecting a delivery fast and down the body-line, thus nearly taking my head off. The rain had spiced up the nets up good and proper (as the locals might put it). It was that near miss that convinced me to buy a helmet for the next season and never bat again without one.
I think Geoff and Derry Young might have been the only Tufties who (very kindly) turned up, whereas we turned up with a pretty full contingent, including some helpful folk from Bentley, so I think we played the fun game we eventually played was a seven-a-side game; perhaps even eight-a-side.
I don’t recall much of what happened in our mini match. I do recall a young Bentley CC local named Ryan, who had been especially helpful, working hard to try and get some sort of match going for us, proving also to be a very useful cricketer with bat and ball. Ryan turned out to be one of Charles’s main (not so secret) weapons the following year, when we returned (without the Tufties). I also recall a 14 year-old Bentley CC leggie named Andy playing in the game and causing all sorts of problems with his spin bowling and athleticism in the field.
I do also recall needing to dip my hand quite deep into my pockets, as did Charles, to make sure that the event wasn’t a loss and that the Children’s Society got a little something out of the rain-affected 2007 “Tufty Stackpole match that wasn’t.”