By 2007 I was one of the small band of Middlesex Till We Die (MTWD) website editors and moderators. I especially liked the editorial side of things and enjoyed writing slightly left-field match reports.
In theory, every editorial piece ever written on MTWD remains live on the site, if you can be bothered to trawl the archive and/or know which key words to Google. Except that, tragically, a swathe of 2007 match reports was lost in a Sportnetwork incident that was never properly explained. I refer to those pieces as “the lost masterpieces”. In truth, at least one of those 2007 reports is a fine piece of juvenilia by a then student, now award-winning journalist.
Except, of course, that my own scribblings never die, they simply get backed up in infeasibly strange places – such as the archive pit of my main computer. (Indeed several other pieces, including the above mentioned juvenilia, have been preserved in their final but unpublished format).
So I am able to revive my report of the wonderful evening Janie and I (naturally in the guise of Daisy and Ged) spent with some close friends, also appearing under assumed names.
As I cannot link to MTWD for this lost masterpiece, here it is restored/reproduced verbatim below. Some connoisseurs of the “Vaughanian third person” will appreciate several references to myself as “Ged”.
Ravaged by Ravi, Bopped By Bopara
Ged Ladd reports on the Twenty20 betwixt Middlesex and Essex at Lord’s. Daisy was there, so it had to be a final over nail-biter finish. Meet Ged and Daisy’s friends from Essex, John-Boy and Maddja, plus their delightful daughters. The match twisted, the match turned, the result was not what Ged and Daisy wanted, but it was a good match, it didn’t rain and a fun evening out was had by all.
Daisy and I both quit work a little early to be sure of getting good seats for our whole entourage, which includes two small girls tonight. Quitting work a little early was not as easy as it looked. I was seeing a client in Whitehall, unaware of tube problems, the impending Tour de France (some navigational problems there, or have the Normans invaded us again?) and finally a “gas leak” leading to Notting Hill Gate being cordoned off. Suffice it to say that I got home much later than expected and that I shall be doing an hour or more of work as well as writing this report at sparrowfart on Saturday!
Meet the family. We’ll start with my very good friend from Essex, John-Boy, whom I have known since we started University at 18. Then there’s his lovely wife, Maddja. John-Boy and Maddja were childhood sweethearts on those Essex/Hertfordshire borders – a rare thing indeed for a relationship to survive while John-Boy was away at University for 5 years. Especially hanging around with ne’er-do-wells like Ged. Maddja’s mother’s family are of Eastern-European origin shrouded in history, mystery and stories that would make a fascinating mini-series for the BBC. John-Boy and Maddja have two delightful daughters, Bela and Lugosi, now 11 and 8, who loved the Twenty20 at Southgate two years ago so much that they were still talking about it when we went to their house for dinner. We simply had to set this evening up and so we did.
So, Daisy and Ged somehow manage to get to the ground by about 16:45 and have no difficulty securing seats right at the front of the Tavern Stand, where we think the little ones will have a good view. John-Boy phones to explain that they are all stuck in various parts of East London and town, trying to get some form of public transport to get to the ground. Ged estimates that they’ll arrive 45 minutes to an hour late.
A pathetic start
Middlesex then did their best to ensure that my good friends got to see no cricket at all. Wickets fell at horribly regular intervals. 5/2. 31/5. 50/7. If you want details, go see the scorecard. It was clear that this was not an easy wicket on which to time your shots. Daisy asked me at the start “what’s a decent Twenty20 score at Lord’s?” and I replied 160. Soon after the start I suggested that 140 might be a decent enough score on that particular pitch.
With the score on 50/7 and Ged genuinely thinking that his friends might not even get to see any cricket, our mood was not great, despite the fact that we had started tucking in to the picnic (well, neither of us had had any lunch) and also some rather jolly pink wine to go with the Middlesex pink theme.
At 55/7 John-Boy phoned. “We’re here. The girls are in the loo but we’ll be with you in a jiffy. What’s the score?” “Middlesex are having a shocker,” I said, “55/7”. “I don’t think I heard that right”, said John, “that sounded like seven”. “Seven”. “Blimey!”
So, our dear friends from Essex, John-Boy, Maddja, Bela and Lugosi arrive and at the same time Middlesex revive. They are in very good spirits for people who have spent hours fighting their way across London and we all hunker down to our picnic and watch the show.
Murtagh and Keegan in particular show what can be done on this wicket once the batsman is in. Both found it hard to time the ball at first, but once set the runs come quite easily and their bowlers find it hard. Both of the Essex overseas bowlers, Bichel and Kaneria, go for plenty of runs. A late flurry unperturbed by the risk of being all out gets Middlesex to 126.
We have a game on our hands.
John-Boy and Ged are reminded of the Southgate fixture 3 or 4 years ago, when Essex were rolled for not many. Middlesex cruised to the total. Would this one be a cruise or was 126 competitive? Ged suspected “low end of competitive” and mused “Middlesex have bowled better than they have batted so far this season”.
Essex start slowly
Middlesex bowled well and Essex were no more able to use the first 6 overs than Middlesex. They even took almost as many balls to reach 50 as Middlesex (over 60 balls in each case), but they kept wickets in hand and that proved to be vital.
Whilst Flower was blooming I kept saying to JohnBoy “if we get Flower now I think you’re in trouble”. Then, once he had gone, the Ged mantra changed to “if we get Bopara now I think you’re in trouble” but that vital wicket never came.
Meanwhile Bela and Lugosi were on their best behaviour despite not being allowed to run all over the park during the interval and having been told in no uncertain terms that running around that particular park after the game was also prohibited at Lord’s. However, Ged had a cunning plan for after the match, based on his trusty “run around the park tennis ball” and the Coronation Gardens.
Shrink that target
Maddja, who is an eminent psycho-therapist, was meanwhile busy telling Daisy about her latest therapeutic technique, a conversation so bizarre it is simply beyond parody.
And talking of shrinking, the target was getting lower and the score converging on that oh so helpful Duckworth-Lewis par score which gives you a very good idea who is on top and who isn’t, even when the skies are blue.
Rymps is not bowling well, and Ged muses that we have to find a couple of overs from somewhere (if not Rymps, who) and those overs will be targeted.
Murali Kartik meanwhile has bowled absolutely beautifully – Scotty is right back in the swing of things with “quick as a flash” stumpings. Also off Kartik’s bowling Chad Keegan takes one of the best outfield catches you will ever see – he’s back in leaping salmon mode is Chad and let’s all hope he stays there. And then, when Kartik comes back fro his final over, he also cleans up Ryan ten Doeschate and Ged realises that we might be back in the hunt if we can somehow hide those goat overs and/or somehow get rid of Ravi Bopara.
But it wasn’t to be. With 11 needed off the last over, we had to prevent the boundaries and the one really poor ball Murtagh bowled at the death went for a heartbreaking six. It was all over bar the shouting then. JohnBoy and Ged had been trading clichés all evening. (JohnBoy is a Leyton Orient man normally). Ged described Chad’s catch as “worth the entry money alone” (as indeed was Murali Kartik’s spell). With the six, it was “all over bar the shouting” and once it was really all over Ged was “gutted”.
We get to the Coronation Garden to find a huge queue of kids. Do you have to queue to throw a ball around the garden I mused, but soon realised that the queue was for autographs and a whole row of tables and chairs have been set up for the players to sign stuff for the kids. I’d never seen this ritual before and was actually very impressed that the players spend so much time after the game doing that. The queue looked almost endless.
JohnBoy, Lugosi and I start off with some catching practice while the others go off to the loo. Then we all play a “piggy-in-the-middle”/”tag team” game which was great fun. We rarely collide with the backs of the players who are too busy signing to care or even notice.
This is cricket for all the family as it is meant to be. Of course I’m disappointed that we didn’t qualify – especially as we came so close in this match – and especially as the other results did go our way sufficiently that we would have qualified had we won. But you can’t quibble with played 5 lost 3 didn’t qualify. And you can’t quibble with the fact that we almost snatched victory from the jaws of defeat tonight and that some of our players were just excellent. And you can’t quibble with that row of players from both sides, making the kids happy – they were still signing away once we had exhausted ourselves with our silly game and were trudging home into the night.