An Enjoyable Excursion Into Domestic Cricket Neutrality, Surrey v Essex, T20, Oval, 19 July 2017

The Oval At Nightfall

In early May I received an e-mail from John White, out of the blue:

I have been invited to the Oval on 19th July and have been asked if I would like to bring a friend!  It could only be you Ian.  Are you free?  We will be the guest of WE Communications and we get to go in the members area.

My first thought was that this must be the test match, but when I looked up the date I discovered that it was an evening domestic T20 match between Surrey and Essex.

It occurred to me that I haven’t been to a domestic cricket match as a neutral (i.e. without my county, Middlesex, playing), since I was a kid. Those experiences, as a kid, were all at The Oval, as it happens. This scorecard – click here – might be an example of one of those – I need to check the old diaries but for sure I saw once saw Barry Richards dominate the bowling there, while all others made it look like hard work.

Indeed all my early experience of seeing professional cricket was at the Oval – here is one especially odd set of experiences at the Oval from 40 years ago, including an encounter with Bob Willis on the tube after play, which I have already Ogblogged.

John’s e-mail was not terribly informative and (after accepting the invitation with relish) I didn’t give the event a great deal of thought again until it was imminent.

As it happens, on the day, I was working from home, interrupted only by a marathon session of tennis mid morning at Lord’s.

On reflection, I should have pipped John an e-mail about the extent to which this might be formal entertaining, mode of dress, etc., but instead I picked up Marcus’s e-mail, Googled WE Communications and decided for myself that this must be corporate entertaining of some scale and that I’d better turn up suited and booted. I even put my little case of business cards in my jacket pocket.

As it turned out, the evening was in fact a very informal set up with Marcus (who is a Surrey member), his colleague Josh (who is in fact a fellow MCC yellow-carder), me and John. All the others were in “dress-down, evening out” attire.

It was a very enjoyable evening. Really good company; people who know and enjoy their cricket while at the same time keeping the conversation suitably varied and interesting on many topics.

I really liked that feeling of neutrality at the match. I was watching cricket, simply hoping to see a good match, without any emotional equity in the result. It was strangely refreshing. In particular I think the neutrality worked for me because I was in good company.

After the game, although John was demob happy, he was keen to start his long journey home and I was keen to get home quite early as I had a long working day ahead the next day.

The evening was great fun; I’m sure we’ll do something like that again next season – perhaps at Lord’s, so that Marcus can experience that slightly oblivious feeling of cricket watching neutrality.

An Exploratory Mission Into Deepest, Darkest Essex, Prested Hall and Chelmsford, 27 & 28 June 2017

It seemed like a brilliant idea when I/we arranged the trip.

Middlesex were playing Essex in the first ever round of day/night county championship cricket matches.  I’d drive out to Prested Hall on the Tuesday morning, drop my bags, have a real tennis lesson, join Charley “The Gent” at Chelmsford for cricket on the Tuesday afternoon, return to Prested after stumps at night, check out/play real tennis the next morning, drive back to Chelmsford for at least a couple of sessions play Wednesday, then head back to London in reasonable time towards the end of that day.

Indeed, it was a pretty brilliant idea, confounded in part only by the weather “turning Charley on us” (as it were) and Middlesex’s dismal performance. Of course the latter was no disappointment to Charley “The Gent” Malloy, who is enjoying watching his team ride high in the county championship this season.

The weather forecast for Tuesday was changing on an almost hourly basis. Charley at one point Monday messaged me to see if I still wanted to give it a go, but when I explained that I was coming out to deepest Essex anyway, we agreed to meet at the ground Tuesday come what may.

In the morning, at Prested, I had the honour (and pleasant surprise) of getting my real tennis lesson from Rob Fahey, the former and longest-reigning world champion. I doubt if I was utilising even a tiny fraction of his skills and knowledge, but I learnt a great deal and he was a thoroughly delightful coach for that hour. He filled my head with all sorts of stuff that will probably come in handy down stream but which I have so far been utterly unable to put into practice. A few simple tips on placement of shots and serves are already coming in handy.

Then to my apartment room in the health centre area. Comfortable-looking and very large – there would even be room for Janie, Benjy the Baritone Uke and all of our attendant paraphernalia in one of those, I noted for future reference.

Then a very dingy drive to Chelmsford, but it wasn’t raining and the forecast suggested that we might get a few hours of play before the rain set in for the evening. But five minutes before play was due to start, an unscheduled, sharp shower put paid to the prospects of play for a while.

Chas and I braved the pavilion while all that was going on, which gave us a chance to catch up on news and gossip over coffee (not bad stuff and just one nicker per shot) plus some headway into Mrs Malloy’s splendid bap sandwiches.

The weather looked reasonably promising again for a while; they even announced a 16:25 start and the Middlesex players came out to warm up. But almost inevitably it started to rain again at 16:20. Looking at the forecast and the rain radar, Chas and I agreed that the prospects of play now were close to zero and that we had cunningly focused most of our attention on the more perishable elements of the picnic, allowing the less perishable elements to return the next day.

I returned in the driving rain to Prested Hall, where I was able to catch up on my reading and blogging (as well as sleep) in that comfortable appartment/room during the evening and into the next morning. I had a very tasty light bistro meal in the evening there, again noting that this would more than do the job for me and Daisy on a future visit.

In the morning, after checking out of my room, I played real tennis against a very charming gentleman who managed to capitalise well on all the new ideas drifting around my head (but not onto my racket) from yesterday’s lesson. Why I should suddenly start over-hitting and mistiming my shots in these circumstances is beyond me.

I tried a bit of bestial roaring when stretching for difficult gets and my opponent responded in kind, less often as I was making him stretch less. We were on the Prested Glass court – across the other side of the galleries is the Prested Far court, where a far finer exponent of bestial roaring than either of us was playing that hour.

The upshot was, I just couldn’t get any sort of rhythm going and my opponent played really well for his handicap. Still, I couldn’t have lost to a nicer chap, who celebrated his win by buying me a coffee in the bistro afterwards. This was good timing, as once he had gone and I had done some warm-down stretches and showered, I was ready to say goodbye to the friendly, helpful Prested team and head back to Chelmsford.

Chelmsford was once again well gloomy; I even drove through some drizzle as I approached town. But the cricket ground itself was dry and the forecast was far more promising than Tuesday’s.

Indeed, although we got the occasional tiny bit of drizzle (perhaps merely mizzle) during the day, it mostly stayed dry; just seriously dark and gloomy throughout the day. Just as well this was a floodlit match, as I doubt if there would have been much if any play with a conventional red ball and no floodlights.

Even though we had spent some time together the previous day, Charley The Gent and I had no difficulty filling several more hours with chat. Tales of derring do from playing and watching matches in years gone by. A bit more news and gossip. Bants, although it is hard to bant too much when the match is so one -sided – click here for scorecard. The locals who were sitting around us seemed to enjoy some of our chirp, so it can’t have been too bad.

We were in Charley’s favourite position at the front of the Tom Pearce stand. At times we both felt a bit chilly and took turns taking a brisk stroll to get coffees from the pavilion.

There was a reasonably sized crowd but I’m sure it would have been so much better had the weather played ball; especially as Essex were doing so well.

Dot (Mrs Malloy) did us proud with the bap/sarnies yet again; corned beef, ham and cheese for me – I think Chas had some egg; we each got personalised sandwich boxes with kind notes from Dot; Chas’s note was signed off “wifey” which seemed rather quaint to me.

I wanted to get home in reasonable time, so when Essex declared soon after 20:30, that seemed the perfect moment for me to bow out after my very first taste of pink ball cricket. We’d had a really enjoyable couple of days.

My First Live Cricket Of the Year, Middlesex v Essex Day One At Lord’s, 21 April 2017

At last, the new season proper, i.e. a day of live cricket at Lord’s with Charley “The Gent” Malloy.

I made something close to our traditional picnic, with Alaskan salmon bagels, plus some variations on a theme, using Brunswick ham and some soft cheese with chives for a slightly more smokey-flavoured afternoon roll.

A bottle of Gewurtztraminer to help the salmon go down – I might have gone Gewurtz rather than Riesling before, but tend to go Riesling for Chas (who likes that stuff) but thought that today was the day to broaden his horizons just a tad. Thanks to Edwardian over on King Cricket for recently tweaking my memory on that idea.

The white wine aspect worked for sure; Chas was so convinced that Mrs Malloy would like the Gewurtztraminer, he even photographed the label so he could hunt down the wine.

Chas’s desire to please his good lady was a charming and endearing theme, until his ulterior motive was revealed. This Monday is Mrs Malloy’s birthday and also day four of this Lord’s match. Chas was hoping (I think more than expecting) that Mrs Malloy might enjoy part of her birthday treat being a visit to Lord’s. Given the match position, the weather forecast and Mrs Malloy’s predisposition towards the shorter forms of the game, I’d offer long odds on seeing the Malloys at Lord’s this Monday.

Then again, Chas is a master of persuasion, as previously reported on King Cricket in the matter of the Aggers book signing – click here.

We sat in our traditional, back-breaking death row seats (front row of the pavilion terrace) for the first session and quite deep into the second; unable to move until Sam Robson had secured his hundred.

A charming brand new Middlesex member, named Barry (not Father Barry I hasten to add), joined us on death row for a while, towards the end of the morning session – he really seemed to be delighting in the benefits of his new membership.

When Chas and I finally moved, we went for the further reaches of the Grandstand, to which we had to walk the long way round while workmen are putting the finishing touches on the new Warner Stand. We found a nice quiet spot at the front of the Grandstand, wonderfully close to the action, as the pitch in use for this match is well to the north of the square.

Shortly after tea, play was suspended for bad light. I was hopeful that some slightly better looking light might be on its way but only the umpires returned periodically to test the light and shake their heads.

While waiting in vain, Chas and I chatted for a while with a nice couple who turned out to be visiting West Midlands folk, just taking advantage of being in London on a match day to see a day of cricket at Lord’s. Chas and I shared some Edgbaston stories with them and I showed them some of the pictures Chas had taken at close quarters in the Eric Hollies stand, the day that he and Nigel “Father Barry” White made their bucket-list visit to the dark side.

This is a picture from the Eric Hollies Stand in 2008, you understand, not the charming couple we met in the Lord’s Grandstand in 2017. Thanks to Charles for the picture.

It started to get quite cold, but Chas and I naturally braved it until the umpires bowed to the inevitable.

In the meantime, we made some more headway into the delicious bottle of Rioja Chas had brought. This was ideal for the Brunswick ham and soft cheese rolls; it also warmed us up as the afternoon got cooler.

I was being a little careful with my wine intake – my limits are lowering as the years go on – but Chas was keen neither to waste any nor take any of the red home with him, so he polished off the Rioja before we went our separate ways home.

As Chas said in his e-mail to me the next day:

I must have seen the Red off too quickly as I was a little wobbly on the way home!!

Essex v Australians at Chelmsford, Day 2, 2 July 2015

A day out in Chelmsford, reported upon at length on the King Cricket website.

This season my possessions are taking an increasing role in proceedings, writing many of my King Cricket match reports for me.  Dumbo, the Suzuki Jimny started this trend while we were in Ireland – click here.  Dumbo continued this trend on a half-day out to Uxbridge, linked through this posting here.  There will be more to come from Dumbo, once King Cricket gets around to publishing it.

Ivan The Smart Phone Reporting
Ivan The Smart Phone Reporting

But the report on the Chelmsford day was a first airing for Ivan the Smart Phone, my iPhone 5.  He tells you almost everything you might want to know about that day out, in a rather logical style – here. Indeed there will also be plenty more to come from Ivan.

To understand my King Cricket match reports you need to know that:

  • Ged and Daisy are nicknames/noms de plume for me and Janie. Friends are all referred to pseudonymously;
  • King Cricket match reports have strict rules: “If it’s a professional match, on no account mention the cricket itself. If it’s an amateur match, feel free to go into excruciating detail.”

If you do want to know about the cricket itself, you might want to have a look at the on-line scorecard – here.  Essex did rather well the day we went, perhaps foreshadowing problems to come for the Aussies that year, but we really didn’t spot the weakness at the time, that delightful day in Chelmsford.

Middlesex v Essex T20 At Lord’s With John White & Family, 13 June 2010

I remembered that we had done the Lord’s T20 thing with John and family a couple of times, but it wasn’t until I found diary/e-mail references to this Sunday afternoon gig that I realised that there were several years between visits.

I had written up the 2007 visit under assumed names for MTWD – see this Ogblog piece for the text of that masterpiece.

I recall that, in many ways, the 2010 outing was more successful. None of the Friday afternoon/evening stress – this was a Sunday afternoon outing in good weather.

I think the girls had genuinely enjoyed the Lord’s visit in 2007 so had been really looking forward to this afternoon visit and they weren’t disappointed.

John was possibly a little disappointed by the result – another “close but no cigar” match for Essex. Here is a link to the scorecard.

I seem to recall the weather smiling on us that first half of June, which made the unseasonable cold snap the following weekend all the more surprising…but that’s another Ogblog story all together – click here for that.

Middlesex v Essex, Lord’s, 11 to 14 August 2009

I spent a fair bit of time at Lord’s days 1, 2 and 4 for this match.

Days 1 & 2 I was marking Payroll Giving Awards applications; I was chairing those awards back then. My habit was to take the file down to Lord’s – find a relatively quiet spot and do the marking in the open air.

Day 4 (the Friday) I was supposed to have meetings in the middle of the day, but I think they got shifted to/combined with my Thursday meetings.

I don’t recall a great deal about the cricket, other than Middlesex making a very generous declaration on Day 4 (I think we were a bit desperate for wins at that stage of the season), which Essex gobbled up with relative ease. I recall that Fletch was fuming about the declaration when I ran into him towards the end of the match.

Middlesex v Essex T20, Lord’s, Followed By Artemis Quartet, Wigmore Hall Lates, 26 June 2009

I often say that there are only two places remaining on earth where staff and stewards still call me “young man”: Lord’s and the Wigmore Hall.

So what better places to celebrate Janie’s birthday than both of those august institutions?

We’d probably booked the Wigmore Hall late night concert before we knew/realised that Middlesex were to play Essex in the T20 tournament at Lord’s that evening. Low marks to the cricket authorities for demographic matching for scheduling that fixture at that venue that night, but they probably won’t make that mistake again in a hurry.

Anyway, Charley “The Gent” Malloy was keen to see that fixture and suggested (once he knew it was Janie’s birthday and that we had a later evening engagement at “The Wig”), that we make that match a couples outing,  with Dot (Mrs Malloy) up for the idea of a T20 game and a picnic at Lord’s. So that’s what we did.

Cricket

Chas and Dot were able to get to Lord’s early, so they established a good spot at the front of the Tavern Stand for us. Their hopes and expectations for the match (as Essex supporters) were much higher than ours as Middlesex supporters. Essex had been doing well in the tournament that year, whereas Middlesex, despite being champions, had been consistently poor. So much so, I had written a scathing “futurology” MTWD match report of the Hampshire away match earlier in the week, before that match even took place.

But of course, as fate would have it, Middlesex played a rare decent match and spoiled Chas and Dot’s fun a bit:

Here is a link to the scorecard.

But it clearly only spoiled their fun a bit, as Chas said in a note the following Monday:

That was a super evening last Friday at Lords with all of us there; it was an absolute delight, although I suspect that the loss by Essex cost them dearly!

Music

The Wigmore Late concert was a real treat for Janie; she loves a bit of Piazzolla and this was a concert full of the stuff.

Here is a link to an interesting article from The Telegraph explaining why this quartet likes playing Piazzolla.

Dying for a Piazzolla?

It was a lovely concert.

It had been a long evening; I recall us going back to the flat feeling very tired but also very happy.

2008 Twenty20 Cup Finals Day, Observed From Sandall Close, 26 July 2008

I remember everything, I remember nothing. In some ways, the senses were heightened, in other ways, numbed.

Cup finals day comprises two semi-finals and a final.

This link, to the Wikipedia entry for the day, sets out decent reviews of the two semi-finals.

Before looking at that piece, I couldn’t have told you that the Kent v Essex game was the first of the semi-finals, but on reflection of course it was.

Daisy and I had played tennis that morning and I hunkered down with the TV soon after our return from Boston Manor.

For MTWD, I set up an interactive report, the idea being that those at the ground and those watching from home would chip in with comments that would eventually comprise a sort-of modern era report. It sort of worked for a while – here is a link – but soon descended into a comments thread.

Just in case anything ever happens to MTWD, I have scraped the piece to Ogblog – only click the link below if the link above doesn’t work:

Middlesex till we die – Twenty20 Semi-Finals Interactive Report

In those days my set up at Sandall Close was a bit rudimentary – Daisy’s dapper Sony VAIO with a plug in thingie to her NTL doodah – or was it already called Virgin by then? Anyway, it was trailing wires and a bit Heath Robinson-like.

The semi-final went Middlesex’s way in a fairly convincing fashion. Daisy and I found that hard to believe, but excitedly realised that we had a final on our hands.

I vaguely remember texting Ed Smith between the matches, which was not a very good idea. I have no recollection of what Daisy and I ate, nor when we ate it, but I’m pretty sure we ate.

The final was a very exciting affair. Here is the Cricinfo scorecard.

I think I watched most of the final in the bedroom and I clearly recall Daisy being unable to watch towards the end of the match.

The agony of the close finish soon switched to untrammelled joy at the tournament victory. The comments on that “semi-final interactive report”, which in the end covered comments on the whole day, summarise many of the MTWD sentiments.

Our MTWD match reporter for the day was Daria, who wrote a really excellent piece which we published on the Monday – click here.

What a day. It’s weird that such a day yields so few new insights, but I suppose the reactions/sensations at the time, encapsulated in the MTWD links above, really do tell the story.

 

A Works Outing To Middlesex v Essex T20 at Lord’s, 12 June 2008

With many thanks to Charles Bartlett for this picture

After all the excitement of the previous evening’s match, gleaned via internet radio and reported on in near real-time on MTWD – click here… 

…a hefty day’s work, if my appointments diary is to be believed, followed by an informal works outing to the Middlesex v Essex game at Lord’s. No peace for the wicked.

Actually I look pretty bright-eyed and bushy tailed (well, the former at least) in the above photo, given the circumstances of the preceding two or three days.

This evening wasn’t quite in the style of the informal works outings that evolved for T20 matches in subsequent years, but I can see from the e-mail trail that Jez Horne mostly organised the event and that the “10 of us” who eventually showed up included Charles “Charley The Gent Malloy” Bartlett and Nick “The Boy Malloy” Bartlett, as well as Mark Yeandle (see picture), perhaps some other Z/Yen folk and some of Jez’s old friends from school.

Perhaps Jez, Mark, Charles and/or Nick will fill in some more details.

I remember it being a fun evening; especially so for those of us who support Middlesex, because Middlesex won the match.

Here is the scorecard – click here.

In truth, Essex never really got going.

I recall there was some edgy business over Ed Smith’s injury and his request for a runner – in the end that injury proved to be career-ending for Ed Smith; those of us who saw his innings that evening saw his last representative appearance for a first class side. But of course no-one knew the severity at the time.

Meanwhile MTWD had found a match reporter for the evening thank goodness – a young fellow known as johnnyboy – here’s a link to his report.

Update: I have just found the following e-mail from Chas, which suggests that his sense of humour did not extend quite as far as MTWD match reports – his response after I sent him the above link on the Friday:

Oh, so very droll!

I am ok with every thing other than the partisan match reports, much as I appreciate match reports with Middlesex winning, there must be many, many more that Essex were victorious e.g. the county match when Essex won victory from the jaws of defeat, just a few day’s ago.

The match reports that interest me the most (as you well know) are the tuffty/tcs, the TCS/Zyen along with the visits to Lords my myself, Geoff and big Jeff, so behave.

Charles

Whoever uploaded that match report did so at 4:35 the next morning. I’m going to guess that was me. No peace for the wicked. Oh dear, I’m repeating myself; time to stop.

Middlesex v Essex T20, Ravaged By Ravi, A 2007 MTWD “Lost Masterpiece”, 6 July 2007

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.

In scorecard terms, this is the match we saw that evening – click here.

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.

 

In early

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!”

 

Middlesex revive

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”.

 

Coronation Time

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.