The Mighty Fishers: 142 for 3 from 20 overs: Garden Fields 141 for  from 20 overs.
The first test vs South Africa having ended in a frustrating stalemate but 48 hours earlier, English cricket needed a fillip. Unfortunately, with Dawko now back to his usual 62% full fitness level, there was no place for quiet, reserved Milton behind the stumps.
Some of the great modern classic contests on the world stage have been completed under floodlights. Disappointingly, there were no floodlights; then again, this was no modern classic. With Bungle late (due to an earlier entanglement with a London bus), Anil making an appearance as our guest player and attempting his second match of the day (don’t tell his wife), and stand-in Stuart Nurse going home having forgotten his kit, it was a short-of-match-practice, short-of-a-man Fishers’ team that strode purposefully from the car park to the hallowed environs of the ‘upper’ pitch at Verulamium.
With Bendy Bus Bungle still arguing with Transport for London about the exact interpretation of the phrase ‘please let the bus go first’ and whether or not it is enforceable by law, he wasn’t there to lose the toss, so Dave did the honours instead.
Fortunately, No Standing on the Upper Deck Herbert arrived just in time to take his rightful place as square leg umpire as Dawko and Magnet took to the field both with the same single-minded Springbokesque thought in mind: ‘if we can just bat out these 20 overs, we could get away with a draw here’.
Whilst Chris stuck steadfastly to this game plan, it was Dawko who finally cracked, much to his partner’s consternation, and played his way to retirement on 30. Chris was out for 10 and was concerned that he has let himself down by including one shot that resulted in more a single run. He did do his best to rein in Dawko’s cavalier attempts to get runs by running the world’s shortest short run. Malc, secured his first duck of the season soon afterwards and Fishers were 52-2 off ten overs.
Anil, resplendent in night-vision goggles, and Watson Snr, resplendent in resplendentness, formed a partnership of a fair few runs (?) before Andrew was bowled for 20 and Anil retired on 25.
And so it was that the Fishers’ innings ended with Boxer (coming in at number 6) and Hemel Haircut Herbert (coming in at number 37 to Highgate) puncturing the boundary with some force to put on 43 runs in the last five overs, including three 6s. It was classic knock from Please Give Up This Seat For An Elderly Or Infirm Person Herbert: dropped on the boundary off his very first delivery, and then thumping the ball around the ground in a desperate attempt not to actually have to run at all with his injured frame.
Fishers reached 142 including 15 boundaries.
It wasn’t the swiftest innings time-wise, so it was already getting a bit gloomy as The Mighty Fishers took to the field. In fact, we finished so late that none of us went to the pub and so I don’t have our bowling figures (yet to be copied from the oppo’s book) to detail here.
During the changeover, Conductor Bungle stated that he wanted his fielders ‘hard and deep’. We’re still not exactly sure what he meant, but he gave Chris a cheeky wink as he said it and gently stroked Dave’s hair at the same time.
With three overs per bowler set as the limitation, Dave opened up partnered by Vision-On Virji. Anil, preferring as usual to go uphill, let Dave go with the slope from the Nettle End. Dave fired in three good overs, but for no reward. Anil, having warmed up during the day in a game with his real friends, also bowled vaguely ok.
I think the breakthrough came when one of the openers retired, but it was late and dark, so I might be wrong. King Jnr took a wicket when the ball dislodged the bails after clipping the batsman’s pads. Watson Snr had spent much of the preceding two weeks on the treatment table with Bungle (what a table that must be) and was not at his normal, gazelle-like pace in the field. This, however, did not prevent him creating a great run out with a direct hit from mid-off. Thinking about it, this may well have been the first wicket to fall, but never mind, this isn’t Wisden after all. It was a great piece of fielding, despite a slightly camp release from the wrist.
In the course of the innings we dropped a few, but not as many as they did, and actually fielded pretty well. Dawko make a great stumping and was close with several other well-executed attempts. As the night closed in X-Ray Anil really came into his own. NHS glasses have come along way, haven’t they.
Ross bowled well (and may, or may not, have got a wicket). Cam took a great return from Watson Snr to affect another great run out. Andrew pinged the ball in with some force and Cam took the impact full on his chest before gathering neatly to remove the bails. Andrew also had another direct hit at some point, but the batsman had made his ground. He bothered the stumps further when he removed the middle stick right of the ground with a sharp delivery.
It was getting close. We were steadily getting wickets, but they were steadily getting runs. They needed 40 of the last four. Chris and Big Malc bowled the final overs. They needed 13 off the very last over from Malc. It got tighter as they hit a boundary and Malc, knowing that he was in total control of the situation, bowled two wides to mess with their minds and trick them into thinking that they really had a chance.
Off the last ball of the day Garden Fields needed one to draw and two to win. Malc drew on all his experience and bowled a straight one. The (previously retired) opening bat was on strike. He sized it up. He flung the bat at it. The fielders scampered in all directions in some vain hope that they might stumble across the ball by fluke in the darkness. He’d missed it and, possibly, so had Dawko behind the stumps (it was hard to tell what was really going on from long, long on on the long boundary at Rabbit Hole End where I was). They ran. There was no run. Dawko, gloves off, gathered it like drunken teenage girl in a night club searching for a lost contact lens on the dance floor and, with both batsmen as the same end, the bails were calmly removed by Malc and that was it.
Man of the Match Contenders: Dawko for 30 not out and some good work behind the sticks; Watson Snr for a good innings of 20, some excellent, accurate throws and a crowd-pleasing wicket; Anil for his first ever Fishers’ batting retirement and good eyewear; Bungle for a quick-fire 24 not out and a new haircut.
Quotes of the Day:
Dawko to Bungle: “I’m going to re-arrange things because your field placings are crap.”
Everyone, generally, on watching Anil and Cam search in the five foot nettles for a lost ball during the change in innings: “Should we tell them that Dave’s 6 actually went 20 yards to the left or just leave them to it? They look happy.”
Chris to Katy and Lucy: *****For legal reasons this quotation has been removed******
(Note for Chris’ Christmas list: The Ladybird Book of Basic Parenting)