Tew on that!
Canham’s kids capitulate as inclement weather is king.
Our forward thinking current captain had devised a very cunning plan to beat not only the opposition but the imminent arrival of the forecast rain by deciding to make the game a thirty over thrash. Both innings were to be completed before tea was to be taken. With the game in some doubt beforehand thanks to showers throughout the week and with the outfield already sodden, thoughts of any seasonal slippery dew having much of an impact on proceedings were obviously misguided.
We started with possibly the widest age range an opening bowling partnership has ever mustered* with 60 year old Walker taking his eponymous end (so to speak) and 13 year old Spearman (Jnr) the pavilion end. Both were equally adept at tying the openers down with only 8 recorded* off the first 6 overs of this newly invented middle distance slog-fest (it will never catch on). Wickets were also hard to come by however (Keysey would have loved the tedium) but at least for now the rain had stayed away.
It wasn’t until the appearance of 3rd change bowler Stoddart (after further tidy spells from Angol & Gokani) that things really started to happen. Not only did the rain arrive but both openers succumbed in a similar fashion – each being clawed by a panther-like-rhino at mid-on. A further wicket was snared when the stocky Stoddart trusted no-one with a skier off his own bowling and a 4th taken when Bobby ‘The Bye’ Kerr managed to make one stick down the leg side. However controversy reigned as the bewildered batsman suggested he hadn’t hit it when adjudicated caught behind. The new 30 over format apparently allows for a batsman to review such decisions and in a stand-off that seemed to last longer than an England openers test career, Captain West did the honourable (and very benevolent) thing and withdrew our appeal.
The rain continued as skipper West’s South Lawn compass went awry whilst he completed the okay-cokey to a skier at long off before ensuring it flew well over his head. In a change to recent Blenheim tactics, the field wasn’t changed immediately after this apparent lack of effort.
Meanwhile, our erstwhile captain, Canham who nowadays tends to bat for the other side had come to the crease and was soon troubled by some dibbly-dobbly nonsense. Twice beaten, he somehow survived to face Stoddart now striding in with a full head of steam from the Walker end. As the bowlers union colluded to hatch their own cunning plan it was left to Stoddart to execute it to perfection canon-balling the confounded Canham first up. Only now can it be exclusively revealed that that plan revolved around ‘getting him out’.
Tew’s innings came to an end on about 122* with the loss of just one further wicket courtesy of Jake Spearman bowling his opposite number having returned for a second spell in the difficult dying overs.
As the drizzle abated only to allow even heavier, almost horizontal showers to intervene, Messrs Shaw & Angol were rewarded for years of hard yakka at The Park by being offered the opportunity to open together. Tew were rewarded for a few minutes of line and length with two early wickets. This came though not before Chairman Shaw controversially didn’t walk having missed a wide one by several feet.
Despite the very clear vacancy for England’s no.3 position Engel declined the opportunity to make it his own. As did West who stepped into the breach and at 8-2 attempted to hit his first ball over cow corner. He missed but survived only to be caught shortly thereafter. At 14-3 off 5 we were praying for Hurricane Harvey to force the draw as mere torrential rain clearly wasn’t enough.
With the pitch now saturated and the ground resembling a swimming pool the covers were removed from the boundary edge to avoid any further storm damage whilst Messrs Cox & Stoddart set about first restoring parity then creating some damage of their own.
Throughout the afternoon boundaries had been hard to come by. That is unless you were James’ Stoddart. There was no stopping him as he pulled, drove, hoiked and biffed the Tew trundlers. Not content with 8 fours, he added two maximums as the game slowly started to turn our way. Coxy, as always, supplied stoical support at the other end until he finally succumbed for 20.
With Blenheim closing in on an unlikely victory and Stoddart on 68, he was given out lbw. He took it like the man he is and walked off muttering about lbw laws and the sheer injustice of it all, like any good batsman defeated by his own umpire should.
So, at 112 -5 and with about* 11 runs required off 6 overs we were almost home (if not dry). Gokani was playing one of those more mature innings of his that we have become accustomed to in recent weeks before being bowled for 10 very valuable runs (and surely worth at least 16 on a decent track). A very strange thing then occurred. The sun made an appearance and thoughts of a second innings were briefly discussed.
At 121-6 we surely couldn’t throw it away could we?
Well, not for the first time in the match Kerr had problems with some slow tosh from the pavilion end – only this time Canham was bowling it rather than missing it (whilst stranded well out of his crease. For goodness sake!).
At 122-7 with 1 run required and 2 overs to go, Jake Spearman joined his dad* at the crease and with a deft flick to fine leg ensured that not only victory was ours but that with his 1 not out and a solitary wicket he had bagged the family bragging rights for at least the forthcoming week.
Make no mistake though, this was Stoddart’s day. Throughout the history of this glorious game there have been matches that have become synonymous with a player’s name – think Laker, Old Trafford, 1956. Botham, Headingly, 1981. To that list we can now add Stoddart, South Lawn, 2017. For years to come this will be referred to as ‘James’s’s game in the rain’.
If Blenheim had an honours board Jame’s Stoddart would have been agonisingly close (but ultimately short) in both batting and bowling departments. So we all retired to the Woody Arms to share Jamess’s’ success only to be disappointed as a. they get their jugs out for no-one there and b. Jame’s didn’t show.
Congratulations anyway to the main man and respect to those who umpired throughout the rain (Raj, Rob, Malc, Allan) and especially to Nigel who maintained an accurate (and dry) scoresheet for the entire innings in the rain. An example to young scorers everywhere.
As was noted after the game, cricket (as well as Blenheim Park Cricket club obviously) was the winner.
* Accurate records appear not to exist