It never rains in Earls Colne…..

vs Stowmarket (@home, 31st July ’21)

As the dawn mists rose above the verdant pitch, as the groundsman marked out the crease lines one final time, and as 11 men good and true rolled out of the pub , the day of reckoning was finally with us; top of the table Colne would be playing their nearest challengers Stowmarket for that most elusive and prestiguous title, the one that eluded the greats such as Botham, Border, Kallis, and Ryan ten Doeschate – Champions of the Two Counties Division 9, Group 2 !

It would be in the words of the opponents, a Cup Final-like game, a winner-takes-all, a never-to-be-repeated (in 2021) meeting of 1st vs 2nd that would likely decide the fate of the prized trophy, so long as there were no further trip-ups in August…..Stowmarket had to win, Colne just had to show up and rely on the depth of their batting, a Moon-dog or two to take a five-fer, and the brilliance of their fielders who could still touch their toes (whilst keeping their legs straight).

With the weather set fair, Colne would be batting first, so out strode skipper Sleeman and David Griffith . The latter’s recent improved form at turning up on time for the matches would not be matched by his batting prowess and after a patient 18-ball innings he was caught behind off the relatively quick pace of Finbow. Next up, Chintesh Patel likewise lasted 18 balls before seeing his timbers clattered.

The skipper meanwhile was pushing through the 30’s and 40’s unnoticed, until he was tempted by the metronomic accuracy of Codd to send up a simple catch, out for 54. At 90-3, this would have meant disaster in former times, but Colne’s stern pre-match talking-to would pay off, as nearly all the batsmen then chipped in, led first by Pat with 19 and Jack with 10 (both undone by the slow bowling of Watling) but most critically by Ben and Connor coming together for a essential 7th wicket partnership of 64. Fresh from being amongst the gaggle of golden ducks last week, Connor was keen to put that behind him and get a rapid move on, so took an immediate liking to the short stuff, whilst Ben was his usual energetic self, tempting fielders into giving away overthrows and happy to take on any throw from the deep to pursue an extra run. When Ben was eventually caught for 26, and Connor bowled for 44, the scoreboard was looking more respectable, but it didn’t stop there.

Those of us with longer memories cannot actually remember the last time Colne’s #9 & #10 stroked the last 12 balls of an inning around with such ease, even if the boundary was a little too far; Alex and Dave M. made some of the batsmen who’d gone before look ultra-cautious with the strokeplay and urgency with which they picked off the 1’s and 2’s, so that with a final total of 198-8, Colne could be reasonably content that they’d dug ourselves out of a little hole.

With all comments on the looming dark clouds tending to be of the nature of “it’ll stay in the valley, never rains here” (how come it’s so ‘verdant’ then? – Ed.) the players took to the field for Stowmarket’s innings…40 overs to establish which side would have one foot on the steps of eternal glory. With Tom Moon serving up some appetising hors’d’oeuvres for the openers to gorge on, there were some nervous moments before elder brother Dave offered some unplayable pies from the bottom end: first Baxter was perplexed by one that jagged back from well outside leg, then Mayhew edged one to Sam in the gully spot.. This brought together the oppo skipper Griffiths, and Spreadbury (bored with life in the Stowmarket 1st team where opportunities to bat are limited – unfortunate then that a batting collapse was taking place simultaneously for that team).

These two set about the Moons with relish, until at approx 4.30 pm, the first spots of rain turned into an excessive downpour. As all 22 players and spectators huddled under the pavilion cover or settled down to conveniently watch the British Lions rugby, some of the Colne players were seen already changing into their evening wear of choice (black tie for Alex, tasteful salmon-coloured polo for Pat, stab vest for Dave M.) A succession of interested groups then ventured out to the middle to assess whether cricket could resume amongst the puddles; Colne not too bothered, Stowmarket urgently seeking signs of drying dampness and sunshine.

As the biblical deluge faded to a distant memory, the two teams resumed at 17.45 with promises of further rain meaning a complete stop, our ‘Elf & Safety Officer predicting dire outcomes for any bowler, and uncertainty over whether we were picking up from the shallow end or the diving board end. Spreadbury soon put paid to any belief that the outfield would be an impassable swamp with some heavy hitting, but just as the Colne skipper bought himself on to advance the scoring rate even further, the weather intervened for one final time with more rain, bringing on an agreed abandonment.

Honours even therefore with no points awarded in this season where average points determine the table positions; who can say what might have happened had the match run its full course ? What it means is that Colne’s destiny remains in their own hands with three games to go. Next week, off up to Stowupland, and meanwhile look out for revised BBQ and end-of-season plans plus (the Chairman having done some in-depth libatious research with West Mersea CC last week on their West Country tour) some tour ideas and commitment requests for July ’22.

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