More than a 2-man team, Bob !

vs Elveden (away, 3rd July ’21)

With several regulars absent for this game due to a variety of reasons (weddings, wedding dress-fitting, Covid-isolation, football-isolation), Colne were keeping a keen eye on the weather and any favours it might dish out as they made their way up to Thetford Forest. As it turned out, the weather played no part in an exciting match between 1st & 3rd in the league.

As the skipper and the chairman padded up, ready for the off at 1pm, debutant Reece Hayns showed he had minimal faith in the nine provisioned batters before him by also donning his pads, but given we were still waiting for the arrival of Harry P. (who’d flagged he’d be very late) and David G. (who hadn’t), he might have had a point. Those worries were soon put to bed as our intrepid right-and left-handed openers fended off the opening 10 overs of regulation line-and-length from one end and allsorts from the other. When the latter was replaced by Elveden’s alleged ‘danger man’, the watching crowds sensed a change in the wind – which there soon was as Daryl & Pat tucked into some short and wayward semi-pace. However, Pat failed to get over one drive too many and was caught at mid-off just before drinks, rapidly followed by David G. who was unfortunate to receive a good yorker early on.

This could have been the moment when Colne capitulated (& many of us over the age of 11 can remember when it was the norm, Ed.) but this is 2021 and we just cannot seem to manage it anymore. With one 80+ partnership in the bag, the next one with Nick Richardson at the crease really ensured a good total would be on the cards. Anything short was punished by Nick, whilst Daryl was grinding through the usual gears giving the opposition limited chances only when he knew the fielder wasn’t interested in catching the ball, content with a personal scoring rate of 40% early on before moving up to 400% later. Only when Nick was out for an excellent 37 with the score on 169, did the skipper realise that the incoming batsman (Ben Mason) might require him to run 6 three’s each over, so it was time for boundaries only.

Ably and briefly supported first by Ben and then by Dave M., the score shot up to 216 in the last four overs. With Daryl’s 2nd century of the season (127*), the rest of the team were all smiling as they clapped him off and put away their wallets away for any post-match drinks. The only small teeny-weeny fly in the ointment of the innings was that down here in Div 9 of the Two Counties, Nick’s ‘Mankad’ dismissal raised some questions about how far some opposition teams will go to beat us (see David “magic hands” Griffith’s many stumpings not given out, from previous reports).

Having regaled us with how, from his previous ‘dark years’ playing for Cornard, Elveden were a one-man team, Ben started his bowling stint clearly intent on making good batsmen out of all the other 10. With his first 3 overs going for close on 45 and an admission from the bowler that he was throwing the game away, the skipper was forced to bring himself on for the first time in several matches. Given our paucity in bowlers due to all the aforementioned reasons, would it be Colne showing ourselves up as a one-man team ?

Fortunately not, as this year, we can always rely on a Moon. Whether it’s ‘P. Moon’, as stated in the scorebook (I don’t think he’s playing this year, Ed.), ‘T. Moon’, as stated on Play Cricket later that evening (definitely extremely pissed at a wedding 20 miles south at this moment, Ed.) or D. Moon (that’s the one ! Ed.), there’s always a Moon handy in a crisis. Today, it would be Dave whose venomous spitters soon tempted a couple of batsmen into offering up catches and surprising batsman #1, Aldous, who’d earlier dined out extensively on Ben’s buffet, with a straight one. With Ben taking the catch off Daryl’s bowling to despatch the ‘alleged danger-man’, the oppo’s run rate suddenly dried up, from ca. 70 off the first 8 overs to 100 off 24, which was largely thanks to Messrs Moon & Sleeman getting through their dot-ball-ridden overs at electrifying pace.

Meanwhile for those not bowling, the ongoing support from all the fielding participants remained vocal; with ringmaster Brommers keeping up a steady encouragement line as well a precocious talent for calling out the fielder to whom the next catch was coming, which it invariably did; with Reece doing a great job jogging from long-leg to long-leg each over he’ll be thanking us for his fitness improvement; with Trevor stopping anything that came square leg’s way…well, nearly all !; and with David M. keeping up a steady stream of “C’mon ECC” until it was pointed out he was inadvertently supporting the wrong team, the spirit in the team never dropped.

Just like a Shakespeare play, the witty banter and rapid progress were matched with a couple of comedy fielding moments (Nick’s attempt at a catch with the fielders both behind him and in front of him calling for it could be forgiven, plus Dave M.’s running drop) and a near-tragedy when a nick from the batsmen flew straight in ‘keeper David G’s nose. As the pitch turned scarlet with our star man on his haunches and several players turning green, David sprang rapidly back to life when he heard that Pat had gone off to put his pads and gloves on, stating he’d rather play through the pain and crimson than see the byes column debited whilst he was the official ‘keeper.

With the 4th and final recognised bowler Harry flagging on his way to seven economical overs with one wicket, the skipper was looking to Brommers to make a return for the first time since he was 2019’s ‘Bowler of the Year’. However, Ben, back on at the other end, had clearly given himself a strong talking-to, and was an absolute revelation in his 2nd spell. Safe in the knowledge that any jug-purchasing was going to be monopolised by the skipper’s earlier run-making, Ben proceeded to bowl us to victory as Elveden’s lower batting order faded away rapidly and he was as pleased as the rest of us that somehow despite his earlier overs, he’d picked up a 5-fer. Brommers’ imminent return would have to be postponed.

Victory by 41 runs then, and relief all round that our choice to postpone this match to this date when so many players were unavailable was a great one, given the depth and positive attitude pervasive across the squad. Onwards and upwards next week, to the fixture that’s as far as we have to travel this season, Stradbroke…c’mon ECCC !

https://earlscolnecc.play-cricket.com/website/results/4904595

2 Fast 2 Spurious

vs Bury St. Edmunds (home 26th June ’21)

Another dodgy week of weather but enough drying out overnight and perfect Saturday conditions meant that the Colne ground staff could stay in bed an extra hour before cutting the moss and laying down a strip for all occasions.

The opposition today would be Bury St. Edmunds, and as the church clock (somewhere) struck 12.45, we wondered where they might be. Eventually, they all turned up and the decision was taken they would bat first. If only they’d known that ‘Ripper’ Moon was that very moment being unleashed from his strait-jacket in the changing room, having spent 48 hours moving house and in the mood for further destruction, just as he had with the Stradbroke top order seven days before.

As Moon senior worriedly prowled the boundary on a direct line to Ladbroke’s, hedging the habitual jug-purchasing that he’s become accustomed to from one of his boys delivering big-time, ‘Ripper’ started the inevitable. In his first over, he had batsmen #1 & #3 caught, the first one a smart catch at 2nd slip by Sam, the second a regulation leading edge plopping up to Pat. After taking two more wickets (both bowled) and celebrated in with his deft Ronaldo demi-turn, his figures for the past two matches were looking impressive; 21 overs, 9-33. How fortunate that the wedding he was due to go to next week has been cancelled ! With elder brother Dave opening at the other end, we expected the floodgate of relief to surge through the oppo batsmen as they mastered the dastardly dibbly-dobblers from the Prince of Spain. But not today ! Only occasionally was he carted off to deep extra cover or over square leg to go with his two wickets, so that after 15 overs, the scoreboard had a distinctly lop-sided look of about 35-7. When David ‘Jonty’ Mead calmly threw to the right end for a run out, and then took a smart catch at square leg, Colne sensed this was a day when everything would come together.

Fresh from pulling off a worldie catch last week that somehow escaped the reporter’s notice (will this do ? Ed.) Brommers contrived to put down a ‘villagie’ at gully this week (that’s the price ! Ed.) but we’ll forget about that one…soonish. With Connor going wicketless at one end – and then having the cheek to ask if he could forfeit his match fee through lack of contribution – it was left to Ben “I’m never bowling again” Mason to find the form he’s been showing in the nets but not on recent matchdays, to pick up the final wickets and take home impressive figures of 3-3 from 11 balls. Special mention must go to all the fielders who made the offside an impenetrable ring, such as Alex, Sam, and Daryl (except that one that got through!). Credit also must go to new stand-in ‘keeper, David G. for the usual tidy service, a neat catch, and even standing so far back as to take some deliveries behind the stumps. New friendships were established with the square-leg umpire whose knowledge of the rules was clearly on a par with some of our appeals !

When Pat pouched a steepler for the final wicket (TV Umpire check complete, ‘steepler’ = at least 40m up, Ed.) Bury St.E. were done for 53 within 25 overs, and the gourmands amongst the Colne team, all 11 of them, were left wondering “is this a late lunch or an early tea?”

The Colne innings started briskly as always with the skipper finding the boundary, then David G. looking incredulous as he was given out lbw yet again. This gave the chairman the perfect opportunity to play the ‘Chris Tavare’ innings with 35 needed from 35 overs, and for a short while it looked like that might be the case, but then Daryl spoilt that equation further with some lavish hitting, before ‘walking’ almost before he’d nicked one down the leg side. In came Sam, and before you could say “Nar then!” he’d smitten a boundary and the game was up.

Victory by 8 wickets and the slightly guilty feeling of a first pint at 4pm, the post-match analysis and interviews done by 5pm, and moving onto weightier topics such as reminiscing about the good ‘ole days when we never used to scored 20 points, or when we were bowled out for 34 not so long ago, or how had David Mead planned to start work at 5pm, or where exactly is the line between positive team spirit in the field versus being over-exhuberant pains in the derriere….the list goes on.

As do our fixtures; next week back to West Suffolk (constituency of a naughty ex-Health Secretary) and a visit to the lovely ground at Elvedon. With this run of form and the Moon brothers making our batsmen redundant, you can almost write it all up in advance !

https://twocounties.play-cricket.com/website/results/4664200

Little Moon steps up

vs Stradbroke (home, 19th June ’21)

As the covers were rolled off after the heavy Friday showers, the Colne ground staff were a little perplexed to discover the source of the new River Colnette, right where the match was due to take place. Against all odds though, they managed to ‘vanish’ away the water away and breathe some life into the spongey underlay , thereby ensuring a pitch that would offer something for everyone…unless you were a batsman.

Having promised he would opt to bowl if he won the toss, given the wet outfield as well, skipper Sleeman naturally lost the toss and we would be batting first. How many of our batsmen could get their head down and not be tempted into wafty shots giving catches or playing across the line ? This would be the test of man against pitch !

Daryl and David G. started solidly enough against a surprisingly strong Stradbroke bowling attack that had depth beyond just the openers. It was soon evident that boundaries would be at a premium. and that Colne’s policy of having quite a few players who might euphemistically be said to be ‘carrying some extra baggage’ would be thoroughly tested. Having reached 26 and given some warning of the catching practice he likes to entertain opposition sides with, Daryl duly sacrificed his wicket with a catch in the same old place. This allowed Pat to come in, get his eye in for the first 25-odd balls, then complain about a dodgy contact lens – as nearly all of his 25 runs came from streaky edges, there must have been something in what he was moaning about. He hung around long enough to see David’s fine innings come to an end for 31 (or 33 as he prefers to call it), as well as see the departure of not-so-fine ones from Nick and Sam. With bowler-turned-batsman Ben entering the fray on the back of an excellent 50 last week, and soon partnered with Brommers, it was a relief to hear that scorer-turned-paramedic David Mead was on hand with the defibrillator should it be needed.

Fortunately it wasn’t needed, but when Brommers ran a three, it was good to know that all hands were available and that the recent purchase of a new First Aid Kit was a wise decision. When Brommers was run out by a direct hit (like David G. before him), it only remained for Connor to do his usual with the limited time left, ‘spank, spank, out’ (similes and metaphors are available, but this is for family-reading, Ed.), whilst Dave Moon was given one ball to make an impression on the final score which he did. 159-7 therefore, not a huge score but a good psychological advantage to have broken past 150 on a difficult wicket.

Colne took to the field with yet another new-ball combo; this time it would the left-arm terrorizer of former wicket-keepers, Tom Moon, together with brother Dave, tormentor of batsmen with his vicious, spitting leg-breaks. Cricket being the entertaining game it is though, ‘Hero’ Dave from a fortnight ago (he took 6-11,zzzzz, Ed.) would find the going ‘hard to tough’ today whilst younger brother Tom, from the top end, had both openers back in the pavilion and changed back into their civvies before Harry P. had remembered where long leg was. David G,, behind the stumps, was the willing accomplice for both those two wickets, the first one being an amusing juggling act, the second more regulation ‘snick and even the umpire heard it’ type.

Today though, two wasn’t enough for Tom; he wanted the full jug. So he was helped by further catches from Daryl – taking it cleanly in the unmentionables low down at mid off; Pat – calling for it in a most un-Colne manner, and even surprising himself for a caught & bowled. Five wickets achieved, even more remarkable given that he went through his full 11 overs straight for only 20 runs.

The oppo were in trouble at 36-5, but surely this would be where we let them off the hook and fail to take all 10 wickets ? It wasn’t to be though today; Harry came on and bowled an economical four overs, taking one wicket, another fine catch by Ben in the covers (he does moan if his catches aren’t mentioned!, Ed.), whilst Connor held up any progress with his spell of 2-42. There should have been more wickets in those figures, but today Connor was the beneficiary of some dodgy catching; no names, no pack drill, but regulation snaffles were put down by the same person who had taken a catch in the covers, by our point fielder who runs his own excellent window-cleaning business…and by the bowler himself. As each of these catches went down, it did give the rest of us the chance to see Connor adopt his new “bowler in foetal position”, as he vented his frustration.

With only one Stradbroke batsman (James Gilbee) offering any real resistance, the Chairman found new ways of frustrating the skipper and team-mates through his greater insights and knowledge: (1) revealing he knew the code to the all-weather pitch where the ball had been deposited only after one of his team-mates returned from the bar with the same info, & (2) requesting that all fielders retire to the leg-side boundary as that seemed to be the destination of every shot played by the above-mentioned batsman. After Ben had narrowly missed (again!) taking a great catch at mid-wicket, but instead succeed in parrying the ball over the line for six, suggestions that we put someone taller over there were flatly ignored.

But concerns of an excessively close finish were soon forgotten, as Daryl bowled the dangerous batsman, and elder Moon returned to pick up a wicket, smartly stumped by David G. (“I got six other stumpings today, but the umpire’s only just woken up!”) So victory by 43 runs and several reasons to be cheerful: back to the top of the table, at last we took all 10 wickets, we took seven catches, all the bowlers picked up wickets, we have a keeper who can keep (whilst we solve the mystery of the disappearing Woods), we have batting in depth, a scorer who can almost score…and every week, Connor is getting closer to taking a catch !

Next week, in his season of geographical oddities, we welcome our new nearest-rivals… Bury St Edmunds !

https://twocounties.play-cricket.com/website/results/4664196

Don’t blame yourself, Connor !

vs Sudbury (friendly @ home) 12th June ’21

Cricket month at the Rec continued last Saturday with a friendly fixture against our nearest Suffolk rivals, Sudbury. With their three league sides all in action & Colne scratching around to field a completely non-league side, this had the making of a one-sided affair.

With the star bowler from the previous week, Dave Moon, nursing a poorly finger from a dropped midweek catch but still able to just about turn his arm, we looked forward to the return of our star drinker bowler, Connor Oldrey – here was someone we could rely on taking the wickets ! Surely our one-off defeat against Halstead would be just that.

The skipper was tinkering with the batting order, sending players to where they should be based on recent form, David G. down to #3, and Pat to #11, whilst bringing Nick in to open alongside him, and promoting ‘Dasher’ Mason to #6 and Harry “1 not out will do for me” Porcher to #7. After hitting one six over the fence and against (not named for legal reasons), Daryl then decided it wouldn’t be fair to continue in the same manner and holed out to let some one else use his bat. David G. suffered the ignominy of a duck, whilst Connor set off in the usual rapid fashion but was then bowled for 14. At which point, he regaled anyone who would listen with how this was the worst thing that had even happened to him.

Now it was the turn of Colne’s emerging middle-order to hold the fort, and with Nick gone for 12, and matters looking precarious at 63-4, that’s exactly what Dave M. and Ben did. With one young-ish ultra-fit stylish batsman at one end and Dave at the other, their partnership of 53 calmed the nerves before Dave departed for a respectable 23. What happened next will be told years from now as Harry strode to the wicket in the uncharted territory (for him) of Colne 5 down. Five minutes later as his first boundary crossed the line and symbolically entered the bar to order a Bud, the crowd started buzzing. When the same shot was repeated next ball with the same results, grown men were pinching themselves whilst Connor hid behind a chair.

Harry was eventually out for a staggering 22 after a partnership of 64 with Ben, who himself would go on to make an excellent 56 – although that wouldn’t stop him moaning about the missed century opportunity he’d passed up ! Brommers entered the fray for the first time this season, having been fine-tuning his physique more recently through bowls (the sporting variety, not the kitchen ones) and soon showed us what we’ve been missing with a rapid-fire 30 – he was even more pleased with his crowd-pleasing scoring rate of 125.00 – no hanging around for Brommers !

With David Mead scoring a boundary, it was a day of firsts all round as Colne ended up on 254-9, a score that had to be enough ? Tom Moon opened the bowling and rapidly sent D. Shropshire’s timbers flying in a Suffolk direction – his eventual figures of 1-9 from 6 overs with 4 maidens showed us what else we’d been missing last week. There followed a lengthy partnership, which although stylish did not concern Colne too much as the skipper tinkered further with the bowlers, holding back the real go-to men – Mason B., Bromley P., & Kerry P. The unfortunate Dave Moon discovered that today’s banquet is tomorrow’s dog’s dinner – or maybe it was the watching Moon Sr. who had bribed him to avoid another jug purchase – and was seen off wicketless.

Harry also discovered the cruel side of the all-rounder business; his highest score since records began would not be matched by any wickets today, but he did distinguish himself with a remarkable catch. Nick was brought on to bowl and helped himself to his first ‘senior’ wickets, the skipper brought himself on for average-improving opportunities, and then there was Connor. Having led the encouragement and supporting cliches from the relatively safe position of gully, his unplayable spin (his words, not mine – Ed.) accounted for both long-established batsmen plus two more, giving final figures of 4-38 and a begrudging acknowledgement of ‘bowler of the day’ (again, his words, not mine – Ed.)

With limited comedy fielding moments on display this week apart from the obligatory moment of two fielders leaving a catch to each other, it was left to David “I’m more of a bowler than a batsman” Mead to justify that sobriquet having impressed in the nets – a challenge he took on valiantly, albeit unsuccessfully. But when batsman #11 came in with 1 ball to go and 100 to win, Colne could breathe a collective sigh of relief – back onto a new winning streak !

Cricket month continues next week with the re-start of the league programme; Colne have been knocked off top spot by Stowmarket’s slightly superior net run rate despite us having beaten them and having a better win/loss record, an anomaly explained by our reluctance to take more than 5 opposition wickets on average. Stradbroke are our opposition on the 19th and will be setting off at sparrow-fart to make the lengthy journey south. For those not aware, plans for the midsummer BBQ have been put on hold given the table restrictions we have to observe in a public place.

Loss takes the Gloss off the Moon Shine

vs Halstead (friendly, at home) 5th June ’21

So it came to pass; a loss finally after a winning streak stretching all the way back to 2020, it had to happen, but the manner of how it all unfolded left everyone contemplating what they might have done differently.

Our opposition was Halstead III’s, a mixture of former 1st team players, retired PE teachers, and young lads – some of whom had not been strong-armed into leaving Colne when they were barely out of short trousers for the bright lights of the Star Stile ground in Halstead. A local derby then, without the extra spice of it being a league fixture, but plenty of family and former school rivalries.

Colne were put into bat first on a pitch that was playing true but had taken a sufficient soaking the day before to give opening bowler Morgan Whymark a little extra pep, whilst at the other end the skipper found himself facing his uncle with his metronomic accuracy. David G.’s patience didn’t last long, while Daryl was unfortunate after scoring 28, to be given out lbw to that same uncle by the Halstead umpire – part 1 of how to beat Colne was going to plan !

Colin was joined at the wicket by Pat, and the two of them put on a 50-partnership, albeit at record slow pace. Excuses could be listed here, but they would be utter trite. Maybe it was Colin’s deodorant, but his partners started arriving and leaving quicker than an Amazon delivery driver; one by one, the Colne middle order displayed their fondness for the sound of leather on stumps as all of them were bowled without adding too much. Eventually, in strode a man on a mission, Dave Moon, with not many overs left to push the score up to a respectable level. Between him & Colin, they destroyed Alan Elsbury’s canny bowling, saw off the returning Whymark’s chin music, and added sufficient boundaries to end up with a score of 151-6, with Colin on an excellent 47* and Dave on 21*.

An apprehensive Colne took the field then for the Halstead innings, partly because of what they perceived as their own low total, partly because some of the Halstead batters had actually reached double figures in the past, and partly because our own umpire David Mead had only narrowly scraped through his teatime umpiring examination, losing points on ‘one short’ and ‘hits pad, raise finger’ questions. This was more than redeemed however by the sight of yet another aspirant taking the wicketkeeper gloves – David Griffith. From the way his gloves actually fitted to the the way he crouched down for each ball, things were looking good.

Harry opened from the White Sightscreen End and soon constricted the batsmen with a tight line, but was soon replaced by Ben “I’m only here for the fielding” Mason who rediscovered his Saturday yips. We all prayed that Dave Moon at the other end wouldn’t repeat the dross from his last outing. Suffice to say, HE DID NOT ! …..11 consecutive overs later, with oxygen on standby, and his dad reaching for the jug money, Dave could take a bow after bamboozling with practically every ball. His figures of 6-11 from 66 deliveries had to be some of the best seen at the Rec since former Colner Joe Smith used to open the bowling at both ends and come on first & third change.

So the game was in the bag at 45-7 with another 107 needed, and with Harry picking up the other wicket, tails were high. Fortunately this was a friendly and no points were on offer, for what happened for the remainder of the game was best forgotten. Sam came on and took two wickets, but somehow Colne contrived to let batsman David Rawlinson escape to a well-deserved century. With the 2nd top score of the Halstead innings standing at 8, David’s final score of 109* did rather stand out, but he would likely confess that some of Colne’s catching made it easier for him – two in particular that tested the legendary “all-in-this-together” team spirit: the one that bobbled out of (no names here) hands at point, and the one where substitute fielder (no names here) took a few paces forward to pouch a catch in the deep…then a few paces back to let it bounce first. But hey-ho, that’s what practice is for, so we can only get better, and credit to Ben for taking two catches well.

A loss by 1 wicket to our close neighbours, and a match where the scorecard made it appear like a contest between our bowler and their batsman, although 20 others (and a 12th man) all played a part to some extent. To those in our team that didn’t get a chance to bat or bowl, we thank you and you emerged with credit ! Thanks as well to Rosemary Prestney for taking some great photos of the event, which will soon find a way onto this site, and also to Daryl & Alex for fixing the mobile net 24 hours later – net practice just won’t be the same when your cover drive no longer actually reaches the boundary !

Pit of Wolves – for the bowlers

vs Woolpit (away) 29th May ’21

As the first stragglers turned up at the oppo ground, and pondered the etymological derivation of Woolpit, it turns out we were wrong ! ‘Pit of Wolves’ from the 10th century, would you believe it ?

Meanwhile, back in the real world those same early arrivers wondered at how a village of 2,000 people had ended up with two bowling green-like pitches, five fixed nets, two movable ones, multiple Adult, Women’s, & Junior teams, and a pavilion that, er, didn’t quite match the splendour of the surroundings. (get on with it, you’re not Kevin McCloud ! – Ed)

Onto the match itself, and Colne were looking for a 4th consecutive league victory that would put them back on top of the table. The skipper won the toss again and chose wisely to bat, given the late arrival of three players. With new player David Mead set up with the online scoring app and Pat taking the place of late arrival David as an opener, everyone settled down for a carefree snooze or to play the game of “what avoid options did Harry put in his satnav today?” Ipswich, Bury, places ending in “-ham”, roads, etc.

Soon enough though troubles arose as Pat having reached a chanceless 4*, missed a straight one, and David M’s problems trebled. Daryl & David G. embarked on a lengthy partnership that would ultimately be match-winning, whilst our plucky scorer was having trouble telling them apart…or was the iPad playing games of it’s own ? We may never know, but when David G. was finally stumped having scored an excellent 56 (4 of which he had to run between the wickets for), the skipper at the other end was starting to motor through the gears, calming the Chairman’s constant run-rate concerns by hitting many consecutive boundaries. He was joined by Sam, promoted up the order and under strict instruction to play positively on the front foot, instructions that were not needed as he smote several leg-side over-pitched balls off his legs with consummate ease. His six that disappeared over the trees in this manner will be long remembered.

Daryl’s century came with the usual yawns from the under-appreciative Colne spectators – “we’ve waited five matches for this, I want my money back!”, followed by a further flurry of boundaries before offering up a catch to depart for a superb 120. With Jack joining Sam, five overs to go, and plenty of heavy-hitters to come, it was time for the fireworks ! Sure enough, these two pushed the scoring rate on well, so that when Connor came in with two balls to go, the bowlers were under such pressure that four wides and four byes later, our VC was wondering what he’d have to do to get a ball he could hit. A final score of 271-4, including a generous helping of 40 extras meant that Colne could tuck into their Ready Salted / mini Chicken Kev’s / Pasta Surprise well satisfied that they were well on their way.

Nothing is straightforward with Colne though, and just as we hoped we would knock the oppo over as easily as we had batted, have a drink, then be back on the road in good time for the start of the footie to see one team in blue beat the other team in blue, it all went a little pear-shaped. Our bowling attack, considerably strengthened over the past year, suffered an attack of the collective yips. Only Connor was able to escape the curse of the wides, but even he couldn’t get a wicket, but by only giving away 24 runs from his allotted 11 overs it did at least put the scoring pressure on the home side. Harry was the next pick of the bowlers with 1-33 from 7 overs, whilst Jack’s banana deliveries paid off, twice hitting the stumps. Alex discovered that Friday-evening-in-the-nets form couldn’t be replicated directly but picked up the only other wicket to fall, Ben had troubles with his line, Tom & Daryl went for a few, whilst David G. & Pat (as the only players old enough to remember) were startled to see that former Aussie skipper Kim Hughes had made a quiet comeback in the lower leagues of Suffolk, scoring 62* as Woolpit picked up a lot of cheap batting points in an ultimately fruitless chase. Some good fielding by David M. was rather spoilt by some not-so-good by various others, including one catch that Sam will have replayed all night.

So victory by 42 runs, and a lot of cliched lessons learned / discussed: “winners keep winning”, “25 wides is 25 too many”, “the records state 3 byes only, how can you sack the ‘keeper !”, “HOW much for a small bottle of beer?”, “maybe a trial run with the online scoring system would have worked better”…. etc etc

Next week back home to the Himalayan undulations of Earls Colne compared to the finest fescue bowling green of Woolpit, and a local derby with Halstead. This will be the match that would have been a league game, had our oppo not pulled out of the league …..when they saw we were in it. As a footnote, Colne fans will be disappointed that this season will not see the unveiling of the much-anticipated 30x15m electronic scoreboard, planned for blotting out the view of the shed, not as thought initially through a lack of welders, but through an abundance of mice feasting on the vital innards. Other plans are afoot…..

The umpire strikes back

Vs Stowupland (home) 22nd May ‘21

The day had finally arrived; league cricket was returning to Fortress Rec Club after almost two years.  The sightscreens were gingerly pushed back into place, the advertising boards were plonked into position willy-nilly, and even the changing rooms had been freshly ralgexed for a socially-distanced return.

With yet more new opposition in the form of Stowupland, at least this time there was no setting the satnav to somewhere 60 minutes north.  This time though, we’d have to get all those nasty jobs done in advance that make a cricket club tick, so although some players took the easy option of a late arrival or wearing their best clothes so as to avoid any manual efforts, all was ready to go on time.  Special mention must go to new member David Mead who not only helped out with all the ground tasks when he wasn’t even in the playing XI, but also stuck around to do the scoring all afternoon.

Meanwhile, Daryl won the toss yet again and given the recent weather conditions and wet outfield chose to bowl first. Initially, it looked like a good call as the opening batsmen struggled to put the ball away, but were helped by a number of wides and pies tossed up by our openers.  In this new era of #MeToo, we won’t name the offenders, but their surnames rhyme with Jason & Boon. When one of the batters decided however to turn a two into a one, opportunity knocked and Connor ruthlessly threw down the stumps from 18 inches away with the unfortunate batsman well short.  This brought together the Blanchard father and son combo, whereupon Colne in generous fashion gave them every opportunity to stick around for longer than should have been allowed.  Having focused at the previous Wednesday’s training session on our fielding and catching practice, the litany of dropped catches suggested our time might have been better spent in the bar; drops came thick and fast from some of the young gun fielders  – Sleeman & Richardson – as well as from the old peashooter ones, Holdgate sr. & Kerry.  With the younger Blanchard going on to make 65* and two other batsmen making >35, Colne would eventually be frustrated at only taking four wickets in total, with the other three coming from the one catch taken by Ben off Harry’s bowling and two straight bowled by Connor.  A notable highlight was that wides were the only extras. (who was that keeper, I hear you asking, Mr Doyle …?)  

So a target of 170 to win couldn’t be beyond the new power-batting outfit we’ve put together, could it ?  With the oppo providing one bowler who couldn’t stop bowling long hops, David was soon eyeing up which particular target beyond the shed was a realistic range-finder, and an escalating run rate sent batsmen #3-11 into peaceful slumber. They were rudely awoken though when the same bowler started to bowl waist-high no balls; on calling a 3rd one in conjunction with his fellow umpire’s signal, Tom then had to politely ask the opposition team captain to mind his P’s & Q’s and kindly not direct them in his direction when he made the ‘no ball’ call….or something like that.

Having hit a rapid-fire 36 from just 23 balls, David swivelled in front of his stumps one time too many, failed to connect and was rightly given out lbw by ‘Honest Ben’. Daryl too, was soon on his way caught between leaving and playing at one that ricocheted onto his stumps.  This bought together the more peaceful partnership of Pat & Colin, safe in the knowledge that they could move along at a far more sedate pace given the fireworks of the opening 10 overs.  Pat was soon bowled by one that should have been despatched to the tennis courts, bringing the Holdgate’s together to play their much loved game of ‘rock back – take a swipe – miss – repeat’.  But to give them credit, they also put away plenty of bad balls, so that by the time Jack had added 19 and Colin was out for 17, only a further 7 was required with time still on our side.  In between, Connor had also entertained with his own brand of ‘Tile Replacement’ batting that had unaware spectators cowering under the shelling, adding 24 in rapid time.

As ever with Colne, where there is hope there is fear.  When Nick also departed with the score on 163 having added 9, the Moon brothers came together to ensure those fears were put to bed.  Tom saw out an over carefully to save Ben & Harry putting their pads on, leaving Dave to summon all his strength to hit the promising young off-spinner for an enormous match-winning six…..at least it would have been had it not landed four inches inside the boundary line.

Another win, but knocked off the top spot this week by another club playing their first match and so having a simple average that’s better than ours, but surely we’ll reclaim that position next week over at Woolpit ?  We can only hope that these dropped catches and bowling points don’t hurt us later in the season !

How close do you like it ?

vs Stowmarket (away) 15th May ‘21

Three weeks of no match cricket, and the Colne were more than chomping at the bit; they were caged tigers not fed for a week, greyhounds waiting for the trap to open, punters outside a pub after lockdown.  Even the sight of many puddles on the road and ominous black clouds couldn’t put a damper on this bunch of intrepid explorers as they made their various ways up to Stowmarket in 11 separate cars.

The decision was taken to wait until 13.30 before starting, so sure enough, as the covers were rolled off at the start time, the drizzle started in earnest delaying us for a further 20 minutes. As the seven of us not batting or umpiring huddled together in the scorehut in a new “2cm social distancing” rule, we did our best to avoid Harry who had covered himself in Suffolk mud through his avid fielding practice.

Meanwhile, out where the real action was taking place, Daryl & David were dealing with a damp pitch and opening bowlers with a little more pace than normally seen in Div 9.  But the quicker it comes down, the quicker it flies to the boundary, so our experienced openers soon found their range.  Unfortunately, David “let his ego get the better of him”- whatever that means – and saw his stumps rearranged for 11.  Soon after, Daryl’s casual flick to the leg side was easily pouched, and Colne were facing a big challenge – two gun batsmen gone without a big score.  The form book pointed to an imminent collapse and when Jack was dismissed bizarrely, bowled through the gate and the bail dislodged with barely a sound, the watching crowds thought they were in with a chance of catching the whole FA Cup Final.

But this is the new Colne, and where there used to be a backbone limper than a wet egg sandwich, now we stand strong !  With Tom Moon dashing for every single going, Connor doing his “stand & deliver” batting, Ben turning 1’s into 3’s, and Pat purring along, there was hope.  The only downside for nearly all our batsmen was the large number who were bowled; Pat having made a 50, was out next ball to a new bowler as per normal; Connor improved the scoring rate no end with his rapid 46; Sam got in and then out, surprised by the bowler releasing the ball just as he looked up; Woodsy played on 1st ball.  Then it was all down to Harry, facing the hat-trick ball in the last over….but not only did he fend that off, but also scored his first run since in 436 matches and then had to be talked out of short-term retirement with a season’s average of infinity.

So a total of 180-9 (with only 7 of us clean bowled!) from the reduced number of 35 overs and plenty to be confident about.  If we could put a lid on the oppo’s early scoring, this was in the bag. We would be without Demon Dave, deliverer of devious dibbly-dobblies, but no matter, we still had plenty of bowling.  What could possibly go wrong ?  Even Connor had promised to cease sending keepers diving down the leg side by bowling spin only.

After a rapid tea, we took to the field with Pat having convinced the skipper that with the size of the outfield, our usual keeper should be out there roaming those plains so that Pat could himself try out his new gloves. After fielding one hard drive with his knee, Woodsy was soon cursing that decision. Our first three bowlers (Ben, Harry, & Sam) had a few problems finding the strip let alone the batsmen at the far end, but any width or short balls that were offered up were rapidly dispatched.  We’d have to find a smarter way to get these chaps out…

David Griffith recently graduated from the school of Norf London cricket, where subtle sledging is an art form, no comment considered too OTT, and direct comments to batsmen about their ability, eyesight, parentage, eating habits all acceptable.  As the Chairman endeavoured to help David make the difficult transition from Middlesex all-out insults to Suffolk farming-related banter, the latter hit upon calling one of the opening batsmen “Captain Block” (neither offensive nor too personal, you’ll agree) which had an immediate effect of that batsmen returning a drive straight back into Ben’s hands.  Pat soon learned to leave the art form to the experts as he tried out the indirect approach, “this kid hasn’t got a cover drive” producing one of the shots of the match…through the covers.

Unfortunately, Colne were soon wishing Captain Block could return as the 2nd wicket partnership developed.  However, Connor’s new accurate form of bowling finally brought it’s reward as he bowled the dangerous Richard Baxter for 54.  The skipper took the courageous decision to bring himself on and we all thought “game over with Connor at the other end, the run rate will dry up”.  However, having bought his B-game to his batting, Daryl bought his C-game to his bowling, but being the canny operator he is, mixed up random full tosses with balls that were hit skywards, Ben (twice) and Jack being the fielders to cash in.  This made up for our fielding display early in the innings when balls driven hard in the air somehow found a way through!

Although wickets were falling regularly (although Jack still finds new ways of beating the batsmen ends-up as well as the stumps), the required run rate still wasn’t looking too tricky and it all came down to the last over with seven runs required and two wickets in hand, with the ever-energetic Ben switching ends to take responsibility.  When the second ball was sent to the boundary by the established batsman, it wasn’t looking good.  When it came down to the last ball with one run required for the tie and two for the victory, you could hear a pin drop amongst both spectators.  Ben pinged it down in just the right spot for the batsmen to swipe and miss, then stand his ground whilst his batting partner was run out. Victory by one run !

A great, confidence-boosting win therefore that sends us, albeit early in the season, to the top of the table, and a great example of what can happen when we all pull together, get through early setbacks in both innings and encourage each other. Next week is our 1st home match against Stowupland, followed by a Sunday T20 against the formidable Halstead Templars Rugby Club (will we see Paul Bromley emerge for this one, and on whose side?).  With the pitch having been lovingly nurtured since early-March, paving slabs found for the Prestney Stand, bar now open full-time, electronic scoreboard almost ready, it should be a cracking weekend !

https://twocounties.play-cricket.com/website/results/4664176

Jug Avoidance Alert

Vs Mildenhall 24th April ’21

So finally we had a league fixture to get stuck into; no retiring at 50, no giving the Chairman a chance to bowl his dross, and limited friendly banter with the opposition. That oppo would be Mildenhall, a new direction for us and definitely a new distance – leaving home shortly after waking up was something we’d only have to do once we reach the East Anglia Premier League in 2030 !

Talking of the EAPL, what a treat lay in store for the Mildenhall vs Horsfield match that was already underway on the next door pitch when we arrived: those lucky players would get to see the mighty undefeated Colne no doubt steamroller their 5th XI. From counting the number of times our ball transgressed onto their pitch versus theirs onto ours, Colne are now considering a ‘Rapid Bypass Application’ straight to the top.

Having won the toss with his trick coin yet again, Daryl set out to bat with Pat against a steady calypso beat of Jack knocking his bat in, which everyone agreed made for a pleasant backing track to the early afternoon proceedings. The Moon brothers chose instead to distance themselves in a crash course of umpiring, whilst Moon Sr. (who just happened to be passing by, not there in any capacity as a spectator of course) started a course of sadism, emerging from the early-open bar with a pint.

With both opening bowlers barely out of short trousers, but with a canny accuracy, the Colne openers had to be patient for that elusive ‘bad ball’. Having despatched a few of them, Pat decided to leave a ‘good ball’ and was bowled through the gate. This did then provide him the chance to pursue the new 2021 prizes of ‘Most Annoying Spectator’ then followed by ‘Umpire who shouldn’t really be a Coach’….both awards for which he’s currently on a shortlist of 1.

Pat’s departure at least meant the arrival of a real batsman – Colin H., who soon found the boundary with regularity. Daryl was going though his gears as well, seeking out the short boundary to one side with his cultured thrashing of any ball within his ever-increasing arc of clobberdom.

Colin was bowled when well set on 22, by yet another youngster who wasn’t around when Spurs last won anything, allowing pad & bat-thwacker Jack to come in, play sensibly to some accurate bowling but then give a simple return catch to the bowler. It had all looked so good in the nets!

Our league debutants then proceeded in: Nick came and stayed for a good few yet again, Tom Moon played the way only he and the unfortunate bowlers know, whilst Sam had somewhere else to be. The elder Moon was his usual busy self, until he was bowled by a 9-year old, and at the risk of sounding sexist…the bowler was not a boy. Daryl eventually departed for a jug-avoidance 97, giving a soft catch to mid-off, although he admitted he thought he was a lbw goner much earlier in his innings. Don’t tell our future opposition this, but all you need is a bowler and 10 players stationed around that mid-off area – you’ll get him sooner rather than later.

With just an over or so left to get much further north of 200, it was left to Connor and Trevor. The former brought his net form for once and hit some tasty boundaries, including getting off the mark with a six, whilst the latter wrote himself into Colne legend by achieving that most elusive of scores – a 3 ! Trevor was highly satisfied having rushed through for a risky 2 and had started removing his pads and unwrapping the Ginsters when a panicked call from his partner (in a batting sense only) asked him to return for a 3rd due to an overthrow.

With Trevor’s stretcher bearers taking a well-earned rest, Colne could be satisfied with 227-8 and our key bowler, Harry P., not even asked to exert himself in search of that first elusive run in 2 years.

Harry was to play a key role though, and his form with the ball is clearly linked to excess driving around the North Essex and Suffolk countryside. Last week, it was down to taking migraine-affected Woodsy home mid-match; this week, his choice of satnav options including ‘avoid Sudbury’ taking him via Ipswich meant he was late and fired up. No longer entrusted with the new ball, he is on the money from the off as 1st change and his miserly figures were the pick of Colne’s attack.

The Mildenhall openers displayed characteristics that most of the Colne team can barely remember: youth and patience. Whilst their shot selection and execution was admirable, it did provide us with a dilemma of ‘they stay in, we definitely win, but we get bored’. At the midway point with barely 55 on the board, the match had clearly become less of a result chase, so much as could the oppo pick up batting points whilst we chased the bowling points that come with a victory?

The skipper decided shortly after the break we’d had enough faffing around, so ended the U-14s partnership with a direct hit run-out from 20 yards or so, the big bully ! Not to be outdone in the intimidation stakes, Jack was trying all types of delivery in his search for a wicket; after two beamers (the 2nd of which even produced an apology…. of sorts), he found the perfect delivery – a long hop which was dutifully sent straight to a fielder.

Connor was also searching for that elusive 1st wicket of the season and learned that sure enough, pace to a youngster is water off a duck’s back whereas a full toss from his other variety of dobblies brought results. With Dave ‘not-to-be-associated-with-Pies’ Moon picking up another wicket to stay top of the charts, Colne had to be satisfied with just 2 bowling points from taking 4 wickets as Mildenhall struck some late boundaries for their own consolation points.

So, victory by 61 runs and an immediate entry to 2nd in the table – we’re in the promotion zone already ! Next weekend, no game, so a chance for a breather before every weekend until September is consumed.

https://earlscolnecc.play-cricket.com/website/results/4664160

Marathon season gets underway !

vs Hockerill away 17th April ‘21

After the long winter wait, finally the first game of the season and off to the leafy ‘burbs of Bishops Stortford for a friendly with Hockerill and a chance for plane-spotters to count the Ryanair jets coming in overhead.

Having summoned the team for arrival a good 45 minutes before the start (always a great sporting psychological ploy over the oppo!) skipper Sleeman confounded usual form and won the toss, choosing to bat. With two debutants in Tom Moon and Rob Scott, and a well-balanced side with depth in batting and bowling strength, but shallowness aplenty in the wicket-keeping domain, we had little to fear.

Daryl and opening partner Pat set about the bowling attack with relish, soon finding the boundary regularly and also frustratingly, the spots where the ball could be lost for a long, drawn-out search, viz the bowling green next door, the brambles, the field over the hedge, etc. Just before the drinks break, Daryl retired with his 50 reached, and one ball after it, Pat did the same with the score on 121.

Now it was down to the middle order to keep the pace going as the opposition gamely rotated the bowling attack.  Jack came and went for a few, Rob likewise, Nick came and stayed quite a while, Connor probably should have saved himself the walk to the middle, Tom  attacked from the off, as did Ben, whilst Dave and Woodsy wrapped up the innings with a lot of singles. Walking off the pitch at 14.55 with ECB instructions not to play between 3-4pm (due to the Royal funeral, if you’re reading this way in the future) with two overs of the quota left and all the spectators shouting “get back and finish it off!”, the teams agreed that a 38-over innings each was a novelty we’d live with, so we closed on 197-6.   Special mentions to Ben for a scoring rate over 250%, and Nick for scoring the only 2 in the entire innings – some work on backing up and ‘running the first one quick’ probably needed for all !

But just as the Royal family were mourning their loss, so came ours during the longer enforced tea break.  Woodsy the wicketkeeper developed one of his severe migraine attacks and we were forced to re-shuffle the pack.  Having just been denied the opportunity to extend his remarkable run of zero not outs, Earl Grey guzzler Harry stepped in to drive Woodsy home with promises that he’d return (note to skipper – shall we send Harry for a 1-hour drive before bowling every week if it has the results we saw ?) Up stepped former ‘keeper Pat with only minor complaints about the state of the gloves, whilst two ‘willing’ oppo players were coerced into fielding for us.

The Colne opening bowlers took a little while to sort out their radar, with Connor sending the stand-in keeper (did I mention he was ‘stand-in’?- Ed) scuttling down the leg side, and Dave offering up some lovely pies, before both settled down to containing the batsmen and snaffling an early wicket each, with Dave determined not to be outdone by his swashbuckling younger brother so taking a further two.  Ben & Jack were both unlucky not to be rewarded, with the latter’s swing foxing the stand-in keeper ever further.  Tom came on and delivered more left-arm pace with ever-increasing menace, before Harry, fresh from a sedate drive to and fro along the A120, came back and picked up three wickets.

With overs running out, it was clear Hockerill were not chasing a win, but defeat with honours as their own pitch became a minefield of uneven bounce.  Sensing some cheap wickets, Daryl brought himself on and whilst his economy was remarkable (1-1 from 3 overs) the ‘keeper was just grateful for his accuracy.  As the clock edged closer to 6.30pm victory was secured for the men in white & green by 66 runs, everyone contributed, and a great occasion to get the team spirit out of the bag again.  Next week, onto Mildenhall as the first of our many forays into deepest Suffolk, and our first league action in almost 20 months !