So that’s it then. The Broken Wicket’s been and gone and with it the season.
An odd season it’s been too. I suppose it was more than anything the weather that did it, that made the season feel so incoherent somehow, so foul and fair, so long and short-seeming, successful and less so, satisfying and oddly un.
What’s here then are a few reflections on the season just gone. These are strictly personal and are based almost exclusively on the games in which I played. If I have missed mentioning your particular fifty, your four-for or your stunning catch, I apologise. But like de Lotbiniere’s 47 at Montenotte Road last year, can we just try not to go on and on about it, OK?
As much as any other single thing, this was the season of identity crisis as we considered the pros and cons of a merger with the Archway Graces. We thought about it, discussed it, debated it. We experimented with playing with them, them playing with us, but so far did nothing definite. It’s been like that moment two-thirds of the way through a school dance with the local girls’ school: mingling is certainly happening but so far no-one’s sloped off to the squash courts to shag.
Otherwise, the episodic way the season unfolded makes it hard to get an exact bead on how we played as a team compared to last season. Perhaps this will come clearer as I write this.
My basic sense is that we were better, that we built on the improvements of last year and that we’d been making over the winter in the nets, that we recruited some talented new players and that several of our standing players made significant strides in their own game.
I think we played with more intent perhaps. But no less grace.
And the season certainly produced a good number of significant firsts and champagne moments. More on these later.
I have this theory that when it comes to culture - and by culture I mean anything you don’t actually have to do – if you don’t remember it beyond a day or two, it can’t have been all that good. By this yardstick, incidentally, it is amazing to notice how many culturally insignificant meals one has eaten in restaurants, and how many movies, plays and books have disappeared likewise without trace down the memory-hole.
So what of this season has stuck in the mind? And I will be stringent here: I will consult neither the scorebook nor the reports. This, initially, will be right off the top of my head.
Well, I remember, Will Hoyle (WiHo) striking a very good but chancy, often dropped, 77 early on. And that we ended up losing that game. And it was as hot as a bastard. And there was, I remember, as I walked over to the ground that day, a very beautiful red-haired girl sunbathing in the field next to the ground.
I remember George Oborne’s bowling. How he intimidated opening bats. And reliably took wickets. And how, since nets, he has ratcheted down the raw aggression and ratcheted up his line and length. One of our best bowlers this season, probably the best.
I remember one of George’s mates, Will Clerk, scoring a very nice 50 at Montenotte Road. And James Oborne playing for us that night, and ADL as well, two rare summer visitors. And we won that game too. And John McMullan got sent off and went home and wrote Mein Kampf.
Andrew Lang’s bowling was as good as ever, rarely as rewarded in wickets as you always thought he might be. And I also remember his excellent 80 + against the Cowboys. That was the game we made more than 300 in 35 overs and then rolled them over for a small portion of that. Gorgeous.
My fifty against Cowboys I remember as well, including a rare and, I might say, rather lovely straight six the ball before being caught behind.
Richard Minton, I remember, playing a couple of games early on and batting with increasing power and aplomb before going back to hockey (for some reason).
I remember all those rained-off games of course. How it seemed, at one stage, like the season might never really get going. And how stodgy the wickets were, the ball never really coming on to the bat, and how slow they remained until the last few games.
Tim Yates came back from Africa a better batsman.
Tim Owen bowled tidily late on.
Parvez was patient at the crease and reliable in the field.
I remember some mighty hitting by borrowed Archway Graces batsmen to give us the total we needed to see off The Beamers. That was early season too, down at North Middlesex. That was the game I gave Chirag out for a first ball LBW. Perhaps there was enough doubt not to give it. But I had to give it.
I remember some great batting by Nathan Ward. A powerful 40 and then a skilfully hit and largely chanceless ton, the first in our history and all done with a most un-Australian self-effacement and grace.
I remember Adam Coffman gaining – or regaining – his batting mojo. And his brisk, sweetly struck first fifty at Ally Pally.
I was absent from but heard many good things about the victory against UCS Old Boys, at Ranulph Road, I think. I hear it was a proper team victory too. Andrew Lang got wickets I hear. And Kit Brown was in the runs and the wickets too.
I remember losing one game at Ally Pally against a bunch of children, fat people and old men and it all being slightly depressing, mystifying even, like one of those dreams where you can’t move your legs, the way they contrived, without particular skill (or charm), to hoik their way past our total. Awful. That was the game with the pushy dad, tastelessly competitive and micro-managerial about absolutely everything. His poor son will be in therapy for years.
I remember quite a few Dave Goodman moments. I’ll mention some of these later. But Dave was our star recruit, keeping wicket, bowling, scoring runs, taking catches, performing impossible run-outs, often all at the same time. His other team will be sorry to lose him.
I remember Kit Brown’s first ever six in one of our tournament games at London Fields. Beautiful shot, went like a rocket, high into the trees. Almost killed a hipster on its way back down to earth.
I remember a handful of John McMullan moments, his wickets at Montenotte Road, an opener’s innings late in the season at Ally Pally, and his appointment, following Rumplestiltskin’s retirement, as UN good-will ambassador.
I remember another of George Oborne’s mates, Jack Boone, hitting an insouciant 89 at Ally Pally. Great innings that, the bedrock of another big win.
I remember James Laddie not playing for us as much as anyone would have liked and, as a result, never quite getting his batting mojo back.
Likewise Ben Bishop, conspicuous by his absence. Likewise Ian Burge. Other absent friends … Srikant, ADL (but for that one game), Andy Tongue, Jim Bonner, James Oborne (but for one game), various others…
There were a couple of pearling moments in the field, a few catches in particular I remember. Dave Goodman’s left-handed take falling away fast at second slip off George’s bowling. Also Mannish’s well-taken low-down chance at something like extra cover to wrap things up in one of the late games at Ally Pally. That was off Kit’s bowling I think. And Andrew Lang’s running catch out on the midwicket boundary. Off my bowling that one was: Lang took it like a rugby winger, made it look easy.
Generally I remember our fielding as being pretty good, certainly compared to last year.
Two particular run-outs I remember, the Goodman through-the-legs number off his own bowling and Goodman again hitting the stumps from deep-ish at the Broken Wicket. Can’t teach fielding like that.
So anyway, that’s what I remember. Here, strictly subjectively, are the prizes:
· Innings of the Year: Nathan Ward’s 101 retired at All Pally against The Cowboys. A great knock and The Ladder’s first century.
· Innings of the Year – Special Mention: Andrew Lang’s 87 in the same game.
· Innings of the Year – Special Mention 2: Jack Boone’s 89.
· Bowler of the Year: George Oborne, fast, hostile and increasingly accurate.
· Bowler of the Year – Special Mention: Faisal in the game against Highgate Taverners: 3 overs, 1 maiden, 1 for 2. That’s 1 for 2. Probably won us the game, that spell.
· ‘First’ of the Year: Adam Coffman’s tidy, stylish first fifty against Highgate Irregulars. A first fifty is a truly special thing and this was a particularly good one. 59 not out it was too.
· All-rounder of the Year / Recruit of the Year: Dave Goodman. The perpetrator of several – if not most - of the season’s champagne moments.
· Catch of the Year: Dave Goodman at second slip off George’s bowling. To almost anyone else this wouldn’t even have looked like a chance. A top top catch, at any level.
· Most Improved Batsman of the Year: I say Coffman. He says me. We’ll share it.
It’s a slightly odd thing then, the feeling that now we’ve got the season out of the way, we can get back to the serious business of nets at Lords, but that is slightly how I feel, I must admit. You’ve got to love the nets though: the ball comes on to the bat, everything you hit is a boundary and you never get caught. I can’t wait. The Pledge resumes here!
Watch this space for further Training Directives.