Aston Home

We’ve not had much luck playing Aston of late – it’s a fixture that’s recently been called off by bad weather or by one or other team being unable to raise a side.  Not so this time: although the weather was what you might expect for mid-September, each team brought a full side, a non-playing umpire and a dedicated scorer – Strollers even had a 12th man!

Simeon Green captained the strollers and decided to field first. Whether this was in the hope that the dew might eventually lift from the lush outfield or that there might be some cake leftover from tea we don’t know. Either way, the Strollers took the field and Sim opened the bowling with Colin Atkins. Our leading wicket taker is clearly enjoying his return from a few years in retirement – Colin bowled seven overs straight, in which he took 3 wickets for 10 runs, with 3 maidens, including the remarkable achievement of his 450th wicket playing for the Strollers. 

The previous evening’s rain and the heavy sky meant that the grass was going to do most of the fielding.  There wasn’t a great deal of bounce off the pitch and anything hit along the ground was followed by a rooster-tail of spray before pulling up short.  Clearly the aerial route was the only way to the boundary – and when that means taking on Jerome Green, some might fancy their chances.  Not today though – Jerome took two outstanding catches (both from Colin’s bowling) that set the tone for a Strollers fielding display of rare quality.  Richard Crockford made a brilliant diving take at square leg off Matt Inman’s leg spin – Matt had another clean bowled and made a trademark run-out as well. Sim’s bowling also brought two wickets – a plumb LBW and a brutal uprooting of off stump that saw off Aston’s 2 and 3 in his four overs. Steve Look, bowling for the first time this year, was very accurate and unlucky to get only one wicket in his 6 overs, although for just 12 runs.  Dan Williamson is clearly focused on end-of season statistics – he didn’t concede a run in his 1.1 overs, but bagged the final wicket of the innings as John Inman collected a regulation catch. 

As expected, runs had proved hard to come by for Aston. By the time they were all out in the 26th over a precious 64 runs were on the board, with only three players reaching double figures. 

And so to tea.  Running out of carrot batons to dip in the humus may be another Strollers first, but fortunately replenishments were available. Aside from that minor emergency, Kate Heath’s tea was exceeding well received, particularly the orange sponge cake. Two large trays of sandwiches were reduced to two-half rounds and some lettuce by the end of the match, and the flans didn’t see the end of tea. Thanks also to Matt and Dan for making sure the washing up was done before they padded up.

With such a modest total to chase, John made it known that the pub was only open for another 40mins. Fortunately, Strollers’ resolute openers Ian Bandy and Amargit Singh ignored this and decided to make a game of it by channelling their inner Geoffrey in an attempt to make the run rate something worthy of their talents. It was only in the fourth over that any runs made it onto the board, a courtesy of a bye and a wide. Ian cracked first and swiped a couple of fours in the sixth over, before falling to a sharp caught-and-bowled.  Ammo held on at the other end through brief and contained innings from Richard Crockford (1) and Steve Hawker (less than that) with the aim of seeing off the opening bowlers before cutting loose.  He fell just short of that, amassing 3 from 37 balls faced. By this stage, at the end of the 14th over, the pub was shut and Strollers were on 16 for 4, looking at a run rate now approaching 2.5 an over. However, Matt and Steve Look were now established at the crease and ready to move things along. Matt would have had three successive boundaries, had the third not been brought down by a brilliant one-handed overhead stop. It’s hardly fair to call it a dropped chance, but had it stuck it would have been the catch of the season.  Steve minimised singles on his way to 16, before being run out to an outstanding throw from Aston’s captain, who was also the responsible for Dan Williamson’s demise as he held onto a catch from the second ball Dan faced.  This brought out Paul Wastell, who was to support Matt for another 8 overs while the pair carefully whittled away the remaining 26 runs. Paul took three singles, but Matt accounted for the rest, patiently waiting for the hittable ball and scoring four 4’s and a 6 on his way to 32no – almost half the Strollers’ total.

Now forced to make our own arrangements, both teams retired to our alternative refreshment location of Wallington Village Hall, where Kate was again on hand with the keys to the beer cupboard. We agreed that conditions meant that the scores were about half those we might usually expect, but nonetheless we had managed a thoroughly enjoyable game played exactly in the spirit of village cricket. Thanks to Dave Green for the pitch and for umpiring (with help from John and Steve Hawker), and of course to Kate for the tea.

Hopefully the Fates will look kinder on this fixture in the future, as it’s good fun when it comes off!