The BarLife Cricket Club brings together some of the finest athletes in the UK bar industry every couple of weeks to play in a league called Last Man Stands.
Last season we battled hard, we regained fitness, we remembered which way round to hold a bat, we sent Ciaran McNicholas to hospital and we successfully lost every single game. We were however voted ‘The Team That Most Enjoyed Ourselves’ due in no small measure, I’m sure, to the fact we were sponsored by El Dorado Rum and got a bottle to drink per game.
This year we were back, this year we were going to get revenge, this season would be our season, this season would bring our first victory followed by many more and most importantly this season El Dorado would be our sponsors again.
The season started without the team’s inspirational and supremely talented captain (that’ll be me) so Tim Homewood took on the captaining duties. MCEC batted first and I think it is fair to say our bowlers were a little rusty. Despite a good start with a couple of early wickets they managed to put on 197 in 20 overs (the highest score ever against us) with us giving them at least 60 in extras.
Not to be downhearted however and with plenty of El Dorado 15yo to inspire them, our batsmen set about the task with great aplomb. The captain threw away his wicket early to allow the others a chance to bat and two new boys showed their skills with James William Donald Hopkins showing he has more than just a cricketing name hitting 47 not out and Luke McFadyen leading from the front with an impressive 41. With Paul ‘Will’ William Cassin supporting with 30.
It may have been a loss but it was our second highest score ever (155) and bode well for the rest of the season.
No this is where the season started to go wrong. We were buoyed by the previous games batting performance and with a couple of last season’s key players back we were confident.
In fact the day had started well, we had a bottle of El Dorado 12yo and won the toss. With batting in the gloom a worry we decided to take the bull by the horns and bat first. In the first over we lost 2 wickets with Will and Ed McAvoy both out for ducks. In the following over Tim smashed a ball into his own face, cutting him twice over the eye and producing a fair amount of blood (AND it was his birthday).
With the wickets continuing to tumble Tim bravely stepped back into the firing line and showed his anger by hitting a superb 38 in tricky conditions ably supported by the most unlikely of partners Stu Hudson who scored a fantastic 16. Despite these heroic efforts a total of 88 all out was going to be a tough score to defend.
The less said about the bowling the better, however the innings did have one memorable moment when Stu behind the stumps leapt Jack Russell like (the dog more than the wicketkeeper but still) to take a ball, only to dislocate his shoulder. They hit the needed runs without losing a wicket and we trudged to the pub to lick our wounds. The good news was the El Dorado relaxed Stu enough for him to pop his shoulder back in.
Enthusiastically the team arrived early at the ground for a warm up net and quickly jokes started flying around about Tim and Stu in the previous game…. Ohhhh how naïve we were.
Another great coin call by the captain saw us sticking with the plan and sending the opposition into bat. From this point on I’m not entirely sure what went wrong. We bowled superbly with myself, Will and new boy Mo Alam all taking 2 wickets and the work in the outfield exceptional, with every one of the 5 catches offered being taken. Okay so Dub Dub’s first over went for over 30 but he bounced back excellently.
Despite all of that we went into bat needing 190 to win from our 20 overs. In amongst all of the great fielding Ed injured his leg (later turning out to be a bad knee ligament injury) but he went into open the batting with Joe Stokoe like the brave little soldier we know he is. It appears only having one leg suits Ed as he smashed 23 off 19 balls despite not being able to run singles. Due to the fact he normally bats at the speed of Geoff Boycott (at the age he is now) the talk on the side line was of knee capping him before every innings.
Joe was not to be out done and joined in with the smashing…. until that was he, in a strange homage to Tim, smashed the ball into his own face. Cue blood (over the kit the other team had kindly lent us) and a trip to the side lines as the blood was mopped away to reveal a cut top lip and a hole clean through his bottom lip. Mo stepped into the fold and continued the open pairs good early work before he and Ed were both out for 23 off 19 balls.
The following couple of overs saw us lose 3 quick wickets and forced Joe (who’s mouth had swelled to a point he sounded like Mumbles from Dick Tracy) to join me in the middle. He, like Tim the week before, was out for revenge and clobbered the ball around the ground to reach 35 off just 22 balls. It was left to yours truly to see the team home (in this format the last player can bat on his own) and when I was told it was the last over I expectantly asked the umpire how many we needed, ‘83’ came the reply. Bugger.
Joe ended up in hospital and Ed was out for a few weeks. This was getting to be dangerous.
We were battered, we were bruised, we were angry, we were ready for revenge. Bring on the NNR Nightriders this was our time!
We lost the toss. But we were on familiar turf as they elected to bat first. Now, no matter what has transpired over the previous 11 straight losses our fielding has always been superb. Whether it is everyone’s secret flair history or whether it is the bottle of El Dorado we take onto the pitch to give anyone who gets a wicket as reward I could not say. This day we had a shocker.
A shocker that saw them reach 189 for the loss of only 3 wickets. Only Will covered himself in any glory taking 2 wickets in the middle of the innings that gave us a glimmer of hope. The fact they scored the same number of runs as the team the preceding week despite our abysmal performance was the only thing to give us hope. That and the fact we had two new players in the team who might have been brilliant.
As it turned out they were. They were stunning. Almost as good as New Zealand…
It hadn’t started well with Luke falling to the first ball of the day (it swung, seamed, spun and kept low apparently) but with Mo actually running between the wickets he quickly put on a good partnership with new boy Johnny ‘Rowan’ Cash. Mo eventually fell for 22 bringing fellow debutant Josh Jordan in. Rowan was forced to retire at 51 (thems the rules) off just 25 balls. But luckily (after a 2 ball innings from me) Will was on hand to continue the assault. In the end Josh scored 45 off 34 and Will 48 off 31 as we fell just short of the total, scoring our highest total ever of 167.
We also had all our players alive and fit at the end which was even more impressive.
Now whilst I admit this hasn’t been the most auspicious start to the season it is always how you finish not how you start that is the most important. We will finish strong, we will recover… and if we don’t we will go down to Brighton and beat the team of bartenders they have put together!!