Croomers returns and plays like a hero but what a gripe!
My annual game for the Nomads. That one I’ve always sworn I’ll never play again. Nomads v. Merrow 2001 is absolutely no exception, for this is a typical Nomads game. Well, it isn’t actually. First of all I’ve actually rung up and asked to play. How many calls like that does a match manager get in a year? Secondly, the day before kick-off, I receive an e-mail from Blumberg detailing team, relevant mobile phone numbers (for those who can work them), and directions. (Blum, you were one roundabout adrift!) New millennium, new efficiency.
Back to reality. Team sheet bears little resemblance to the assembled company, and we are 9 men taking the field having lost the toss. Average age of the 9 is nearer 50 than 40, and the mobility quotient optimistically 3 out of 10. Opening the bowling under these darkened but entirely predictable circumstances is a hard task. I know this when the first ball I bowl is pushed to square leg where it rolls gently past Maloney’s foot for a comfortable two. The catches go either to where the extra fielders would have been (let’s not necessarily pretend that they would have been caught, but at least the bowlers could have a good gripe about the drops) or to where a younger man might have been able to move a couple of yards to be in the approximate vicinity of the ball. For only the 38th time in the last 20 years I swear ‘Never, ever, ever again’.
Just before lunch, they are 145 for 1 and we are being murdered, and only 2 wickets in 2 balls from Blum allows us a small respite at 153 for 3 at the interval. Off a mere 26 overs. And we started late. We shall be lucky to come in short of 300. The only positive is that we are now a full complement with the two youngest and most agile having finally deemed it worthwhile turning up for lunch. And a good lunch too. Hot meal, meat, wine and port. Toasts all round, thanks to the catering staff and a late start back, thank God. Still looking at 280 minimum
Lunch (and a degree of over confidence) is however Merrow’s nemesis. Surridge is on the button with the ball, and with the aid of some unlikely fielding and Doctor Daryl’s uncommon ability to secrete the ball in a jumble of gloves, pads and sweater, the batsmen fall like nine pins. Having taken his 4th. wicket, Surridge departs the bowling arena claiming a pulled muscle (serious case of jug-avoidance, more like) and on come the pies. To people the other side of a couple of glasses of wine, Collins’ grenades are absolutely irresistible. At one point there is a stand of 12. “Lunch, lunch, give them more lunch”, we cry. 196 All Out. From 153 for 3!
Then the other bit of the Nomads kicks in. The batting will have to be done by Nos. 1, 2 and 3. Blumberg is at 4 and after that it only gets worse. Following Sutherland’s brief early flurry, there is at least a stand of sorts between Blum and Surridge (no sign of pulled muscle now), but after that it all gets very gloomy. 4 wickets fall so quickly you can hardly blink, and when Marions gets teased out by a complete donkey drop, we are about 112-8 with 15 overs to go. Can we hold out for a draw? Maloney meanders to the wicket. I am preparing to take guard to defend for my life, but Maloney is walking purposefully towards me. He wants to talk. Sweet.
“Skipper says do you fancy giving it a go?” he announces. What?? Maloney is 54 years old, and in 40 years of club cricket he has never knowingly hit the ball off the square. I have been batting at 11 in the League all year, my highest score is 2*, and even my best friends will tell you that slogging for victory has never been my forte. A stout forward defensive with the occasional audacious push is the usual modus operandi.
However, there is something about Maloney. Think Bald Eagle from The Muppets. (Then think again! - ed.) It's almost as if he thinks we can actually do it. Or rather that he thinks that I ought to think that we can do it. I have no idea why. I've been trying hard to score a run for the last twenty minutes with no success whatever.
I'll just give you the strike” he says. Thanks a bunch, chum. Oh well, this may be the last time in our lives that anybody will say to us "go out and give it a go" and suddenly it starts to fall into place. Balls are bowled that need to be hit, the opening bowler returns in place of the spinner (so much easier!), drives, pulls and slashes all find the ropes, and the first target of avoiding embarrassment is achieved. Then the interesting dynamics take over.
You move from embarrassment through the stages of a good try to hope, and then the big one, expectation. And the three parties - batsmen, fielding side and pavilion all go through the stages at different points. The oppo' don't contemplate this until there are about 25 to get, when the fielders are spread to all parts. Arguments, tantrums and panic are now rife on the field. Skipper Collins has long since left the haven of the pav' and has been pacing the boundary for 20 minutes by now. Maloney to the rescue. Having prodded and run like a good 'un, he suddenly strikes a blow cleanly over mid off for 4. Have we ever seen this before? Followed by a delicate glance to the fine leg boundary that is sheer poetry. We're almost there. A final wobble as one of Maloney's ambitious singles is one too many, but Collins strides to the wicket in virtually impenetrable darkness to smite the winning boundary with 4 balls to go.
Frankly that batting side would chase that target perhaps one time in ten. Croom- Johnson and Maloney would probably put together a partnership of 80-odd in any circumstances about one time in fifty. It felt so good. But never, ever again.
Well Played Croomers and Maloney..Croomers doesn't mention that these two ancients ran like Hares for a multitude of byes and leg byes ..they hit 58 and 32 were extras !.
Hm! Croomers plays for the Frogs who put out 6 at Stowe Templars and 8 against the Privateers in all day t half of the 2001 season....
Losing Geoff Lewis the day before and Bob Cairns due to a car breakdown in Rye did not help. David Duncan Smith cried off to appear on Sky News so Nomads, in general and match manager Simon Collins in particular, deserve a pat on the back for producing 11 players on the day ...and winning .
Actually since Croomers' outburst in 2001 he has played ever more regularly for Nomads in UK and Abroad than for decades before.