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President’s XI

3 Jul 2015 - Gavan Burden

That time of year once more, the opening night of Beer On The Vine. That time of year when 22 cricketers express the genuine privilege of playing on such a prestigious ground, in front of such a large and excitable crowd. But who are we kidding. The crowd couldn’t care less about the cricket. It’s Friday night, the sun is out and there is a plethora of local brews on tap. As WG Grace once said, “They’ve come to drink 8.2% cider, not watch you bowl.”

The Vine looked a picture on a beautifully sunny evening. Family BBQs, games of badminton, picnic blankets, dogs chasing frisbees, kids tearing around on scooters. All over the pitch.

Having won the toss, the visitors elected to bat. Given the gravity of the occasion, our skipper had worked hard in assembling a crack team of capable cricketers. Tiley and Saker, each making their second appearance of the season opened the bowling for the Old Oaks, and both hit their straps from the off. They were supported by some excellent fielding too, and after the first four overs (which included an unheard of maiden, from Tiley), runs were hard to come by with the visitors just 13 for no loss.

The standard in the field had peaked early. Sykes and Taylor were not as frugal in their bowling as their predecessors, and there was an epidemic of very bad fielding. Lowlights included Jones failing to administer the long barrier, only to see the ball run through his legs on perhaps the flattest area of The Vine outfield; Sykes stuffing up a run out that would have been considered straight forward at nursery school; And Saker stumbling in front of the cider tent and spilling a fairly regulation chance, much to the delight of the scrumpy-fuelLed mob behind him.

At the outset, the hosting skipper had called 140 a chase-able total. For the final few overs of the innings, the bowling of Bowden ensured we could keep the score around that level, while the bowling of the skipper himself ensured that the visitors would get at least that far. It was the name Bevan Thomas that stood out at the crease – BT Snr scored a fluent 25, including some lusty blows into the road, and BT Jnr scored an excellent 19 before selflessly running himself out off the last ball of the innings. Lord Sackville’s XI scored 142-6 from their 20 overs.

The chase started well, with Atkins (26 ret) making light of an impressive Sackville attack. Jones (25 ret) delivered a squash buckling display, including a most uncharacteristic six over extra cover first ball, which had his team mates genuinely confused as to who had been sent out to bat. The crowd seemed oblivious to Jones’ fantastic display, and to Bowden’s (19) crashing knock, which must have taken them into ‘critical’ on the risk matrix, as the boundary was peppered hard.

Tovey (26 ret) played a fine knock and the innings progressed to the point at which the Old Oaks required 10 from the final over. The grandstand finish we all dreamt of. Sykes and Saker had looked in control up to this point, picking away at the tiring attack, but a misjudged call for two from Sykes left everyone’s favourite antipodean octogenarian high and dry. Three balls left, seven runs required. Cometh the hour, etc. Old Oaks skipper Compton strode to the crease with an air of purpose not dissimilar to that of Lillee at the WACA in 1979. Alas, it was not a bat made of aluminium that affected this game at the death. More like a bat made of smoke, as the skipper swung and missed for each of the three remaining balls.

And so the Old Oaks were bitterly disappointed, Lord Sackville’s XI, jubilant. As for the crowd, they couldn’t care less.

Lord Sackville’s XI won by 7 runs.