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Tabard Pilgrims Cricket Club

(The Keeper’s Pot of Treasure Lies)
A Novel

Sunday, May 22 v Marlow Park.

By Moggie

The day started with a long and drawn-out Rrrreeaally, on account of Curly having taken a rather remarkable catch with his thighs on the preceding day.

In true Pilgrim fashion, not having enough transport materialised into having a surplus, for Daisy was called in at the last minute to replace one of the guests, and Xero had an attack of conscience and arrived with his Uno.

Thus we had four cars to ferry the eight remaining Pilgrims to Marlow, the Kommander, Butler and Sven the Pastry Chef having arrived early in a hired car to throw down a few – beers, not cricket balls – before the match.

The lowering sky of varying grey hues offered an omen all of its own. Not quite the full eight octas, the sun was nowhere to be seen and when the breeze picked up Hansie phoned Penthouse to declare it somewhere between a two to three jumper day (apocryphal).

Fortunate to get a start at all on account of the wicket having been scuba’d the day before, Marlow Park were put into bat.

Whippet opened the seam attack, with Gussie pounding them down from the other end, and a fourteen over spell of containment commenced before the inevitable happened and the covers were called into inaction.

Matters of note in this opening flourish included a fine clean-bowled by Whippet, a drop by the Kommander at cover on account of pontificating for that extra split second as to whether he should risk getting as low as Really had the day before – and scoop it second time round an inch from the turf – and a game of its own that Moggie seemed to have invented which involved missing the stumps from ten feet back on a regular basis, for the sole purpose – or so it seemed – of giving Curly some badly needed fielding practice – irony of ironies – at mid-on.

Resuming ten minutes later, having kept them to under three an over, the uphill task of keeping this going declared itself as they sailed past the fifty little more than two overs later.

Not being one to mention the cat’s mother, I should add that ‘they’ were the big Aussie wicket-keeper who always gives us a run for our money – and certainly those fined by Whippet later on account of mis-fields or dropped catches couldn’t have disagreed – and an Asian lad whose schooling made the guy look like a novice.

Suffice to say that even with Moggie standing up to Whippet’s now tiring bowling, he couldn’t get his counterpart stumped, and despite Gussie maintaining his head of steam while failing to take a brace of caught and bowleds, real penetration seemed an adolescent fantasy which left the Pilgrims looking more and more like a bunch of disconsolate virgins.

Though both Persil and Sven were treated to a baptism of fire initially, they managed to steady themselves and settle down, the latter producing the delivery to gift Daisy with the catch at deep mid-wicket that saw the departure of the Asian lad shortly after he’d reached his fifty.

Penthouse kept Pastry on – they really kneaded one another – until the end, bringing Whippet back to produce several more missed opportunities, Penthouse’s drop at cover and Moggie’s parallel universe attempt at a skier down fine leg being the two that we’d most like to consign to the burial mound.

Other moments of tried and tested Pilgrim class included Ming’s dummy pick-up at square leg, Gussie’s evocation of the Judge, gently playing the ball on to the boundary as if trying to score that elusive goal in the FA cup of the day before, and Curly’s impersonation of a pin-ball machine bumper, the ball bouncing off him in a random fashion on several occasions towards the end of the innings, fooling both him – as his impersonation of a centrifuge thereafter will testify – and the back-up fielder every time.

Whippet managed to pull a second out of the bag right at the death, leaving Marlow Park on 217 for 3 at the close.

With Daisy’s permission I’ve been given carte blanche to do my very own tea report: There was a terrific sandwich race, with the egg mayo winning by a whisker from the combined ham and tuna team, and although the cheese made a spirited if not remarkable recovery they still got the wooden spoon that we used to stir the tea with.I should add that the pot was refilled several times, and that Daisy was later fined for drinking tea off of his plate in an attempt to psyche himself up for his duties as one half of the opening pair.

Combining with the Kommander, they set about making a decent fist of it until the Asian lad who’d apparently just stepped off the plane and who the hosts insisted they’d not seen before, but who most certainly did not have jet lag, bowled his first delivery, a body-line loosener that cleared Daisy’s head by a good two feet.

Daisy did well to survive three overs of this, the Kommander having given his wicket away cheaply while on 39, leaving Penthouse to hold the reins.

However as soon as the Asian lad got his length the inevitable happened, and Daisy’s middle stump was pulverised, and Persil’s wicket two balls later.

On account of Ed having forgotten his glasses, this deficit having apparently travelled well beyond his retina, when the time came for him to stroll to the crease he was deeply ensconced in a luvvie conversation with his girlfriend, thus leaving the somewhat miffed Gussie to step into the breach, the latter having only just come off the pitch following umpiring duties.

Penthouse and Gussie steadied the ship beautifully – the Asian lad having been withdrawn for health reasons, these being that he simply would have demolished us lock, stock and six smoking barrels – handling what we’re much more used to expecting from Marlow Park with aplomb.

With the bells chiming beatifically in the background and the sun now blazing down upon the ground with its own blessing, the state of play being 20 overs to go at around six an over, it seemed that we still had everything to play for.

Naturally they spotted this as well, and so decided to introduce their second Asian county standard fast bowler.

Accordingly Penthouse started looking in trouble and succumbed to the devastating lift on his third over, spooning one to second slip, having amassed a more than useful 39.

Ming – who I suggest we rename Moley if he ever forgets his glasses again – came in but failed to activate the sonar, or if he did it simply had no effect on the lethal pace of the delivery, and he was either lbw or caught behind for the Grims’ first golden of the season, the Kommander having no choice but to give him.

Gussie followed shortly after, having made a more than useful 37, which bought our very own silver service unit to the crease in the form of the Butler.

Not wanting to capitalise on his day of glory I only mention the coaching session I gave him in the nets for non-effect: he finished on ten not out.

However, the lowering sky of the start had returned and it was once again cold and windy. I blame Hansie, for had he phoned back and told Penthouse that not only was it a definite three-sweater day, but also a double-thermal sock day as well, the tragic denouement of the ending may well have been averted.

Suffice to say that Butler sustained a tear in his calf muscle – he’d been tempting fate all afternoon by banging on about the hamstring injury he endured at the same fixture the year before – which brought Penthouse back to the wicket as his runner.

I should mention that the relationship between these two is not dissimilar to that between the captain and Betty in our toddling years, namely one of completely pointless and unbridled rivalry.

So when Penthouse started charging towards the stumps on Butler’s behalf, giving himself a couple of extra yards to make for the potential run-out possibility to be so, another Pilgrim conspiracy theory was born.

If Trist’s disability hadn’t been enough of a cross to bear, Sven’s was the material disembodiment of the various omens that had gathered there that afternoon.

Setting off at a gentle canter he pulled up before letting gravity take over as the pain rocketed through his ripped Achilles.

And now the pagan gods mustered themselves in celebration of their sacrifice, pitch black on the backdrop, mixed but lighter on either side, and undecided from behind the pavilion from where we were watching, such that with parasols protecting the Chef from going too doughy from the small splash that there was out there, the most glorious rainbow that I’ve ever seen – for it was a double and inverted – became emblazoned in a blazing arc from horizon to horizon, with a single sister rainbow accompanying it for good measure.

At this juncture it was mutually agreed that the match should be abandoned, the Pilgrims having mustered 140 for 6 before the retirement of Sven, with eight overs remaining in which to secure the deficit.

On behalf of the Pilgrims I’d like to thank Jens for his appearances for the Pilgrims this season, and wish him good fortune on his recovery and return to the Pilgrim fold at some later date. Surely having all but died in battle for us it’s now only a formality to propose and second him for membership next season.

He typifies a new-found gutsiness to the Pilgrims that hasn’t manifested itself before this early on in the season – well perhaps once, but not consistently.

If I have one small criticism it is that he didn’t let me have a toke on the Entomex – laughing gas for pregnant women to help them romp through the contractions with gay abandon – though the captain was keeping close guard on the bottle as soon as he’d realised that I’d twigged it.

However, with myself, Xero and the Kommander sidelined at the beginning of the season, all but the filling to the sandwich soldiering on with injuries/ convalescence at the time of writing, with Hansie also having fallen post the Poly match, and now with Sven and Butler consigned to life with the nurses in the Pilgrim sickbay as well – lucky old them from what I remember of that environment – it would indeed be a fitting irony for Olly to return for a summer break to find himself captaining the aptly renamed, ‘Betty’s Eleven’.

Grazin’ with Daisy – or Daisy’s Teas

As opener after tea I was abstemiousness personified.

A wide variety of cake, followed by tea from the plate, set me up.

And I was able to knock down the remainder after I was out.

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