Joseph Hood Recreation Ground
17 August, 2019
No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main …And therefore send not to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.
from Devotions upon Emergent Occasions: Meditation XVII by John Donne, 1624
Samuel Johnson told his biographer James Boswell that “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford”. It seems unlikely that Johnson had Raynes Park foremost in his mind when he said this. The small corner of London in which we play is not, perhaps, the most verdant, majestic or spectacular place in our fine city.
And yet the Joseph Hood Recreation Ground, at which we find ourselves, is not without its charms. This suburban idyll, this oasis of calm, this unexpectedly bucolic interlude upon the roaring haze of the A298, has been the scene, furthermore, of many an emotional moment for our fine cricketing establishment. Today was to prove no different.
Act one: the rain
And lo it did come to pass that the clouds did part and, after a little light rain on Saturday morning, things were looking good for the second leg of this season’s Badgers trilogy. As usual, the Seveno team took their time to arrive while the oppo got to the ground unfashionably early.
This was a toss to win, on a damp outfield that was going to rapidly dry over the course of the afternoon, favouring the team batting second, so of course we duly lost the toss and were put in by the Badgers’ skipper.
Things started smoothly enough, however, with Stuart calmly holding up an end and Abhi gleefully taking the attack to the Badgers’ opening bowler Hugo, who seemed to be becoming a little frustrated with the abandon with which Abhi was casually striking his fastest deliveries. A couple of them were a little too close for comfort and we were assisted by some uncharacteristic dropped catches.
This continued for half an hour when the first of our harbingers of disaster, our ghosts of fatefulness yet to come, visited us in the eighth over, in the form of Stuart slowing from a canter to a crawl halfway through a run, which became a slow limp off the field, Stuart having popped his other calf, giving him a pair of calves worthy of a biblical parable. His eight runs didn’t do justice at all to the careful time he’d put in at the crease. The score stood at 31/0.
In went skipper Rann to steady the ship and our nerves after that, and he acquitted himself well, batting calmly with Abhi for another nine overs and taking us to 58 before a mix-up between the stumps resulted in a run-out and Abhi having to make the slow trudge back to the boundary, just like Slim Pickens’s character Sheriff Baker in Sam Peckinpah’s widescreen classic Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (Slim’s been shot rather than run out but I think the comparison stands. An excellent film).
Jason went out there and picked off a game 15, Randy’s final tally of four didn’t reflect his patient batting, Rupert scored one before getting out LBW to Hamblin, who by this time had picked up three.
Act two: the pain
With the score on 88/4 in the middle of the 26th over, Sachin and Nishant were motoring nicely, when true disaster struck. It was the sort of ball that, from the boundary, didn’t look too bad and when it struck Sachin on his temple it took a few seconds on the boundary for the fact to sink in.
The Badgers sportingly gathered round to tend to Sachin, as of course did Nishant and a couple of Seveno’s players. Sachin wasn’t wearing a lid, and after a couple of minutes someone said: “Better call an ambulance.”
Duly called, the ambulance arrived in double-quick time and was ushered through the Joseph Hood vehicle-blocking gates by players from both sides as well as the groundsman. A special mention must be made of one of the Badgers whose name I didn’t think to write down, who kept Sachin talking throughout this time in order both to ensure he wasn’t concussed and to keep him conscious and thinking.
Obviously nobody would wish this calamity upon anyone, but it has to be said that it brought out the sporting spirit as everyone on both sides rushed to assist — a tribute both to sportsmanship and to the strong bond between our team and the Badgers.
Sachin was put into the ambulance along with Abhi who kindly accompanied him. The vehicle stayed on the grass, next to our wicket, for a surprisingly long time, which did nothing to settle the stomach, but it did allow Randy to ask for a prognosis at the window before they left. The paramedics were cheerful and upbeat about Sachin which lightened the mood a little.
Tea — a fine spread in the mode of this season’s Seveno offerings — was taken, and Randy called a huddle to ask what we wanted to do. The broad consensus was to carry on, not least because going to the pub would have just meant an afternoon of worry.
So, with the Badgers’ agreement we carried on, with Nishant and SK taking the crease without helmets, in a nonchalant (let’s call it that) display of bravado. Poor Hamblin, who’d bowled the accidental head ball at Sachin, was understandably badly shaken despite our assurances of no hard feelings, and didn’t bowl again. The Badgers started more slowly than they’d been bowling, which helped us along, but they certainly sped back up again, bringing their quicks on toward the end.
Nishant’s 34, Sachin’s 12, Harxy’s five and James’s four not out brought us up to what looked like a moderately shaky 152/7 from the full 40 overs, with Harxy being caught off the final delivery, having given the ball what looked to be a very fine thwack.
Act three: the campaign
By the innings break we had had word from Abhi that Sachin was doing very well (see Quotes below), which settled everyone’s nerves further. By this time, of course, we were three players down, and the Badgers were happy to sub us three of their men. It’s worth recognising that this meant some of their players would have fielded for some sixty overs, maybe more, over the course of the day.
You’d have forgiven the Badgers for cutting us some slack given what had happened, but their batsmen went out there fighting, and our wickets, which started to come pleasingly quickly, were well earnt. The first over was a maiden as everyone got their eyes in, and in the second SK clean bowled the number two for a third-ball duck. In the sixth, SK struck again, bowling Jinks for eight, leaving the Badgers shellshocked on 17/2.
Third to go, six overs later with the oppo on 30, was the number four, who fell to a quite spectacular infield catch by Harxy off SK’s bowling, for seven. He seemed from my angle to pluck the ball from the air in the manner of Paul Collingwood or Nathan Astle in their pomp. Magical. The celebration was a little odd, with Harxy sitting on the ground shouting “NO! STAY AWAY!” at his teammates. Your correspondent assumed that he wanted to savour the glory but it turned out he’d damaged a muscle and didn’t want anybody to leap on top of him, which made more sense.
Fortunately he recovered movement and the injury didn’t stop him bowling the next over and, two overs later, picking up the wickets of Badgers Stew and Connor, the former given LBW for two from the over’s opener and the latter bowled three dot balls later for a duck. Harxy added the wicket of Ali Craig two overs later, caught beautifully behind the stumps by Randy for two. Stirring stuff, which left the Badgers reeling at 42/6 off 17 overs.
This, you might think, would put Seveno in a strong position to polish things off and be in the Leather Bottle half an hour later. But our sense of occasion, not to mention our inability to uproot opener Fitz’s stumps, gave us other ideas, and the Badgers pressed on, making it all the way to a very sound-looking 121 in the 31st over, leaving them needing just 32 runs from 54 balls. The two overs of filth, pies and assorted extras sent down the wicket during that period by your faithful correspondent are probably best left largely unmentioned, but I was surprised to find from the scorebook that they only went for 21 between them.
However, Nishant was able to break through bowling Dollimore to send him packing after a 50-ball knock of 33. We still looked like we were going to lose, but it was a breakthrough nonetheless. Badgers 121/7.
Three overs later in the 34th, Harxy sent down a tasty delivery that begged Steffan of the Badgers to thump it which he duly did, straight to Connor, one of his erstwhile teammates fielding for us at midwicket. You could almost see the thoughts going through Connor’s mind, and he finally opted for catching it, did so, fluffed it, then caught it again just inches off the ground. He didn’t know whether to celebrate with us or go and apologise, and the entry in the Badgers’ scorebook — “Steffan CT TRAITOR B HARKSY 5” — does seem a little unkind, if understandable.
This left the Badgers looking just a touch more vulnerable, but still looking sound, at 132/8, with 36 balls and 21 runs left at the end of the over. The final overs were among the most tense I’ve experienced with Seveno, up there with the legendary SLICC final-over video of 2011. Opener Fitz was still at the crease, by this time on 52.
The score crept up, with some very tight bowling from Seveno keeping as much of a lid on things as we could manage. SK went for just one in the 35th, leaving Badgers on 138, Harxy went for four (142), and SK went for three (145), and with the first ball of the the 38th over Harxy struck again, sending the ball into Hamblin’s bat and then into Randy’s gloves, to bring the score to 145 for 9. A magnificent way to record a five-for. With 17 balls remaining, Badgers needed eight runs and to not lose any more wickets. The rest of Harxy’s over went for just one. Badgers 146/9. Twelve to come.
With all of our attackers now bowled out — including a very fine eight-over spell from Rupert that included two maidens and went for just 16 — what we assumed was the penultimate over found Randy in an unusual bowling guise having put himself in with Jason donning the webbed gloves.
The first ball, to opener Fitz, a dot.
The second, another dot.
The third, pressure mounting, ten deliveries left and the sunset approaching, was lofted by Fitz.
High, but not high enough. A shout, at what my memory says was somewhere around deep backward square leg, of “HARXY’S! HARXY’S!”
What seemed like hours as the ball hung in the air above Harxy. A quickly pocketed catch.
Shouts everywhere. Celebration. The Randy-Harxy duo reversed just this once.
Fitz ct Harxy b Randy for a mammoth 110-ball 63. Badgers 146 all out.
SEVENO WIN. The rest, you know. And Sachin, we’re just relieved that you’re OK.
Player of the match
Cricket, as they say, was the winner here, but for a five-wicket haul and two breathtaking catches: Paul “Harxy” “Harksy” Harker
Quotes of the match
“I’m a metrosexual man, you know” — Jay
“SK, you beheaded the snake” — Randy, referring to SK’s crucial wicket
“Why weren’t you wearing a helmet” — the unnamed Indian doctor’s first words at St George’s on seeing Sachin
In response to one of the Badgers telling Randy they’d never seen him bowl before: “No, cometh the hour, cometh the Rann” — Randy
“You wanted to make me sweat!” — Harxy to the Badgers’ unfortunate fielding traitor, Connor