After last weeks’ (surprisingly) easy victory against Spencer this weeks’ opponents were Irthlingborough Town (IT) – from my aging memory, the last time GP played them was in the 2017 where we were rolled over twice meaning a tough game was expected. Three enforced changes to the team saw Rob, Ben & Luca make way for Ricki, Ryan & Darren. GP finally managing to fill the void in the opening fielder position!
The match was being played at Broughton that is one of the quirkier grounds in Northamptonshire. If you picture Lords and then remove all the stands, remove the pitch, build a road through the outfield and stick a sheep pen next to it you’ll be along the right lines…
However, upon turning up to the ground it quickly became apparent that no work had been done on the pitch or outfield. It was almost impossible to distinguish between the outfield and the wicket and Darren’s face summed up what everything was thinking (what a crock of…!). No pressure Tony but don’t f**K up the toss as we all know whoever wins will be having a bowl straight away!! Waiting for the “facilities” to be opened a surprise visitor made their way to the club, the groundsman, whilst stating that; “no-one told me there was a match today”. The decision was taken to delay the start of the match for the ground to be prepared. It is at this point it would be great to write that the opposition stepped up and moved into fifth gear to get the ground playable…yeah, that didn’t happen! It was left to Darren & Steve to cut the outfield, their groundsman to cut and roll the wicket (JB & Steve would still be trying to figure out that machinery) & JB and Jon to mark the wicket. The sight of Darren, on a red mower & Steve, on a green mower chasing each other around the outfield reminded us all of Mario Kart although, it’s fair to say that Mario & Luigi have let themselves go a bit since making their debut (extra marks awarded if you can answer when was Mario Kart was first released?).
Finally, by 13:45 the ground was prepared, and we were ready to play ball (or whatever the equivalent Cricket terminology is). It is fair to point out that the team we were facing was somewhat different to the last time we played them. It seems that IT were short on players and, therefore, the team comprised of two seniors, a number of colts and five ladies. Now, at this point, JB was pacing up and down as it became obvious that IT had been sending out scouts to previous games and found his Achilles heel(!). Tony came back to let us know that we were fielding (JB’s sign of relief could be heard back in GP) but, to the surprise of everyone, Tony had lost the toss and the opposition had elected to bat first – according to their skipper they are a batting side. Tony gave another rallying speech before the game about fighting them in the air, in the fields and on the beaches or something along them lines as everyone had clocked off to think about what teas would be like.
Olly took the first over of the game and proceeded to bowl a wide off the first ball (great start). Rest of the over passed with six dot balls after an edge dropped short of Mario, I mean, Darren at first slip. Ryan “The Butcher” Moloney shared the new ball with Olly. Not wanting to be outdone by Olly, Ryan decided to bowl a wide full toss off his first ballthat was guided down to third man by their skipper (the one that said they were a batting team) and called a no-ball. What happens next is still unexplainable. Tony gave chase, they come back for a second, Tony throws about eight pitches away, Luigi (Steve) collects and runs out the skipper by a country mile. 1-0 off one over suddenly becomes 3-1 off 1 over and the skip out for a first ball one (has that ever been said before?!). Out came the first batslady who had to face some hostile short bowling for the rest off the over. Olly’s second over saw a pearly of a delivery that sent the openers middle stump backwards (the young lad looked a decent player). IT now sat 7-2 off three overs that quickly became 10-3 off four overs thanks to a smart catch from Manik off ofRyan. Tony deciding the game might be over decided to bring himself on for Ryan due to an ‘apparent’ injury to Ryan’s finger. After a blistering start by GP the game settled down and after six overs IT were now 13-3.
Olly’s fourth over started off relatively well with two wickets in two balls and the first attempt of a hat-trick in the 2019 season! With the field brought in and everyone anticipating the hat-trick it was a let-down when Olly bowled just pass off-stump (better luck next time). A double-wicket maiden put GP in even firmer control at 13-5.
Now, the comedy moment of the game comes from Tony’s second over. With the number 6 somehow managing to loop the ball to Luigi behind the stumps whilst attempting a forward defensive. Mario decided to let Luigi take control and take the simplest of catches or, so we all thought. Luigi complaining of the sun in his eyes (mamma-mia) only managed to catch thin air whilst Mario (and the rest of the team) looked on in shock as the ball bounced on the floor – Tony, not looking overly impressed had to bite his tongue after his earlier speech whilst Luigi was leant a hat by the Shizzle. Amendments made two balls later when Tony decided to take matters into his own hands to claim a C&Bwith IT reduced to 13/6.
Olly’s fifth over brought a run off the bat (shock horror) and another wicket to take his haul to 4 and a potential first ever “5-er”. With Tony wanting to bring Manik on Olly was given one more over to try and secure this. After Tony bowled his third IT were 16/7 off 10. It was now or never for Olly. On the second ball we had our answer with the stumps taking another pounding! Olly would go on to claim his final wicket two balls later and the innings would end in another farcical run-out in which, if a third umpire was present it would have been referred mainly because, a) the umpire couldn’t see and took our word for it and b) it was debatable whether Luigi had dropped the ball onto the stumps after fumbling the throw in or his gloves took them off (mamma-mia!). After 11 overs ITwere all out for 16…and remember, this is a batting side!!! Olly ending up with figures of 6-2-7-6, Ryan 2-0-6-1 & Tony 3-1-2-1, Mr Extras being top scorer on six, no boundaries & five ducks on offer.
The decision was made to delay teas with GP needing 0.425 runs an over for victory. A change to the batting order saw Jon Sizzle & Manik open up for their first innings of the season (and Jon’s first for GP). With IT deciding to open the bowling with two of their female players JB could be seen breathing another sigh of relief! The first over saw the first boundary of the day from Manik. Into the second over and Jon’s ears must have been ringing with the advice from JB to take his time and play himself in. This lasted all of approx. two balls before Jon decided to go all guns blazing and saw his stumps rattled (sixth duck of the day). Mario came out at three and proceeded to walk back after getting a golden duck to a decent ball that took the top of off stump. Surely not even GP and our history of collapses could throw this away?! Kaher in somewhat of a rush made his way to the middle with Ricki and JB scrambling to get padded up! With the required run-rate at a staggering creeping up to 0.307 Kaher settled the nerves & D/L with the first six of the innings. At the end of the second over GP were 10/2. Manik decided enough was enough and proceeded to finish the game with scoring shots of 2, 4 & 6. GP win by 8 wickets and 37 overs spare!
It actually took longer for us to prepare the ground than the game itself but, two wins from two games and is the start to the season we needed with potentially two tricky opening games.