Well, perhaps unsurprisingly, the ten men of the Exiles crashed out to Caddington CC, losing by 110 runs. A side weakened mostly by TV sporting events and bolstered by Kev's mate Steve Smith who hadn't played for ten years was unlikely to cause too many problems to what was basically a Saturday league team with the batting order shuffled and their best bowler help in reserve. New Exiles were rushed into unprepared potions (Ali again sharing the new ball with veteran Paul, and Fawad showed he can ball a bit as well) and Dax made a creditable fist of on-the-job-training in the keeper's gloves. He was rightly proud that he'd allowed only 6 byes on a devilish pitch where a ball was very likely to scoot along the ground from any length.
Caddington's innings began quietly, three maidens from Paul and two from Ali in the opening spell. Several chances went begging and the fielding was generally lacklustre. Eddie bowled his eight straight through very tidily and made the breakthrough, beating a back foot defensive shot to clip the top of off stump. Fawad's medium pace with nice variation got under the skin of the home captain who suggested he was "chucking". I couldn't detect any bend in the elbow, let alone any straightening. He clean bowled someone but I can't remember if it was the complainant. After drinks Caddington upped the rate and ran for everything, The Exiles fielding failed to take the pressure, a couple of run outs went begging and for a while the bowling collapsed too. Guy took an absolute steepler off Eddie, seemingly without any give in his hands that stayed above his head the whole time and stayed up for his celebration. Seeing the score race away Tony turned to his trump card (or old fart depending on your point of view) and without so much as a warning to warm up was thrown on at the uphill into the wind end. Unsurprisingly he failed to maintain the parsimony of the opening spell, and though some shots didn't go where intended they went to the boundary anyway. Ali came back from the other end and he too took a while to adjust. A long hop was pulled down Tony's throat at deep midwicket but he shelved it and buggered his fingernail in the process. Caddington continued to run as Tony rolled in agony and somebody ran down from square leg to retrieve the bowl and ask after his health. Tony went off for a bag of ice and the remaining nine men did their best to stem the rising tide. If anything the run rate fell in those last few overs, the batsmen perhaps tiring but they final total of 239 for four (?) was always going to be an Everest.
Kev and Eddie (rhymes with steady) opened the batting and looked pretty good, Kev driving straight with enough force to make the beefy bowler leap out of the way. Eddie was steady. Then Kev left a wide one only to discover to his horror that it was a big off cutter and it came back enough to take his off stump. Eddie then dabbed one to second slip and it was held safely. Stephen O'Connor played a few of his trademark no footwork booming drives and looked to be in good touch then he too dabbed one into the packed slip cordon. After a break for rain Fawad shone briefly then completely mistimed a drive and spooned an easy catch to cover. Guy's innings was brief and for the second time in two weeks Paul was batting at the end of an over he'd started as Umpire. Making somewhat of a speciality of stopping the middle order collapse, after Dax's departure he added 40 odd with the unlikely partner of Steve Smith. I'm not sure when Steve was last at the crease but it was obviously a long time but with a spot of coaching from Paul he managed to miss the wide ones and keep the straight ones out. Playing only for pride, and to get further under the skins of Caddington who seem to play Cricket just to have something to take the piss out of each other for. Every tiny act got a barrow load of banter, most of it taken in very poor humour by the recipient. A young spin bowler was given a turn and had Steve in knots. Then Paul swept him for four the drove him straight for an "easy two", deflected off the bowler to the vacant long off area and fielded by the bowler who then threw down the wicket from about 20 yards just before Steve could saunter into his ground. The pair had doubled the score, Steve's contribution six runs, mostly from inside edges. This heralded the arrival of Tony, just about able to hold his bat and also their reserve bowler, a Mr. Foster, left arm fast medium, fresh from a five-fer on the same wicket the day before in the league. His only concession to the fact it was about eight o'clock on a Sunday friendly to be to shorten his run-up. With more than a hundred runs needed and the light fading, two last two old-timers at the crease, one barely able to hold his bat it was not the most chivalrous piece of captaincy you'd ever see. A few overs of snorters at throat height and the occasional one pitched up where all survived by Paul. Tony sensibly stayed at the shallow end where "Monkey" was turning incandescent with rage at a dropped chance at second slip by one of the leaders of the Greek chorus. When the end inevitably came, Tony edging low to the keeper said "Monkey" collapsed in apoplexy and had to be lifted to his feet by the handshake of the undefeated batsman, Paul, still there on 25 not out in spite of everything Caddington could throw at him. The bowler was white with rage at his teammates for the stick he had received. The batsman walked off happy that he'd managed to add a gloss of respectability to the score and more so that he'd got so far under the hosts skin for so long. Maybe this is what passes for fun on a Sunday in the Bedfordshire/Hertfordshire borders but it was far from the ideal of village cricket.
Apologies by the visiting team were proffered in the bar afterwards, and the fact that we could have made a better game of it with a few of our missing personnel where misinterpreted as "we could have beat you but..." and were countered with, "yeah but we didn't bring our best bats until 5,6,7 and we hardly used Fossie and then only off a short run". I just don't think they could grasp the concept of a Sunday friendly.
Afterwards as I ate spaghetti and watched "Goodfellas" on channel four I was reminded of the internecine squabbles and constant "ball-breaking" I'd just endured for several hours. But I was happy, I top-scored, I was not out...I was a made man!