Strongroom v Exiles, Highgate Woods, SATURDAY July 7 2001

Good weather for sledging?

The BCC-Strongroom/Exiles fixture has had a history of rancour and poor sportsmanship over the years but recently it seemed like anyone in the home team who still remembered what the fuss was about had hung up their boots. This game was as bad as anything that had gone previously, some say worse, but it was the new faces stirring the pot whilst the old-timers had mellowed into indifference. Maybe this is as good a time as any to clear up any misunderstanding that the name "The Exiles" might mean "exiled from the BCC". It's true the kernel of this team used to play for the BCC and left to form the Exiles but the name refers to the fact that none of us were Londoners not that we had been cast out, or were in any way clinging to some sort of nostalgia for those days-quite the reverse! From a historical perspective Richard Boote's churlishness back in 1986 was the grit in the oyster that grew into the great shining pearl that The Exiles have become today. Thank you for that at least.

The current Captain, "Woolhouse R" was as unwelcoming as the grey damp weather that hung over Highgate Woods, squeezing out the humidity in fine drops that barely fell. His anger seemed to be 360º in Fahrenheit and direction, his own wicket keeper being the first to reel under his invective expletives as soon as the second over. Not that he was shy in using short words against the batsmen either. Tom Birkert getting an earful for his edged boundaries to third man when perhaps he should have admonished himself for not backing his pace bowlers with either slips or third man having been given first use of the helpful bowling conditions. Tom blushed a little but kept up his knit-one-perl-one defence up long enough to reach a well deserved fifty in as unpleasant conditions as he's ever likely to encounter. None of the other top order batsmen managed to close their ears and open the face as well Tom, each falling wicket greeted with war cries and cruel laughter. Mark and Simon bowled well on the skiddy wicket but the extras column quickly filled up with byes, leg-byes, and wides which obviously didn't salve the febrile Woolhouse's temper.

Enter Effie, the Captain for the day and a Cricketer whose ability to get under the skin of the opposition is renowned and deserved. He uses the old trick of putting the fielding side under pressure with quick singles, calling "Two!" when one is all there is and strolling between the wickets goading the pea-shooter armed fielders to attempt a run-out and risk overthrows. Well you don't have to use to much imagination to guess the sort of words that were coming at him from the four corners of the field (though not from Richard Boote or Guy-the only ones present from the bad-old days). In one incident the bowler resorted to an arms spread body-check, backing into Effie who was loitering outside his crease, in an attempted run-out. Effie claims to have grounded his bat between the wrestler's legs but Vishal was right on the scene to award not-out. A more headstrong umpire may have been minded to call over the Captain and warn him about Law 42.5 (Obstructing the batsman) and awarded five penalty runs. Another five runs could conceivably been awarded for contravention of the law on changing the condition of the ball (42.3)-the quarter seams had developed "labia" by the 10th over! In the unlikely event that this fixture is ever repeated the umpires should make a mental note of these facts. Effie eventually fell to an ambitious slog-pull that ballooned and was caught on the run by Guy which gave rise to riotous celebrations of the sort normally witnessed for the death of a tyrant. Roric Coleman seemed to be affected by the sledging worse than anyone and his recent run of form abandoned him in this unfamiliar cauldron. Paul Shorrock got promoted over Vishal Khatri-perhaps because of his perceived greater insensitivity to hostility than the youngster but he couldn't be protected from the profanities for long because Tom's long vigil finally ended. The openers were brought back on to mop-up the tail and accounted for Paul, neatly caught low at slip but Vishal and James Weir saw out their remaining overs and a fifth bowler, the Captain's brother "Woolhouse C" was brought into the attack and captured the cheap wicket of James Weir with his sixth ball. Exiles all out for 132 .

The Exiles innings:

 Batsman How Out Runs
T Birkert Ct R Woolhouse 50
Faisal Ansari Bowled Mark 6
S Parsons lbw Mark 0
T Brook Ct Simon 0
P Watts Ct Davis 9
Effie Ct Davis 19
R Coleman Bowled R Woolhouse 0
P Shorrock Ct Simon 2
Vishal Khatri Not Out 6
J Weir Ct C Woolhouse 1
J Moffat Absent . .
 Extras      42
 Total All out (29 Overs) 132

Strongroom Bowling figures:

 Bowler Overs Maidens Runs Wickets
Mark B 7 0 17 2
Simon 7 3 27 2
R Woolhouse 7 0 34 1
A Davis 7 0 25 3
 C Woolhouse 1 0 4 1

After a "build-it-yerself" tea standing around in the damp The Exiles went out vowing to win by fair means not foul. Mark got off to a flier but was shot down by James who induced a mis-timed drive on the up that Steve Parsons managed to hold without the drama of last week. He then did something similar at mid-on off Paul's bowling and thereafter The Exiles exercised a fair degree of control. Effie bowled both the openers through for near identical figures of reasonable economy but no further wickets. He then brought himself and Pete Watts, The Exile's quickest bowler, on. Pete struggled for stability on the damp turf so borrowed Paul's size ten boots with spikes, obliging Paul to suffer for an hour in size nine shoes. It was worth it to see him remove Woolhouse caught and bowled before his clean hitting could do any real damage. He also induced an inside edge into Peter the Strongroom keepers' box that seemed like natural justice after listening to his calls to "stick-it-up-em!" all afternoon. Simon and the opener Dave Gower (no kidding) then put together a crucial stand that saw them home amid mounting tension. Needing five from the last over Effie picked himself for the job. Perhaps lack of experience in these tight end games made him choose a fine leg over a third man. The three runs glanced down there off the first ball more or less sealed victory. Two off the next ball was all that was needed.

It's a pity this game was made so unpleasant by the home Captain's lead because it produced an exciting finish and there were good players and strong performances on both sides. I've lost count of the number of times I've heard "we'll never play them again" about this team but somehow by the AGM attitudes seem to have softened. I suspect that now the Exiles have matured into a tight and unified squad who play for fun and respect the traditions of the game there may be no appetite for this "grudge match", especially amongst the newer members. It was certainly in sharp contrast to the hard but pleasant encounters we have had so far this season.

Strongroom Innings:

 Batsman How Out Bowler Runs
 D Gower Not Out 43
Mark Ct Parsons J Weir 27
A Davis Ct Parsons P Shorrock 0
Dave D Bowled P Watts 1
R Woolhouse Ct & bowled P Watts 16
Peter Bowled Effie 1
Simon Not Out 30
Chris . . .
Richard Boote . . .
Ollie . . .
Guy . . .
 Extras      12
 Total  34.2 Overs for 5 wickets 133

The Exiles bowling figures:

 Bowler Overs Maidens Runs Wickets
 P Shorrock 7 3 22 1
J Weir 7 2 22 1
P Watts 7 1 24 2
Effie 6.2 1 26 1
Faisal Ansari 4 0 18 0
Vishal Khatri 3 0 10 0

BTW: Those of you who played this fixture and were worried about what may have happened to Jim Moffat- he was still in Wales and drove back on Sunday morning thinking the game was that afternoon! Of course he was gutted, embarrassed and apologetic in roughly equal proportions. There is no doubt that had he been present we would have shaved this close contest. Even if he had been out for a duck he would surely have saved at least 6 runs in the field. Sorry to heap more guilt on your broad shoulders Jim!

The statistically minded amongst you may have noted that these figures don't actually add up-I apologise but I only copy out what's in the book.


Next week Nuxley at home.

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