With its beech and ash trees threshing away in the breeze and its lofty position affording views of rolling Hampshire farmland to the south and west, West Meon is an undeniably bucolic ground. It also has a wicket that, at least in early summer, is low and slow, and slopes like a Neanderthal’s forehead – and which, according to the opposition captain, had recently suffered the attention of crows. They had pecked a load of holes in it.
None of this made it an entirely straightforward wicket to bat on – as, having won the toss and chosen to bat, our first four batsmen demonstrated. Lawrence “Head of Salmon” Talks and his son Tom, faced another family pair in West Meon’s opening bowlers, who both bore the rather ominous name of Canning. Head of Salmon was quickly canned; Tom fell after another over. What might have been a rather touching father-son partnership was denied by good, penetrative bowling. The Bard was skittled first ball while the Skipper (4) was just starting to look set when an inswinger caught the inside edge and went through into the wicket.
With just seven runs to show for the loss of four wickets, Gaurav and Guy began batting like openers. G (a judicious 10) fell to an unfortunate run-out while Guy (9) was starting to build a stylish-looking innings when a fullish delivery stayed unhelpfully low. It was Rishi (30) and “Farmer” Chris (a well-considered 12 not out) who rescued the possibility of a real match, Rishi hitting boundaries with his usual wristy aplomb before a fine running catch taken at deep midwicket sent him to the pavilion.
With just 77 to defend, we needed precision from our bowlers. It was supplied. Chris ended with figures of 1 for 10 off his five overs, including two maidens – an excellent game for him. Rishi flew down the ground’s considerable hill for the first six of his nine overs before switching ends and flying up the hill with no apparent deceleration, and ending with figures of 3 for 29. When West Meon reached 38 for 4, it looked as if a game might be on. But although Yox puzzled the bat with a bowl that turned two ways, and possibly more, and although Head of Salmon found an excellent line and length, and despite a penetrating final over from the skipper, West Meon passed our total with three wickets in hand.
As the Skipper commented, it was a really good performance in the field and another 20 or 30 runs might well have been enough. But it was impossible to feel sore on such a lovely early summer day, especially after a generous tea and with such an affable opposition. We look forward to our return.
An outstanding afternoon tea was gratefully enjoyed by all!