Fringed as it is by poplars, hornbeams and of course its willows weeping over the river, River Park was somehow just the right venue for our fixture against the Willow Tree. The Racqueteers fielded first – and started well. Tom “Ted” Talks made the ball talk: he bowled the Willow Tree’s opening bat in the third ball of his first over, for 1. He bowled their number two in his second over, for 6. He bowled their number four in his third over, for 10. Rishi wasn’t having as much luck from his end, but the President continued his run of good form, finishing on 2 for 17 off his four overs. When Aussie Stu and the Skipper came on, they also had good spells – Stu producing real pace off his energy-conserving run-up, and ripping it like only an Aussie can, and finishing with figures of 3 for 24. The Willow Tree were only able to score nine runs off Mike F’s four overs – one of them a Maiden. The Racqueeteers were sprightly in the field, meanwhile, good catches having been taken by Sepia, off the President’s bowling, and the Skipper – who caught two, one off a looping edge that carried over the slips and had to be taken over his shoulder. If it hadn’t been for more wides than one might ideally want to have bowled, plus a strong performance with the bat by the Willow Tree’s number seven (27 not out), we might have been fairly confident of a win.
The wicket, alas, was unpredictable, and so were our batsmen. Guy started well and was unlucky to be bowled for 5. Dave F, coming in at 3, lost his wicket in the most dispiriting way – the ball catching his pad and then rolling with glacial pace towards the stump where it just had the energy to dislodge a bail. Nathan, making his debut for the Racqueteers, was just setting up a good innings when he was run out. Aussie Stu’s lost his wicket in the most bizarre way, though – spanking a straight one back at the bowler who took it straight in his not inconsiderable midriff and then somehow managed to get his hands on it. “He’ll have a bruise tomorrow”, was Stu’s laconic comment. It was left to the two Mikes to save the Racqueteers’ honour, and they did what they could as the clouds darkened and thickened: the Skipper finished on 25 not out, and the President on 16, caught and bowled. By the time Rishi came in, at number 9, the rain had set in and it was too late even for his exuberant stroke play. We finished with 73 off our 20 overs. Not a bad score off an unpredictable wicket – but not, alas, enough.