Sunday 20 September 2020 (at Droxford)
The Racqueteers played their eighth and penultimate match of the season at Droxford Cricket Club. This was our first-ever match against Droxford and the ground did not disappoint. Just as our sat navs were on the verge of giving up and taking us back to Swanmore, we each arrived, via a narrow lane opposite the White Horse, on the outer edges of Droxford village, with the South Downs gently rolling in the background. Two ancient trees on the pitch guarded the clubhouse boundary, like Charybdis and Scylla – sea monsters of Greek legend – preventing sailors reaching the shore. Actually they were part of the boundary with a four being scored if they were struck, but let’s not spoil the metaphor. Finally, proving the great variety that village cricket offers, the pitch had a considerable slope.
The match was to be 40 overs each and the Professor won the toss, electing to bat. Edmund and Gaurav opened and the rest of the team chilled for an hour as they put on 36 for the first wicket in 12 overs. Against a strong bowling attack – which was especially fast and accurate coming down the hill – and good fielding, Droxford were difficult to get away. Some unpredictable bounces and balls staying low didn’t help, but the openers built a good foundation before Gaurav was caught for 12. Jack came in and built partnerships with Edmund (who went four overs later for 22), Tom, who scored 13, and Nick, who scored a strong 26. Jack elected to retire after scoring an excellent 50, including 8 fours. Although the top five batsmen all performed well and scored in double figures, the Droxford bowling and fielded had remained strong, with their top three bowlers conceding no more than three an over, and we found ourselves at 130 for 4 off 31 overs when Nick was bowled. Ideally we would push on, but Droxford remained difficult to put away and in fact their number seven bowler took 3 for 5 off six overs. The final six Racqueteers batsmen all scored runs and pushed the score on a bit, but they all fell in single figures – caught or bowled plus a runout for Jonathan (I’m sure he was close!). This left us with a respectable score of 156. The question was, would this be enough in a 40-over match?
The Racqueteers fielding performance was eventful without even considering the cricket. In no particular order: Gaurav had a conference call at 5:00, so arranged a swift changeover of wicket-keeping duties with Jack mid-innings; Chris turned up and was drafted in as a substitute fielder at various times; our injured skipper Mike F and Lol also appeared to inspire us; Guy left the field for a couple of overs with a “blood injury” (a bleeding thumb after stopping the ball on the joint); and there was also a deflected runout and a wicket first ball of the innings. Anyway, back to the cricket. Angus’s first ball tickled their opener’s leg bail off to everyone’s surprise, I believe after the batsman left it and it hit the leg stump – but without an action reply, we’re not quite sure what happened. Angus and Mike C bowled a tidy opening spell, with Droxford keeping slightly ahead of the run rate needed but not by much. The next wicket came in the seventh over with an excellent ball from Angus taking down the stumps. A further wicket fell in the next over. Mike C made an excellent stop off his own bowling, deflecting a powerful drive from the batsman onto the stumps and running out the batsman at the bowling end. The umpire was a little uncertain as it was so unexpected, but it was clearly out and Droxford were 40-3 off eight overs, with the match very much on. Unfortunately, a stand of 86 followed. The Droxford batsmen played well and also knew the ground, with some skilful use of the guarding trees to make fours. There were a couple of hard catch chances that went down, but it wasn’t until Angus returned for a second spell that the fourth wicket fell, a superb slip catch by Jack. At this point, they needed 37 runs off 17 overs, so we needed wickets. It wasn’t to be. Although Julien, Guy, Nick and David (at times) made them work for their runs, they reached the target with 10 overs remaining, and their number two scoring 78 not out.
We retired to the White Horse to reflect on an extremely enjoyable game of cricket, and hopefully we will be back next year with a different result. Out of interest, the Droxford account of the match is here.
Droxford beat The Racqueteers by 7 wickets
Racqueteers: 156 all out off 38.3 overs
Droxford: 157 for 4 off 29.3 overs