Bird soars, and Ricky Guild the lily
Friends will be friends, mused Freddie Mercury, and – as with much in life – he was right. Sunday’s local derby against the team just up the hill featured some touching displays of male bonding, in which the participants were unafraid to demonstrate their genuine platonic affection for each other, whatever others might think. Oh, and there was an excellent performance from the home team in general, and Andy Bird in particular, resulting in a comprehensive Rickmansworth victory.
The day started with your correspondent venturing tentatively into the home dressing room, which smelt like it might have been someone’s final resting place. Further analysis revealed the odour to be a potent mix of Antipodean sweat, cigarette smoke, spilt Fosters and post-vindaloo farts. The Ministry of Defence is currently evaluating its effectiveness as a possible weapon.
Rickmansworth batted first, with the usual suspects of Chris Morris and Callum Cusack venturing to the crease. In the first of many touching moments, Morris decided to bat left-handed, in a tribute to his mate Cal. Those watching noted that Morris’ efforts were considerably more fluent than most of the Ricky line-up could manage batting with their correct hand.
Morris’ dismissal brought Stuart Derbyshire to the crease, on his return from the incestuous wilds of Norfolk. After a cautious start, the retro-haircutted all-rounder played with increasing confidence, as did Cusack. The pair put on 59 for the second wicket before Callum holed out, leaving Ricky 83-2. Andy Bird, promoted to No.4, batted in his usual manner of a man who is late for a train. (Given Bird’s professional life, as a train driver manager, one hopes he doesn’t encourage his colleagues to drive in a similar style). His hard hitting increased the scoring rate against an attack reminiscent of Stuart Squires: solid, yet unspectacular.
Derbyshire’s dismissal, for 52, brought in Joe McCusker. Last time I saw Joe bat, he looked about twelve; now he is a university student, and looks at least fourteen. His brisk 25, together with Bird’s fireworks, took Ricky to 214-5, and a massive total looked on the cards. However, this was to overlook Ricky’s contractual obligation to produce at least one batting collapse per match. McCusker holed out off of the comedy bowling of Josh Wilkinson, Matt Scales gave the same bowler a caught-and-bowled, Ken Brown was castled, and Jon Wood run out to a smart piece of fielding. Your correspondent, in his annual appearance, added another to his lengthy list of 0 not outs.
Tea was a slightly disturbing affair. Once upon a time, many years ago, one could rely on cricket teas made by lovely old ladies, who would spend their entire week baking goodies for cricketers to scoff during the interval. Alas, Rickmansworth CC has a dearth of lovely old ladies – or, indeed, anyone who can be arsed to go round Tesco to buy a couple of loaves and some Mr.Kiplings – and so has engaged the services of a professional caterer.
As a result, we were served value white bread sandwiches, spring rolls which seemed to have met a lengthy demise in a deep fat fryer, a yellow and a brown cake, some biscuits, and a bowl of fruit salad with nothing to eat it from or with. We were merely crusts away from the era of Tony Norton’s teas, which were to cricket catering what Gary Glitter was to child protection. The cost of this smorgasbord of culinary delights – surely the epitome of free market capitalism – was £60. I blame Thatcher.
Heston Blumenthal has built a career on enhancing the dining experience through the use of innovations such as illusions, sounds, and dry ice. Conversely, the Ricky Tea Experience involved mysterious piles of broken glass, mixed with pieces of fruit, placed strategically around the entrance and lobby of the pavilion. Your correspondent, resplendent in cricket socks, demonstrated more fluent footwork than he ever managed at the crease, whilst musing that the previous night’s wedding at the club had at least been mercifully quieter than the previous one (which involved broken bottles, riot police, and copious claret being spilt). Paul Blackwell’s marketing campaign (“Wedding Receptions at Rickmansworth – end your special day with a fight”) is evidently having an effect.
In the field, Rickmansworth opened the bowling with the brisk Tom Watson, and the slightly less brisk Sean Lindsay. Watson’s accurate pace was rewarded with the wickets of Mayners and Wilkinson, whilst Lindsay had something of an off-day, with Wilkinson enjoying his bowling much more than the preceding tea. Nonetheless, the visitors posted sixty from their first fifteen overs, suggesting that they had a chance of reaching their target.
The dismissals were celebrated, if that be the word, by Cusack and Morris wrestling on the wicket. This unusual act – certainly not repeated by England’s fielders, at least during recent Test series – led to some puzzlement amongst their colleagues. Given their close friendship, were the duo recreating the famous scene in Ken Russell’s film adaptation of Women in Love? (If so, then surely Rory would be a better Oliver Reed?). Thankfully, the pair assured teammates that they were merely paying homage to British wrestling from the 1970s, with Callum further entertaining onlookers after the match by putting a tennis racket up against his face and pretending he was Kendo Nagasaki.
Enter Bird, whose left-arm seam caused Croxley to collapse faster than Jimmy Savile’s reputation. Despite missing out on a hat-trick – Scales, complete with Rolf Harris-esque ‘beard’, missing a sharp chance at slip – Andy took a wicket with the following delivery. Three out of four ain’t bad. The presence of a teenage girl at No.9, Charlotte Ayrton, caused something of a panic in Ricky’s ranks, but Bird clean bowled her to grab his five-for, and honours board-based immortality. In more innocent times, such an achievement might earn a summons to the 1st XI; nowadays, alas, a summons from Operation Yewtree seems more likely.
Bird’s achievement allowed Ken Brown and Jon Wood to have a cameo dart, picking up a wicket apiece, to leave Guild 81 all out. After that, the game continued in the vein of a good-natured knockabout, with Wilkinson trying to knock Scales out of the park. In a moment which will forever be known as that at which cricket lost its final vestiges of dignity, he was dismissed by your correspondent’s final delivery, caught in the deep – inevitably – by Bird.
An enjoyable afternoon’s cricket, played in good spirits, and under generally sunny skies. Can Rickmansworth make it three wins on the bounce against Old Fullerians? Will Paul Blackwell be dismissed by Trigger McGill again? Watch this space….