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Match Report vs Sparsholt 04 September 2011@ Sparsholt, Hampshire (Tour) (Skipper Muff, report Shakey)

Following a quiet pint at the hotel bar the Cazh meandered into town, drawn by the promise of the curry that was to come. After a brief conversation between Goff and the curry house manager, in a pseudo-cockney but allegedly wintonian dialect which no-one really understood, the Casuals settled down to the feast aided by a menu printed in our honour! It was a veritable Noah’s ark of excellent fare with cows, lamb, prawns, salmon, chicken and water buffalo coming in two by two as a constant flurry of plates tested our bellies to bursting. A slow and bloated walk to the next pub put paid to most of the team with only Goff, Shag and Lovers lasting the drinking pace.

Next morning it looked as if the only thing that might leave Winchester would be an ark. Rain was constantly falling and any sort of match looked unlikely but by 11.30 the rain had stopped and news reached us that the covers at Sparsholt should see us through. On arrival, watery sun yawned through the gently receding clouds, the covers came off the picturesque ground, and soon the Casuals opened their innings against a Sparsholt side which looked decidedly young and athletic.

There is nothing worse than a batting collapse – apart from a Casuals batting collapse. It’s the desperate search for pads and gloves and bats and caps; the indecision about where anyone is in the batting order; the scrambled search for a willing umpire who shouldn’t have to bat soon or isn’t sat depressed in the corner after failing to trouble the scorers; it’s the abject feeling of embarrassment, particularly acute on tour in a foreign land, when the opposition visibly stop celebrating the wickets and await the arrival of the next victim.

The nadir of 15-6 was reached at the end of the 6th over and Sparsholt took their opening pair off. It was only then that the batting revival began against a very attacking field. With nothing to lose, and no men out in the deep, Richie decided to at least die fighting and launched an assault with the alcohol-fuelled Goff. Eight runs came off the 7th over, nine off the 9th, ten off the 11th, twelve off the 14th and by the end of the 15th over we had fought back to 76-6 and Sparsholt had men back patrolling the boundary.

It couldn’t last though. Richie was bowled for a heroic 41 in the 17th over (69 run stand), Goff was also bowled for a resolute 20 and we passed 100 in the 22nd over with 2 wickets and 13 overs left. What Sparsholt didn’t know was that Hood, Swain and Stewart were our nine, ten and jack and that they were intent on risk-free accumulation so we at least had something to bowl at. Winkie and Kim proceeded to amass 60 precious runs for the ninth wicket with Andy finally caught for 27 and Kim posting 33* as we batted our 35 overs out in reaching 153-9. At least we had restored some dignity and if we could get some early wickets……

The Casuals got off to a great start as Dan and Andy bowled fast and straight with no easy balls to score off. They picked up a wicket each in their respective opening overs and Dan also induced a nick behind in the 9th as the home team desperately tried to rebuild. Lovers and Tesh came on as change bowlers but the stranglehold never faltered. Tesh conceded the first Casuals boundary in the 17th over but it was the only one in his opening spell. The Sparsholt reply was dangerously one-paced as they took the fourth wicket stand to 31 before Lovers claimed their number 3 and then bowled another in his next over. Tesh also snaffled one before Paul came into the attack after the 22nd over with the batting team on 61-6.

With clouds gathering and the wind picking up on an increasingly chilly evening the steady procession of new batsmen continued as before. Cheese was tidy and deserved his 3-18, Paul should have added to his impressive season’s tally but Goff grassed a fly-ball and, although the last man swiped with gusto towards the end to make the reply look more effective than it was, Sparsholt stumbled to a meagre 114-9 off their 35 overs. It didn’t seem that bad a wicket but if you bowl straight, field with enthusiasm and get some early momentum against a team who thought they had you beat 2 hours before it just shows that anything can happen.

Played two and won two in Hampshire meant that 2011 was now destined to be a winning season. Well done to Goff for organising such an enjoyable tour and thanks to Lovers for services to skin-tight pink leotards – we await the photos.


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