It started, as so many battles before us have, with the simple toss of a coin. Captain Wilma was asked to provide the coin. “I only have euros” he exclaimed. A sign of the times, perhaps.
After several minutes deciding which side was heads and which side was tails, the coin was flung into the air with reckless abandon and caught confidently by Dave Abbiss. The opposition players looked at each other with quivering lips – ‘these boys mean business’ they said to one another.
Captain Jackson lost the toss and was made to bat first. John Hulse boldly stepped forward to open the batting, chest protruding like a preened peacock. He was followed by Tom Clayton, known to have been a keen cricketer in his youth.
With charismatic ladies-man Hulse famed for his gung-ho slogging and Clayton rumoured to be able to bat a camel through the eye of a needle, Captain Holden chose to employ an aggressive strategy in order to claim early wickets. Bring on the Bailey Brothers!
In terms of ferocity, these estranged siblings sit somewhere between the Kray twins and the Chuckle brothers, and they eventually forced the dismissals of both Hulse and Clayton with a series of stunning deliveries.
During these two overs, a special mention has to go to wicket keeper Joe Holden, charged with the task of catching these tubthumping balls to avoid the two run penalty. Holden also caught out the effervescent Hulse after a bouncer from Matt ‘The Fish’ Bailey.
Unfortunately for the home team, after Clayton was clean bowled by Bailey, the pair of Hunstone and Halls were brought to the crease. Both men had hinted at a cricketing past in their pre-match biographies but nobody could predict the plethora of runs they would notch up together.
Throughout his life Chris Hunstone has abided by the principle that ‘those who live by the sword, die by the sword’ and this old wives’ tale came back to haunt him, as he blazed a rasping delivery from Matt Bailey toward his boyhood hero, Dave Abbiss.
The ball seemed to stay in the air an eternity. All manner of thoughts fled through Abbiss’s warped mind – Will I catch this? Will it slip through my pre-oiled fingers? Am I to be marinated in glory or left to stew in my own proverbial juices of despair? And what am I doing with my life? – before he caught it cleanly above his head. Hunstone walked without complaint.
Halls, insistent on staying in a while longer, went through a series of partners, much like in his personal life. I jest of course, he’s happily engaged to be wed and for that I applaud him. The depraved lothario of the opposition was undoubtedly Dave Hollington, who during a stag trip to Munich urinated on a radiator and got into bed with the best man. But I digress … this report is about cricket and cricket only!
Rose Abbiss was next to the crease, waggling a finger of impending doom toward any bowler who dared attempt a Yorker. She played a number of excellent defensive shots before Tom Bailey returned to bowl. Bailey grew up in the harsh urban ghetto of Western Avenue, across the street from the Abbiss household. Rose would often poor him glasses of dandelion and burdock and offer him plates of toasted cheese during his troubled childhood.
As Bailey approached the wicket all of this was forgotten. He meant business. The vague traces of finely grated cheddar that still clung to his palette turned to naught but ashy resin in his mouth, as he unleashed a 90mph full toss toward the woman who had been so integral to his upbringing. She was out.
Sleep with one eye open Tom Bailey, Rose Abbiss is not a woman who easily forgets!
Next up was Paul Abbiss, dressed in all whites, a steely look in his eye and a point to prove. Despite carrying back and knee injuries, his motto was to run for everything, no matter what the consequences. It was a tactic that paid off as the run rate increased rapidly and the opposition secured their half century. It’s fair to say that there was an element of luck involved though …
Ten of those runs were secured after a shot was edged to the rough, toward Iain ‘Old Man’ Cole. The old-timer had another of his legendary senior moments, spending forty five seconds looking for a luminous orange ball that was located about three inches from his right foot. The home team could have blamed senility or poor eyesight but instead they chose to blame the absent Richard ‘Wozza’ Worrall, who should have been there to help the geriatric fielder in his hour of need.
Besides, Old Man Cole made up for his hilarious fielding antics with the superb ‘caught and bowled’ of tenacious batsman Lance Halls. Cole later attributed his success to fatherhood, claiming that this experience had made him more alert and responsive to fast moving objects.
The home team spent the next few overs trying to disrupt the flourishing partnership of Paul Abbiss and Champagne Joe McCabe, who had predictably turned up half an hour late for the match. The mixture of youth and experience seemed to be paying off, until Captain Wilma conjured up a dastardly idea from the darkest depths of his soul …
The home team captain plucked away at the heart strings of Paul Abbiss by bringing in his only son to bowl. Abbiss junior used the sixth ball of the over to take the wicket of his father. It was a decent delivery but much applause has to go to Jonny Morris who, according to spectators, ‘leapt like a whale’ in order to catch out the opposition batsman.
With his mentor displaced, Joe McCabe was living on borrowed time. The opposition continued to take gargantuan risks, eventually leading to the unkempt youngster being run out. An undisputed direct hit from Tom Bailey was his undoing.
Moments earlier Paul ‘Wacko Jacko’ Jackson, captain of the opposition and pillager of the damned, had walked out into the squared circle, rapturously applauded from the upper echelons of Baggeridge Park. He had used his team’s kitty at ‘Rent-a-Crowd’ and the £45 looked like money well spent, as he and night-watchman Nuccio Militello took the score up to an impressive 72.
Militello, not known for his prowess with bat or ball, was later sledged to the point of violating the Geneva Convention by none other than Tom ‘Balls Deep’ Bailey.
The only man who didn’t get to bat for the opposition was the aforementioned scourge of society, Dave Hollington. Hollington had arrived dressed as a Victorian schoolboy, a decision that cost him a higher place in the batting order. But Paul Jackson, a merciful overlord, took pity on the disgraced rookie and allowed him to open the bowling. It was a decision that all spectators, including those paid for by Jackson himself, thought he would rue until his dying day … but Hollington is more able than his appearance (and intense medical testing) suggests and he bowled with some aplomb. No wickets to put on his CV though.
The opposition were up against two experienced opening batsmen in Joe Holden and Jonny Morris. Despite early promise, the partnership was broken up when Joe Holden was caught and bowled by rampant pace bowler, Chris Hunstone.
It’s the first time Hunstone has played since his schoolyard days, when he famously chased an innocent young boy called Lawrence around the playground, waving the cricket bat aggressively above his head. The aforementioned boy has since emigrated to Australia, though it’s unclear whether the two things are linked.
Black market cereal salesman Jonny Morris, who many had dubbed the immovable object after some stubborn batting performances during practice sessions, is famous for losing grip of his bat whilst swinging wildly at anything that moves. Many have suffered concussion as a result of his unorthodox batting style.
Having heard about his reputation, Tom Clayton (Silly-Mid-On) was sweating profusely for the three and a half minutes that Morris was in bat. He was dismissed by the first of many dangerous Paul Jackson bowls.
Enter Graeme ‘The Camel’ Bills, who pledged to urinate over the wicket and subsequently flood Baggeridge Country Park should the home team win the match. Famed for his defensive style, Bills stayed in for several overs and impressed with his icy resolve. This is despite the fact that, contrary to captain’s instructions, he tried to walk three times. Eventually he was clean bowled by Paul Abbiss.
Moment later, Communist sympathiser Cath Holden got a nick on a Lance Halls piledriver and was caught by ‘Safe Hands Hulse’ at wicket keeper. Hulse was also responsible for the ingenious tactic of placing a man behind the wicket keeper, a controversial and cynical move that saved numerous runs. Captain Wilma would have done the same but his extra fielder (Richard Worrall) was still stuck on the M6, listening to Grunge in his Renault Megane, daydreaming about what could have been.
Cath Holden, or Red Cath as she insists on being called at her weekly rallies, batted with dignity and sophistication but, despite forcing Graeme Bills to risk quick singles against his better judgement, she was still a little too cautious for Captain Wilma, who next called upon the brute force of Tom ‘Balls Deep’ Bailey. The home team had only 20 runs on the board at the time. A drastic increase in the run rate was required.
Captain Wilma was not helped in his plight when two of his senior batsmen managed to get themselves out by knocking over their own wickets. It may seem like a simple act of idiocy but both Dave Abbiss and Iain ‘Old Man’ Cole insist that there was a lot more to it.
Joe McCabe’s elegance and sorcery at the helm was such that he managed to make the two batsmen take their own wickets with just a flicker of his left nostril. The confusion caused by his unique bowling style knocked the more elderly of the two completely off his feet. He proceeded to swipe the bails off with his own bat, much to the amusement of all involved.
Tom ‘Wilma’ Holden, captain of the home team, then decided to take matters into his own hands. He and Bailey formed a crude but effective partnership, similar to that of Batman and Robin, Hitler and Mussolini and, to a lesser extent, Trinidad and Tobago. The two put on an excellent display until Bailey was broken, physically and mentally, by the bombastic barnstorming bowling of Paul ‘Wacko Jacko’ Jackson.
Tom Holden was undone by more mesmerising magic from Champagne Joe; this time it was a sizzling skidder, sliced by Holden and caught by Hulse. But this was not the end of Holden’s afternoon!
Matt Bailey was the penultimate wicket. More prolific as a bowler than a batsman, The Fish managed to scramble together a few runs before being pulverised by an unidentified bowler and caught by an unidentified fielder.
On account of having one player less the home team could call upon Tom Holden to bat again. They had 40 runs at the time and needed another 33 to win. Impossible? Not for a man who once downed a bottle of vinegar.
Holden defiantly batted away leg breaks, much like he bats away rumours about his bizarre personal life. He slipped shots through the gaps in Paul Jackson’s carefully placed field and, when in doubt, blazed it gregariously toward the boundaries. He leapt gazelle-like between the wickets at any opportunity, occasionally crashing head-first into the wickets as a perverse statement of intent.
The opposition lead was decreasing by the second.
Chris Hunstone tried to add late runs onto the opposition’s total but his sinister tactics were to no avail. It would take something special to stop Captain Wilma stomping to victory. 67 runs and one over remained …
Despite the protestations of his teammates, Paul Jackson walked toward the wicket, ball in hand. “I’ll handle this” he said, a menacing look in his eye.
Two runs later it looked like Jackson was about to lose the match for his well-oiled unit … three balls remained …
Boom! The wicket fell. Holden could not believe it. The bails lay on the floor, the hearts of the home team had plummeted into their sodden trainers.
The opposition, jubilant. The home team, crushed. Though all were glad they could say: “I was there.” Except for Wozz, who is still on the M6.
The real winner was the game of cricket itself (or in a more accurate sense, Paul Jackson’s team.) None who attended had seen a game of this magnitude before, except for Old Man Cole who was adamant that W. G. Grace’s debut was better.
The final score: 72 runs to 69.
Bring on the next match.