Tales from the Boundary
This Splendid Game!
I have no long history of association with cricket unlike some of the members, but for me it has become part of life which is not just a sport, but a community of like-minded souls some of which I have been fortunate enough to have got to know and look forward to meeting up with during the summer seasons.
My earliest recollection was being taken by my parents to watch my Dad play as wicketkeeper for Herongate at their ground which borders the A128 on the way to Brentwood. It was in my early years, so I reckon it was in the late 1950s – early 1960s. Football, cricket and rounders were the sports played at my primary school in Laindon, all of which I enjoyed very much. I was made captain of the cricket team for a season in one of my later years there during the early 1960s which I took very seriously. I remember the Radio Times published a splendid article on the game that year, and I learnt all the field placings by heart ready for what would have been, I am sure, a remarkably successful season only for us not to play one competitive match that season due, I think, to a poor Summer weather-wise. From then on, football was my main sport and I never played any competitive cricket.
My re-introduction was with my wife-to-be when we used to watch Essex in the John Player League from the public terraces, and I am reliably informed that we were at the Oval when Essex beat Surrey to win it in September 1981. Membership followed and we continued with the the Sunday League, but now from the top of the Tom Pearce Stand. The advent of the one-day game was perfect for us as we could spend a relaxing day watching a complete game with a picnic and a Sunday newspaper as companions.
Our sport is a game of great unpredictability, the direction of which can hinge on the outcome of the next delivery. The next delivery, always the next delivery…….
My wife and I go to as many away games as we can manage as, due to our stewarding duties, we are never able to watch home games in their entirety. And so, it was the game against Kent at Canterbury in August 2019 which will long live in my memory and demonstrates one of the reasons why we are addicted to this, at times, most chaotic of sports.
The weather for the match was not good and by the morning of the third day after many rain-enforced breaks, Essex were 32 for 1 at the start of their reply to Kent’s first innings of 226 in which Daniel Bell-Drummond and Harry Podmore top-scored with 55 and 54 not out respectively. What followed was a sequence of events that would have made a ready-scripted thriller. From the aforementioned 32 for 1, Essex went into lunch having been bowled out for 114 with Amir top-scoring with 28 and a first innings deficit of 112. For Kent, Darren Stevens, the ever-present thorn in Essex’s side, returned figures of 17 for 3 along with Podmore’s 34 for 4. But what came next defied belief.
Following the lunch interval, Sam Cook led the Essex response and proceeded to decimate the Kent second innings which lasted 18.1 overs to finish all out for 40 – their lowest ever total against us. I was sitting with Chris (one of my fellow stewards) and his family to watch much of this innings and we could not believe what we were witnessing. It seemed that we were able to predict the outcome of each ball before it was bowled. Sam Cook returned match figures of 12 for 65 in only 27.4 overs. This left us needing 153 to win in the final innings of the game.
Re-joining Essex’s version of the ‘Barmy Army’ on the terrace alongside the Frank Wooley stand, we settled down to witness what became a torturous late afternoon’s play. Nick Browne went early at 5, but Alistair Cook and Tom Westley settled our nerves somewhat with a promising partnership only for Alistair and then Dan Lawrence to perish in quick succession at 51, followed by Ravi Bopara at 52. 3 wickets in 10 balls! Despair descended on the ranks of our ‘Barmy Army’ (a more sedate and less demonstrative bunch than the famous one). The remaining 101 needed was a long, long way off! Tom was joined by Ryan ten Doeschate and they proceeded to inch our way forward before Tom was dismissed at 82, followed shortly by Ryan at 84. Another 2 wickets in 14 balls! This was turning into a nightmare – still 69 runs short…. Now Adam Wheater was joined by Simon Harmer who between them in the next 17 overs moved us ever closer.
The next ball, the next ball – the tension was rising and some could not watch but engaged in abstract conversation; anything to relieve the pressure. Finally, Simon went with the score on 141 and we had started to believe that what had seemed impossible earlier, was now within our grasp. Mohammad Amir joined Adam and they took us to victory with Mohammad scoring the winning boundary in front of us with his only scoring shot in the 4 balls of his innings. The Essex supporters erupted as the scoreboard clock told us it was 2 minutes to 7pm. 26 wickets had fallen in the day at the start of which we had no inkling of what was to come.
One final note – Simon Harmer was wicketless in this fixture, and joint top-scored with 30. How many times have we seen this since his arrival?
Day 3 highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wS10ujs9U2M
Match scorecard: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/scorecard/ECKO44787