Matches

Standard Athletic Club

203 all out & 237 for 6 dec - 222 for 6 dec & 220 for 3
Full Time
Lost by 7 wickets

Match Report

Paris Tour

The enthusiastic ‘rule the world and live forever’ exuberance of youth was out in force on the tour to Paris. Friday night training took on a whole new meaning in the Zig Zag Club. Breakfast was only attended by a few, and a slightly dishevelled cohort embarked the bus for the short journey to the Standard Athletic Club ground in Meudon. Fewer than five minutes into the journey, there was a plaintive cry from the back: “Stop the bus”. The driver was having none of it, manoeuvering through a narrow chicane along the Seine, thereby putting the following Smallwood car at risk of mobile redecoration. Noisy as he was, and wildly applauded by those who had managed their alcohol intake only very slightly better, the unfortunate vomiter was mostly firing blanks.

The SAC ground is set high above the river, in the midst of woodland, a rural idyll all but in the middle of Paris, with a lush green outfield and matting wicket. We were made welcome with urgent coffee infusions, before losing the toss and being inserted. The game is almost certainly the first two-day, four innings game played by the Stragglers, and was captained with great skill and endless enthusiasm by Jasper. The Allport twins opened up, dealing with the unfamiliar track with care, and gaining confidence as the brilliant morning sun burnt away the last of the dew. Theo (34) was unfortunate to pick out James Grant at point, just as he was upping the tempo. The less said about the running out of Matt, the better; and then George, not yet really himself, chose to play the wrong ball of the many he was seeing, and found himself back in the hutch. Simon passed 50, including a huge top edged six that nearly made the swimming pool; Jasper (18) and Patch Mitchell (29) (there being 2 Patch’s on tour, with Patrick ‘from the pub’ Clews playing in only his second Straggler fixture) kept the board ticking along, but catches went to hand and were held, most notably by Robin Groom at slip to remove Charlie and earn himself the day one ‘Champagne moment’. The Stragglers were limping somewhat, when Al came in at 9 to blaze a quick fire 38, making it all look so straightforward. However, when Ed used his big toe and not the toe of the bat to fend off a Darcy Clingan yorker, the innings was wrapped up at 203.

All the early morning banter and bravado about enforcing the follow on had evaporated, as the Stragglers now faced a long hot afternoon in the field, no longer fuelled by overnight alcohol. There were a couple who were on the upswing from over indulgence. Jasper rotated his bowlers judiciously changing pace and angle of attack; runs were hard to come by, but so were wickets. A couple of umpiring decisions went in favour of the Stragglers, but the SAC upper order did not buckle, grinding on at not much more than 3 runs an over. Balls hit in the air did not go to hand; out in the deep Ed was challenged by the red ball against the (imaginary) red sight screen; he may have been referring to the first hints of autumn in the trees around the ground, but needs to book an eye test. He was treated to an aerial barrage by SAC, dropping balls behind and in front before, very belatedly, James Grant picked him out precisely. Simon put his hand on the line for the team, taking a ferocious blow on his left thumb, which impeded his fielding thereafter. By the time we returned to England the thumb was an interesting colour of magenta and twice its original size. The long, soft grass in the outfield allowed for some extravagant sliding stops, including one by Charlie, when he slid to such great effect that the ball was left trailing in his wake. After 54 attritional overs, the close of play was welcomed by the Straggler fielders, now becoming a little ragged. The breakthroughs had been too few and too late, and the declaration at stumps (222 for 6) was a huge relief. The match was now nicely poised for day 2, with SAC throwing down the gauntlet, only 19 runs to the good.

James Grant, our well organised and multi-functional host, whisked the slightly shell shocked tour party into the middle of Paris for a splendid late night (for the old folk at least) dinner in Brasserie Julian. He then took the exceptionally brave step of seeking to undermine the Straggler batting by taking them on a tour of assorted dens of iniquity, to ply them with drinks and discourage sleep. With Munton on the front line, James found himself comprehensively hoist by his own petard, and was somewhat grey around the gills on Sunday morning. A shortage of taxis at 4am saw a number of Stragglers walking off their excesses, returning to the Hotel just in time to pack, grab a cup of coffee and depart for an early start back at Meudon.

With a maximum of four and a half hours of play in the day, the Stragglers had to bat fast and hard to set a challenging target for the SAC, and Jasper did just this. Abandoned early on by George, who wandered down the track and waved at one from Les Clack, returning from injury to drop every ball on a length, Jasper and Patch Mitchell set about the SAC attack with some panache. Jasper rode his luck, was dropped in the slips, and reached his third Straggler century (113) (2nd against SAC). Patch managed to dislocate his shoulder reaching for a wide one, but still went on to score 70 in a partnership of 146. Charlie came and went, snaffled for the second time in the match by a ‘Champagne moment’ catch, this time by Chris Brown. Theo blasted the final over for 18 in four balls before holing out, and Jasper felt confident in a declaration at 237 for 6 scored from a mere 32 overs, to leave a target of 219 off what turned out to be a possible 40 overs.

An amateur two day game throws in the possibility of an occasional change of personnel on the second day, and the SAC brought in Steve Byng to open the batting. Steve had been dealt with early in his innings at Belmont in May, falling to the Prest/Neame combination caught in the gully. This time the Stragglers let him off the hook, eschewing at least two chances while in single figures – bad mistake. Charlie’s opening spell found edges every other ball, but just could not find a fielder to hold on to one. Julian Howe was removed by a Prest yorker in the third over, to bring in the free hitting left hander, Rata. Limited English spoken, but he knew where he wanted the ball to go, and go it did, occasionally followed by Matt, for whom his cap seemed to be a major inconvenience when running, discarded with a flourish as he turned to chase. And when Rata holed out, the SAC innings had the momentum, lacking the day before. Jon Riches picked up the pace still more, as Jasper rotated his bowlers to find the breakthrough. Finally it came, as the Allports just managed to exert enough control to pull the run rate back, and Simon, using his good hand, took a splendid return catch to remove Jon. Granty’s arrival at the wicket, still suffering from his late night exertions, came too late to put him under pressure, and he scored one huge six before Steve (127*) competed a comprehensive SAC victory by 7 wickets with 2 overs remaining.

Many thanks are due to James Grant, Jon Riches and all of the SAC players for hosting the touring Stragglers so generously; James managed a wide range of culinary and expeditionary tasks with consummate ease; we enjoyed a great game of cricket in a fabulous setting; and we toasted the memory of our friend, Toby Cox – how he would have loved the atmosphere. Congratulations to Jasper and Jon for their excellent captaincy. Champagne (Kentish of course) moments were awarded to Robin Groom and Chris Brown for their exceptional catches to remove Charlie twice; and man of the match to Jon Riches for his exceptional keeping on day one, half century in the first innings, tight bowling in the second and sound captaincy to see SAC victorious.