It was approximately 11.24am on Saturday when the text that everybody dreaded arrived...'GAME ON'. For world renowned alcoholics Higgins, Best, Winehouse, Van Dyke and Docherty read Messrs Bottomley (on the verge of yet another divorce after his vomit related exploits), Potter (regretting downing his 17th and 18th pints), Coe (upgraded to 'two cans'), Hills (exhausted from 2 hours of non-stop rain dancing), Smokie (21 shots), and quite possibly the majority of the Saxton First Team.....all suffering from the previous evening's efforts. Never have I seen a less interested dressing room before the game, with even the normal banter and abuse non-existant amongst the groans and moans of men you should have either been still in bed or enquiring about registering for AA treatment.
In normal circumstances the Skipper winning the toss for the first time since the end of the Cold War would have brought both delight and surprise amongst the away team ranks. On learning of an outcome as rare as an England victory over the Aussies at Lords, and the subsequent decision to take the field first, the only emotions present were both fear and dread, with Smokie even caught with a small tear dripping down his left cheek.
8 overs later and with the home side racing unapposed to 54, the enthusiasm levels had managed to dimish even further, which was an achievement in itself. Even the skies conspired against Saxton, with the previous cloudy lining replaced by sunshine. At this stage not even Mystic Meg after a bucket of Ketamin could have predicted a victory for the away team.
It's a funny old game isn't it.
Moments later and Saxton had their first bright spot of the day with DC cleverly luring the previously free-flowing Kippax opener out of his crease with a well disguised slower ball, allowing Smokie, who had by now successfully discovered that he should go for the middle ball out of the 3 that he was seeing, to do the rest. Something to build upon. Enter Harry Fletcher (pictured below) on his First Team debut.
Showing no signs of of nerves against an aggressive batting line up, Harry started to weave his magic, belying his years to produce a wonderfully controlled spell of spin bowling, mxing both flight and pace, and looking dangerous with every ball bowled. It was no surprise when he dismissed the other opener soon after courtesy of a fine edge to the keeper. Wicket two followed soon with the home team's Australian (apparently the only Aussie who can't play cricket according to Mr Potter Senior) departing thanks to yet another fantastic, one handed catch in the slips from Mr Buck. With Crampo admirably keeping a lid on things at the other hand, the game had changed, Saxton heads were slowly clearing, and the enthusiasm was beginning to emit from each member of the team at the same rate as the alcohol emitting through their pores. It was no surprise that the wickets continued to tumble, with 2 in an over for young Harry, 2 in 2 balls in fact, both bowled, including the dismisal of the irritating 'Azza' (complete with sideburns a middle aged Amish man would be proud of and a mouth Bernard Manning would be proud of). 5 down, soon to become six with Harry claiming his 5th wicket with a clinical caught and bowled. It was now noticeable how the fielding had also improved ten-fold from the first ten overs, something which was highlighted by a direct hit (intentional?) from Donald to claim the 7th Kippax wicket.
Harry finished with 5/27 from his 14 overs in what must be one of the best debuts in many a year. Although the home side managed to stage a comeback thanks to a disciplined innings from their Skipper, Saxton were happy to take their final total of 173-9, especially considering the start they had had, and the cirrhosis of the liver that was going round their dressing room. The final 2 wickets went to Potter after another spell of tight death bowling.
The Saxton boys were quietly confident during the tea interval, which was spent discussing the previous night's events, including young Coe's promises of getting a 50 after his record second can of Kaliber, Chewy's tales of hurling his guts up at the crack of dawn, and Potter thanking the Skipper for providing him with the previously unknown details of how he had gotten home. A big thanks must also go to Mr Bottomley Senior who was down for the weekend, and provided much entertainment, mostly at the expense of his much maligned son, including what must go down as the quote of the day with the line 'have you ever seen a bag of frogs' when asked about the appearance of his son's second wife. Mr B also kindly contributed a picture of the once happy couple together. Come back next week Mr B.
Saxton began their reply soldly and had reached 29 with no real dramas, despite the constant appealing of the home side (including when the ball came out of the middle of the bat), when the Wookie was only able to find cover with a lofted drive. Enter Len H (or the 'Sweeper') and a continuation of his recent good form with the bat, with a well made 34 in partnership with Dave B who was efficiently holding the innings together at the other end. 70 odd for 1 and looking good. However, as we all know Saxton never make things easy, and the usual occurence of losing a number of wickets quickly reared its nasty head again, with Steve H falling foul of a dubious caught behind down the leg side, and Bucky going soon after LBW. Donald soon followed after a promising 18, and was joined not much later later by Potter, ironically the victim of a brilliant return catch by the aforementioned Aussie, Smokie, and the Skipper, victim of an appalling decision (and possibly a case of sympathy after 435 previous unsuccesful appeals in the innings), all having made 'starts'. When Oringe followed soon after it looked like a case of so near but so far yet again for Saxton.
DC and Harry F had other ideas however, and proceeded to build a disciplined and courageous partnership, keeping up with the challenging run rate, and a fiercely determined home side, to carry Saxton towards victory. Both played with common sense, and no little skill, but special mention must go to Harry (you owe me a Beer for all this) who batted nervelessly for a vital 23, only departing with victory 2 runs away. With Crampo on 31 not out at the other end, and the Saxton players chain smoking, pacing and nail biting on the sidelines it was left to Rory with 4 balls to go to earn the away team a vital 5 points. 2 balls later and the pitch had been invaded by the jubilant Saxton team who had finally managed to win a 'close' one, against all the odds and medical advice, to become the only team to do the double on the 3rd placed home side.
And how good did the Beer taste after the game. A fantastic performance from a great bunch of of guys, with an amazing spirit. 'We can beat anyone in this league' said DC in the dressing room. We can.
We have learnt a few other things too during the course of the afternoon, particularly that it is now mandatory to go out and get absolutely trashed on a Friday evening as this helps us to perform, and also that Smokie is not allowed to give up smoking (5 wickets lost in the hour he abstained from Mr Benson and Mr Hedges as noticed by Mr Hills), no matter how much his Lungs argue otherwise.
Bring on Bilton..............