The day dawned bright, weather perfect for the Ives to journey to the Croxley Sports complex, a venue many had driven past frequently but hadn’t realised it was there…Fresh and hungry were Ivanhoe for a grudge match – no it cannot be described as a grudge as the game was played in too good a spirit, but regardless revenge was on the mind of the Ives given the close loss to them the previous week at home.

Bright was the sun, fresh was the breeze, lush (and bumpy) was the outfield and hard was the all weather pitch that once again yielded a lost toss and once more unto the field went the happy few, once more.

Saqib and Prasad opened up with the new cherry, steaming in and hoping to extract some bounce and utilize the artificial wicket’s pace and carry. Lips were licked, eyes widened in anticipation in the cordon behind the wicket due to a gentle slope across the pitch and a distinct slope along the pitch. Edges were going to fly, batters peppered and wary whilst protecting their wicket…at least that was the plan but the openers batted and saw off the new ball bowlers in a sedate fashion as batting was easier than Ivanhoe’s bowlers had expected. Nothing was doing until Ciaran pulled off, what an Australian would term ‘a ripper’ off Prasad to break the opening stand.

The presence of a bar onsite (one that certainly helps the libations flow) must have led to a tradition for the Croxley Crew as all umpires came onto the field with an alcoholic beverage of some description in hand…occasionally venturing to the boundary for a top-up! This may have been the reason an LBW off Hansi was turned down…

Andrew ambled in to turn his arm over for the first time in 9 months and was right on the money from the off, creating pressure and keeping things tight. Bowling in tandem with him for a time was John, and chances were created aplenty…some ‘earned’ through good bowling and some from big shots going awry. On another day, in his own words, John would have taken a fiver-for as chance after chance went down (apologies to name names but Prasad and Saqib, as well as John himself were guilty of the dreaded dropsies). John did, in the end, get a wicket so he wasn’t too filthy with the fielders, but a penny to a pound he’ll remind everyone of what could have been…bit like Hansi with the LBW that still smarts!

Ciaran and Rich brought the thunder and heavy metal to what had, hitherto been more of an improv jazz session – hitting the pitch hard and the bat harder. Croxley Crew’s tactic in light of this fire and fury was to swing hard, and failing that swing harder…a few rewards fell Ciaran and Rich’s way with an LBW given (not the same umpire, he was probably snoozing it off in the sun I might add) and a top edge caught and bowled, as well as a resounding demolition of the stumps saw 2 and 1 wickets respectively to the fast and furious duo. The aggressive hitting from Croxley did pay-off however as runs, particularly down the ground, were scored apace and the mighty blows struck resulted in what looked like a massive total of 225 being chalked up. Two half centuries from Dallas and Rose were the foundation of the score, well batted and cheers to them! The true pitch with very even bounce and minimal seam movement or spin, and the slope barely affecting the direction of the ball had worked in the batter’s favour.

Over a lovely tea in the clubhouse we were reassured that this score was par for the ground (not sure I’d believe it with the outfield not benefiting nudgers and nurdlers, and many a big shot stopping almost dead short of the boundary) but with light heart and heavy stomach it was time to see what damage could be rent on the Croxley Crew’s bowing figures.

Phil K and Venky opened up and entered the fray, and in a mirror of the Croxley Crew’s batting were untroubled and survived, nay thrived for a fair few overs before Venky was LBW and the stand was broken.

Hansi joined Phil and kept the score ticking over before…remember how I said the pitch was true and even…well, there has to be one ball that disproves this and pitching just about in his half Hansi was bowled by a shooter that didn’t get above ankle height…confident stroke-play be damned when that happens! Much commiseration and genuine compassion was shown as (allegedly) this had never before been seen on that pitch.

Rich came out and struck the ball with power and precision, showing great poise and led Ives to 80 at drinks…bang on par with where it had been first time around.

Were Ivanhoe ever to divest its collective interests away from Cricket and buy a racehorse, it would surely be called Calamity…sired from collapse and disaster…for it was on this metaphorical horse that Ivanhoe returned to the pitch to resume post drinks…the catalogue of dismissals and their manner is almost too painful to recount, but one has to tell the tale of at least some of them; Phil was run out going for a second that was made risky by hesitation at both ends…sawing off what had been a good and well earned half century. Rich saw one pitched up and his eyes lighting up (could have played in the dark so bright were they and so wide was his grin) came charging down the wicket and was stumped. Bob Collins’ bat didn’t save him as a forcing shot failed to connect with a looping slower ball from the opening bowler and top of off dislodged. Earle, fresh from great exploits the week before top-edged one and was caught in the deep…

In the final furlong, as Calamity trotted along looking for fences to knock over, the Croxley Crew decided it was time to join the fun and drop catches aplenty, misfield and generally contribute to the fun and games, but alas it was too late and Saqib, Andrew and John succumbed meekly in what may look like a one-sided defeat, but the little things again were stacked against Ivanhoe.

Joint players of the match Phil and Rich were ably supported by the whole team but dropped catches and the flurry of runs at the end took the gloss off what was a competitive and relatively even game skill-wise…

Next week Calamity will be left in the stable and Ivanhoe will bring the Heavy Metal with the artistry of Ritchie Blackmore and the double album of Ivanhoe v Croxley Guild will be left on the shelf, the riffs never to be repeated.

Author: Hansi B

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