Friday dawned bright, heatwaves promised across Hertfordshire for the forthcoming weekend, the prospect of an artificial pitch necessitating soft spikes and running shoes loomed large. The prospect of revenge, all the sweeter given the forecast and probable pitch conditions and recent run of close games brought optimism to all registered for the game…at least until the calamitous message from Andrew that the scoundrels had cancelled on us…what were the intrepid travellers, bereft of the Royal Vet College to do?

Into the breach (although perhaps the use of breach stretched the definition of one usage of the word) stepped Ibstone – into deepest, darkest Buckinghamshire ventured the Ives.  Sat-navs were set for a journey to test ourselves against an unknown quandary.

Further disruption occurred as a late illness withdrawal left the brave travellers one short on the day. As cars parked around the square boundaries of Ibstone’s lovely ground all who’d ventured along the M40 regaled how they’d been peppered with a semi-torrential downpour en route, that had darkened spirits at the prospect of the game being called off. Hearts were gladdened by the pitch coverings and clubhouse for all and sundry to shelter in!

30 overs per side were agreed upon due to the delayed start and creeping darkness that curtail play early on a September’s eve. First use of the wicket fell to the home side but under heavy skies Saquib and Hansi opened up and took 2 wickets apiece, giving the Ives a start not enjoyed in a long while as runs were at a premium. Saquib swung it both ways trapping one batter LBW and another had their off stump knocked back. Stand-in wicketkeeper Rich defied a stiff neck to take a catch, as did Krishna before Ven disrupted another batters wickets.

A mini revival ensued, one cannot but applaud batters doing well against good bowling, before Ven took another, Mohammed chipped in to further deepen the mire Ibstone were in.

John and Phil K turned their arms over, each prying a batter out, aided by some top-notch fielding, both on the ground saving runs and in safe hands catching almost everything … for a while at least.

Champagne moments abounded, as two contenders for catch of the season occurred within the space of a few overs; Saquib defied gravity at backward square flying through the air like a majestic falcon, and Phil K on the boundary flirting with the rope whilst charging back to pluck a lofted drive out of the air. Not to be outdone (and to provide competition to Will’s Mr Nonchalant easy catching and wicketkeeping), Rich affected a stumping with aplomb and calmness.

Sadly the last pair of batters swung their respective willows with gusto and to great effect. Runs were plundered, boundaries aplenty including several balls smote most profoundly over the rope and into nearby woodland inflated the score from a less than middling 110-odd to a semi-imposing 146.

The Ive’s innings can, and indeed should, be divided into two very distinct halves…to whit, Steve, and then the rest. More on Steve later, but for the rest it must be recorded, as posterity needs to know the horrors. Phil K and Venky opened up but sadly didn’t last too long, Krishna looked good and dispatched several balls to the boundary but fell just as the opening bowlers were finishing their spells. Mohammad was undone by a big turner and stumped. The lefthanded power axis of John and Hansi performed miserably. Rich lost the sibling rivalry as he was dismissed first ball and Saquib didn’t last too long. Chris came in for the last couple of overs and outscored his sibling to remain undefeated at the end.

On the other hand, and it is far more enjoyable to recount the exploits of Steve. Coming in early, blocking the good balls and dispatching the bad ones and seemingly untroubled by the carnage around him, he wore a bemused expression as batter after batter fell at the other end. His countenance was unflappable as, when the ball was in his ark, it was gloriously and summarily sent to (and over) the boundary rope. Even when the asking rate was at seven, eight, nine runs and above he did not panic, but merely hit the ball harder and through the ring field.

A well deserved half century was scored, unbowed and undefeated he led the players from the field at the end of Ive’s 30 overs.

History will record Steve’s excellent innings and a relatively close game all up, but those with long memories of the game will chastise themselves for letting the last wicket pair take the game away from them…as well as an admiring nod to Steve, the player of the match.

Author: Hansi B

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