Druids 12th June

Almondbury Casuals C.C. v  The Druids C.C.


             A cricket match played at St. George’s, Harrogate,

               the home of Harrogate C.C., on Sunday 12th June 2005


The Druids:82-6 (J.Umbers 6-1-3-18, J. Cooper 5-0-2-22 , 

D. Cleave 5.1-0-1-14)

Rain stopped play.

The golden morning dawned clear and bright.  A few wisps of high cloud and the fading trail of Pakistani Airlines’ early jet into Ringway were the only impediments in an otherwise perfect blue sky. The tents of the Honley Showground gleamed white on the distant Thurstonland Moor, as I walked my dog, light of heart at the prospect of a fine early summer’s day ahead, grateful for the fact  that the Met Office had, yet again, got it badly wrong and looking forward to a great day of sport.

That was Saturday. The Lions were made to look tired and out-of-touch by a team of curiously white-faced Maoris and my golf at the Woodsome Rabbit Captain’s Day turned out to be yet another woeful disaster.

Then came Sunday morning’s dog-walk, and with it a stiff nor’ wester bearing  all the summer warmth of my bank manager’s smile and the sky, low, darkening grey and threatening, at best, hours of chill in the outfield. The Met Office had again predicted  ….turning to heavy showers or more persistent rain in the late afternoon”  Therein lay the hope.

During the short drive to Harrogate in Mr Ward’s agricultural implement, we passed through rainstorms which would have terrified the populace of Equatorial Guinea, had they been on the M1 motorway. A far as I could tell, they weren’t on the motorway, but at times, I couldn’t tell further than the end of Willy’s bonnet (That’s at the end where the crop sprayer fits).

Nearer Harrogate, however, the sky lightened somewhat and the rain ceased. 

Hope sprang internal.

St. George’s  cricket ground, is showing signs of genteel, paint-peeling decay, redolent of the seaside town in John Osborne’s The Entertainer (I should know; they filmed it at Morecambe !). Nevertheless, we were, to a man (even Angela), humbled by the vastness of it and the flatness of the outfield, better than many a wicket we’ve experienced. Not only were there covers protecting the wicket, but a mini-tractor and a professional groundsman were on hand to move them.

The removal of the covers drew astonished gasps from the Casuals. This was no verdant sward, the likes of which we usually see, but rather a hard-baked, shorn-flat strip of scorched clay. It only needed a TV cameraman, three bits of totty standing around doing nothing, with clipboards and two mobile phones each and Tiny Grigg with his car keys and the scene would have been perfect. 

As it was, it was far from perfect. It was bloody freezing. The groundsman sat shivering on his mini-tractor as a few Casuals undertook there usual desultory warm-up routine (bowl the ball from 40 yards, short, thus ensuring that the batsman gets absolutely no chance to play off the front foot and thus gain confidence).

The toss was won by The Druids, who elected to bat.

There then followed as lively and penetrating opening spell of quick bowling as I can remember having seen in a Casuals match.

The younger members – and certain older ones, whose memories have been addled by years of under-use and ale – are unlikely to remember the Lancashire brewing company called Matthew Brown. Well I can remember their bitter, with its distinctive nutty flavour and lingering after-taste. In particular, I remember a rugby trip to Chorley, when, on the following Sunday morning I spent many long hours in the water closet, discovering that it wasn’t only the taste that lingered.

Well, Matthew Brown ale was brought to mind when our young South African opener of the same name subjected the Druids’ opening bat, a certain Mr. Ward, to a blistering spell of rapid off-cutters and in-swinging Yorkers. Watching from mid-off, I couldn’t help thinking that, had I been facing such a barrage in the gathering pre-monsoon gloom, its effect on me would have been similar to that following the aforementioned rugby trip, only I doubt that I would have made the water closet in time. It has to be said that Mr. Ward displayed an agility, which belied his rather corpulent stature and a quick eye to detect a rapidly moving ball. It looked as if it was going to be Emergency Ward at Harrogate General for Mr. Ward. Incredibly, however, one pin-point Yorker after another was denied its just reward by as fine a display of ballet dancing that I have seen since John Burgess used his foot to stop a low, hard, straight drive off his own bowling at Thongsbridge in 1997.  (Older members will remember it – it’s the only one that he ever stopped – and John will never forget it). At one point, the only thing in contact with the ground was the very bottom corner of Mr Ward’s bat; legs, arms and head (especially head) having been wrenched skyward to avoid contact with the ball. Diaghilev would have snapped this man up for his 1st XI.

At the other end, young James Umbers was equally impressive. James has gained in stature since he bowled me first ball at Stainborough some years ago, when he was about 16 years old. His lively spell of 3 -18 in 6 overs accounted for the cream of The Druids’ line-up and included the worthy scalp of Mr. Henry, who had wreaked havoc with our attack in the previous encounter, coolly caught at short square leg by Paul Godfrey-Evans-Brown, running round, screaming “Keep her!!” in his best Yorkshire dialect. I trust Debs didn’t hear.

Wickets fell at regular intervals as Joe Cooper, a very promising young medium pacer, clean-bowled two and Duncan Cleave found a good length and bowled his most parsimonious legspin for a well-deserved wicket. Joe then had Nureyev all but bowled, when the ball trickled from bat to stumps but failed to dislodge the bails

But in the end, the Met Office forecast proved correct with metronomic precision and the weather was the winner. After 23 overs, we were forced to retire to the splendid pavilion for hot tea and sandwiches and to reflect on what might have been, had the weather forecast been its usual fairy story.

Such is this game of cricket played between consenting males – a drive through tropical storms to a field where most of us stood around for 90 minutes and then went home again. There were many good points to this outing, however and if The Druids could be prevailed upon to secure St George’s again, it should be a high point of future seasons.

And, no doubt, Nijinsky will still be cavorting at the wicket.

One final observation: 

 On the front of the scorebook, I notice that it is stated, 

                   “Incorporating the facility to record penalty runs” 

Has that anything to do with water closets and my perhaps having to face young Matthew Brown one day, do you think?

Senior Pro