Your correspondent mistimed the journey to Chippenham and by the time my sleek limousine nosed its way through the gates to the park, Camden were in the middle at 40-0. Under normal circumstances, this would suggest at least three-quarters of an hour of propping and stopping, supplemented by some juicy thick edges over the slips. But no, on this occasion Messers Redfern and Adler were driving, cutting and pulling against some friendly trundling that demanded the full range of strokes. Alan, who runs the Chippenham Park club in the style of a benevolent dictator – much like Kim Jong-il in so many ways – insisted on strict social distancing: pav. shut, home team camped out on the boundary opposite and Camden’s caravan down by the tennis club some hundred yards distant. Nevertheless, the Camden Ultras – Will’s mum and dad, who need no introduction, Liam’s dad Jeremy and me – managed to find a shady yet cosy spot from which we could pass our magisterial pronouncements on the progress of the game.
Last year – Gibson’s Last Match, when he turned up dressed like a pox doctor’s clerk – Camden chased down 250 odd with four players passing 50. On this sun-soaked, run soaked day, it looked as if another decent total would be needed. Redders was first to his half century and looked a decent bet to double it before he lobbed up a return catch to the bowler. During the long trudge back to Base Camp the best he could manage showed the mental fatigue that the lockdown has caused in so many of us. “It wasn’t there to hit. I tried to stop the shot but couldn’t. I’ve done this a dozen times. If I’d have gone through with it, it would have gone for six.” It would take a logician way better qualified than me to pick the bones out of that lot. He was, of course, Suffering. Attempting an ambitiously quick single – I think the ball was rolling gently to the long on boundary at the time – he pulled a muscle in his gluteus maximus. At least the pain will help him identify his arse from his elbow, so some good will have come from it.
Enter Will. Straight bat, proper shots, nice timing and an effortless fifty before retiring out. A delightful and pleasurable stay in the middle for everyone but the bowlers. Meanwhile, at the other end, Aussie Adler was doing exactly what his slightly more skilled compatriots in Manchester failed to do: to stick with it and get the job done. A chunky, clunking fifty for Jon, the third for Camden that day. Our President was in with a decent chance to knock out a fourth when Redders, busy balancing the time/runs equation, decided that 251 was enough and pointed towards the packed lunches. A declaration at 3.45 would give the home side around 90 minutes plus 20 overs to chase them down. In the event, Camden sent down 43 overs.
With Hugo operating at one end and teenager Liam from the Bowls Club end, Camden had one of their most spritely opening attacks since the Under-13s were a going concern. After being thumped for fours from the first two balls of his opening over, Hugo returned to his usual parsimony while Liam had the confidence to give it air, sending down some challenging deliveries that kept their openers thinking and quiet. The moment his dad turned up, he spun one which took the edge, the catch snaffled by Chris behind the stumps. Nice. The Chippenham boys were also enjoying being out there in the middle. My notebook tells me: 87-1…runs flowing. And indeed they were. By the time that the last 20 overs were called by the bell tower clock, another 130 were needed with eight wickets in hand. Anyone’s game. Redders, however, had the luxury of calling upon Vish and Ryan to winkle out a few wickets and keep the scoring rate down. On an easy wicket it was almost impossible for the Camden bowlers to make any meaningful inroads and by the last over, it was up to Will to defend 50 runs and take a double hat trick. He nearly took a blinding caught and bowled from his first ball when a gentle half-tracker was thumped back at him. “If I hadn’t been laughing so much, I would have caught it,” he said to our man with the notepad on the boundary edge at the end of the game. Sadly, he fell an agonising six wickets short of the requirement and the game ended in a draw. Incidentally, there’s nothing wrong with a good draw. If you’re a Leicestershire supporter like me, you dream of a good draw.
The amiable Alan revealed that that wicket had yielded nearly a thousand runs that weekend, making Redders’ declaration about right. Bizarrely – and how I wish I had this on video – Alan pretty much accused Camden of being too youthful and energetic in the field, charges than even the most cursory scan of any team picture would render unprovable. Alan is 72.
Next weekend, the Casuals play a double header: Ashwell on Saturday and St Giles on Sunday for the Gibson Trophy. Many players will be needed. There’s a decent weather forecast for the weekend. You know you want to.
Full Scorecard: https://camden.play-cricket.com/website/results/4266093