Just like Baz Ball but not quite as exciting
Jesus Long Vac 194-6 drew with Camden Casuals 168-7
Just as the English cricket team are now disciples of Baz Ball, so the Casuals, under the leadership of Martin “The Baker” Baker, are adherents of Maz Ball. At Test level, batsmen are encouraged to play their natural game; the spinner is given the overs to show his mettle; fielding is at a premium. Out with the introverted circumspection of yesterday and in with “If it feels good baby, do it!” And who can’t say that it’s not working. Always quick to reform and find fun and funky new ways of playing the game, the Baker found himself with a team of ten under his command. Well, if you can have the Hundred, why not the ten? And with an eye to the future, he must have been delighted that his numbers nine and ten had a combined age of that of an Old Testament prophet.
The Baz Ball template was embraced from the opening overs which saw tyro spinner Liam open the bowling just as Leach had a few days earlier. And just as England had shelled catches all afternoon, so did Camden, with the skipper leading the way by dropping an easy one at mid-off early doors. Always in the vanguard, he inspired most of the rest of the team to grass their chances too. That’s Maz Ball for you.
Fortunately, keeper Chris, who the day before had had a hand in six dismissals in a narrow 200 run defeat, took time out from discussing the Kent starting eleven in 1977 to take a difficult one down the leg side off new lad Abishek to remove the opener who stood Bairstow-like at his dismissal, mouth in fly-catching mode, a picture of incredulity etched across his face. The finger stayed up, he went off and in came Doctor Dr Sybil, everyone’s favourite female cricketing neurologist. Being a woman of science, she might be able to explain how she was able to meet the ball with forward momentum only to see if bounce backwards in the direction of her stumps. It’s a good trick if you can do it.
Former Camden favourite Fahim – now a professor of Computing at the University of Glasgow – enjoyed himself with his usual array of wristy on-side cuts and drives. Always a pleasure to spend an afternoon with Fahim, even if he is cutting you to ribbons.
Putative sports scientist Liam, meanwhile was bowling lucklessly. These days, all schools talk about is ‘resilience.’ He’d been listening because it took him 91 balls to get his wicket shortly after which the skipper reached for the shepherd’s crook and sent him out to the deep. It was perhaps as well Liam wasn’t too close to his skipper, who on replacing him, flattened the off-stump with his first ball.
With the skipper proving to be rather too parsimonious, the scoreboard was getting a little sticky and frankly, we were hungry and looking forward to tea. Who better to bring on than Ali A to give the innings a bit of impetus? Beginning with a disappointingly challenging line and length that saw him beat the bat twice, he soon entered the spirit of the game and served up a juicy menu of half-trackers that disappeared to the ropes. With 194 on the board, the Long Vaccers decided enough was enough and tea was served.
In declaration cricket, both teams are always balancing the equation – how many overs will be bowled in the second innings and are there enough runs on the board to defend? Add to this, Camden’s desire to play their natural game and you can see that it’s a difficult circle to square. Scholars of Camden’s batting with know that the nudge, nurdle, push and prod are the bedrock of any innings, so to ‘play your natural game’ in most cases, means the score board can be quite sleepy at times. Also factor in the President was playing with what Dr Bulusu diagnosed as a hairline fracture to the metacarpal, causing his hand to balloon alarmingly. Add in too that Camden only had ten players, one of whom hasn’t reached double figures for six years. Under the circs, a decent period of prodding was hardly unlikely. Again, leading from the front, the Ben Stokes of the outfit, The Baker, accompanied by the semi-crocked Sourev, opened the batting. He can count himself unlucky to have been dismissed, caught in the slips to a brilliant grab via the keeper by pub quiz maestro Hamish. It was a stunner, witnessed from close quarters by your correspondent who was acting as the Vaccer’s eleventh man in the field. Astro physicist John Richer, making his first appearance for six years was looking good until he watched the stars rather than the ball and lost his stumps.
In came Ali who chose to give catching practice to all and sundry, including me who waved by a chance at midwicket. “Thanks dad!” called the little scamp, alerting the fielding team to the full ignominy of the situation. It wasn’t nepotism. I can drop anybody: friends, family, complete strangers. It’s all the same.
The President and Ali put on 89 win-threatening runs before Rutter sent them both back for 50 and 42 respectively, more or less ending the chances for Maz Ball to end in an unlikely win. Eight down and with only your correspondent in the hutch, Messers Coteman and Abishek saw out the draw, which on reflection, is the perfect embodiment of what Maz Ball really is all about.