Arriving early to Putney Common in blistering heat a small troop of Sunday’s finest Plough were able to walk by a nearby public house, The Spencer, and mark it as near enough to buy pints from during the game. With that in order we headed to the wicket to see the groundsman hard at work filling footholes and brushing off sand as best he could. (Spoiler: It didn’t really work).
Si lost the toss, IN BLISTERING HEAT, and we were asked to field by a fine looking outfit of Putney’s Sunday 1st XI who had heard that some of us might have been out on the piss the night before. Correct. We’d just won our second league title in a row. Of course we had bloody been on the piss.
Needless to say, bowling first (in blistering heat) wasn’t what we wanted, but off we went. Carson chucked the ball to Spencer and Lilford and begged them for wickets. Second ball their left-handed opener middled it into WANIGASEKERA’s gloves*, it surprised all of us, Kesh most who put it down. But Spencer’s hangover had briefly boiled, and he’s pretty sure someone said ‘GET HIM JOFRA’, so his tail was up. He finished his over clean bowling the other opener for a duck.
At the other end the starting intensity continued and Lily claimed his own wicket from the incoming batsmen, looking him dead in the eye for a caught and bowled as the bloke smashed it back at his shins. My word that South African is good at catching. They were two down in four overs with a blistering hot sun above them. We were into them, and pumped up.
Unfortunately, it was quite a hot day. You could say it was blistering hot. Our intensity started to diminish and Ploughmen everywhere were dreaming of shade, water, a lie down, anything. Batsmen’s 1 and 4 slowly eeked into the game, punishing the bad balls and managing the good ones quite well. 62-2 off 10 and the game was balanced again. The next ten overs between Davies and CARSON (0-25 off 4) went for much the same bringing them to 123-2 with a couple of drop catches, missed opportunities and our heads were down as the pair shared the strike both nearing 50, and a very possible 300 on the cards.
But if there’s a Ridgway in the game, the Ploughman are never out.
Fresh from the news that his less handsome brother Matt had reached 500 career wickets, our Noodle was feeling inspired. He took two wickets in his second over, stopping a half-century and shooting down another quacker, both bowled. Meanwhile, Pro-H had found the footholes (on the 2 of 6 balls that he landed on the track) and the ball was turning everywhere. Expertly bowled, H had the left-handed opener edging it behind again, this time the catch held and off he went having scored 66.
All of a sudden they were 136-5 off 22. Harry flighting some balls down into roulette-wheel craters, he claims another two wickets in his next over. Carson with the best ‘eyes-closed, running backwards, arms flailing’ catch at gully you’ll see all year. Honestly, ask him about how good it was. Spencer at short-backwards square leg having it drop into his awaiting hands. #GoodFieldingPlacementSkip
142-7 off 23. Ridgway again running up the hill, again taking two wickets in an over, in this blistering heat? What a weapon. His first short ball of the spell cannoned into midwicket’s throat. Surely he can’t catch that? Surely the batsman hasn’t just hit the best pull shot he’s ever hit in his life at the only bloke on the pitch with a chance of taking it? Step up Chris Lilford. My word that South African is good at catching. Again, just looking the bloke dead in the eye as his hands wrap around the ball. 8 down. Shaking off the short ball, Nick lands it long, crashing into the pads. How was that Umpire? A very polite appeal. A very polite response. 9 down.
Both Harry and Nick had used all of their available effort balls at this point and the sweat was really starting to drip – all of our bowlers struggled throughout the game, and we gave away around 40 extras, it was tough going, the only person who didn’t give any was G-BANGER (0-4 off 1) who trotted down 5 dots in his brief stint.
We had them 162-9 off 26. But that final wicket was evading us. RIDGWAY (4-43 off 6) couldn’t claim his 5-fer (clear jug avoidance) and DAVIES (3-53 off 8) was bowled out. And the oppo were picking up runs.
Carson (again) chucked the ball to Spencer and Lilford and begged them for wickets before we ran out of bowlers, or worse, he had to bring himself back on up the hill in blistering heat. However many times SPENCER (1-43 off 8) beat the batsmen the stumps just weren’t wide or tall enough and his overs were up.
LILFORD (2-39 off 7.2) struck next over with a beauty, but their final pair had by far earned some respect, with Putney finishing 217 off 33. 40 runs more than they should have got at the end, but also 80 short of what they could have got if not for the fightback from H and Pip in the middle overs.
Into the clubhouse we went, where Putney delivered one of the all time great teas. The food was an above average assortment, there was a lot of water and squash being passed around, and most importantly a projector with Sky Sports available. You all know what happened in the cricket. And for that half hour we weren’t opposing sides, but a unit, everyone sat still in their seat, no moving allowed between balls. Oddly our Sunday side had no Australians in either – did they have a heads up about the result? Watch how we celebrated the moment here:
Putney keep a mascot in their clubhouse, a whites-wearing baggy-capped stuffed 3ft bear. Ploughmans Sundays’ have Niraj – you spot the difference – and as we made our way back across to the pitch there he was sat by the scoreboard with a pint in hand bought from the aforementioned Spencer public house ready to cheer us on. Clubman of the year?
Giddy with Ben Stokes** fever, the target 218 looked surpassable. And out went Britto and Bell to get us there.
Britto was celebrating his 400th cap for the Ploughmans, the first ever to reach the milestone, by playing today. He’d swapped himself in for likely opening bowler Andrew McEwen, so we had high hopes for at least a ton from the club legend. That was until the oppo’s 7ft2 opener sent down a fairly average seamer into the craters, for it to just die and jag into BRITTO’s (0 off 12 balls) pads. Spencer’s finger went up, and Stephen didn’t use the review. Plough 8-1.
In comes Suri and immediately looks useful. Him and Jules start making headway and the pair look the real deal. SURI (27 off 30 balls) shows off his T20 flare and the oppo start to see him as the main threat, desperate to get him out. They struggle until the 14th over with the partnership making 62. Plough 69-2 (a decent night in).
Enter Ridgway the (w)anchor who plays himself in properly, as JULES (36 off 48 balls) ticks the run rate over before he’s bowled by a lad who he’d previously been slapping about. Plough 82-3 off 17.
LILFORD (16 off 30 balls) and Ridgway looked to take us deep into the innings, battling some good bowling into good areas on a good length. Lily fell LBW in the 25th, to the same bowler as Jules who was hitting a rhythm now. Plough 114-4 off 25.
Incoming G-BANGER (2 off 7 balls) and then FLANNERY (2 off 13 balls) both went out to play some big shots but couldn’t find the gaps despite hitting some well. Both out bowled. Plough 133-6 off 30.
We needed 85 off the last ten and we had the men to go at it. If there’s a Ridgway in the game, the Ploughman are never out. Or something like that. NOODLE (15 off 43 balls) had hung around to have a go but was out bowled in the next over. Plough 133-7 off 31.
Skipper Carson had seemingly predicted the need for some runs late in the game, and had confidently planted a tail-order wag, as Kesh and Spencer were stood on the wicket trying to work out the required run rate. They both had to keep out a staying-low spinner who was darting balls into the footholes that had just beaten Ridgway.
Kesh was able to open up as they mistakenly brought back on their pacey, wayward opener. But SPENCER (9 off 20 balls) wasn’t able to connect cleanly, eventually bowled after being given the nod to go at the spinner. Plough 174-8 off 38.
Pro-H came in to take on his previous inning rival. Spinner vs spinner. DAVIES (1 off 5 balls) out bowled. Plough 175-9.
CARSON (0* off 4 balls) on strike to finish off the last over, kept his pride. WANIGSEKERA (30* off 29) looking in good nick, even with only nine useable fingers.
We finished on the Ploughmans’ par 175, short of the mark. We could’ve saved a lot more in our bowling, and on a different day one of our batsmen would’ve converted.
Putney CC is a new fixture this year, a good competitive side, and some great blokes too. Back in their clubhouse the skipper’s toasted with post-match shots and gave out more for champagne moments, POTM and dick of the day.
All round another good day out with the Greatest Cricket Club in the World, to top off a brilliant weekend with mates.
*We’ve since learnt that this ball had broken one of Kesh’ fingers in the first over. A mammoth effort of him to stay behind the stumps and save us a lot of runs. Then to hit with charisma during our chase too. Great cricketer, top Plough, wonderful man.
**Should read: Jack Leach fever (we know he’s the real winner here).