Ockham CC vs Ploughmans CC (Away) Sat 7th May 2022

Match report

Ominous dark clouds loomed overhead as the Ploughmans 2ndXI arrived at Woking Park for their second league game of the season against Ockham CC.

Jubilee line delays, changing rooms likened to a gulag, a pitch as green as a seasick sailor’s cheeks – was this to be the day that HMS Plough II entered choppy waters? The newly launched second vessel of the fleet was without her regular Admiral, Tom Lonnen, but cometh the hour, cometh the Tom – Vice Admiral Lane was skippering with several changes to her crew from their last voyage.

The amateur groundsmen of the Plough descended on ‘the square’ for the pitch inspection. A couple of dog turds to avoid at mid-off. The wicket only cut from crease to crease. A healthy smattering of grass to say the least. And a few daisies on a good length. Daisy Dukes (Lewis Wilby) was licking his moustached upper lip like Merv Hughes after eating a doughnut.

Will the pitch break up? Will it play better second innings? Is it wise for Matt Spencer to be hoovering down a Maccies before opening the bowling? Where is Cake (Alex Julienne)? All these questions and more were posited without definitive answer as Lane strode to the middle for the toss.

Toss won. A seemingly straightforward decision with heavy cloud cover, a green uncovered deck, an opening batsman sprinting from the train station and a stable full of gun seam bowlers of the Plough. “We’ll have a bat please” (Lane, T., 2022).

A delighted Wilby pottered off to the ice cream van for his first 99 (with flake) of the day. Cake arrived, padded up and before he knew it was making his way to the middle with Lane.

Ockham’s openers bowled tidily and batting was tricky. Swing through the air, seam off the deck and variable bounce combined in tough conditions as the rain started to fall. But Cake and Lane were up to the task: defending well, rotating the strike when possible and putting away the bad balls. They blunted the attack and saw off the openers – one of which had to be hauled out of the attack for two full toss no-balls – Umpire Spencer laying down the law.

After a brief interlude, during which one of Ockham’s bowlers answered a phone call at the top of his mark – perhaps from Rob Key seeking a Moneyball-esque revolution of English cricket – play continued.

Cake fell for 11 from 41 – caught at slip off a ball that popped slightly. Lane castled for 23 as he looked to step up the scoring rate.

Harry Edmonds and Will Curtis both looked assured at the crease despite the conditions – playing measured innings with well-timed and directed aggression. Edmonds played the shot of the day when he dispatched a six back over the bowler’s head – the ball echoing off concrete, whistling past a perambulating septuagenarian before nestling in a bush, never to be seen again.

Edmonds and Curtis brought up their 50 partnership before the former fell in bizarre fashion for 39, hit wicket to Ockham’s wily left-arm spinner. Edmonds attempted a pirouette – befitting of the Bolshoi – but twisted his already injured knee, falling to the ground with the bat slipping from his grasp and crashing into the stumps. He had to be helped from the field and was unable to take any further part in proceedings – until post-match beers, of course. With a knee operation scheduled in a month, this looks likely to mark the end of his season – we all wish him the best for the surgery and recovery, hopefully ahead of a return next year.

Greg Willis came and went without troubling the scorer (but cheers for the lift back) and Curtis fell shortly thereafter for 31. Ben Hamilton marshalled the lower middle-order in the closing overs, running hard and hitting a few beautiful shots on his way to a run a ball 24*. Tom Glynne-Jones chipped in with a streaky 19, Azharul Haque there at the end on 2*.

Ploughmans finished on 175/6 off their 40. Which appeared a competitive total given the conditions.

Once meal deals were inhaled by the troops, Skipper Lane (fortified by a rather decadent looking sushi platter) called in the huddle. As if by some divine act, the clouds parted and Woking Park was bathed in glorious sunlight sending the pasty men of the Plough running for the SPF 30. The resplendent water slides of the adjacent leisure centre glistened in the fresh sunshine like the bright lights of the West End. And boy, were we in for a show.

Wilby and Spencer shared the new ball masterfully – both operating on a nagging length with movement in the air and off the pitch. The Plough were here to exploit the conditions.

Wilby dismissed both openers in the third over – the first plumb LBW without scoring and the second caught excellently by Hamilton. And in his next over, he castled hisnext victim. The score was 7 for 3 and Ploughmans had their tails firmly up… as if we needed any more encouragement.

After a brief renaissance by Ockham, Spencer made a richly deserved breakthrough – an edge caught behind by Hamilton, who was superb behind the stumps.

With both of Ploughmans’ opening bowlers going so well, Captain Lane made the tricky decision to call their spells after 5 overs each. Although Ockham were under the cosh at 36 for 4, they undoubtedly sighed a sigh of relief to see our first change bowlers limbering up. It didn’t take long for them to realise that their afternoons were not about to get any better.

For up stepped Azharul Haque for a spell so destructive it evoked memories of Stuart Broad’s at Trent Bridge in 2015. As his first two balls characteristically hooped in, the Plough’s fielders knew that they were in the game. And they were. Two wickets from the remainder of the over – snaffled well by Hamilton and Drew Withers – and making Lane look a tactical genius with the well-timed change.

Withers took the ball from the other end and looked a real handful throughout his spell. He was unlucky not to take a wicket or two – dropping one off his own bowling that came back at him out of the sun. The pressure he was building at one end was, however, overshadowed by proceedings from the ‘gulag end’.

For it was there that Azharul continued. Another wicket – a catch spooned to Lane in the covers. Azharul smelled blood and began homing in on the stumps. Two booming inswingers sending the stumps flying – Hamilton left only to nonchalantly dive to his right to pluck a flying bail from the air at full stretch. Ockham nine down.

So there was an air of inevitability hanging as one final inswinger thudded into the pads of Ockham’s number eleven – like the sound of a heavyweight boxer hitting the canvas. Victory by knockout – but had it been a true fight (and not a tenuous extended metaphor), it would have been stopped far earlier. Ockham all out for 56 off just 16.4 overs. Azharul with final figures of 6 for 9.

A healthy 119 run victory for Ploughmans, the sun shining and refreshments calling.

There was just time left for Wilby to make one final visit to the ice cream van and for Greg to remove a note from his windscreen from an angry resident after parking in a turning circle. And with that, the 2s departed for the Wandle for a debrief over a jug or two of squash.

A good day out then. Ploughmans 2nd XI with two wins from two. Plough On.

Tom Glynne-Jones

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