Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick, Slow – W&H return positive from the haunted hills of Hampshire

 A remarkably trouble free away fixture for the W+H Sunday chaps, few people getting lost, Amanda Mandarhar taking an innovative route to Farnham via West Byfleet was as bad as it got. All made it to the ground with time to spare and the game started on time. This either bodes well for the rest of the season or is the navigational and timekeeping peak of the year.

 Those who have been to Crondall,, and good pubs, the quiet life and cricket fixtures would be the top three reasons, will recall that the place has a wonderful timeless quality. Not quite Lost World as I saw no dinosaurs (our octogenarian wicketkeeper excepted) but definitely a perfect place to set a Miss Marple episode, or a Tales of the Unexpected, if you know what I mean.

 Continuing on the historic theme the pitch looked untouched by the modern methods pioneered by our own Von Lanwmower (if you don’t get the reference read last weeks report). As such we had moss, grass, bare earth and a 7-8 degree slope. Batsman muttered, bowlers acquired a jaunty walk and the skipper and his vice dithered for a while, a long while. All dithering wasted since Asbo lost the toss (1out of 2 and counting) and Crondall put us into bat.

At this point the bucolic nature of the place started to become evident to those previously unfamiliar with this peaceful part of Hampshire. The over rate was relaxed, then pedestrian, then arthritic - the octogenarian felt at home. Both Crondall bowlers though used the pitch, with its slope and variable bounce, to good effect and guest star Thommo and stalwart Octo (the Octogenarian) found it tough going to start with, playing well but seeing a lot pass fairly wide. Thommo suffered with new bat syndrome, claiming the new willow was heavier than last and as such a little troublesome – if a total of 40 is ‘troublesome’ I for one will take that sort of trouble every week. Octo had no such problems with a ‘heavy’ bat and played a sustained and excellent knock – an example to openers everywhere – and certainly to Asbo the ‘bowled first ball’ opener from the week before.

Thommo fell to an ambitious heave, being caught halfway to the boundary and stomped in to be replaced by Matt Allan. Matt appeared to have seen something the rest of us had missed from the initial look at Crondall’s catching ability and proceeded to give three fairly straightforward chances to three separate fielders. None of them felt able to catch a man so early in his innings and especially when batting with his grandfather – they play very fair in the country – so Matt went on, carefully playing along the floor as he, finally, learnt his lesson. He then made his way to a great knock of 59. Following Peter (24) was our own red-hot Italian thoroughbred Dave Ferrari, who unfurled a range of shots previously unseen from the man. Clearly busy in the nets in the off season, Dave surprised no-one with the initial off side jab but then had regulars gasping and blinking into the milky sunshine as they witnessed a straight drive for 4, a pull for a further 4 and a text book leg glance. Unfortunately Dave was then unnerved by Asbo telling him to get a move on and perished soon after, attempting an off side slash (13). This left the park open to the Aussie blaster, 20 odd stone of prime Queensland (or somewhere) beef. Beefy attempted to beat the distance record of Pubehead, last seasons antipodean basher. Tragically Beefy didn’t manage to clear the school or break tiles on its roof but did, following 2 dropped chances, play a fine selection of bovine blows that got the score to 195 and his own total to a quick fire 33 n/o.

So 195 for 4 in 39 overs, a run rate of 4.9999998, an innings containing 4 maidens, c. 9 dropped catches, 25 extras (4 leg byes, 1 no ball, 10 byes and 10 wides) and a straight drive four from Ferrari. There, that’s all the facts you’re getting Forty-scew – this is a club match report not the Telegraph or Wisden.

Tea was enjoyable although a few of the older, and not so older, members of the side were disappointed not to be able to flirt with some of the ladies of the Crondall bowls club over a slice of Victoria sponge, but the ladies were far too good for you townies anyway.

So W&H take the field, well nourished and focused thanks to an Asbo team talk worthy of Churchill at his finest. Amanda Mandarhar and Paul Forty-scew both bowled tight spells but failed to find an edge easy enough for the W&H fielders. Despite being from a Surrey town and not a Hampshire village the Woking chaps appeared to be learning some manners, taking early wickets being felt a little aggressive for a Sunday. Mandy kept his patience and got his just rewards with Peter taking a fine catch off the edge. The next two wickets fell with relative ease, the Woking side keeping things tight, with more runs being scored off the edge than the middle. Fielding generally shone brightly again, demonstrating the difference between town and village, in truth some of the earlier fielding being distinctly of the village variety.

First bowling change saw vice captain Cock-e-run bowling a rubbish opening few overs, ably assisted by our very own Pop Star Jerry (without pacemakers). Jerry had the good sense to ‘pull his groin’ bowling downhill and on the side of the hill. However the never beaten (even when he should surrender) Cock-e-run eventually took the 5th wicket, with the batsman clean bowled, through the gate, a looping delivery that bounced and turned sharply, in short, unplayable.

Prior to this wicket the sky had darkened, the church bells had started tolling and a few ghosts could be seen shuffling around in the nearby graveyard. The famously spooky Crondall atmosphere had sucked some of the vim and vigour from the woking side and Cock-e-run’s match changing wicket brought Asbo to life. He dragged the team from their Hampshire village stupor, told them that ghosts did not exist and time had not stopped and managed to increase the intensity level from previously sleepy to the usual animated and shouty. Seeing a ‘cometh the hour cometh the man moment’ captain Asbo brought himself on and after a few chances, some spin and some round the wicket seam, the next wicket fell, caught by Forty-scew. Next up Matt Allan bowled a tight spell taking a wicket and further building momentum. By this point around 60 were needed off a similar number of balls, but with few wickets in hand the Woking lads remained upbeat. Queensland Beefie replaced Allan and put his weight behind a few, snatching a further wicket. Pressure increasing now and the Woking total looking increasingly safe. Asbo turned to the opening pair for the opportunity to seal the win and fielders crowded the bat. Despite a further wicket for Forty and a couple of half chances from the perennially unlucky Mandahar the final two villagers managed to keep out the ball, and Thommo’s far too polite sledging. So Crondall survived, making 162 for 8 in reply, a result that could be termed a winning Woking draw.

Some fine hospitality from the villagers of Crondall, who all seemed to be in the Plume of Feathers that evening, followed before the team sloped off, happy to leave the spooky village before midnight when, it is rumoured, the ghosts get going and the village disappears altogether behind a dense fog until the sun comes up again. Final words this week from Ferrari ‘ the game resembled a fine waltz in my opinion, slow, slow, quick, quick, slow, but I managed to unfurl a few of my lesser known shots and, short of not being able to chat up a bowls lady with my side kick Octo, not a bad day out in the haunted hills of Hampshire’

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