A Day out with the Hargans
The Bank of England fixture is keenly awaited by most of the Sunday players, first class ground, pitch and a top drawer opposition who always play the game in the right way. It may also have something to do with the excellent tea that the Bank provide, better quality than many of the team eat for the rest of the year. Puzzlingly the anticipation does not seem to be shared by the Bankers who only managed to field 9 of their own for this game, we knew that the markets were in a bit of turmoil but things must be bad when the chaps from the Bank can’t manage an 11 on a summer Sunday – sell I say.
It was the work of a moment to raise two extra W&H players for the game, the Hargans deciding to make a family day out of it with Billy and son Angus playing for the opposition. Possibly for the scones, possibly for the chance to spend the day with the Hargans and possibly because it was a good day out our beloved scorer Erika , our thanks go to them. Anyway that’s the background set now to the toss which increasingly veteran (three consecutive games now) Cochrane lost. W&H were put in and proceeded to conduct their usual drama by falling to 13 for two within 5 overs. Peter, feeling the affects of an early wake up call courtesy of his grandson, was bowled around his legs for a duck and the returning Salam, feeling the effects of being all up all night trying to start his own family, quickly followed for 6 – caught out by an inswinging Yorker from the impressive Hawley.
Dave and Albert then steadied the ship (this starting to read like last week already) putting on 30 more runs to take the side out of immediate danger Dave (24) was himself bowled by one that moved in the air and off the seam. Both him and Albert looked to have got started well on a true pitch – playing the bad balls particularly well - and both were disappointed as Albert (18) then fell, bowled again by the impressive Southey. Whilst close, almost telepathic, understanding are good stuff on a cricket team, the captain has made a note that the understanding should stop well short of getting out to the same bowler in the same way. So as Chris Murphy-Gribler walked to the crease the game was finely balanced, W&H having reached 63 for 4 off of 15 overs. Chris started well and played a cautious innings as the situation required. He saw Matt (4) come in and then leave shortly afterwards, again bowled, in a further (wholly unnecessary) show of solidarity with Albert and Dave, by Southey. He then saw Lloyd (6) come in and almost as quickly depart. Lloyd, having faced Angus Hargan (the W&H 11 year old impressive leg spinner) then varied the ‘bowled Southey’ theme by being bowled by Down – an unplayable off-break that went through the gate. Some say his relief at seeing off the youngster will have allowed him to relax and lower his defences - in truth the gate was open wider than the door of a government foot and mouth lab, alledgedly, obviously. Jerry (0) then joined the increasingly frustrated Chris and showed an excellent, typically robust, defense before falling,, edged to the keeper, and the poor chap still insists did not take the edge of his bat. This middle order collapse, like a cow being culled, to extend a theme, left the Sunday boys looking as nervous as a Surrey dairy farmer (that’s it now, promise) on 97 for 8.
At this point John Hargan, the middle in age of the three Hargans to appear in this drama, strode to the crease. His proudly watching mother was at this point slightly confused over where her allegiances should lie – Johnny H carried his bat out to face his younger brother Angus who was now bowling for Bank of Engand, supported in the field by his father Billy. John was simply concerned not to get out to his younger brother and, benefiting from years of playing him in the garden, got through Angus’s spell with some relief. He preceeded to play very well and put a match changing stand of 55 on with Gribler who himself looked to play his shots towards the end of this spell and would have made more than his excellent 59 but for finding fielders with regularity towards the end of his innings. John was then joined by Saquib who played well, tempting the closing bowler to give 8 bys off of what was the W&H final over. The ever wise and always decisive skipper then pulled the boys off, so to speak, much to John’s disgust as he wanted to reach his fifty. Tea saw the side feast on scones, fresh cream, sandwiches without crusts and discuss where the fixture lists had been held for the season – apparently in Smithy garage.
So 13 well fed W&H players returned to the immaculate ground (that’s two Hargans for the oppo for those of you not paying attention). The focus was on a quick over rate and Cochrane opted for Smithy and John H to open, hoping to see the movement of the W&H innings from John and the bounce from our veteran leg spinner Smithy. John struck first bowling the solid Milligan for a duck, whilst Hawley at the other end opened up, finding the boundary over a quick outfield, with regularity. The second of the key points in the game now occurred. With Hawley appearing to take the game away from the visitors with his powerful hitting he advanced to a Smith spinner, not getting quite to the pitch of the ball he got a little under one that appeared to be sailing over Salam’s head. Sal readjusted his backward chicken run at the last second and stuck his hand out. The ball stuck. Whilst the catch looked casual it was in truth a little lucky, Sal admitting to a misjudgement at the bar room inquest after the game.
W&H realised the importance of the wicket and responded with further pressure, intensified given that the incoming bat was one of their own, Hargan the elder. Mrs Hargan had another dilemma as Billy faced his sons bowling. Apart from the incessant grin of son as he bowled to father the exchange ended well for both as John kept his father honest but without taking the wicket that may have limited his pocket money for some time to come. Billy played well, taking a particular liking to Smithy on his way to 29. His useful partnership with the Bank no.3 was bought to an end by a fine catch from Matt Allan off the bowling of Saquib. This one of the isolated moments of good catching during a day when at least 8 chances went begging, some more difficult that others and some made harder by the ever lower sun on the pavilion side of the ground – or that was Jerry and Alberts excuse anyway. Matt’s catch saw the home side 70 for 3 after 19 overs and with 20 to go the Bank looked a little behind the running. Cochrane replaced Smith at one end and Matt bowled at the other, following useful spells from both John and Saquib with a wicket a piece. Sal then caught Billy off of Matt’s bowling to keep the momentum with W&H and Cochrane then struck with an LBW to remove another of the stubborn variety of Bank batsman. These wickets further pushed the balance towards the visitors but Bank now dug in for a spell. Cochrane, with able assistance from deputies Smith and Murphy, now juggled his bowlers replacing Matt with John for his second spell as the side looked to take the middle wickets that would make the game theirs. It seemed for a while as if they would not come. With one end tight thanks to Matt and John, Cochrane tossed the ball up and forced a number of chances that the hapless fielders, still claiming that the sun was in their eyes, spurned. This run of missed chances came to an end when Matt pouched one to have the Bank 142 for 6 with 7 overs left. At this point the inspired vice-captaincy of Smith and Murphy brought Albert on. First ball went aerial and Cochrane took the catch to shift the balance of the game. This balance tilted further as Albert forced another injudicious shot that the now cocky Cochrane caught with ease. To the immense credit of the Bank (my one and only finance gag) they continued to push for the win rather than block out the final overs, but in truth that were by this point about 10 short of being in the race – showing the importance of the Chris John partnership to take W&H to a well defended 179.
Cochrane struck again in the closing overs, bowling the number 9 before a mix up in the running gave W&H a run out finish. The run out was executed with a nod to the farcical comedy of Mike Walsh, Matt Allan looping a throw to his father which seemed to take an age to get to the stumps. Peter, sensing the comedic theme joined in with a semi-fumble but all was fine as, despite this messing around, the run was ill-judged enough to cause the run out of the very unfortunate Hargan the youngest (that’s Angus).
In closing then a close fought game with chances a plenty played in sunshine and with a break for scones, the sort of Sunday that dreams were made of, the dreams of aging cricketers everywhere anyway. Thanks again go to the Hargans for playing important roles for both sides in the game and making it such an evenly balanced affair and for Mrs Hargan in showing the sort of diplomacy that many a government official could learn from. And so with the fixture reconfirmed over a few glasses and the final victory being the fact that the last of the visitors outstayed the opposition in the bar (I guess the home team are used to the fantastic surroundings). All W&H players went home satisfied (all but Billy and Angus maybe).