Sussex Martlets 199-9 (57 overs), Eton Ramblers 202-3 (38 overs)
The Chairman of the Eton Ramblers once famously declared that he was so fed up leading a bunch of indolent members who so rarely applied for games and were so clearly unappreciative of his committee’s efforts that he might as well throw in the towel and abandon the whole Old Boy wandering cricket venture altogether. This was in 1870’s, which provides refreshing context for those who think the Old Days were always Good.
Those of us Martlets who gathered at an autumnal Arundel on 14 September this year were glad he didn’t, and grateful to his contemporary successor Fergus Boyd who brought a talented and enthusiastic side for one of the latest fixtures the ground has staged. So late, in fact, that the chestnut tree had already deposited a large number of conkers around the extra cover boundary, but not late enough to deter an enthusiastic army of Friends equipped with picnic tables, bottles of Chardonnay and, well, yes, rugs.
Your Chairman (indeed yours truly) having picked a side stacked full of bowlers, reliable middle-order batsman, and one opener too few, delegated the captaincy arm-band to Mike Murray who repaid his match-manager’s faith by losing the toss to be inserted on a dewy track. A call for volunteers to fill the vacant opener’s berth was met with a deafening silence until opening bowler David Twine put his glove up. A call for volunteers to undertake stand-in umpiring duties was also required, with both officials having failed inexplicably to turn-up. Former Arundel secretary Joe Hudson answered one call for temporary relief, and Ron Pateman (bless him) came as soon as he could in answering another.
Twine and overseas guest Paddy Jadega started securely but hesitatingly as Ed Bruce (a frequent pirate at Arundel flying also under Arab and MCC colours) and Fergus Boyd opened with pace, seam and guile. Whilst the flat Arundel track presented no physical harm, the bowling was tight and scoring rate low.
The sun shone down on this Arcadian scene, with only the occasional puff of wind to scatter a rustling leaf. Here we had one of the great public schools in the field against one of the great County wandering sides, all in the shadow of the Duke of Norfolk’s seat – England, my England indeed. Inspired by this classical vista, the lifting of ambition, the proximity to excellence, and dare I say the aspiration of nobility, the batting side’s conversation soon turned to Henry Cope’s upcoming appearance on ‘Take Me Out’ (‘no lighty, no likey’) and the deteriorating condition of the Treasurer’s undershirt. Meanwhile, the Secretary was seen strutting hazily around the refreshment kiosk in search of a free sausage roll and extra ketchup as a substitute for the sleep that, as so often before his important Martlets games, was clearly absent the previous night.
We’ve never seen such a large Arundel crowd for a Club game and James Ruffey, the new and energetic Arundel executive secretary, must have purred with delight as he made a late arrival from an up-country wedding to see the legion of spectators grow throughout the day to extract one last afternoon of superb value from their modestly priced membership fee.
Twine Senior looked really good for his 42 as the Martlets accumulated steadily, and family form continued with shots of true class from Twine Minor (Ben) in a cameo of 24, including a thick bottom edge through to the keeper which umpire Murray (now deputising at the Castle End) failed to hear. The frustrated bowler, on having a streaky edge sliced off his bowling later in the same over, was heard to explete a word beginning with ‘f’ not often heard at Arundel, but I was able to reassure him at lunch in response to his apology that ‘Fotheringay’ was a term unlikely to give offence in this part of the world. The Treasurer (29) hove some lusty blows against their rotated spinners but we ate lunch at 120-5 feeling under-runned. Post-prandial flourishes from Davies (28), Murray (16), Trubshaw (10) and Cope (18) enabled us to declare on 199 at around 3pm, but this felt about 30 runs too few and 20 minutes too late.
The Ramblers responded energetically enough to at least satisfy ourselves that our declaration hadn’t been too conservative, and we took tea with another 120 needed from 20 minutes and 20 overs. Murray rotated his bowlers deftly, and reduced the scoring rate with some admirably economic bowling from Trubshaw and Walker, but little penetration.
Twine and Davies had no luck as Eckersley (59), in particular, punished anything slightly short of a length on what by now was a dry track. Maidment (43, including a pulled hamstring), Williams (36*) and Hartley-Russell (42*) all looked like they’d had some decent coaching at school and made measured progress to the total. We had the consolation of drawing the game out to the penultimate over.
Our opponents were charming guests (although sadly lacking in the post-match Black Rabbit attendance department) and we look forward to the return fixture on the playing fields of Eton in 2015. It was a game played in true Martlet spirit and we were able to reflect on another amazing day at Arundel as the curtain fell on another amazing season of Martlet cricket.
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