Our very own Malcolm Marshall: An artist's impression of one of James' shots vs. Aston
A COVID-ready P&Js XI came up just short in a very well-matched game at the delightful village of Aston in rural Herts.
With the weather set fair, it was more the fact that Naveed had to leave at 6pm, that swayed Captain Tom to have a bowl first. I am sure Joe Root doesn’t have such things to juggle!
In fairness, it was just nice to be out on the cricket field again on a sunny day against hospitable oppo.
Naveed and Dougie took the newly sanitized ball and soon found the pitch to be bouncy with a few demons in it to be exploited.
Sadly one from Naveed proved too nippy and bouncy for James, behind the timbers as one jammed into his finger and broke it. Fingers crossed (not that you can James! – Ed.) for a quick recovery. Tom E took over the gloves…
Openers Falder and Godfrey looked self-assured and had played with confidence until Godfrey found Luxton Jnr. with an uppish pull to square leg. Ben made no mistake with the catch and we were off and running in the 2020 season.
Dunn joined Falder and was soon into his stride punishing anything overpitched. Fortunately, Dougie produced the “ol’ straight un” from his locker of liquorice allsorts and Falder was trapped right in front.
Next up it was Nathan to get into the action in his best spell yet for P&Js. He exploited the pace and bounce in the wicket to great effect and it was no surprise to see both O’Hanlon (to a great catch at wide slip by Pete) and Fox sent back to the pavilion by him. Suddenly Aston were 68 for 4 and PJs sensed blood!
However, Dunn and Bell had other ideas and played well, dispatching the odd one into a neighbour’s garden along the way, debutant Jonny and Josh taking some stick, but they gainfully stuck at it.
Aston had reached 132 in the 30th over before Ben took a well-deserved wicket by skittling Dunn. He repeated the feat to send Bucktrout back to the pavilion. Dad Dave got into the action too, as he got one through Bell’s defences to keep the Aston score in check.
The scoring slowed in the final overs as the Luxton’s kept thing tight and Ben took a 3rd after some smart work from Tom behind the timbers to stump Bollig.
So, 175 to win at ‘tea’. Well, it was it you bought some. A cry went out for a ‘protein bar’ from the skipper (clearly Captaincy has some very specific athletic culinary requirements), no-one answered him and tucked back into their crisps and fizzy pop.
Jonny M (sent in to ‘take the shine off the ball’) and Naveed (well, he had to go by 6pm anyway!) went in to face nippy left armer Jones and the not-so-nippy O’Hanlon (not quite ‘hand grenades’, but you get the idea!).
The score rattled along from the off and Naveed proved a very effective ‘pinch hitter’ as he chanced his arm very effectively. After a couple of drops from obliging Aston fielders, Jones clearly realised he better knock out the timbers himself and produced a beauty from around the wicket to rip out Naveed’s off stump. A good debut however from Naveed who looked a useful cricketer.
At the other end Jonny M looked assured as he flayed the odd bad ball to the boundary, including one delicious upper-cut over the slips head from Jones.
Pete did really well to keep Jones out, but his eyes lit up at the other end and danced down the wicket to O’Hanlon, only to miss it and not quite get back in time as the bails were removed.
Jonny M’s knock came to an end as the dangerous Dunn got one through his ‘over expansive’ drive and P&Js were left 79 for 3 off 22 overs. Still on course at 5 an over at the half way stage.
Dunn repeated the feat to send Dave L. back without scoring and things were looking bleak when Jonny Chalkley picked out the wrong man after a bright and breezy 12 that bodes well for his cricketing future.
At 85 for 5, P&Js were staring down the barrel, but in came Ben L. to played his best knock to date for PJs. He looked assured from the off as he and Tom steadied the ship and got the scoring rate going again.
Tom, as ever, looked in great nick and could count himself unlucky that his crisp drive was well held by mid off to leave PJs 105 for 6.
Ben played some lovely shots and had great support from both Kleiner-Manns. Both Josh’s and Nathan’s batting looks to have come in leaps and bounds over the past year! The youngsters stood up well to the pacy Dunn and weren’t scared of the short ball, working it intelligently around the park.
By the time both Nathan, Josh and Ben had departed, we were back in it with 17 needed off 2.5 overs. Enter our very own one-handed ‘Malcolm Marshall’ as James bravely batted with one hand to try and see us home!
Alongside Dougie, they gamely got us to 10 to win before Dunn claimed his 5th victim as Dougie edged behind to complete proceeding and a highly enjoyable afternoon, played in excellent spirit.