Today at Cadnam there was a lively discussion about the genre of cricket reporting literature. Should writers experiment with what has the potential to be a mutable format and celebrate the richness of the English language—owing to its rich etymology, for example, it has roughly twice the number of words in its vocabulary than does French—or ought they to stick rigorously to a sort-of Stalinist, “plain English” formula—as is catered for by the open-source SCAT template for those reporters with writer’s block and/or little imagination—whereby the writer and their readers follow a recognised, certified information imparting and digestion process week in, week out? Or, to summarise – do Rioteers, as we settle down to read about our exploits, wish to read literature, occasionally playful, or would we be better served by bureaucratic status reports? Are we on an odyssey which accrues beauty and meaning, or are we engaged in a string of transactions, each one of which is simply to be rubber-stamped and filed away? As the post-match drinks were drunk, this surely rhetorical question seemed to answer itself.
Colonel Bickers’ splendid new car was also a topic of discussion. (We Rioteers are a polymathic tribe, and can turn ourselves to any subject – from the genre of cricket reporting literature to motor cars, and indeed to every concern in between these two ends of the spectrum of life.) It was decided in his absence that Dave’s car was not a virago but a farrago – the former meaning a domineering, possibly violent woman (with an archaic meaning of female warrior), the latter meaning a confused mixture, a hotchpotch, ragbag, and so on and so forth.
Now, while this writer would love to own a car called a virago, those Rioteers that found themselves in more thoughtful, philosophical circumstances wondered whether farrago might be the perfect way of describing our splendid band of brothers. And, once more, the rhetorical nature of a question settled itself in the minds of said, thoughtful members of our splendid team.
We played a really enjoyable game of cricket today with our hosts, Cadnam Cricket Club. But, or rather also, we discovered a little bit more about the truth of the nature of ourselves, as we do with every game. Don’t you find?
As has been common this season we were only ten (our eleventh player having been involved in a self-immolation by bicycle incident earlier that morning). We were very pleased to welcome Simon’s friend, Adam. And it was lovely to welcome Archie back from his gap-year travels. Cadnam fielded a youthful eleven, which bodes well for our splendid hosts and the seasons ahead. The Rioteers presented with our usual farrago of youth, beauty, truth, experience, ugliness, and various levels of existential optimism.
Captain Marty was uncharacteristically cutting things fine with the clock, so Simon did the honours with the coin-toss and chose to field – primarily based on his outsourcing the decision about what to do to Campbell, who suggested we might better enjoy the always-fantastic tea provided by Cadnam if we didn’t have to go out and field after having got the most out of it.
The weather was warm and partially cloudy, gradually becoming even warmer and sunnier later. The pitch was in excellent condition considering the rain that had fallen during the preceding days.
The Rioteers’ fielding was, once again, really good – full of the energy and joie de vivre we have come to expect. Joe Stafford, keen to play, and learn, and getting better in all departments, has always shown energy and skill in the field and continued to do so today, attacking the ball and saving runs by getting it back to the keeper quickly. Simon, wicketkeeping once more, took an excellent close catch behind while standing up at the stumps (to Marty’s bowling). And, if your surname was Hillier, you were taking a catch. Bertie took an excellent catch at cow corner off Campbell’s bowling to dismiss Cadnam’s number one for 19. Archie took a hard, sharp catch, again off Campbell’s bowling, at mid-off to despatch Cadnam’s number two for 12. Marty took a catch on the boundary around deep midwicket, from the bowling of his prodigal son, to dismiss Cadnam’s number six. He did this in spite of the fact that Helios, his chariot and his horses were almost burning his eyes out with the brightness produced by the mid-afternoon segment of their voyage across the sky. The bowling was very tidy, with Archie and Bertie both taking one wicket apiece, Richard making a parsimonious 1/21 off 5 overs, Marty’s wonderful percentage bowling gaining 2/26 off 7, and Campbell’s mercurial concoction distilling to produce a magnificent 4/14 off 8 overs, with two maidens.
Cadnam batted out their forty overs, their number eleven understandably proud of his 0* from the last four balls, and ended their innings on 169 – presenting a much more catchable total than has been on offer to the Rioteers at this venue in recent memory.
Tea was really good. Your reporter always enjoys watching the improbably large amount of food the younger members of our team, and Campbell, manage to balance on their plates, teetering, Billy Smart’s Circus style.
The Rioteers had a chaseable total, and the calibre to chase it.
Dave and Simon, having each eschewed tea in favour of a banana and a shot of pseudoephedrine straight to the heart, strode out to start the Rioteers’ chase. Both were looking comfortable and assured, until Simon played a shot that on virtually every other day would have gone to the boundary but today was taken at gully(-ish), low to the ground and very skillfully, by the Cadnam fielder. Simon was replaced by his friend and our guest Adam. Dave was batting assuredly, including playing a couple of really nice, experienced glances, one between slip and gully, another fine on the leg side, both of which reached the boundary. Adam slowly accrued runs but also picked up a nasty muscle twinge which meant that a runner was required. Damian, padded up to go in at four, was already wearing the requisite baggage to act as a runner so went on to perform the task, replaced by Simon once he’d put his kit back on. Dave was eventually caught for 19, at which point Damian returned to the field, this time as a batsman not a runner. If this reads as being confusing – you should have been there, where it was more so. Adam was shortly after that bowled for 7, which ended having to manage a triumvirate of players being on the pitch with varying degrees of responsibility for batting, calling and running. The veritable farrago was replaced once more by a duo – Damian being joined by Richard, coming in at number five to steady an innings at risk of terminal collapse. Both stayed in, with the small reward for themselves on the scoreboard compensated for by a large number of wides and no-balls, for a number of overs that may or may not have reached in to double figures but felt like a lifetime lived by someone who’d made poor choices. Damian was eventually bowled and replaced by Archie, who like his predecessor found the bowling hard to despatch. Once Richard and then Archie had been removed, there then came the charge. Campbell, having come out of his tea-induced food-coma, crash-bang-walloped his way to 29, including two sixes, before being caught while aiming for another six. Bertie and Marty then embarked on the partnership of the innings, son and father managing their running between the wickets almost as if they were, well, son and father working in perfect harmony. Bertie in particular shone, scoring a couple of sixes and several fours to accompany the many really well taken singles run by the couple. Bertie was bowled on 49, at which point Marty was joined by our number 10 and last batsman, Joe. At this point the Rioteers were on 158, and needed 12 to win. Joe started well, supporting Marty, who scored another two. Joe then slotted a lovely shot leg side for another two. We were on 162. Our captain was on strike. We had several overs in hand, but no wickets left to lose. Marty, looking to hit out, was caught. He ended his innings on 13, Joe on 2*.
We had come very close. It had been a really, really good game against wonderful hosts. Thank you Cadnam. But, or rather also, we discovered a little bit more about the truth of the nature of ourselves, as we do with every game. Don’t you find?