Date added: June 14, 2012 Category: David Murray Milne
Long Ashton Occasionals v Fire Brigade
Winford Cricket Ground
Friday 6th May 2011
A fixture which continues to confound and amaze in its ability to produce controversy, high drama and flashes of individual brilliance, once again lived up to all expectations. The venue this time was quiet rural backwater of Winford in deepest Somerset. This was the Occasionals' second venture here and after the brave band of men departed the ground at the conclusion of the evening's cricket they may wonder with good reason if this inviting little idyll is not cursed following a second successive match which produced a dramatic turnabout in fortunes.
Stewart Bunny Caie duly won the toss for the Brigade and had little hesitation in deciding to take first knock on a bright spring evening. Regret comes in many forms in life but it can rarely have rushed upon the skipper more quickly than when his team were three wickets down in a moment after the veteran new ball pairing of Chugger Channing and Pigeon Firetto had sliced through the top order. Indeed when retired hurt Thompson, in his first trundle of the season, rearranged Quinton's timbers. All concerned were eying an early and horribly mismatched conclusion. There followed a regrettable incident when Carlier, seeking a quick single was run out by a mere ten yards by Hodgetts direct throw only for umpire Caie to fail to uphold the appeal. The spirit of the late Shakoor Rana was there looming over us once more.
Enter the arena Lord Shaw, his late arrival at the ground due to an unfortunate incident earlier at the Shaw Estate. His trusted valet, in service to the Shaw family since 1912, was dismissed after it was discovered he had failed to steam clean his lordship's Harlequins Cap in readiness for the match. The resulting insurrection by the remainder of his staff had to be quelled by Lord Shaw's own personal guard thus delaying his entry to the crease. Clearly unsettled by the earlier unseemly events of the evening he took time to settle at the crease and even offered a chance to backward square leg where debutant Bob Hodgetts spilled the chance. Hodgetts, already it seems, is shaping up nicely for a long and largely unfulfilled career as an Occasional.
Carlier was then bowled by the wily Joslin, cleverly mixing up his left arm slows to out fox the batsman. This bought the doughty Pads to the crease.
If ever there were any scholars who doubted the legitimacy of Darwin's "Origin of Species" then the bearded Victorian could have used, quite legitimately, the batting partnership of Lord Shaw and Pads Parnham as the very basis of his theory. Shaw, the embodiment of the erudite "homo sapien"; tall, athletic, technically correct, upright and untroubled at the crease, accumulating runs with ease. Pads; Homo erectus, the hunter gatherer of runs, using simple tools to carve out an existence at the wicket. This unlikely union resurrected the innings from the last rites of 23 for five to, if not positively rude health then at least able to lurch wheezing to something like a competitive total.
Pads journey to a career best of 23 was not untroubled, surviving several dropped chances he led a charmed life but by sheer determination and displaying the kind of courage that made the British Empire truly great. He overcame crippling inadequacies in skill, technique and talent to scale his own personal Everest. One of several near misses occurred when Milne, carefully positioning himself at silly mid-off anticipating Pads trade mark uppish forward lurch almost clung on to a fiendish chance. Time seemed almost motionless with each man’s expression a reversal of the other as Milne seemed might cling on, only for the ball to escape his grasp. Hope to joy and then to despair. To the cricket gods it seems we are merely pawns. The brave resistance finally ended when Lord Shaw, weary of his partners company, ensured Pads was run out, this time Caie having no hesitation in upholding the appeal.
Jason Hill to the crease. Much has been written on this man's previous appearance for the Occasionals but his free flowing stroke play yielded seven stylish runs. In fact even the local herd appreciated his batting from the adjacent field, a mature friesian mooed her delight at one particularly agricultural heave (which failed to connect).
Enter leg spinner Milne to the attack who was keen to test his floaty skills against Shaw. Second ball, a gaily flighted leg break was dismissed from his presence by Shaw with the casual indifference of a cruel aristocrat who has just sent away his young servant girl to the workhouse after discovering she is carrying his illegitimate child. This mighty blow sent several outfielders rummaging the far distant undergrowth in a fruitless search of the lost ball.
The Brigade's innings was swiftly concluded by Channing Junior with a double wicket maiden. His second victim Dan Caie recording his second duck in this fixture. In 2010 he was cruelly run out by the glory seeking Pads. So 101 runs scored from the full twenty overs, surely most judges would conclude; a comfortable chase for the Occasionals.
Now, we are all men of the world and most would consider such talk of evil spirits, curses or the work of the Dark Lord as foolish nonsense but what enfolded in the second chapter of the match would perhaps make the most devout non believer reconsider his ways.
Now what had previously seemed reasonably benign batting conditions and bright sunshine was in an instant transformed into a dark, brooding and foreboding night as storm clouds rolled in and batting suddenly seemed treacherous as soon as O's innings commenced.
To the casual observer of the game it would appear that the Brigade's skipper Caie is an undemonstrative and even reluctant leader. Not so I say, indeed his Brearleyesque command of his troops is no better demonstrated by his simple "spread out!" command when setting his field, each man it seems well drilled under his leadership. In throwing the new ball to his son Dan he at once pulled a master stroke. Earlier in the week the "Youth Policy" of Michallat and Haywood were given the nod that they would be opening the batting. This rare honour, for ones so young, a reward for their continued dedication and commitment to the O's. Clearly "pumped" for the occasion they had both put in the hard yards in the nets in preparation. Caie Junior, running in down the hill, jagging the ball away off the seam alarmingly took just five balls to ensnare Michallat, who flaying the bat in expectation only to find short third man, departed for a duck.
O's number three Nudger Chadwick began his walk to the wicket. In the gloaming it was hard to make out but it seemed to onlookers as he neared the wicket he was sprouting a short bob tail, fur, buck teeth, long ears and nibbling a carrot by the time he reached the crease. Caie Junior had earlier this season dismissed Nudger at will in the nets and his fate was sealed even before he took guard. First ball, a full toss was spooned in ungainly fashion to a gleeful square leg. Chadwick departs for nought. Jim Press from the uphill end, purveyor of niggly in-duckers then accounted for Hodgetts who swung across the line and again was neatly snaffled without troubling the scorers. Caie then began his second over, the hat-trick ball, Haywood to face. A trade mark delivery pitching middle and nipping away off the seam, keeping a fraction low clips the off stump, Char bowled for zero. A hat-trick for Dan Caie! A sense of the unworldly descended on all present in a rare moment. Rob Lee entered the fray at two runs for four wickets.
Captain's strict orders at this time were "stay in at all costs and pray for rain". Lee carried out these instructions implicitly for five balls before unwinding a grotesque heave and he departed as those did before him, for a globe. Rain then forced the players off with the score three runs for five wickets. Brigade's score of 101 now looked like 1001.
A snapshot of the scorecard:
|Michallat||caught||b Caie D||0|
|Haywood||b Caie D||0|
|Chadwick||caught||b Caie D||0|
Skipper Milne at this point retired to a lonely corner of the pavilion and was to be seen unravelling his prayer mat and praying to the rain gods to ensure a monsoon would fall from the skies and no further play would be possible. Alas the rain abated and there was a resumption in play and time for Channing Junior & Thompson to stage a brief recovery before Junior was bowled by a Caie Snr. break back which was left alone by a disbelieving Channing. The skies darkened and rain then began to fall more steadily. Out of the murk, groundsman Hugh ushered the players in to conclude the game. Occasionals mightily relieved with the score 25 for six. The match abandoned as a draw.
Player of the Match
The game will ultimately be remembered for a fantastic spell of bowling by young Dan Caie. Perfection in sport is forever illusive but Dan's figures of 2 – 2 – 0 – 3 have rarely been bettered in any form of the great game. Not since Australian Frederick "The Demon" Spofforth (1853 – 1926) tore through MCC, including whistling one through WG's beard has the game witnessed such a fine a spell of bowling. It is therefore Dan "the Demon" Caie who deservedly takes the award.