Sunday rolls around with the Badgers still buoyant from the maiden win of the season over HM Treasury Thursday past. Today’s opposition, mainstay on the Badger fixture list and Robin’s second favourite team, The Flying Ducksmen.
King George’s Morden proves to be a hidden gem of a pitch deep in uncharted Badger territory. An adjacent astro provides setting for the Badgers to turn arms over and get eyes in early doors before we’re promptly sent into bat. Dickie arrives on time after making an appearance five overs in the previous week, leaving the late arrivals title to the trio of Battersea locals: Craig, Sam & Shagger Isaac. Conflicting stories are given, Sam was allegedly making his way to a completely different King George’s somewhere in Wandsworth, while Isaac was orienting himself after waking up in an unfamiliar bedroom. All we know for sure is that the blame doesn’t sit with Craig, who kindly shepherded half our bowling unit to the correct ground. Game on.
No rest for Craig as he makes his way to the middle to open alongside Dickie. The Ducksmen have been on the recruitment drive this year, bagging themselves a new opening bowler and wicket keeper to bolster the ranks. Familiar faces fill out the rest of the fielding team, all too familiar with the Badgers own Robin Mackrell stood in the slips. A tentative start from Craig, no score from his first four balls while Dickie dispatches his first ball for four. Craig tees off a couple of balls later and turns on the tap, the Ducksmen’s third over going for 17. Craig deals exclusively in boundaries before the Ducksmen make the change, bringing Captain Millard into the attack to stem the flow. The tactics pay off with two quick wickets, Dickie edging to the keeper and Captain Steve bowled in the duel against his opposite number, out for one. Kieran is in at four, he’s brought his dog, his parents and his parent’s dog to watch today. The Ducksmen’s young leg spinner has one ball left in his first over which he uses to teach Kieran why you should never invite loved ones to watch you play cricket. The junior ducksman does his best Shane Warne impression as he rips through Kieran’s defences to send him packing for a golden duck.
Enter Shoney to restore calm to proceedings. After a flurry of quick wickets Craig and Shoney put on an exemplary display against some tricky bowling from the Ducksmen attack. Craig peppering his innings with 12 fours and 2 sixes before becoming the second Badger bowled by the Ducksmen leggy for 79. The Ducksmen then made it a family affair, with Hargreaves Jr being joined by Hargreaves Sr at the other end. Not to be outshined by his son, Hargreaves Sr bowls Joe Peach, out for 5, in his second over. Shoney picks up where Craig left off, gliding the ball around the ground and looking set to make a big score. However disaster strikes within a few overs, a well struck drive over mid-on is plucked from safety by a flying ducksman. Shone departing for 34. Into the tail who seem determined to give the middle order collapse earlier on a run for their money. Eddie and Karl look in good touch, running well. Karl with a lovely four over point before becoming another name in the book for family Hargreaves. Sam falls to the same fate moments later and Eddie not long after. Hargreaves Sr with a quick-fire five-for. Nevertheless, the Badger tail wags. Isaac and Chris White settle in to pile on 78 for the final wicket. Isaac falls just short of jug duties. Having been told by spectator Badgers he needed 3 off the final 2 balls to reach his 50, he is inevitably bowled next ball. Little sympathy on the sidelines. 230 on the board and something to bowl at. Sam and Chris open up, lectures in economy for the opposition as usual before Sam takes the first in the fifth over, caught by Kieran at mid-off. Robin into the fray, in formidable form he is the prized wicket. His partner at the other end scored 150 in his last game, but is struggling to get bat on ball today, he makes a scratchy 10 runs before Sam sends him on his way bowled. Robin settles in and is joined by and quickly left again by the Ducksmen middle order. Isaac, Craig and Eddie (a first Badger wicket) picking up one a piece. The Ducksmen recover, building partnerships and making use of the fast outfield to put away boundaries a plenty. Robin looks in good touch, but in a moment akin to our very own Chris Shone’s dismissal, a seemingly safe shot - this time over square leg - is plucked out of the air by a circus audition from Chris White, acrobatics and juggling galore. Robin out for 39, Sam with his 3rd of the day.
Kieran gives his crowd something to take home to remember with a wicket from his second ball, dismissing Ducksmen’s number 7 for 22. In a game rife with symmetry, it's only fitting the Ducksmen’s tail make their own stand. Hargreaves Sr and Captain Millard the immovable pair, carving their way through the Badger bowling lineup, creeping ever closer to the Badger total. 200 up. The Badger artillery looks depleted but captain Steve rolls out the big guns for one last battery (and by big guns I mean Australians). In what is probably a breach of village cricket laws the Badgers have two aussies on the field today, Craig & Joe Peach. I’d like to say my somewhat jumbled account of what happened next was due to the pure hysteria of the events unfolding before me, but in truth I’d botched a catch in the previous over - dislocating my thumb - so was feeling sorry for myself at third man some distance from the drama in the middle. Joe struck first, dethroning Hargreaves Sr for 71, bowled comprehensively. 12 balls left. Ducksmen need 7 to win. Craig sets his field, no singles lads. The set bat is on strike. Dot ball. Pressure building. Bowled! Craig lets out a noise like a Cherokee war cry. The hitherto relaxed Ducksmen are now lined up on the boundary. In the words of Sir Alex, “it’s squeaky bum time”, we want to avoid the hairdryer treatment today. Wicket maiden for Craig. Joe to bowl the final over. Two dots, a single, then an edge. Captain Steve gobbles up the ball to give the Badgers a memorable win.
Lots of praise all round. A brilliant game and a superb win for the home side. There’s talk of King George’s being made the nominal home for the nomadic Badgers such was the quality of the pitch, though a severe lack of pubs nearby does sour the idea a little. Two wins on the trot, the Badgers will aim to make it three in three away to Trinity Mid-Whitgiftians next week. Onward.