It was meant to be a glorious homecoming, but the Badgers return to Battersea saw a superior JMC side take the spotlight.
Early start for the Badgers, eager to get going after rain spoiled last week's party at Dulwich. A pregame net for the early arrivals while captain Steve inspects the wrong pitch and a winning toss puts us into the field. JMC openers take advantage of boundaries designed to flatter any batsman's average and pile on 70 odd from the first 12 overs. Admirable bowling from Blakey opening from one end and James Beeken on debut from the other. The good balls are respected but anything sitting up is duly punished. JMC look like a classy outfit from the get go.
10 overs in a very angry man arrives on the boundary and he fetches a far friendlier man to tell us we're playing on the wrong pitch. They'll put flags out for us but we're going to have to switch. Opportunity for a change of wicketkeeper for the Badgers and a change of trousers for Karl and part two is underway. The batsman aren't thrilled and with good reason because the boundaries on the new pitch are enormous. Anything going for 4 in the first 10 is going for 2 now. Not that the JMC openers were able to find that out as they swiftly fell to consecutive balls from Jim and Isaac within moments of taking to the second pitch. The match suddenly and briefly tilting in the Badgers favour.
Isaac enjoyed the taste of the first so much he immediately orders another, removing JMC's number 4 for a first ball duck. Hat-trick ball for Isaac. It's on the stumps but the batsman drops the portcullis just in time to block it out, sending the ball down to fine leg for a streaky 2 runs. From here JMC settled in for the afternoon, blunting the badger attack with fine strike rotation and elegant shots. JMC's McMorran led the assault, delivering a lesson in low risk power hitting as he fired his way to a well earned century. Nicholls at the other end happy to play second string but hanging around with exemplary technique for a classy 38.
The few Badger chances that were created were squandered in the field. Be it cold hands or nerves at performing in front of the sold out Badger fanzone assembled on the boundary, it's unclear, but it's fair to say it was not a team fielding performance that will be fondly remembered. The bowling, however, did see something for the record books. Shortly after lifting his bat to celebrate his century, JMC's gun bat found himself unseated by a calculated and perfectly executed off cutter from Jim Hamblin. The second wicket of the day for Jim but not the last. A few overs later saw two more fall to Jim's hand, the second set JMC man trapped LBW and his replacement bowled two balls later. Hash joined the frenzy thanks to a brilliant high catch close in by Captain Steve but it was Jim who closed things out, taking the maiden Badger five-wicket haul of the season with the final ball of the innings. A catch in the deep from Blakey who celebrated by signalling to the scorer it had gone for six.
Scorebook corrected, the Badgers would be chasing an intimidating 260 to win. But first tea. Homemade heroics from Hash and Jim saw a Badger spread that the V&A would approve of, sans tables and speeches but nonetheless delicious. Into bat and Dickie and Steve take to the middle. An attritional start against tight bowling from JMC before the breakthrough in the 6th over, Dickie out LBW. Jim, in at 3, creams his second ball over the bowlers head for four but is caught and bowled a few balls later. 15 for 2 after 6 overs. Eddie in at 4, another debutant who fends off tricky bowling on his way to 17 before being bowled through the gate by a turning ball. It proves to be the longest partnership of the innings, 11 overs with Captain Steve characteristically dabbing down to third man to rotate the strike and punctuated with a handful of well needed boundaries from both bats. With the partnership broken the Badger collapse was swift. We won't dwell on the details but the remaining batsman's scores read like a landline telephone number. Noone was able to hang around to support Steve before the turning ball felled the Badger captain for a hard fought 33.
All out with plenty of time to spare, JMC are jubilant, the Badgers dejected. A deserved win for the oppo. A bitter defeat for the Badgers. But a game played in good spirits and good humour from both sides. Jimbo is Badger of the match for five wickets with Steve's 33 the pick of the batting. The Badgers bundle into the pub, families and spectator Badgers in tow, to drown sorrows and plan a comeback for next week. We go again.