If there has been a Battersea Badger who has smiled this season it is more likely to have been triggered by a team mate's self-deprecating sense of humour then their performance on the field. Defeat is what the Badgers know best; it is in his blood, borne of memories of missed catches, the tumble of bales and the bitter sight of King's Road orange. Every game the Badgers invoke the grit and determination of Dunkirk and every game they get driven into the cold, craggy sea.
But at the end of a colourless day in Battersea Park the Badgers finally had a reason to smile. For one warm summers evening it mattered for nothing that the Badgers had been disappointed in Dulwich, that they suffered a pasting in Putney, or that Wandsworth had not been their Waterloo, in Battersea – the air quivering with brass band renditions of Rawhide – they were brave, they were brilliant, they were almost bombastic.
Nonetheless, it was not a day for Herculean sixes or earth shattering bowling averages. Against a rejuvenated BallCutter XI the Badgers were made to work for their victory and by the time it was won the light had faded and the yummy mummies were safely at home making organic coco.
From the start any expectations that the BallCutters were going to be pushovers were quickly dispelled. Having won the toss and chosen to bat, they began well and had built a solid 25 before Dollymore bowled Griffin for the first wicket.
(The BallCutters, it may be recalled, were formerly known as the Tim Barber Invitational Punjab, before, that is, the British National Party mistook them for a Bolton based secessionist movement.)
Things started to look more promising for the Badgers in the 13th over. The BallCutters were 55-1 when Stevenson, who had hit an imperious six off his first ball, was bowled LBW after a low ball from Marchant. The same over saw the ever energetic Marchant bowl and catch Woodward after the latter knocked the ball up in the air rather too tenderly.
With the Cutters suddenly struggling at 55-3, Sweet - an opener with Griffin - took up a license to attack. Before Cloke could dispense of him LBW he had managed to hit eight fours on his way to 51 off as many balls.
At 96-6 the Cutters were once more on the brink and once more they fought their way back. Horner and Baxter calmly crafting a superb rearguard action that saw the Cutters reach an impressive 160 with ten overs still to play.
Then out of nowhere Woodcock bowled to Horner only for the batsman to lunge wildly at the ball and get caught behind. It was his first competitive wicket and it could not have come at a better time.
The end of Horner, who had run an impressive 35 off only 28 balls, was effectively the end of the Cutters. Three overs later Jinks took Bathmanaban and Holden, leaving the Cutters all out for 163 after 33 overs.
Spurning lunch, Captain Barber – the BallCutter's redoubtable Don Juan with a bat and, with those perfectly tanned shoulders and yielding lips, a definite spectator's favourite – immediately ordered his team back onto the field. Perhaps he sensed, thinking back to Cloke's now legendary 12 of 70 balls, that the Cutters had set the Badgers an insurmountable target.
But while the target turned out to be realistic how it was actually achieved remains a riddle thanks to an incomplete score card and the fact your erstwhile correspondent was chasing squirrels rather than watching the game. It is thus that the valiant contributions of the top half of the Badgers' batting order in this game will, alas, be forgotten.
Indeed, all that can be recounted of the first hour or so of the Badgers' innings is the journey of the Battersea Park children's train. So here goes: The driver did a fantastic job in frustrating pedestrians in their efforts to walk along the north east boundary of the pitch. The train was a lovely blue and was travelling at around 5mph, which is nine times slower than the ball of a typical spin bowler. The driver was called Jimmy. He said, after the match, "It has been quite a solid day. It could have gone better, yes of course it could. But on quite a docile pitch, it was not easy to drive straight, especially with all those children slowing the pace down. I think I did as well as I could do."
By the time Jimmy and his *chu chu* train had made their fifth pass of the pitch the wickets of Marchant, Hicks, Cloke and Hirst had all fallen. Presumably they were either caught, bowled, or taken LBW. (It can be safely assumed no one was run out or stumped as this cricketing correspondent would definitely have remembered that.)
When records finally began the Badgers were 89-5 and Huntington was coming on for Thorpe, who had just been caught by an unnamed BallCutter when he inexplicably played a reverse sweep on a wide ball. He had made 32 runs off...um...well...God knows how many balls.
Captain Barber's "diligent" and "meticulous" arranging of the field seemed to be paying off and the Badgers were staring down the barrel at 89-5.
However, Huntington proved a revelation, hitting 41 not out as he steered the Badger's to a one wicket victory. Along the way Jinks, Woodcock, Dreaden were all bowled out, or in Jinks' case caught out, by Captain Barber. Dollimore was four not out.
A third ever victory for the Battersea Badgers and a second this season against the BallCutters. After the recent narrow defeats the Badgers were jubilant and a couple of days supply of anti-depressants went unused. It seems as long as the BallCutters are around the Badgers will win the occasional match. So, please everyone, join together in saying LONG LIVE THE MARYLEBONE BALLCUTTERS, may the Gods protect them in all they do, for they at least are witness to the success of the Battersea Badgers.
Coming soon: King's Road orange faced after Badgers finally win....