Hibernation is over for the Battersea Badgers as competitive fixtures commence. The season begins 90 minutes from home turf away to V&A in the ever delightful surrounds of Stonor Park. We're greeted on the road in by a somewhat worse for wear badger, a bad omen or a morbid taunt by the oppo perhaps? Undeterred, the Badgers descend on the ground, arriving ahead of the opposition and taking advantage of the on-site facilities for a pre-game net. No first game rustiness permitted under the new Thomas / Allwood regime. The oppo arrive, understandably intimidated by the well drilled Badgers occupying their nets. A swift inspection of the pudding and a toss lost sees Captain Steve and esteemed chairman T Rex don pads and take to the crease.
V&A are without their talismanic opening bowler from 2022's edition of this fixture, but they seem to have found a handy understudy in Knight. Supported by tight bowling from the other end, Knight lays siege to castle Badgers and removes both openers for single figure scores within 5 overs. The V&A feel the battle is going their way but while the outer walls have been breached, Nick Foord and Matt Collins are in to stalwartly defend the gate. Surviving a couple of LBW shouts early on, Matt and Nick see off the opening bowlers before Matt's battle rage takes over and he charges the opposition alone. Nick remains planted the other end and Matt falls, run out for 5. 33 for 3.
Enter Robin, carrying the injuries of many battles past, but not to be underestimated. With Nick at the other end the scoreboard begins to tick over, with clever running and merciless punishment of the bad ball. Badgers begin to rally with Nick and Robin trading boundaries, but the charge is halted at 91 for 3 as the horns blow for first tea (yes V&A do two teas).
And what a tea! The V&A spare no expense on the spread, complete with petit beers and a customary speech from our hosts. Seconds and in Sam's case third helpings are had before play resumes. 12 overs remain. Foordy immediately bags himself the maiden 50 of the season, which seemed to be a signal for the assault to begin. No quarter will be given. Foordy and Bam Bam ensure the ball becomes very well acquainted with the rope and long grass on the far side of it. A second spell from the openers does little to deter them as Robin's 50 and the hundred partnership soon follow. 135 for 3. At tea suggestions of setting 165 to chase seemed reasonable. Foordy and Robin obliterate that target with some outrageous boundary hitting. Nick, a sumptuous flick off his legs over midwicket for six that has the assembled crowd (of mostly his friends and family, admittedly) baying for more. 200 on the board. Robin makes light work of the second 50 to take the maiden century of the season and is swiftly retired, bat aloft, by Captain Steve. A valiant knock and a match saving partnership of 181.
Cameo time with 3 overs to go. Warman helps Foordy put on a few more before being trapped LBW. Foordy himself is run out just short of the ton in the penultimate over and Hash bowled a few balls later. Karl enters to face the final ball of the innings, it's six or out. He connects sweetly, middling it toward the midwicket boundary but it falls just short of the rope and into the hands of the man waiting below. Badgers set 226 to win.
A swift changeover and the Badgers wheel out our own trebuchets in the form of VC Sam Allwood and new signing Joe Peach. Economical from both ends and good hands in the field see a slow start for V&A. The target has been renegotiated to 215 after some scorebook confusion in the first innings. Badger breakthrough comes in the 7th over with Sam trapping the batsman LBW for 10 and Joe following up a few balls later removing the number 2 for 4. V&A dig in with the middle order piling on runs. Hash removes danger man Constantine for 30 with Joe performing an outrageous catch running from deep square leg to midwicket. Number 3 Ward is set and scoring freely, but wickets fall around him, with Nick and Matt removing the middle order for single digit scores.
It's the V&As opening bowlers who make a stand, Knight joining Ward in the middle. The badger quicks keep things tight, but the boundaries begin to flow. The slower bowlers have a tougher time. It's Foordy who makes the next breakthrough, removing Knight for 30 and opening up the tail. Joe takes another scalp and Karl gets one late on but neither can unseat the set bat Ward who celebrates his century in the 34th. Martin Fitzgerald comes closest with a spectacular dive for a caught and bowled that wouldn't be out of place on an Alaskan Salmon run, but his canny death bowling is left unrewarded at the end.
It comes down to the last 2 balls. V&A need 3 to hit the revised target of 215. The new batsman is on strike, he connects well and the ball runs away for 4. A close game and some individual heroics on display to get the season off the mark. Foordy is badger of the match for an all round performance with bat and ball and an honourable mention to Robin for a sublime one legged century.
The road back to Battersea is long with victory so close at hand, but the Badgers will assemble on the field to fight again next week.