On the first day of a much-anticipated season, Nick Foord escorted the Badgers to the tightest of finishes.
Pre-match, Fitz had spent a few minutes talking to an eager audience about his wedding the previous weekend, and substantially more time explaining excitedly the rules of the new Badgers fantasy cricket game. This was also a Badger debut for Alex “It’s actually” Johnstone, who arrived just in time for the start of the Kew innings, which was still half an hour earlier than Barker…
An irresistible new ball spell from T Rex, moving the ball both ways at considerable speed, demolished the Kew top order...but that’s enough fantasy cricket (for now). In fact, by the time Stu did arrive Kew were off to a flyer - surely due to a hard ball, a fast, dry outfield and a missing fielder, and not at all due to any loose bowling from the Badgers’ esteemed openers.
Despite an early wicket for Jimbo Kew’s top order batted well and by drinks the Badgers could’ve been forgiven for thinking they were already out of the game, but Kew were hauled back in the innings’ second half. Cade took a couple of wickets with good bowling, meaning Barker was obliged to earn an LBW decision for a rank full toss which struck the batsman so high it added new meaning to the phrase “hitting all three”.
The Kew opener’s fast early scoring was reined in but he continued into the 90s before being castled to become Alex’s maiden Badger scalp, and the innings ended with Kew’s final pair snarling at one another over the number eight’s decision to hog strike in Foord’s final over. Still, 220 felt a good score.
It felt even more so as the Badgers ground their way to 97/6, with things falling away after a disciplined opening stand from Martin and Toby and sparky beginnings from Fitz and Thorpe. Wickets fell in pairs, leading to the frequent sight of Badgers scrambling around getting gear on while also frantically recalculating the latest implications for their fantasy teams.
However, Fjoord’s focus was intense and his mind was on one thing only - revenge for Kew Gardens’ 19th century snub of the Norwegian spruce, his proud national icon - thus motivated, he began striking the tiring Kew attack to all corners.
Despite over 110 having been needed from the final 10 overs, duly supported by the lower order, the Foord fiesta whittled this down to five needed to win as the final over began. A sharply run two was followed by two dots as Kew’s spinner tightened things up, before another couple levelled the scores. So just one was needed to win off the last two balls, but after all his exertions the undisputed Badger of the Match Nick was beaten twice outside off stump and the game ended in an honourable tie.
It had been a good match played in the right spirit on a sunny April day, with a few beers enjoyed on the outfield afterwards - an auspicious start to 2021. For those with Foord as their fantasy team captain the suds tasted all the sweeter.