The South London Ashes “Supertest”: the western hemisphere’s fourth most impressive sporting spectacle, trumped only by the likes of the Champions League final, Wimbledon Men’s Final, and the South Fife Under 19’s Curling Championship.
The venue for this season’s encounter was to be sleepy Kingston. Nestling near the Thames was a sporting a wicket offering zip, turn, bounce and no bounce, all in equal measure.
The King’s Road head honcho Fagan won the toss and, buoyed by the confidence gained from a string of recent wins, elected to post a total for the Badgers to pursue. Badgers’ skipper Jinksy allowed himself a wry smile in the safety of the Badgers dugout, having fancied a bowl first up on what would prove a lively wicket.
KRSCC 1st innings
The KRSCC openers Isham and Hughes strode to the crease with a defiant swagger, sporting their bright orange kit with pride. The match started slow, with the Badger dangermen Foord and Maskell setting about their task with a verve and proficiency the animated Badger field have come to expect. Dot balls began to occupy the scorebook with the speed and persistence of a bowling Blitzkrieg.
Vice-skip’ Foordy, rarely if ever beaten on the bowling stats, opted to start his contribution early in the 7th over, encouraging Hughes to send the ball in the air to gully off a thick edge, where it was pouched by Cole in an ominous statement of intent from the assembled graduates of The Badger School Of Tight Fielding.
A bold bit of captaincy left a huge gap in the leg side that clearly caught Da Silva’s eye. A straight ball from Maskell and an uncharacteristic swipe from the batsman that was so agricultural the Wurzels are probably considering it as subject matter for their next album, resulted in the fall of timber and a comprehensive scattering of bails.
With his side in need of some inspiration, the King’s Road skip’ Giles elected to take the fight back to the Badgers with a flurry of boundaries, accumulating a quick fire 40 before Badger talisman Barker fired down a storming delivery that left Giles in all sorts of trouble. Wafting his bat at the ball Giles caught a thin edge, sending the ball down the throat of the three strong Badger slip cordon, to the delight of Blake who snaffled up the ball like a pig digging for a truffle. leaving the KRSCC on 84 for 3 from 24 overs.
Blake was the next to get his name in the book as he snuffed out a few promising partnerships first ending Isham’s resolute stand at the crease, and then claiming the scalp of Dan Sherman with a plumb LBW shout that saw the ump’s finger raise.
With Foord snorting, and scraping his foot on the ground like a bull at Pamplona chasing the Kings Road batsmen ‘tourists’, the fight drained out of the KRCSC tail. Foord dispatched Glover, MacNicol, and Cocken in consecutive overs for a total accumulation of just 8 runs before badger part-timer ‘Gorgeous’ George Dawson finished things off quickly with two wickets off his first and only over.
Kings Road all out for 157 – Imperious Badger bowling, and laser-guided Badger fielding being the order of the day.
Badgers 1st Innings
Chasing a modest total posted by the Kings Road, the Badgers batting unit geared up to generate a lead that would enable a second day push to victory.
Warman and Smith took to the crease to face the KRSCC opening bowlers for the first time. Adopting their role as the ‘Aussie representatives’ of the South London Ashes the Kings Road players started chirping away from all corners of the field. With more sledging that the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics bouncing round the inner circle Warman responded with typical calm, dispatching a short first ball from Glover to the cover boundary to open his account.
The Badger openers raced away to reach 58 before the first chink in the armour appeared, as Smith was clean bowled by Pittaway. Cole was next up, joining Warman at the crease with his mind set on building another partnership. Cole dispatched some tidy fours before playing round a delivery from spin master Da Silva, and hearing the clatter of his bails. Warman departed soon after, again to the spin of Da Silva to the delight of the Kings Road field leaving the score on 101 for 3.
Skip’ Jinksy strolled out to the crease knowing this was the time to turn the screw and gain some progress. With partner-in-crime Dickinson joining him at the other end, a partnership of 58 unfolded to the delight of the Badgers on the boundary rope, with both Jinks and Dickinson clearing the boundary rope with mighty sixes. Dickinson connected with one ball with such vigour that play had to be stopped as a Kings Road emissary was sent in the direction of Surbiton to retrieve the ball from a nearby street.
With the Badgers on 159, Dickinson was undone by some unpredictable bounce giving away a catch behind the stumps. With the end of the first day looming a brief cameo by Mcluskey came to an end caught in the covers for a solitary run, uniting skip’ and vice-skip’ at the crease to see out the day’s play. The Badgers ended a black and white striped nose in front on 176 for 5 from their 43 overs.
The next morning the badger leadership re-took the field ready to extend the lead quickly, to allow sufficient time to work through the Kings Road batting line-up – with visions of the KRSCC attempting to bat out for a draw in the previous year’s test still fresh in the memory.
Jinks and Foord ratcheted the scoreboard up to 218 before the skip’ was eventually rapped on the pads 23 short of his maiden Badger ton departing with the dignity that has come to typify the heart and soul of the Badger Sett.
With the Badger collective subconscious aware that a big enough lead had been accumulated, the pressure eased and the tail was ordered to engage in T20-style batting to add a final flourish to the total. Unfortunately this was not to be as Foord had his stumps shattered by Glover, out for 23 runs to signal a rapid decline.
Dawson was run out for a duck off three balls faced, Barker fell cheaply for 2 runs as the toe rag Fagan pocketed his ball in the outfield. However, with Maskell joining Blake at the crease, the final pairing looked to have some fight left in them.
In a moment that would comfortably have won the grand finale of ‘You’ve been Framed’, Maskell selflessly took it upon himself to raise the spirits and cheers of the Badger camp before facing the Road’s final innings. Rather than an orthodox declaration, Maskell had concocted something much more impressive to call time on the Badgers first innings. Displaying the result of several months of training alongside the Royal Ballet, Maskell took an almighty heave at a delivery outside off from Glover. Having missed the delivery in its entirety, Maskell initiated his carefully choreographed display. Rotating through 360 degrees in a perfect pirouette, bat held proudly aloft, Maskell then collapsed backwards over his stumps in ‘Matrix’ style slow motion flattening off, middle and leg stumps and squashing the bails into the dirt.
The plan worked splendidly, leaving the usually raucous Kings Road field in utter silence, one can only assume they were bamboozled by the strange beauty and grace of the entire manoeuvre.
When the dust settled (and the laughing subsided) Badgers found themselves all out for 228 with a lead of 71.
Kings Road 2nd Innings
With the Badgers spirits still soaring like Maskell’s earlier rendition of Swan Lake, the veteran bowling/fielding unit took to the field aware of the threat of another Kings Road draw attempt.
It didn’t take long for the Badgers to strike as Isham was sent packing on the first ball of the third over by Blake without a single run being scored from the bat. Blake and Foord combining with metronomic efficiency to keep the run-rate painfully low. Foord was feeling particularly miserly and the only blemish in his five over spell (5 overs, 4 maidens, 1 run) was a solitary wide.
Hughes was to follow next as Gorgeous George resumed his wicket taking prowess by hitting stumps, again in his very first over of the day.
Maskell also got in on the act with a display of accurate bowling that would not be out of place gracing the Oxford English Dictionary under ‘Line’ ‘Length’ and ‘swing’. The bowler claimed the wicket of Da Silva for the second time in the game with a peach that left Sham with nothing to do but edge it to Foordy in the slips. Sherman was the final casualty of the initial Badgers onslaught, his armour not thick enough to withstand the cannon disguised as Maskell’s arm as Rigby dived forward to pouch a tidy catch at gully.
With the Kings Road in trouble on 35 for 4 off 13 overs Giles again needed to rise to the mark, assisted by his able lieutenant Glover.
In an impressive partnership of 83 runs, the Badgers field toiled on the boundary in an attempt to reduce the damage the two in-form batsmen were delivering to the scoreboard. Sensing the King’s Road were edging back in to the match, Jinks threw the ball to his second in command Foord, ordering the commencement of a bombardment of the stumps of a size, scale, and ferocity not seen since the Grand Fleet took on the Jerry’s off Jutland in 1916.
Fagan was first to fall, with a gallant knock of 39, Foord finding the edge of Giles’s bat and the gloves of unsung hero Warman behind the stumps.
The thirtieth over of the innings proved decisive as the Foord bowling machine found its focus. The first death nail was hammered home as Cocken faced a ball that reared up like an angry mustang to impact head on with his pads; the LBW shout went up and so did the umpire’s finger leaving an aggrieved Cocken to make his way back to the sidelines. MacNicol’s mental preparation must have involved studying the menu of the local chinese takeaway as he followed Cocken back to the hutch with only a golden duck to show for his efforts. Couldrey was next in to the cauldron that Foordy was cooking up, his bubbling pot of wickets feeding on the fear, uncertainty and doubt of the fresh batsmen at the crease. With his final ball of the over Foord sent in a ripsnorter of a delivery and the edge of Couldrey’s bat helped the ball on its way to the gloves of a grateful Warman behind the stumps.
Three wickets down in a single over, Foord had changed the complexion of the game in an instant. However, not content as long as Glover occupied the crease and his five-fer eluded him, Foordy was given one last over by the skip’ to find his man. In the third delivery of the over Foord sent the ball thumping in to the front pad of Glover who, caught plumb LBW, had no option but to walk. Foordy celebrated by falling over and injuring himself but finished with figures of 5 wickets for 12 runs off 10 overs.
With the Badger blunderbuss Foordy sidelined, the Kings Road rearguard managed to accumulate a tidy 38 runs in their last wicket stand before Maskell again ended the innings by destroying a set of stumps, this time through a rather more orthodox straight delivery that Pittaway played all around.
Kings Road all out for a competitive 173, Badgers in need of 103 to win.
Badgers 2nd Innings
With the best part of two full sessions remaining the Badgers had constructed the platform to push home to victory. However, this by no means constituted a dead cert and a good positive start was essential. With memories of catastrophic batting collapses haunting the minds of the Badger Sett, Barker and Rigby marched out to the crease with a sense of purpose in the air.
With the Kings Road knowing that early wickets were needed to bring a chance of victory, they sent their sledging team in to action with devastating effect. However, the devastating effect was the opposite of their intention. Keen to silence the on-pitch commentary Barker began piercing the boundary with impunity, sending four consecutive Pittaway deliveries to the ropes.
36 for 0 off only 4 overs, 26 from the bat of Barker. An opening which left the Badger camp in command of the game, and within coasting distance of victory.
The next over a delivery from Glover caused Barker to play the ball on to his own stumps, cutting short a batting display thoroughly enjoyed by his teammates and the assembled Kingston spectators.
Huntington was next to the crease, and immediately headed back to the hutch as Glover handed him a clean bowled Golden duck. With Rigby anchoring the innings, Warman joined him at the crease ready and prepared to see the Badgers home.
Rigby’s no-nonsense approach kept the scoreboard ticking over as Warman was endowed with the distinct honour of becoming only the second Badger in the history of the club to hit his 1000th run. The crowd erupted, the good sir took a bow, and then settled back down to the task in hand. The runs began to flow freely and a few overs later Warman sent the ball sailing back over the bowler’s head for a massive six to WIN THE THIRD SOUTH LONDON ASHES SUPERTEST!
Rigby’s methodical accumulation of 50 runs proving the fire in the belly that saw the Badger beast across the finish line.
An accomplished 77 from an in-form skip’ Jinksy, and a timely knock of 50 from Rigby ensuring enough was done with the bat to see the sett safely home. But astounding bowling figures of 9 wickets for 27 runs for Foordy, doing the damage where it needed to be done, saw him claim the man of the match award.
In the end the Badgers fielding unit didn’t drop a single catch over two days and nearly 80 overs in open play – the scorebooks notably bereft of a single halo.
A determined, accomplished performance. A Badger is not a glamorous animal, but it is proud, and it knows its strength lies in its team.
Thanks go out to the King’s Road who fought all the way to the last ball; the age old rivalry is as potent as ever. Two years undefeated for the Badgers!