Loaded with sun cream and confidence, the Badgers head off to tropical Dulwich looking for their fifth win in a row. Lying in wait, plotting in the shade, were our old foes - Southbank. With no Steve or Sam today, Nick Foord deputises as captain and gets off to a positive start by winning the toss. Dickie and Robin are sent out to bat, Matt grabs the scorebook with zeal, and the rest of the Badgers take cover under a sprawling tree with a bag of sweets from Marks & Spencer for sustenance and Josh Lee’s children for amusement. Think Monet’s blue period, but Colin the Caterpillars instead of water lilies.
Dickie, sensing he’s missing out on all the fun, rejoins us straight away and is replaced in the middle by Martin Cloke. Meanwhile, Robin gets into his long stride, teeing off on the Southbank bowlers and conserving fluids by impatiently dispatching the new ball to the boundary. After a steady start, Martin nicks off and is caught superbly by a diving Southbank slip. Ben and Chris are then both bowled by men with moustaches. Robin, desperate for a partner, swipes right on Kieran Poole and they both add some much-needed stability to proceedings in a silk and steel partnership that shows off both their talents - Robin imperious on one knee, Kieran graceful on the back foot.
Kieran is marginally run out for fourteen and in walks Nick, the collected Badgers hoping for a repeat of their partnership against the V & A earlier this season. Nick gets off to flyer, sending the dehydrated fielders scurrying under a beating sun whilst Robin has a battle of wits with Southbank’s spinner. The heat is unrelenting, the pace unyielding. Batsmen are draining the sponges from inside their helmets, fielders are wilting and seeing mirages. Frankly, it’s all gone a bit Lawrence of Arabia.
Meanwhile, at the idyllic tree, Matt is doing his best trying to keep crayon wielding children away from his scorebook, the Colin the Caterpillars are all out, and Martin Cloke is trying to think of famous Norwegians. The heat is getting to all of us.
Robin, on 85, decides he can’t take anymore and gets stumped off a bowler with a three-act run up. In comes Hash, proudly wearing the club shop, then out goes Hash, proudly wearing the club shop. It’s now time for Joe Peach and his Magical Bucket Hat – which sounds like a series children’s books and, who knows, maybe one day it will be. Nick passes his third fifty of the season and Joe supports him with a swashbuckling 24 before getting out so he can call his agent for a chat about image rights. In comes Fitzgerald to join Nick, about half a stone lighter than when he last saw him. Nick gets bowled for 67 off one that kept low, and Fitzgerald and Collins defend the last wicket with their lives, making Southbank bowl through in the hope that a few of them might actually melt. They didn’t though, the stubborn bastards.
We end on 216 and take tea.
Joe and Hash open the bowling, giving nothing away. Hash goes for only two runs from his first four overs in what was probably the best spell since Harry Potter turned that fat kid blue and made him fall over. But much to his agent’s delight, it’s Joe who gets the breakthrough - bowling their opener in the eighth over. Collins and Cornish enter the fray, Collins removing the other opener with a catch from Robin and Ben bowling their number three having been turned down for a LBW the previous ball. Three wickets down and 216 looks a way off.
Southbank fight back though and four and five play their way in. Four eventually goes for a stylish 36, bowled by Ben who then promptly removes their number six in the same over. Ben’s giving it everything, despite a heat so intense then it looks like a Tennessee Williams play might break out any minute.
It's looking like we need the wickets to win. Their number five is set and looks to be judging the chase perfectly. Nick comes on to replace an exhausted Ben who somehow managed to bowl his eight straight through whilst Fitzgerald serves up his right arm plant based from the other end. Fitzgerald bowls their number eight in a confusing incident that he never really got to the bottom of and suddenly there are three wickets to go. Can The Badgers do it? Well Nick knows two who can, and he brings back Hash and Joe for their second spells.
Hash takes out the number nine for his deserved wicket, but they both end their spells with the Badgers still needing two wickets, and Southbank’s number five looks like he’s going nowhere. Nick takes responsibility and with nine runs to spare removes their number 10, a well watched catch by Kieran at mid-on. One wicket to go, nine runs needed, the Badgers on their toes and offering encouragement to the bowlers from all angles.
But it wasn’t to be. A wide, followed by an expletive from Dickie in front of his watching mum, sealed our fate and their number five strolled off to a heroes’ reception from his teammates. Our winning run is over, but hopefully just in time to start another one.
Jugs were ordered and the Badgers quenched their thirsts long into the night. Passersby that evening would have seen Man City winning the tremble in front of an empty bar at the Dulwich Sports Ground. The Badgers, a team far more worthy of your support and encouragement, were huddled together outside, fighting off negativity and mosquitos in equal measure.
We go again.
Next week, an Octopus lies in wait.
Written by Martin Fitzgerald