Marldon v Erratics Cricket Club Erratics on Sat 22 Apr 2017 at 1.00pm
Erratics Cricket Club Lost by 4 wickets

Match report Mark Hailwood reports…

Having just returned from a holiday in Chicago which involved attendance at the Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season – think red-white-and-blue bunting, military jet fly-overs, emotive patriotic music, and other assorted pomp 'n' ceremony – I was expecting something rather more low key from our own curtain-raiser at Marldon. But as we drove up Vicarage Lane into the heart of the village we found the car parks and verges jam packed with cars, and the church bells ringing out joyfully. Was that Booker T and the M.G.s 'Soul Limbo' they were playing, a fitting celebration of the start of another summer of the old English game? Were we about to kick off the season with a bumper throng toeing the boundary rope? Alas, no: there was a wedding at the beautiful, brooding 15th century church that looms over the ground. Still, with the scent of wild garlic drifting across the outfield, and the boundary trees bursting forth with the luminous green shoots of spring, it was hard not to feel that this was a Special Day for those dressed in white both outside and inside the church.

Last season had started with a not-so-special performance at Stoke-in-Teignhead, where we were dismissed for 37 and got to the pub so early it hadn't even opened. The ghosts of that day were clearly haunting Captain Oughton as we made our way down the A380, and his fears were compounded by what looked on paper like an under-resourced batting line-up, and the fact that Dunc wasn't due to arrive until the second innings of the match. Still, we had plenty of bowling options, so as long as we won the toss and fielded first disaster could be averted.

With the toss duly lost, Fraser and Matt Crawford were sent out to open against Marldon's young pair of Jacks, Hemus and Harman. Things started remarkably well, and after a purposeful first four overs we were 16 without loss. Crawford's dismissal shortly after represented a minor hiccup, but newcomer Tom Bennett-Hughes – a Master's student in Translation at Exeter – looked assured at the crease, and we proceeded to 27-1 from 8 overs. Perhaps this wouldn't go so badly after all. Then Marldon turned to their pair of aces. 'JR' John Roberts produced an inevitably miserly spell down the hill (finishing with 7-2-17-1), whilst Jonno Penny bowled with laudable uphill aggression from the other end (7-1-20-2), and by the drinks break we were on the rack, having added just 10 further runs in 11 overs for the loss of 2 more wickets - Steady Tom and another debutant, Will 'Chocolate' Thornton, a friend of Fraser. 37-3 after 20.

Now, I know only too well that captaining the Erratics can bring out the pessimist in the best of us, but the pep talk Gareth offered his not-out batsmen as they sipped their blackcurrant squash was off the charts – 'If we can score at 1 an over for the next 20 we'll give ourselves something to bowl at'. I can only assume this was a masterstroke designed to lift all pressure from the shoulders of what was a relatively young Erratics side. If so, it seemed to work. Fraser, who had endured through to drinks with the kind of mature innings that was required of him on an afternoon where he was unmistakeably our senior batsman, hit the first over after drinks for 7 runs. He could, I suppose, have therefore shut up shop for the next 6 overs, but he and Danny fell in quick succession looking to press on, and we were in further trouble at 53-5 after 25 overs.

The partnership that steadied the ship was an unlikely one. Hailwood and Thitslethwaite had last been seen batting together at Damazan in the midst of a frenzied collapse that had seen defeat snatched from the jaws of victory in our final tour game. On that occasion a rather acrimonious run out had occurred, inducing a Hailwood near-wobble. Barely a word had passed between the two since, and watching Erratics feared that a revenge run-out would be at the forefront of Hailwood's mind. Dear reader, such suspicion of your humble narrator was ill-founded. The tension in the air was palpable as I called – nay, bellowed - Dan through for a single as I pushed my first ball through the covers, but we both made our ground comfortably and settled down to the task at hand. Indeed, quick singles were a hallmark of the partnership, as was Thitslethwaite playing to his strengths with some clean hitting to the leg-side boundary, and in the space of 12 overs we had built a redemptive partnership of 42 runs. Fists were pumped, and all was forgiven. Wickets tumbled in the last few overs as the tail selflessly swung the bat, and after our 40 overs we had managed a not-disastrous 111-8.

Tea. Bernie Wilson has consumed a few cricket teas in his time, so I sought him out for some reflections on Marldon's spread. It got a big thumbs-up: nothing flashy, but the basics are spot on. Good egg sarnies – the touchstone of a village cricket team's soul, IMO - a good selection of crisps, a few sweet bits, and a strong brew. Simple and effective.

Suitably refuelled our bowling effort started well enough, with Oughton and Youngman bowling in tandem with a consistency that betrayed no signs of early season rustiness. Oughton managed to disturb the furniture a couple of times during an attritional spell of cricket, and by the time both bowlers had completed 8 over spells Marldon were 43-2, pretty much bang on the required run rate. Honours even. The first change bowlers, so often beneficiaries of a tight opening spell, then chipped in with a few wickets. Hailwood and Thistlethwaite combined again, when the former proved the old adage that bad balls take wickets by dragging down a half tracker which the dangerous opener Sam Rowsell hit very hard, but straight at Dan at mid-on, who calmly clung on to a bullet catch. Hailwood's second wicket was rather better, a textbook away swinger that tempted Roberts into a drive that snicked the outside edge and sailed into the safe hands of Duncan Chave at slip. Hashtag Proper Cricket, as the kids might say. Dunc then bagged a wicket of his own, deceiving the hard-hitting left-hander Ash Smith in the flight, and now Marldon were on the ropes at 61-5 after 23 overs, in a similar hole to the one we had gotten into.

Unfortunately their response mirrored ours too, with a sixth-wicket partnership between skipper Pragnell and all-rounder Penny that took the game away. Hitting hard and straight they began to find the boundaries that had eluded our batsmen, and by the time Fraser finally broke the partnership our hosts were all but home, and in the end they completed the job with 4 wickets and 8 overs to spare, a rather more comfortable margin than had seemed likely for much of a game that was, as ever against Marldon, a close fought and immensely enjoyable tussle.

As we retired to the Church House Inn spirits were nonetheless high, and we dwelt on the positives of a performance that had been considerably less ramshackle than might be expected from a season opener. Our new recruits even expressed an interest in playing again. The real silver lining though was the keeping of Matt Crawford, thrust into the role by a lack of any recognised keeper. Those who have seen him field will not perhaps be surprised to hear that he was a natural, and no-one watching the game would have believed he had never kept before. Why do they call him Matt Clawford? Because he clings on to everything… And as the bad jokes were bandied around the beer garden, it undoubtedly felt good to be back.

Erratics Cricket Club Erratics Batting
Player Name RunsMB4s6sSRCtStRo
for 8 wickets

(40.0 overs)
Fraser Chave Bowled  24 3
Matt Crawford Bowled  9 1
Tom Bennett-Hughes Bowled  7
Will Thornton Bowled  1
Danny Williamson Caught  2
Mark Hailwood Caught  25 3 1
Daniel Thistlethwaite Bowled  18 3 1
Ben Youngman Caught  6 1
Gareth Oughton Not Out  2
Bernie Wilson Not Out  7 1
Duncan Chave   1

Marldon Bowling

Player nameOversMaidensRunsWicketsAverageEconomy
No records to display.

Marldon Batting
Player name RMB4s6sSR
for 6 wickets
112 (32.2 overs)

Erratics Cricket Club Erratics Bowling

Player NameOversMaidensRunsWicketsAverageEconomy
Ben Youngman8.021900.002.37
Gareth Oughton8.0421210.502.63
Mark Hailwood6.001929.503.17
Duncan Chave4.0019119.004.75
Bernie Wilson4.001500.003.75
Fraser Chave2.00919.004.50
Danny Williamson0.20700.0021.00