Sunday 29 May 2022

The Moonlighting Golden Ducker

 I wrote yesterday that I had gone from finding myself with no cricket this weekend, to having two games as of Saturday morning, and today's Sunday game was the second, but with a twist.

I was guesting for our friends of long standing at Upton Cricket Club, whom we have regular matches with and have players who regularly turn out for both sides. I became the latest NRM player to go and help them out, although I winced who the opposition were.

It was Bothamstall Exiles, a friendly team who take their friendly cricket very very seriously, to the extent that last year they brought several Retford first team players from the Bassetlaw Saturday first division, who play at a way higher standard than us, including a Barbadian overseas player who wiped us out with his bowling. 

And yes, they did it again today, with several more Retford players, including their new Barbadian overseas pro who I have seen on youtube bowling like lightning and hitting the ball very hard indeed. This guy, whose name was Demel, was himself a nice chap, but at our level I thought his bowling was likely to cause hospitalisation. His batting too probably.

Luckily, common sense prevailed, and apparently he doesn't bowl in friendlies. So at least I thought I would get through the day without ending up in intensive care. 

We batted first, and being ultra helpful for my new team, I volunteered to open the umpiring. They knew who I was of course - "Oh, you are the left handed guy in the headband, that's good because we are short of bowling today."

Like the presence of me changes that, but I digress. 

So umpiring, and I quickly found out that we seemed to be playing a team of animals, with "Fish", "Rhino" and "Shark" all playing.  Indeed Shark opened the bowling, but as he turned out to be a 13 year old boy in spectacles, he was hardly a great white. The chat was a rich mixture of harsh North Notts accents mixed in with Demel's Barbadian patois. God knows how he was finding the late May weather, which consisted of freezing winds mixed in with the odd blustery shower.

Meanwhile, our openers made a good if steady start against this "Shark", alongside another Retford first team bowler, until the shark finally bit and bowled one of them. Demel then showed why he's a pro by taking a simply astonishing catch, the best I've ever seen in person, flying high off the ground to take a big hit one handed and behind him like Ben Stokes. 

I decided at that point that when I was batting, I wasn't going to take a single to him. Even if he was fielding on the boundary. Or in Nottingham. 

The wicket was a little tricky too, and our progress was hindered by regular wickets falling just as players got into their stride. Having been informed by our captain that I was batting at 8 today - jeez me batting at 7 and 8 in a weekend, the captains of the world have gone mad - I padded up, as usual nearly broke my neck sliding about on spikes on the shiny floors in the pavilion, and walked out to wait to bat. Which was about two minutes later.

"You're here because you got ten not out last time you played us, just stay forward, you'll be fine" advised my batting partner.

He then watched while I got forward to my first ball, which yorked me and took my leg stump out of the ground. Upton were really getting value for money from their new player. 

At least it got me out of the rain which then lashed down for twenty minutes while the players carried on to get the innings over with, leaving them with saturated jumpers with the sleeves now reaching down to their knees. 

After a welcome tea with some very nice hot quiche, it was time to bowl as we sought to defend 121-9 off 40 overs. I opened up today, and despite the rain leaving a tacky ball - cricket ball that is - which stuck to my fingers and had me bowling the wretched thing straight under my nose for my first couple of deliveries, but I soon got the hand of things and bowled accurately - NO WIDES AGAIN! - and nipped the ball off the seam although the wicket was too slow to cause the batters, mainly a shaven headed chap with a purple beard, much trouble although they couldn't get me away. 

Until my 24th and what turned out to be last ball, to which the other opening bat who is Retford 1s all rounder, walked down the track and smacked me into the orchard on the other side of the hedge for the green woodpecker I had seen in there earlier to try and catch. 

Skipper binned me off after that. 4 overs 1 maiden 0 for 9 is still my best return of the season. Which isn't saying much.

However, the big hitting all rounder was soon taken care of by our spinner, but only after he had hit another one over a different hedge, and another straight through me as I dived like a crippled ice skater to try and stop another one.

This then brought Demel to the crease, and expectations of total destruction were actually soon put away. Sure, he did hit the ball very very hard - one shot went within ten yards of me but I barely had tine to move - but our bowlers largely kept him and the other Bothamstall batters quiet, and really made them work hard to get even this modest total. The young lad from Upton was particularly impressive in this regard, and eventually he got a little bored and attempted a massive across the line slog at our captain and was bowled. 

However, they had more than enough batting to see them home, despite some insane running between the wickets, and they duly won by seven wickets in the 32nd over with an another 6 over a tree. 

Still I had a great afternoon's moonlighting and really enjoyed myself. 


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 29.05.22

Saturday 28 May 2022

I Wasn't Supposed to be Playing this Weekend...

 As of 930pm last night I wasn't going to be playing a game of cricket this weekend for the third weekend in a row - my hamstring although still tight and bit sore I had decided was probably up to a game for a club in need, but a surplus of players for once and a selectorial oversight meant I wasn't picked for Saturday, and my game for Sunday had been cancelled due to Nottingham Forest being unexpectedly good at football. 

Then, Friday night I found myself with a Sunday game for our friends at Upton, and then when I woke on Saturday I found messages urgently requesting my "services" required for our second team at home to Kimberly IVs. 

Hardly a "cometh the hour, cometh the man" situation, more that we had actual proper players drop out and we were desperate for anyone capable of walking to turn up and play.

So, I went down to the ground, cursed when I found we were fielding first, and then spent about half an hour trying to stretch my ancient muscles and ligaments into some kind of semblance of mobility, before taking my place to field at square leg. 

Traditionally, the position you put your crappest fielder in. 

But to be fair, I did not disgrace myself at all, although if the ball was hit into the deep I was always beaten to the ball by someone half my age, after which I'd always give my thigh a rub to indicate that if it wasn't for injuries I'd be as fast as Usain Bolt, or maybe faster.

Meanwhile Kimberley had made a steady start, not losing any wickets for a long old time despite hardly smashing the ball over the place due to the accuracy of our bowling. We didn't shift their openers for about 20 overs with 80 on the board. After that, despite some occasional big hitting by a couple of their players, we kept chipping away to bowl them out for 165 in the 45th over, with our skipper taking six wickets before executing a final run out by rolling the ball very very slowly into the stumps. 

This was despite only having ten men for two hours, as our exciting young wicket keeper had been lost down a temporal warp of some description for the first 30 overs, and we had used stand ins, one of whom, a moonlighting first team captain, explained that half the time he had been keeping with his eyes shut. 

My eyes had been open the whole time, and I still didn't get to take a catch, although I did manage to get slightly aloft to try and take a ball hit hard over my head, which was an improvement over my "throw myself out of the way" style of fielding during previous matches. 

So now to our batting, and we made an excellent start that we never really let up from. Always ahead of the rate, we put on good partnerships down the order, our batters no doubt spurred on by the knowledge that I was batting nose-bleedingly high at number 7 and was also absolutely knackered after having to field hard for 45 overs, which I haven't had to do for about 5 years. 

I was however asked to do square leg umpiring, curse curse, during which I watched our opening bat get given out lbw - off an inside edge - for an excellent 57, before the first team skipper hit a towering 6 over the pavilion and into the car park. I found the fact the label on his bat looked like it said "TWAT" rather amusing.

  Our opening bowler was meanwhile hammering the ball about despite not having a major rep for batting.

Wickets did fall occasionally, and this I found myself going out to bat, headbanded, feeling hopeless and nervous as usual, with about 10 needed to win and thinking I was about to cause a collapse to defeat. Luckily the skipper had a cool head, helped me do some running between the wickets, and watched as I managed to get off the mark with a nice chip over the infield.

A couple of minutes later, a worthy victory was ours. Twenty points in the bag.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 28.05.22

Friday 27 May 2022

An Evening's Bimble

 Feeling very lumpy and overweight, I took myself straight out for a sunny evening walk as soon as I got home from work today. I had no real destination in mind until I walked through the park, when I realised it might be nice to trundle on out to the house at valerian corner in Farndon.

I had 20:20 cricket in my ears and a breeze ruffling my hair, and I really enjoyed the walk despite the fact I wasn't seeing anything enormously interesting until I reached Farndon village itself, with its old barns, and encountered my first swallows of the season, slicing the air up into perfect quarters with their forked streamers. 

The house at valerian corner was, once again, exactly as it sounded, an old buildings complex on a bend in the road, where the red valerian glows in a low sun. Occasionally hummingbird hawk moths frequent this spot; not tonight though. 

Around that corner, a field of sheep and lambs, wool blown into a farmer's field which the crows gather for their nests.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 27.05.22

Sunday 22 May 2022

More Gardening Stuff

 My giant alliums have gone over, but my dwarf alliums are now coming into flower. At least they are in one planter, for some reason the ones in the other planter have not formed flowering heads. 

I suppose these things happen when you are a "gardener" - how hilarious to refer myself as one of those. 

There is action happening now with the rest of my new plantings - my bee and butterfly mix meadows are showing life, my convovulveses are sprouting, the alysium is coming on nicely and I'm wondering when the cornflowers can come out of the mini greenhouse. 

Amazingly, after what feels like weeks in the greenhouse, the poppy seedlings are appearing since I've moved them outside. 

Let's see how things go along. I've got my echinacea to think about planting now.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 22.05.22

Friday 20 May 2022

Wildlife at Work

 The warmer days at work this week have led to an explosion of sorts in our mini wildflower meadows I helped plant several years ago, with birds foot trefoil now adding to the yellow carpet of buttercups. Many other cultivated plants that attract pollinators such as rock cranesbill have also come into flower, and in their train, we have a lot of insect life now making itself known.

This is good news for the nesting birds on campus, such as our pair of linnets, and evidently goldfinches as I saw a juvenile the other day. 

I've got some photographs I took the other day, where luck smiled on me for a change quality wise in the good light.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 20.05.22

Tuesday 17 May 2022

The Golden Fields of Farndon

 It was a lovely early evening yesterday, so having done a circuit of the park earlier on where I failed to photograph banded demoiselles, I took myself off to Farndon to look at Cottage Lane nature reserve.

I noticed another decent sized swift colony at the back entrance to the village, but poppies aren't growing en masse in the field any more. Indeed with all the recent building works, poppies aren't growing en masse any more anywhere around here. 

I went around the Farndon Ponds, where all was quiet on the water but lots of birdsong in the trees, and after a walk through a wood found myself on Cottage Lane.

You may remember the last time I went there, there were a few snake's head fritillaries among the clumps of lady's smock. Now it is dominated by buttercups, with ragged robin thrown in. 

I was on the look out for dragonflies here, but maybe still a little early. 

Then I made my way toward the river, and found what I hoped for. The pastures next to the river were just yellow with buttercups, not perhaps as dazzling a yellow as that you get with oilseed rape, but still vivid and beautiful. Lots of moths were among the stems, flushed by my stomping feet. 

The golden fields, that I always love to see.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 17.05.22

Sunday 15 May 2022

A weekend of Nature

 Both of my cricket matches were cancelled this weekend, which is a relief as I seem to have gone down with sciatica in the back of my thigh after practice on Thursday and have thus been doing a lot of hobbling around and gobbling Ibuprofen.

However, I'm not too bad once I actually get moving, and so have been able to get in a couple of lovely walks, one in rather better weather than the other. 

Saturday was hot and cloudless, and the path along the River Devon had burst into life. As well as the orange tips, holly blues, brimstones and other butterfly species patrolling the meadow areas, and the very early appearance of damselflies.

There were banded demoiselles, males and females, out and about, but there was also a large red damselfly by the river in the old oak wood, a species I've never seen before. Throw in the appearance of a grey wagtail and a blackcap, and it felt like a pretty special morning. 

Later on, as I watched the second team cricket match I was in no way good enough to take part in, I saw a beautiful small copper in the long grass, absolutely fresh out of the packet and very very vivid. It was a better result than that of the match.

Tonight, I had a cup of tea with my stepfather, then carried on with an evening walk around the Blue Lake on a grey evening with rain in the air. Radio 6 had Stuart Maconie playing music inspired by the ambient sounds of nature, and the  slowed down song of a blackbird on one track merged in with the real life evening chorus around me beautifully. 

The appearance of a fox watching me at a distance on the cycle path put the proverbial cherry on it, even as the rain began to fall harder.


All text and photos copyright CreamCrackeredNature 15.05.22

Monday 9 May 2022

Village Shenanigans Against Calverton

 Another home match, this time for the Sunday friendly side against Calverton.

This was one of our friendly matches that I had organised, so there was no relaxed preamble for me - I had to help get things set up, and meet and greet the opposition.

Calverton were a good bunch of mainly young lads from their second team, with an Australian captain from the first team who we all assumed would be as good as Steve Smith, and wouldn't take his foot off the gas for a second. Sandpaper optional. 

One of our ground staff very kindly came down to properly prepare the wicket that had been such a bad track on Saturday, and it actually played pretty well today although the odd ball was still misbehaving as I was to find out later. The captain and I thought it would be best to bat first, but of course he lost the toss and they took first use of the track. 

It had been pretty clear from the start of the day that this was going to be a tough match as Calcerton took their youngsters through a pre-match fitness and skills routine, while our players sat around on benches eating and smoking. This was soon borne out, as they got off to a flying start helped by my inability these days to try and catch anything hit really hard. The heart says yes, but the brain says no, and self preservation takes over.

Cortex prevents catching. 

The openers were a contrasting pair - a lad about the size of the stumps but with the seeming power of Ben Stokes, and a big unit in spectacles who hit me for 6 first ball when I came on to bowl, then 4 before retiring on 50. Lucky me. 

For a change I actually bowled ok with a bit more snap than recently, but there was no swing for me. I took a wicket with another bad ball, but there was some good stuff. Alas I strayed onto leg stump once or twice an over and would immediately get hit for 4 - the wicket maiden I bowled was an aberration, evidently. At least I didn't bowl any no-balls. 

Other guys bowled about the same as me but others bowled better so it wasn't a total massacre in the field. They put up 198 for 4 in 35 overs, and we did manage to keep the Aussie skipper pacing the sidelines in his pads which felt like a tactical victory at the time. One guy waiting to bat had decided to take his kit off during the final over, and ended up having to come in to face the last ball just holding a bat with no pads on or anything.

He still hit it for 4 though. 

Our batting got off to a sticky start and within 5 overs we were 9 for 2 with numbers 2 and 3 having both scored ducks. Our opening bat and the 3rd time vice captain were then able to put on a good partnership having to withstand from very good bowling in the process. When he got to 50, the Calverton scorer thought he should retire "because that's what we do".

"Well that's very nice" we said, and told him to go on and make a hundred. Sadly he didn't, but the reality is we were light on batting and figured that once he'd gone, we'd struggle like anything against their bowlers. 

In the middle of all this, the Aussie captain decided to attempt a run out, missed the stumps by miles and succeeded only in smashing one of his own fielders on his upper cheekbone with the ball. There was then a pause as first aid kits were hunted for and instant ice was found.

Science is such a wonderful thing!

Anyway, he went off for a check up and what I'm sure will be a huge black eye as I write this. In the meantime our lower middle order were dropping like flies. I had to go in and face a hat-trick ball from the big opening bat, who turned out to be quite a rapid bowler as well. I kept the first ball out, at which point the fielder at extra cover decided to try and run me out but only managed to hit me in the chest with the ball. 

Second ball I kept out too, but the third was short, jagged back and kept low to remove my leg stump, at which point the bowler ran down the wicket bellowing like King Kong and leading me to think he was going to try and eat my head. He was rather pleased with his triple wicket maiden. 

It was all over after that, a heavy but not dispiriting defeat to a fine young side. 


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 09.05.22

Saturday 7 May 2022

I Do Best when I Do Nothing at All

 A home game today against Keyworth 3s, a team with whom we have had many good matches over the years, matches in which I've done well in - I took my first 5 wicket haul in a game against them a few years ago. 

I must confess, I didn't really want to play the match. My body being what it is these days, I'm not really able to play two games in a weekend. My left ankle really doesn't like it. However, the Captain asked me to play as they had three drop outs, so I said I would, wincing as I did so. A couple of other semi retired players also carrying injuries had also been press ganged into service.

It was worth it to get the game on, however, as we had a father and son combo playing today, the youngster in his first ever senior match. We had a cap presentation "ceremony" before the game, taking place in the shadow of two gazebos wobbling alarmingly in the breeze.

After the usual "scouring the ground for pebbles to use as counters" preamble, I sacrificed myself to open up the square-leg umpiring as we batted first, which gave me a good view of how the wicket was playing, which the ground staff had not had enough time to properly prepare because of the usual flooding and rain.

Despite their hard work, it was evident very quickly that it was going to be tricky, to say the least. One ball would pop up chest high like a tennis ball, another would roll along the ground like a bowling ball trying to wipe out the batter's ankles. Keyworth's young bowlers caused problems, and reduced us to 13 for 2.

Our numbers 3 and 4 then put on an excellent partnership about 80, so I was able to have a walk round the ground after my umpiring stint. When the sun was out, it was a lovely day, and brimstones, orange tips, speckled woods and small tortoiseshells patrolled the hedgerow margins, avoiding the occasional hazard of a cricketer with a weak bladder looking for a secluded spot. The keening buzzards were back, an oystercatcher "peeped" its way over the ground, and a more mechanical life form also flew over - a spitfire!

After the skipper hit a 6 into the adjoining field, I then did what I accurately predicted would be my most important contribution to the day when I found the ball for the first time ever in such a hunt. However, after these two went, scoring then seemed to become almost impossible on the wicket, and we only added another 30 or so more in the last ten overs.

I was hoping to get a bat, not that I would have done any better. But I was padded up on the sidelines for half an hour and I wasn't needed.

I wasn't needed to bowl either, although I was wondering if the game had gone on further I might have been called up to bowl a couple to try and get a breakthrough. Instead I fielded energetically enough again without actually having to do a lot, other than a big dive to fail to stop the ball. 

"At least I'm trying" I thought at the time. At least by not doing a lot I could mess anything really up.

Our bowlers turned out to be a little bit much for Keyworth on that wicket. One of our youngesters took his first wicket early on in an excellent spell of off spin. Then our debutant son went on later and took an amazing wicket with his first ever ball in senior cricket, which caused much understandable joy on his father's fizzog. And our's too.

He took two more in a brilliant spell, and it was left to the skipper to finish the game when the last Keyworth batter came in, who was barely the height of the stumps. He tried to game him a wide one first up, which he chipped straight to cover, upon which he (the batter, not our captain) burst into tears. We had bowled them out for 56. 

It's a cruel and heartless game sometimes.