The Old Contemptibles Cricket Club

Nos venit, nos egit, et nos erant fractis

Match reports - 2020

Enigma - Greenfields Match Report

6th September 2020

The needle drops onto the vinyl. A warming, familiar crackle is heard. Music plays. The music is soft, soft and yet stirring. The Enigma Variations, maybe. Or Nimrod. Which is also from The Enigma Variations. By Elgar.

So Elgar, then. Definitely Elgar. The Enigma Variations by Elgar.

A voice, quietly measured in its authority, speaks over the music that is so soft and yet stirring, as previously mentioned in the paragraph above which ascertained, definitively some would say, that the music playing was The Enigma Variations by Elgar.

The voice has depth to it; a richness. It could be Burton's, or more likely Hopkins', because Hopkins is not yet dead. Not Hannibal Lecter Hopkins, mind. More his butler in Remains of the Day - understated, a little clipped even, but ripe with expression both explicit and hidden.

And as the music, The Enigma Variations by Elgar lest we forget, plays on, this is what the voice tells us:

"It could not break them, the pandemic. It could not break them.

"A late-summer English day, warm as the beer, soft as their sanitised hands, beckoned to them. One chance, one shot, a season in a day, two games, 13 players, 80 overs, 50 notes spaffed on a choice of burger or hot dog, or both. Flappy orange cheese, with all the flavour and nutrition of the plastic wrapping from which it came…

"…Sorry, can we cut that down in the edit? It's not exactly lofting spirits high. Yeah? I'm not…okay…where were we?

"Ah yes. It could not break them. They came daunted, trepidatious. They came unpractised, flabby and weak.

"And yet.

"And yet.

"And yet they won. The pandemic could not break them, nor the green field of Greenfields, replete with traps and trials - the ball, the pitch and all those other, younger, sleeker, stronger, smarter, fitter, better players, all those tedious sticky fumblings in the back seats of cars… while you could only dream of getting out… getting anywhere… getting all the way to the F-er-B-er-I… No Anthony! Not Hannibal! No!"

A throat is cleared. The music plays on. It is The Enigma Variations by Elgar. The voice speaks once more.

"Come from your terraces and your farmhouses, your council estates and your country piles, your granaries, your rookeries, your ingles and your pingles and clap for the Old Contemptibles. Clap for them one and clap for them all.

"Clap for the IT professionals and the academics, the engineers and the vintners. Clap for the retired policeman officers who aren't lesbians, for the driving instructors, the two-bit writers and the students young and younger yet. Clap for the beer salesmen and the classroom assistants and the whatever it is that Andy Gordon is doing at the moment but I never got round to finding out.

"They are the nation. They are this great nation. Unbowed, victorious Britannia.

"They are Cricket. Old Contemptible Cricket. And they are you as we is, er, us."

The voice pauses as the music, The Enigma Variations by Elgar, swells.

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember th…hold on, that's the first world fucking war, not some nancy bollocks cricket team. That's too much. Turn the record off, I quit. And I'm Welsh. I don't even like cricket."

But we did win. The first game at least.

Despite no warm-up games, zero nets and even less talent, we contrived to play really rather well in the first game.

Greenfields batted and struggled from the get-go, with Fred and Ian bowling a brilliant opening spell from which the former grabbed two wickets, one thanks to a fine catch behind the stumps by the ever-reliably spindly (and reliably ever-reliable) Paul.

Wrighty, his action somewhat compromised by a shoulder injury, was mostly economical and had New Iain to thank for his wicket, a brilliant catch in the covers from a very well-hit shot.

And then came the return to action of Andy Gordon, a player not seen around our parts (so to speak) since we stopped playing in such cricketing Aleppos as Gaddesby and Derby Road.

Andy bowled four overs, conceded eight runs and took three wickets, as well as being a key player in a run out, aided and abetted by Brigg.

Quite the return.

Tom and Kev also bowled, with the latter taking a wicket with his first ball and finishing with three, all bowled, as Greenfields staggered to 74 from 12 batsmen used.

And then we set about chasing down that total with all the dynamism and solidity of a row of dessicated flies on a Little Chef windowsill.

Kev and I opened the batting, which is a poor way of starting a sentence let alone an entire innings, and our partnership managed seven whole runs.

That sounds poor. And it was. But in context, it was magnificent, as we were 28 for 8 by the time 12 overs had come and gone quicker than you can say 'truly fucking pitiful'.

The coming and going was perfected by another returning hero, Swelham, who hadn't graced our cricketing shores since a time when the word 'Brexit' was used only as a nickname for someone called Brian Exit. Probably.

Anyway, Simon came in at three and departed at 3.01 for a golden duck.

Quite the return.

Three others failed to better that score, one of them from the same minimalist number of deliveries, while vague contributions from Brigg (2) and New Iain (1) and a veritable run-fest from New New Dave (6) kept our reply nicely on the wrong side of very bad indeed.

But an inspiring/tedious display of stubbornness over talent from me kept one end intact for over after sweaty dull over. And if someone could come in, stay in and actually score some runs, then the game could still be on.

Cometh The Hour, Cometh The Ian.

Bogie Wonderland arrived and began smiting shit to all corners of the ground, even inspiring me to do similar things a couple of times as 28 for 8 became Victory for 8 from a 50 partnership in which I (19) ranked third behind Ian and Extras, who both finished with 24.

But the key thing was that we were all not out and the win was ours.

Traditionally, our post-tea performance is all slump and shenanigans, and a pandemic has clearly not cured us of that.

We batted first and a quick-fire 13 from Ian (immediately followed by an equally speedy exit with two patient offspring in tow), a more measured 13 from Fred and a belligerent where-the-fuck-did-that-come-from 32 from Andy 'Player of the Year' Gordon all suggested we could post a really tricky total for our ever-lovely hosts.

Suggestion was swiftly replaced by collapse as we went from 63-2 from 12 overs to 90-9 all in.

Highlights were…occasional, but included two runs for Den, a faintly-redemptive six runs for Swelham and an unbeaten six for Brigg.

That Greenfields would chase this down easily enough was never really in doubt. Our greatest hope was that the low, grey clouds overhead might piss on their winning chips, but a drop or two of rain meant it was just us who were the complete shower.

It took them 15 overs to complete their victory, but at least all three of the wickets we took were noteworthy.

New New Dave grabbed a rare victim with help from a Fred stumping that he wasn't entirely sure was out, but the batsman had walked by then so hey ho.

NND then took a fine catch to give Brigg a wicket before father did the same for son in a heart-warming family moment that hopefully lifted Tom's spirits after a…let's just say quiet day with the bat.

So a win and a loss and the start and end of a season I wasn't entirely sure would even happen.

I think I speak for everyone there when I say what a lovely, lovely day out it was. Greenfields, as ever, are the best of hosts and the most generous of opponents.

And our socially-distanced path of land by the car park was a warm and funny place to be all day long, which is what the club is all about to my tiny mind.

If rules allow later this year, we'll arrange some kind of farcical awards evening as an excuse for a get-together.

If not, see you all soon, hopefully, and stay healthy, happy and resolutely shit at cricket.