Throughout the history of the game, there have been bowling attacks that have struck real fear into batsmen’s hearts. Holding and Garner in their pomp, McGrath and Gillespie rampant at the WACA , even Broad and Anderson when the clouds were down and the ball was new. But for Kilve 2s, none of them could be as terrifying as the challenge that faced away to Brompton Ralph on Saturday – namely Two Old Men and a Child.
However the game started promisingly enough. The toss was won, the new ball taken and skipper Sefton took a wicket with his second ball – an off break that traversed the corridor of uncertainty and struck the mythical ‘top of off’. From the looks of disbelief on everyone’s faces (including the bowler), this delivery was a rare bird indeed in WSCL Division 5 – oft discussed, rarely glimpsed.
Twenty overs of tight bowling followed, with Calder and Sefton keeping the rate to less than three an over thanks to good lines and excellent support in the field. Two tight LBW shouts were turned down, the grey haired Brompton umpire wisely deciding not to give his own captain out, clearly fearing retribution, even enforced early retirement.
Drinks saw Kilve still on top, Brompton having barely 50 on the board. Taylor came on as first change, bowling well with little luck. Rio Rock joined him and soon got a breakthrough, thanks to a stunning diving catch from cover specialist Andy Hobbs.
This set the tone for the rest of the innings. Some stout resistance from the Brompton opening bat couldn’t stop wickets falling with regularity at the other end. Catches were pouched and boundaries tough to find. Taylor eventually got his rewards with three wickets to match Rock – the final one from a well disguised slower ball bouncer that no-one was expecting, especially the bowler.
However at tea Brompton had been bowled out for 124 on a flat pitch. Surely a formality?
As the umpires strode out for the second innings, the wind had changed and a strange smell wafted across the picturesque ground. The locals identified it as coming from the chicken farm across the valley. Chickenshit. This may have been an omen. Seconds later, dark cumulonimbus clouds rolled in. Thunder boomed over Exmoor. It seemed that for some reason, the cricketing Gods were angry, and they sent their devils to punish Kilve.
However the demonic nature of the Brompton bowling wasn’t immediately obvious. An Old Man Who Bowled Off Spin held no fear for stout openers Rock and Hammond. Similarly A Teenager was dispatched to the boundary with regularity, to the point of minor sulking. At 60 for no wicket the game seemed won and the dressing room relaxed. Fatally.
Because Brompton had strength in depth and their first change – A Child – managed to fool Hammond with the sort of looping full toss that Dwayne Bravo bowls deliberately and everyone else pretends to. From the other end An Even Older Man started delivering looping donkey drops with an action reminiscent of Geoff Capes placing a prize budgie on its perch. For most teams, this would be an opportunity to cash in. But for Kilve, the end was nigh…
Rock senior was unfortunate to pick out the man at 45 with a well clipped glance. However once the openers had departed, the procession started. George ‘Don’t Tell ‘Em Pike resisted for a while, but once Sefton was given out LBW by Hammond (controversially observing both the laws and spirit of the game) the last of the recognised batsmen (i.e. those who would recognise a bat if it was handed to them) had gone. Wicket followed wicket as the Old Men creaked away at both ends, sending their filth higher and higher into the air. Brief resistance from Hobbs stopped the bleeding for a while, but refusing to play a shot was only a temporary fix. When Rock junior mishit to midwicket, it was over, Kilve all out for 109.
As Brompton’s attack celebrated with a Werther’s Original and a nice lie down, Kilve were left to ponder exactly how they managed to lose this one. No Country for Old Men? On this performance, I beg to differ.