Latest news:

There’s Nothing Like a Day of Competitive Cricket

Nice Run Out, but...

By Ged
September 7 2006

Ged Ladd reports on the second day against Notts at Lord’s. This time Ged’s guest is Big “Papa Zambesi” Jeff. There’s nothing like a day of competitive cricket, and boy, that was nothing like a day of competitive cricket. Onions Bring Tears To Middlesex Eyes


First session


Like a fool, I had arranged to meet Big Jeff at 10:50, having forgotten that September matches start half-an-hour earlier than usual..  Rather than confuse matters by calling Jeff the night before, I decided to let the arrangement stand.  Well prepared this morning (for once), I got to the ground for 10:30 and watched the first 4 overs of play from the Upper Allen before going back out to meet Big Jeff.  Silverwood was bowling well.


Big Jeff and I go back a long way.  We batted out a particularly tricky 12-15 overs in a charity match a few years ago achieving personal and partnership milestones in the process.  Jeff is a Northants man, who suffered the indignity of watching Northants struggle to bowl out Middlesex in 2004 while Northants were hurtling down the 1st Division tubes.  Some readers will remember the bowling performance of a certain Northants pace bowler named J-Louw during that match and also a maiden ton for a certain B-Scott on the very day that Big Jeff came as my guest for that match.


Still, like a fool, I thought that toddling off to collect Jeff might induce a wicket.  Then I thought that going to the bar to get the first beer of the day might induce a wicket.  But nothing was going to induce a wicket this morning.  Nothing.


Silverwood’s bowling was good and luckless.  I am only going to say positive things about the bowling this morning, so that’s all that I’m going to say about the bowling this morning.


Jeff suggested that Notts might finish the day with 400.  I suggested 500. 


Big Jeff also suggested that MCC and MCCC members must be midget-dwarfs, because he found the upper tier structure so difficult to navigate without banging his head.  Once navigated, though, and in our seats, the beer went down very nicely indeed.




Mr Perambulate was our announcer for the day, but no mention of perambulation today – no-siree.  He informed us in his prolonged, thespian tones that the playing surface had been treated and we therefore had to keep off.  Treated to what? I mused.  Ice cream?  A nice frothy beer?  It certainly had not been treated to a competitive game of cricket this morning.


Big Jeff and I perambulated round to Harry Morgan’s in St John’s Wood High Street to collect a deli lunch, to be washed down with a rather classy bottle of red vino I happened to bring with me.




We brought our deli spoils back to the Compo Upper and took our lunch up there, hunkering down for a sunny afternoon session.  The weather really was top notch – sunny but not too hot.  Play soon resumed.  (I think it is OK to call it play.  I couldn’t honestly say “the contest soon resumed”.  But “play soon resumed”, that’s OK).


Big Jeff and I started to discuss Africa.  Big “Papa Zambesi” Jeff is an old Africa hand having spent several years in Zambia.  The boy “Baby Zambesi” Chris, who was born out there, is a chip off the old block Africa-hand-wise.  Perhaps Chris ought to play for Middlesex given that he is named Chris and was born in Africa, both major qualifications for Middlesex these days.  Chris doesn’t actually play cricket, but that might well be a third qualification at the moment. 


Turns out that “Baby Zambesi” Chris is doing a bit of import/export, buying/selling, project management and that sort of thing, “Out of Africa” as they say.  It all seemed a bit diverse and complicated, but I did catch a remark about selling agrochemicals to middle-eastern countries which sounded potentially alarming. 


More or less on cue, a helicopter starts hovering over Lord’s and will not go away.  What are they looking for, we wonder.  A missing person perhaps?  Surely not the father of a chap trading agrochemicals between Africa and the Middle East?  And most certainly not hovering up there to watch a game of competitive cricket.


At this point, perhaps stirred up by the helicopter or perhaps by happenstance, one of the empty plastic bags from our lunch takes on a life of its own and starts blowing around.  At first it just blows along our row, but then it blows back in my direction and then leaps in the direction of the playing area.  I jump forward as best I can to try and catch it, but anyone who has played cricket with me, not least Big Jeff, can tell you that I do not take catches under pressure.


The bag hurtles towards the field of play and then, as rapidly as it ascended, it of course descends onto the playing area.  Oh no!  Doesn’t it know that the playing area has been treated?  Jeff cannot contain his laughter and keeps telling me that the whole crowd is looking at me and pointing at me.  I can barely contain my laughter either.  One of the fielders (Compo I think) grabs the bag and takes it to the safety of his little drink cart across the boundary.  If you are reading this, good sir, may I have my plastic bag back, please, next time I see you?


Soon after, Chris Wright executes a fine run out.  Smith’s gone, they’re three down and Middlesex are now totally back in the hunt.  Big Jeff and I agree that the run out looks like the only way Middlesex will get a wicket and in particular the only way that young Chris Wright will get a wicket.  Although we also agree that Silverwood has again bowled without luck and was the only one who looked like he might just take a wicket.


But more or less as soon as we had established that no-one but no-one was going to get a conventional wicket, J-Louw cleans up David Hussey.  Middlesex near as dam-it on top, in my dreams.


We celebrate in the run-up to tea with some chocolate ginger biscuits, very nice, which help us to drain the last remaining drops of the red vino.


Evening All


Fleming looked so set, but soon after tea and totally against the run of play hit one of Chris Wright’s square pies (£4 at all good Lord’s food outlets) straight to Ed0 while on 192.  Fleming deserved a double ton, to be truthful, it was a truly fine knock.


But Middlesex are specialising in fine knocks this year (feeding them you understand, not making them) and young Samit Patel was just getting started.


At this stage Big Jeff and I decided that it was time for our evening beer, so we went back to the Pavilion.  And in another first for Ged, while buying the beers, I saw Wright get Ealham out LBW on the CCTV.  (This was a first for me in the sense of witnessing a wicket on the CCTV, you understand, not a first in terms of buying my fair share of the beer).


But then Samit and Franks really cashed in.  It perhaps speaks volumes that Ben resorted to Ace in these circumstances and let’s just say that we don’t often see 26 runs scored off a single over.  I just hope the umpires checked the condition of that match ball after the 3 sixes contained therein and don’t start asking nasty questions about the state of the ball.  That ball suffered.  Middlesex fans all suffered. 


Big Jeff then complained that I was taking it all with good heart and good humour, whereas he had been hoping for morbidity, feeble excuses and a great opportunity to tease the living sh*t out of me.  Having been brought up to be relentlessly hospitable to guests, I tried to help.  After all, moderating MTWD I had a fair amount of morbid and feeble excuse material that I could readily call to mind.  “Bad toss to lose, several umpiring decisions have gone the wrong way, bowling attack decimated with injuries.…..”.  But Big Jeff knew that I was just saying it to try and make him happy, so wasn’t going to waste his breath on teasing me.


Big Jeff was so wrong when he estimated 400 as the close of play score.  And I was so wrong when I estimated 500.  601/6 at stumps.  Samit 150+* and he might well make the double ton that Fleming didn’t. 


I get some stick from some MTWD readers for saying that I enjoy my day even when Middlesex do badly, but I’m afraid it is true. I love watching 1st class cricket and I love spending days at Lord’s.  Of course I enjoy it more when Middlesex perform well (I think I prefer it, it’s getting hard to remember things that happened so long ago), but I still enjoy it even when we’re dire. 


I’m resigned to the fact that we’ll be playing 2nd division cricket next year but it really is where we deserve to be just now.  And I do believe that Middlesex can make the changes needed to bounce back quickly.  And Division 2 for a while does at least mean that Big Jeff and I will get to see our teams playing against each other again.  I might even take a day at Wantage Road, Northampton next year and let Big Jeff host me.  It might just be a game of competitive cricket.  Or if not, it might just be Middlesex on top.

View a Printer Friendly version of this Story.

Bookmark or share this story with: