Under clearing skies at Odiham on Sunday, Hearts drew a gripping forty over clash with their old rivals, after a prolonged run chase had brought them within an ace of victory.
The selectors had requested that the skipper for the day (Wm.Heath sr., the regular leader absent under Tuscan skies) should bring along a bowler, so it was with the Gentlemen’s regular James Elliot-Square that he set off east from Dorset in the rain. By the time he got to Stonehenge the wipers were on full power but, assured by the Hon. Sec, then just a few miles from Odiham, that the sun was shining, he ploughed on. On meeting the opposition captain Phil Thomas at the ground, the weather was indeed ok, but mixed with darker clouds, blown across from the west. The two men felt that the game might be short and so forty overs with a draw was agreed (‘’The skipper’s finest moment of the day - to get that ‘draw’ clause in’’ quoth first slip). Heath’s heart did not fill with optimism as he donned the wicket keeping gloves. He had seen too many games abandoned at this venue. He could not have been more wrong - the sun emerged, the clouds dispersed and the weather got hot and hotter than hot.
No toss was required: at 11.30 Odiham still had half their team missing. Hearts were as all there as they were ever likely to be and wanted to field. Don Quixote* (Spanish pronunciation) came in to bowl to Hiscock. What with wides and byes and common or garden runs, by the time he had completed his eleven ball over, the score was already 14. A senior Heart, Torquil, had seen enough and took him off.
The previous day, Odiham had had 299 scored against them, off 49 overs, in a League game, which suggested that the outfield was pretty quick, and so it proved. James Elliot-Square bowled quickly, accurately and consistently from one end throughout the Odiham innings, conceding just 77 runs off his 40 overs. Would that that had been true at the other end, or even half true, where a wide variety of bowlers were tried. Simon Wharton had to pack up with an injured back after 6 balls; Phil Glenn varied from the ridiculously good to the ridiculous and back, often in the space of one over, and new man Guy Ladenburg laboured manfully with his flat off-spin, often beating the bat but never hitting the necessary.
It was clear that Odiham were going to get a lot of runs- the ball just whizzed to the boundary- Hearts just hoped that the home side would not be the only team to have it large. ‘Dibble’ Hiscock professed himself knackered at his 50 but gained a second wind and moved on towards his ton. Lochead was caught by Ladenburg, an easy catch which he made look easy and Duncan performed ditto to remove Docis. It wasn’t as if the Hearts were fielding badly. Glenn Snr. made two excellent boundary-saving stops, one of which re-dislocated his finger and wracked him in pain. Nor was it that they dropped catches - there just weren’t many to be had.
And the total moved remorselessly on. Then in a moment of pure genius, Torquil suggested Izzy step up to the plate (cliché) to contain the runaway run rate. Not only did she do this but removed one of their most dangerous batsman with a deceiving delivery which flipped up and back to her for a simple c and b. At lunch the total was 199 with ten overs to go. Such had been the domination by bat of ball that it had proved virtually impossible to set a field whether to attack or defend. The colander just had too many holes and the ball moved so quickly off the pitch to the boundary. During the interval Heath, after a truly brave and energetic morning behind the stumps, agreed to let the younger Glenn take the post-banquet gauntlets. Lunch itself was of the usual ‘absolutely superb - better than Getty’ variety.
Hearts felt if they could keep their hosts down to 250, they had a very real chance. This observation proved uncannily accurate. 73 runs were added in the last ten overs, 22 more than desirable. Torquil picked up the wicket of McGaughrin in a spell that was also notable for its brevity, and Peter Johnson ended the wonderful knock of 118 by Hiscock with a satisfying catch at very deep first slip, giving Elliot-Square a second reward for his dynamic consistency. 60 extras were conceded, easily beating the previous Heartaches record for sundry sloth, which was 46 against Cuckfield in 1991.
Heartaches faced a mammoth mountain of 273 to win. To a man (and woman), it was faced with confidence - it was a thing doable, a total achievable. Glenn Sr. and Peter Johnson opened to face the Thomas twins and quickly took the shine off the ball. However, before he could settle in comfortably, Sumo was scooped up at very silly mid-off by young Russell. Tim Whittome came to the crease. At the other end Ferret continued to dig in.
The nature of the wicket was such that nearly every over there were at least a couple of balls that sat up and asked to be hit and hit they were, so the scoreboard kept moving along. Gladys’ time at the crease was pure enjoyment for any cricketing aficionado. Technique, timing, direction combined with sophistication, all served to make it look so easy as the ball was pulled, pushed and stroked to all areas of the ground. It was satisfying particularly to the temporary skipper, that Hearts were meting out as good as they had received. Then Bentley rolled one through Glenn’s guard, and after Torquil had had a knock that was only notable for its brevity, Guy Ladenburg stayed with Whittome through to tea.
Throughout the Hearts innings each batsman was impressively determined to keep the scoreboard moving. Glenn jr. joined Tim after Guy was bowled for a useful tea-spanning quick 15, and this new partnership ensured Hearts kept up with the clock. This was not the Phil Glenn that so many of us have come to know and love – sometimes lashing the bowling, sometimes getting out, in either case quickly. No, this was a new and very applied batsman constructing a very real work, an innings both crafty and mature, displaying a variety of shots with both a delicacy and direction which surprised even his most loyal fans. These new dimensions were added to his already recognised ability to hit the ball extremely hard and extremely long. Both he and TMBW were now carving fours and sixes, finding gaps in the increasingly frustrated field and benefiting from one or two difficult chances that went down. It really looked on, as Hearts sailed to within 100 of the target, with 11 overs still to go and 5 wickets left.
Just as all in the pavilion were waiting with bated breath to cheer Whittome’s first 100 in his long and honourable Heartaches career, his wicket was broken by Russell with his score on 99. Perhaps the applause on his return was louder and longer than it would have been had he reached his ton, such was the sympathy felt by all for the narrowness by which he had failed. The fifth wicket had produced 107 runs. In went Kim Sully and on went the show. The Spaceman showed no perturbation of spirit after his lacklustre bowling spell and he carried on where the near-centurion had left off. Soon the 6th wicket had yielded another 50 valuable runs, the pair scoring freely all around the wicket(s), until Kim ran too casually between them. Simon Wharton had barely taken guard when Renters miscued one skywards to be gratefully taken in the covers by McGaughrin. Phil may never play a more determined and comprehensive innings and his father was close to emotion as he greeted his son on his return to the pavilion and a cold beer. The Glenn family, as had the Whittome family, had scored 99 runs between them.
Time had overtaken the lads in red, pink and green. The final twelve runs became a virtual impossibility, then an impossibility and soon it was all over. But with 3 wickets still standing, Hearts had fought the good fight and gained a meritorious, exciting, crowd-pleasing and honourable draw.
*Apparently a reference to K.Sully