Heartaches’ 34 th season began, as is now almost traditional, with a match against Stonor at Stonor’s beautiful ground that the Hearts have often rented over the years for “home” fixtures. This tradition was only maintained in 2006 because the original first opponents of the summer, Williamstrip CC, cried off 48 hours before the game scheduled for May 7, claiming they could not raise a side. This reporter cannot recall this happening before in all the turbulent years of Clava Rectan enterprise. Consequently the Hearts locked horns with Stonor, normally a tougher nut than Williamstrip, rustier than they might have been. Furthermore the leader was short of tossing practice.
Forced to bat first, an ancient duo proceeded in their contrasting styles to launch Hearts’ 2006 campaign on a grey, but not too chilly, afternoon. Riley-Smith was gung-ho from ball one, the senior Glenn more circumspect. On this occasion, the bolder approach worked better. However the welcome return to the colours of the almost legendary Andrew O’Kelly shifted the innings into top gear and he and Torquers blasted a destructive cameo of a partnership, ending when the latter batter sent one vertically upwards. The younger Glenn only did twice as well as his dad.
48 for 3 was not top-hole, but Sully, shrewdly promoted by his skipper to number five, proceeded to make amends as second fiddle to AOK, and then as leader of the string section with those who followed. The Spaceman soared to his best ever Heartaches total (and first half-century), never looking in trouble during an hour and a half of correct and confident strokeplay. He lost Andrew, who had made an accomplished 49, when the total was exactly 100, but continued in graceful vein as a laid back Graveney and a perky Rice fils gave him decent support. Rice père felt happy to declare with 169 on the board after 41 overs, a more than respectable first offering of the summer. In 2005, Stonor, batting first, had taken 41 overs to reach 164 for 8.
The batting had more or less delivered but it was the performance in the field wot eventually lost it. Phil Glenn signing Simon Wharton, who had played once before in 2005, began with an excellent spell from the top of the slope, causing consternation in the early Stonor ranks with swing and nip that was particularly troublesome for right-handers. He knocked over both openers in his first four overs. At the other end his agent was somewhat less reliable. Phil’s variations of line, length and speed taxed his ancestor’s wicket-keeping skills to the hilt, not to mention his diving and jumping skills. The extras began to clock up. They eventually reached a gruesome 45 (not a record, amazingly).
Once TG had returned from a shopping trip to Henley, he very decently relieved Glenn sr. of his gauntlets, and proceeded to give a pain-studded and volatile performance in which standing up (to the stumps, that is) might not always have been the top option. Nonetheless AOK was now wheeling away with an economy to match Wharton, and while no more wickets actually fell, despite the odd near miss in the gauntlet division, Stonor needed 126 from the last 20 overs, having only amassed 44 from the first 17.
Yet they got there. The only Hearts debutant of the day, young Ben Denton, who had turned up expecting to play for his usual side (Stonor), but found Stonor had 12 and Hearts were one short (Flash pulled out at the last minute, with a back), sent down four fine overs of off-breaks and Donald three perfectly satisfactory overs of what he usually does. 88 were still needed from 11, although ominously, both gifted youth Hopkins and gnarled veteran Fennell were beginning to look more than solid. Don then lost line for one dodgy over and Kim had two nightmare overs, the second of which seemed as if it would never end, conceding 14, only two of which came off the bat. A catch or two was unsecured. The win had not looked a runner for a while, but the draw, which had once looked certain, now began to recede into the realms of fantasy.
The leader had meant to let Ms. Duncan and even himself have some valuable bowling practice sure that the game would peter out inconclusively, but this was suddenly a luxury he could not afford (not that this fact spared him from getting stick on the way home). Back came Wharton and O’Kelly to deal with Stonor heroes young and old. They kind of did, but first Martin Fennell’s fine knock was ended by a sharp throw from Iz that their umpire decreed had beaten him to the line. Suddenly Hearts perked up in the field, but a little too late. Stonor wanted only four from the final over, and thanks to O’Kelly’s accuracy, still wanted two from the final ball. The new batsman, Nicholson, heaved and just heaved far enough. It was only a miniscule consolation to feel that Hearts batting second would probably not have lost, because they shouldn’t have anyway.