“This is what Heartaches is all about” said one player after this game, asking to remain anonymous. “A match played between two sides of roughly equal competence, in a fine sporting spirit of mutual respect, in glorious weather with a terrific lunch and tea laid on, at the beautiful (note absence here of cliché adverb “stunningly”) Stonor ground, with the renewal of friendships more important than the final result.”
“That’s all very well for you to say, William,” the leader replied “but you didn’t drop a catch on the boundary, get tonked for 39 in four overs and take nearly 3 hours getting back into town afterwards, having spent half that time desperately looking for a petrol station that had clearly been demolished since Graveney claimed to have filled up there last week. Nor did you have members of the opposition cruelly asking who the Hearts captain was throughout their long innings. They just don’t get my laid back style of leadership. Furthermore, you held a magnificent catch the first ball after lunch and watched your son score a striking 91 before giving him out LBW yourself, which most parenting manuals would advise against, however satisfactory it seemed at the time.”
But perhaps this unnamed Heart, having played every season since 1973 when we and the Osmonds were all a lot younger, has a point. As the key members of the Heartaches pool get older, so that even the 1980s youth policy (all three of whom played in this game) is fraying or expanding (or both) round the edges, it may be time to adjust the boundaries of sporting ambitions. Who needs to be stuffed by a zillion runs by the likes of JPG, Isham and Gaieties? Heartaches need matches that don’t need ringers and there were certainly none visible in the red, pink and green against Penywern. Look out for a fixture list rethink in 2007.
But back to 2006. The skipper, having left his Cornwall estate at 0700 hrs, limped into the Stonor fields just before noon, a mere 20 minutes late, by which time Binky and Wm. Heath senior had agreed that Penywern would bat first. Veteran thorn in Hearts side John Marsh and Richard Bramley began quietly, probing and nudging against the wildness of Phil and the guile of Dopers. After two overs each, both were complaining about the end they were at. The leader had one quite good over and the bowlers switched. A few more peaceful overs of quiet accumulation and then Glenn suddenly made a nasty mess of Bramley’s stumps.
Enter a Litherland and the score eased past 50 with Marsh going annoyingly comfortably. It was thus a surprise when he mistimed a pull and presented Timothy Graveney with his 100th Heartaches catch in the field. TG was the first man to hit this target and the first man to point this out. He received a smattering of congratulation, even from Rossmore, now the only man with 99 catches to his name. Stow looked to be a good replacement from Penywern’s p.o.v. so it was delight for the Clava Rectans when Rossdale struck just before lunch. Just as he intended, young Litherland sent one winging Michael d’Abo’s way at deepish mid-on. As the two sides plus supporters eased on down the road to the Rainbow for a stunning barbecue, the game seemed finely poised at 98 for 3.
One ball after lunch the balance had tilted towards the Hearts, thanks to an extremely snappy catch at deep backward point by Wm.Heath sr. This one might not have been Rossmore’s exact game plan, but Packard jr. still had to go. Another Litherland replaced him and the Mighty Quinn entered into a crucial spell.
Had the fielders backed d’Abo’s still crafty and accurate left-arm skills, Penywern would have been on the rocks. However a succession of veterans turned down chances to hang on to stuff in the deep and Sir Christopher ditto from behind the stumps. Carnage continued when the leader reintroduced himself but he was more fortunate than Mike in that another great Heath catch helped his figures and the side’s cause (not in that order – Ed.). This time it was the junior model, on the ropes.
The legendary Neil Innes was now at the crease, thus enabling anoraks to point out that there were 3 UK Top Ten songwriters on the field. The Urban Spaceman crafted a flawless 2, all in one shot, while Litherland minor (or is it major?) hammered away at the other end. Into the bowling frame now came Torquers (PJ having politely declined an invitation), who had his best spell for many a moon. He began with a maiden. Litherland then attempted to smite him for a mighty six over mid-wicket but TG, albeit he didn’t have to move, hung onto the scorching blow to register his 101st catch in the most impressive manner. This inspired TRS to the extent that he barely conceded another run, eschewed wides, and used each Heath once to pick up two more wickets, fine catches both.
There were those on the fielding side who felt that Binky should have declared way before the 200 mark, but the Penywern skipper ignored both gentle hints and lurid insults. Besides, he wanted a bat. As it turned out, his decision to plod on to 217 (Beaumont 5*) was a brilliantly astute one, but as the teams took tea, the expert view was that there was not enough time for either side to go for gold and Binky had ruined a nice day.
However, led by the unexpected vision of babe magnet Dave Glenn in a most adventurous and frisky mode, Hearts rocked from the start and were always in with a chance. Soon his aggressive and uncompromising stance was invoked by W,.Heath jr., and when he gets going it’s bad news for the oppo. This pairing of two essential items of the Scottish landscape posted a speedy half-century before a Litherland (another name that conjures images of the big outdoors) brought about a change of scenery by castling Glenn. (The pairing of the two Hearts umpires, Heath and Cliff (Chris not Sir) , evoked even more images of moors and rocky terrain).
Fine captaincy (and his insistence) had placed Torquil at number three, and he batted even better than he had bowled. Matching young Heath stroke for stroke they pulverised a variety of Beaumont’s bruisers, Litherlandia and Packards being brushed aside until it was almost too late to prevent a stunning Heartaches win. Heath smashed 14 fours and 2 sixes, Torquers 10 of the former and one of the latter. The crowd heaved with excitement as they added a steamy 133 for the second wicket.
Just after Binky himself had been taken apart rather along the lines of his opposite number earlier in the day, Mark’s son made the vital breakthrough. A mere 29 away from a glorious triumph, Heath jr. daringly but fatally swiped across the line and Heath sr. had no option but to raise the ancestral digit. There were still three overs to go but it would have been a tough ask of the greatest of Hearts hitters to get into the Heath vein straight away. Philip is one of the greatest of Hearts hitters, and it was.