Hearts ended a mini-run of defeats (3) with a hard-earned draw against Isham’s latest bunch of colonials and youthful prodigies. The leader had wisely inserted three ringers into his side (although Stuart Barnes, making his 3 rd appearance, is gradually moving into the regular bloke category) and shuddered to think on the way home (during which journey he collected a speeding ticket) what score Harker in particular and Isham in general might have run up against a more familiar Heartaches attack, with great respect to absent friends. Actually, not much respect.
At last a scorching afternoon greeted a 2006 XI. Having been very impressed by the fast bowling of MCC’s Jonny Wightman in Argentina earlier in the year, T.Rice was delighted that he was prepared to drive all the way down from County Durham to lend his blistering pace to the Clava Rectan cause, and equally delighted that he agreed to bring a pal, as the selectors had struggled once again to raise a side of old lags. Many old reliables such as Rossmore (back problems) Flash (back, e mail and phone problems) and Combie Man (one of our men in Germany for the World Cup) have drifted off the radar completely so far this summer. Jonny’s mate was Matthew Muchall, whose brother plays for Durham, and who is about 8 feet tall in his socks. At lunch he scared the life out of nine Hearts until they realised he was on their side.
A moving ceremony took place before the game as Ms. Isabelle Duncan became the first lady to win a Heartaches cap, and the 49 th player in all. She may not need a tie, so she was also given a Heartaches compact/powder/mirror thingy, and the cap was too big. But it is nonetheless a great achievement to have held her own (so to speak) in big butch male company over 15 games, with a batting average well ahead of those of many mere chaps.
Confident of running through Isham with his sensational new opening pace attack, the leader was delighted to win the toss and thus (he reckoned) the match before tea. However the insertion of Isham did not pay immediate dividends, nippy though Wightman and Barnes were from their respective balls one. Isham had clearly stuck with their policy of raiding the veldt for gifted Pietersen clones and this year’s South African, Harker, looked a cut above the average opener that Hearts bowlers give their all against. However, at the other end, no-one really took flight, though the wicket and weather were extremely batter friendly.
Stuart struck first, getting a well deserved finger in his favour from their brilliant home umpire. Jonny immediately followed this up by spreading the stumps of a young man who had apparently made a ton the week before. A badly named batsman, Bolar, hung around a bit before becoming Barnes’ second victim, while Harker continued to make hay. Suddenly the leader realised he might have to call upon more than two bowlers, as the heat began to take its toll on the noble quicks. Looking around his hopeful crew, he realised that even a third bowler might be a bridge too far, unless the unknown Matt Muchall could deliver.
Matt could and did, although he did get carted cruelly in one over by the ludicrously confident Harker. But he disposed of the plodder Lodder in co-operation with the nimble Chris Hutton (the 48 th cap), who had a fine afternoon, allowing a mere two byes past his designer gloves. Eventually the popular skipper had to turn to the old guard and as Nigel had come the longest way (from Spain) it seemed only fair to give him first crack, thus putting off the moment when he himself might have to bowl to Harker.
El Nig nabbed an lbw from another of their brilliant home umpires almost at once. The new cappee sent down a brace of neat overs and PJ one, the latter having finally arrived from somewhere not quite so distant as Spain. Harker finally got bored during this quieter session of play and wandered off, having clouted 7 sixes and 13 fours. Now that it was safe to put himself on, the leader was looking forward to a tussle with his rabbit, Stuart Hardy, when Stuart selfishly declared at 234 for 5.
Hearts were still confident during the break. The batting line-up looked pretty good on paper and surely the three virtual pros in the middle order would see the side home even if the first three very experienced stalwarts failed. The light (and heat) was still strong. However only Sumo of the top three did himself justice on the day. Gladys continued his atrocious trot which must end soon (that’s an order) and Nigel only did well for a chap who has trained on paella. Peter played with class and was just shaping up for a major knock, cutting to the fore, when one of their appalling home umpires shafted him.
The big three did pretty well. Wightman looked to be capable of anything that Isham could throw at him, but he too received an lbw verdict that shocked the Heartaches supporters watching square on from the pavilion. Muchall and Barnes however boldly struck Heartaches right back into the game via a terrific stand of 88 for the fifth wicket. Matthew had just shifted up a gear with a massive six and four off Lyon when said bowler somehow snuck past his blade, possibly via his blade. The overs were running out and this crucial blow might well have forced Hearts to change to shut up shop mode, especially as their last cavalier, Phil Glenn, seemed unable or unwilling to get out there.
Iz got out there as Renters was simply not ready and nobly played an unnatural game, i.e. all out attack - selfless, as her defensive qualities are her strong point. When the junior Glenn did totter to the crease, he didn’t stay long and it was now beyond any question that the last three batsmen should aim purely for survival, although Stuart Barnes still had the green light to go for victory at his end. He tried, but his superb knock, including six fours and four sixes, was ended by the ubiquitous Harker who hung on to what should have been a fifth six.
Six overs to go. The leader hung around for a while with his stumper before playing on. Chris and Dave then cruised serenely to safety and honour, even finding time for the occasional cultured stroke.