That this match was ever played was astounding. The weather forecast was grim, the announcement of an official drought having brought widespread rain to the entire country. Any sane leader would have called it off after breakfast. It was raining when the two teams assembled for a 2pm start, and raining when the captains decided they might as well toss. At 2.30 it was still drizzling, but some had come a long way and Torquil in particular, having driven from East Anglia, was keen to notch an appearance, which would take his lifetime total to 199. Even though the leader lost the toss again, and was inserted again, no-one reckoned the match would finish as a serious deluge was promised for later in the afternoon.
It came too late to save the Hearts from a second successive 2006 battering. In fact after tea the weather actually improved to dire, the red kites hovered in temporarily rain-free skies and the forecast downpour stayed away long enough to give the Gaieties time to waltz to their less than challenging target. But despite the hammering, it was good not to have lost a second of the three May fixtures, and the mood in the Clava Rectan boxes afterwards was that a change of fortune was just around the corner, and Hearts, cruelly deprived of original selections Rossdale, Rice 2 and Flash, had been extremely decent to go out there and bat. And then bowl.
The Heartaches innings of 56 began badly, fell away, and finally recovered from absolute humiliation by means of a gallant uncle-nephew last-wicket stand, not seen since the 500 th match (this was the 502 nd). At one point, the team looked as if they might even perish for their lowest-ever score (the record is 28 and has been since 1974) but eventually they staggered out of the all-time Bottom Five.
The damage was done by Gaieties skipper Matthew Burton, who took five for eight in eight immaculate overs, only once needing the help of a colleague (Lee, who caught Philip’s extravagant snick). He made the ball move sharpish away from the right-handers, and coupled with the irregular bounce of the soggy/hard pitch that the drought and drizzle had created, cunning variations and the occasional rush of blood to the batter’s head, wrecked the pride of Heartaches batsmanship.
PJ got a beauty too early on in his venture through the squalls. Torquers looked confident through the stair-rods but went for a daft second run that at least did for him, not Ian Edward. Burton then removed Glad and Kim in successive balls, both clean bowled, TMB’s turned into a yorker when he came forward a little slowly, and the Spaceman half leaving one that veered away but clipped the off en route. 15 for 4.
Renters boldly fought the deadly Burton with aggression, but after getting close to double figures, edged one behind. Simon Wharton’s first Heartaches knock was a small thing and Mark Packard’s 53 rd not a lot bigger. Burton then rested himself but the carnage did not let up, some of it self-induced. Helen’s old man had stayed for over an hour, waiting for the rain to get serious, but instead had achieved the harder task of seeing off Burton. Perhaps relieved, he missed one from Schneider.
Martin Fennell, whose day job is skipper of Stonor, called in at the last minute, was run out for the second time in two consecutive Heartaches fixtures. His desire for a second was as logical as Torquers’, even if the leader had not been the partner asked to cover 22 yards in 4 seconds. T.Rice wisely declined the offer, but this left him and his nephew back in a last wicket situation together, with the scoreboard showing 37 for 9 through the mist. Annoyingly, the Gaieties seemed to have a good supply of decent bowlers.
Nonetheless, the two relatives buckled down to it. They came together at 4pm and were still there at tea-time (4.30) which was postponed. They made it to the new tea-time of 4.45, but in the last over before what could have been a match-saving interval, the leader was at last presented with a delivery that sat up and asked to be hit. Foolishly, he tried to belt it out of the ground, a sad end to a long bout of concentration during which he and Combie Man had eschewed all risk. At least the total had staggered beyond fifty and one Heart (Al) had got to double figures. Sean Pollock’s lost twin was also glad that for once he had not been the one to end a last-wicket stand with his uncle, though disappointed to be out just 89 short of his first Heartaches ton. The Rices had scored 33.92% of the side’s total during their stand, compared with 39.72% when they did the same thing against Penywern.
The plan had been to bat on and on and on, never to declare, even at 150-9 at 7pm. Surely the rain would have really intervened? The Hearts took their time over tea (one of the best creations yet from Eileen and Bev) but when they took the field again the rain had almost stopped. Defending the all but indefensible, the efforts in the field were a marked improvement on the previous match and Alex bowled his parts out. But a relaxed Gaieties line-up in a hurry held all the cards. Phil let through no byes and Gladys executed a neat return to run out regular thorn in side Ian Smith, who was not a happy bunny as he sploshed back to the pavilion. But three guys got 15 and that was enough. The clouds broke big but a few minutes too late.