Paulin Ground, Winchmore Hill Sunday 10th September 2017
David Peace reports from an even gloomier than usual Winchmore Hill.
Apocalypse. Year Zero. Nuclear war has been put on hold, but Central America is devastated by hurricanes and earthquakes. The nights are drawing in at the Paulin Ground and the goalposts are going up. Cricket is going to bed until April, but there is one last game to be played, on the big pitch.
The world is upside down. No one is who they say they are.
In the gloom and in the wind, Mayfield bat first. The signs are not good as Mapara hits Stewart Taylor for a four and a six in the first over. The batsmen dominate. 85 for the first wicket in no time, but, in the wind and in the gloom and in the drizzle, the Tigers fight back. Mitchell Greenham takes two good catches behind the wicket, but Mapara hits Chris Dane over the fence and into someone’s front garden, denting his car. Matt Webster attempts negotiation with the home owner, politely explaining that the cricket ground was there long before his house. Good point, but to no avail, and no, we can’t have our ball back.
No one is who they say they are. The bails have blown off again.
Steve Bignell clips Mapara’s leg bail and he goes for 74. Swann, at No.3, anchors the innings with 56 not out. But the Tigers are fielding like tigers. Chris Dane takes a catch above his head. Chris Dane throws out Kazi from the deep field. There are two wickets for Chris Wright. Two wickets for Matt Webster. From 125-1, in the the gloom and in the wind, the visitors are restricted to 200-7 from their 35 overs.
In the pavilion – The Last Tea – as the players gorge on a feast enough to feed four cricket teams, though Wrighty is still bemoaning the passing of his sandwiches.
The world is upside down. Nothing is what it seems to be.
The Tigers bat. Dane and Taylor are cruising at 53-1 in the tenth over. The strokes flowing in the gloom and in the drizzle. A few hardy souls are braving the tennis courts, but otherwise the place is deserted. Almost. A mysterious figure in black stalks the boundary. Then the sky falls in, not that it had far to fall. Dane makes a bollix of a barely disguised slower ball. Taylor clips a sitter to cover.
Wright, hastily retrieved from the toilet and doubtless still in state of confusion, runs himself out first ball. In a puff of smoke three of the best batters are gone. Three in three balls of utter madness.
The world is upside down. The bails have blown off again.
Two runs later, Ian Daffern is bowled off his pads. Three blobs in the top five. 53-1 has become 55-5 and the game is almost gone. Chris Boden, oozing class, and Steve Rennie, with two changes of bat, give some hope with 49 in 10 overs. But Rennie goes, none of the bats working properly. Howzat! Greenham is gone. Howzat! Boden has gone for 37. Webster has gone, in the gloom and in the gale. The umpires and fielders are dressed like a teenage knife gang. The game is slipping away. Gone. But Simon Warren and Steve Bignell agree to bat out the overs. To prolong the discomfort. Taylor 26, Dane 23, Warren 27 not out, Rennie 13 with three bats. But another defeat. The glass is half empty again. The glass has been kicked over.
The bails have blown off again.
In their dressing-room, Mayfield plan a raid on Mister Angry to rescue their £22 cricket ball. Outside, the rain sheets down sideways. Deep in their cups, the Tigers sit around the table in the bar and discuss how to put the world to rights. It feels like the end, but the season will limp on for another three weeks, in the gloom and in the wind and in the drizzle.
The world is upside down.
And the nights are drawing in.