Is it because I dropped a catch when RUASC were on 117? Or the rain in Sonning Lane falls mainly at the end of the game?
Reading University Alumni and Staff CC 140 all out
* D/L score had us ahead! [Ed.]
When is the most frustrating time for the rain to come? As one draws the curtains on the morning of a much anticipated game? Or as the metaphorical curtain comes down at the end of another Mandarin season? Ten minutes before the start of a match that you have already made the effort to drive to? Or ten runs short of victory at the end of a season in which wins have, shall we say, been hard to come by?
It was the latter fate that befell the Mandarins against Reading University Alumni and Staff. And it certainly felt frustrating. Especially so perhaps because all week we had been anticipating rain, with the forecast suggesting it would begin to fall at some point between the Chiswick roundabout and Captain Tunbridge losing the toss and being put into bat.
But neither eventuality materialised and the only thing that fell with any consistency were Reading wickets, five of which all went to our recently discovered tearaway opening bowler Chris Healey (7-1-16-5) who bowled with control and not a little menace. (Or perhaps it was his identical twin brother Nick - who made a 'can you tell them apart?' appearance at tea). Backed by a somewhat surprisingly competent fielding display (McIntyre's one hander, Heard's athletic grab on the run and Tivey's steady under a steepler take all being - with all due love and respect - unexpected highlights), the bowlers all did a job. Heard was unlucky to go wicketless with the new ball. Venky was unlucky to be put on a time when the RUASC number six was swinging hard and happily; and Sommerville was unluckly his good ones were not rewarded (although took one with arguably the worst ball of his spell). McIntyre then supplied control and your correspondent (5.2-0-19-3) supplied three well caught wickets to finish the RUASC innings on 140 with an over to spare.
(Although - in what later proved to be a crucial turn of events - I also dropped a low but catchable caught and bowled chance an over earlier in the spell. And while it was not costly to my own figures, it was to the team's as Tunbridge went around the ground for 16 in the intervening over. Team-spirited skipper that he is, Graeme naturally blamed this entirely on me.)
Tea was taken in the well-appointed Reading CC club house, rather than the rather exposed and ramshackle hut that served as the changing room for the second team pitch. And heartily fortified by samosas, spring rolls and chips, we set about the gettable but by all means fail-to-gettable chase. At this stage the weather still looked set fair for another 35 overs and it looked like we were going to need them as Tunbridge (victim of a ruthless first ball LBW decision by Umpire Tivey it must be said) and Mills returned promptly to the pavilion, leaving us 8-2 and asking Sommerville (44) and (Venky 52no)to set about a patient rebuilding job. This they did with aplomb, watchful at first, accelerating later, taking us to 93 in what was set to be a match-winning partnership.
However the mid-September weather was yet to have its say. As it worsened, RUASC creditably resisted coming off before a downpour made that unavoidable. A short delay ensued although not long later Venky and Tivey were back out there edging us ever closer to glory. But the weather worsened yet again and - while RUASC were sportingly willing to stick it out to a conclusion - a groundsman did nothing to confound his trade's grumpy stereotype and ordered us off for good without consultation.
A quick check of a Duckworth Lewis calculator had us comfortably ahead but in the absence of an agreement between the sides that DL would apply, we had to settle for a moral victory on this occasion, which is at least an improvement on all the 'moral/Mandarins draws' we suffered/earned in limited overs games earlier in the season.
Over a Healey-bought jug of local IPA in the bar, our belated run of form brought forth talk of trying to find a further fixture to keep the season going (not least for Graeme whose trips to Rochester and Reading brought scores of 0 and 0, figures of 1-0-16-0 and a horror drop to boot). But it was raging against the dying of the cricket season light. So we went our separate ways for 2017. In glorious sunshine of course.