On the back of five wins on the bounce, the Badgers were eager to maintain their 100% start to the season. So much so, they ventured into the dark and murky realms of www.thefixturelist.org.uk in search of a replacement fixture after Kensington & Chelsea were forced to cancel the previously arranged game. Unfortunately, there were no “medium-weak” sides advertising anywhere close to London, so a “medium” village side, Harpsden, was settled on, amidst some trepidation and murmuring in the Badger ranks, which was further amplified by the MIA antics of the two foremost Badgers, in their Captain, Barker, and Vice-Captain, McLuskey.
This was sure to be a challenge and the 100% record was certainly under threat, but Barker wanted to mitigate this threat by appointing a stand-in skipper that was up to the challenge. After much chin stroking and moustache twirling, he decided to call upon the services of Paul Cole, an interesting choice given that his only experience in leading the team before was in the chundering stakes.
The tone upon arrival was an ominous one. A massive kite (of the bird of prey variety) encircled the ground, marking his territory, threatening to pounce on his victims at any moment and generally looking menacing. A picturesque and well maintained ground, and therefore a stark contrast to most other Badger match venues, Harpsden seemed liked a fortress, but the Badgers could at least draw upon fond memories having thrashed the Thunderers last season on the very same ground.
Captain Cole won the toss, which was actually a first for any Badger this year, and he had a cunning plan, that was partly hatched in the car on the journey to the ground. Being a virgin captain, Cole was listening to anyone and everyone that was willing to strategise, and such outspoken Badgers were all crying for an insertion, reasoning that the line-up for the day (which included two plucky Badger debutants, in Allen and Kingston) was stronger in the batting department and therefore confident in their abilities to chase down any total. The strategy was sound. But unfortunately, it quickly went downhill from there…
Harpsden’s batsmen were clearly a cut above the likes of the Norsemen and Weasels, whom the Badger bowling attack had destroyed so viciously in previous outings, and not a single bad delivery (many of which were tossed up by the pressured and stressed acting captain) was left unpunished. Never had the Badgers seen such a merciless batting performance. Like the kite, which was effectively their mascot, it truly was predatory, and the only resistance came in the form of the ever reliable Dollimore, whose spell of eight tidy overs included his first scalp of the summer, and an inspired outing by former skipper, Jinks, who was regularly asking the batsmen questions and bamboozling them with effortless flight and guile – two wickets to his name the well-deserved reward.
In the end, the Badgers seemed pleased to “restrict” Harpsden to 256-8 in their 40 overs. In truth, they were on pace to hit 300+ at one point, but then Captain Cole decided to take himself out of the bowling attack…
In response, the Badgers made a solid if rather sedate start, with a brave opening stand of 24 between Cloke and Warman, but the Harpsden bowlers were quick and accurate, and their fielding was sharp, so wickets inevitably began to fall. With the kite continuing to hover around the ground, an eerie sense of doom and dread permeated the incoming Badger batsmen’s minds. Before long, it truly was turning into a horror story for the Badgers, as the mother of all batting collapses reared its ugly head. If you thought England were bad at collapses, you clearly hadn’t seen anything yet… Shortly after both openers were back in the hutch, five wickets fell for just four runs. It just wasn’t cricket… Only a spirited last wicket stand of 32 between Marchant and Cole gave the score even the slightest semblance of respectability, despite the fact that both batsmen had decided to play for their averages and not even consider an attempt at the 15+ runs per over that were required at this point.
In the end, the Badgers weren’t even able to reach the century, Cole being clean bowled with the score on 98. A vicious, inswinging delivery that cut in through the gate and made a mess of the skipper’s middle stump, this ball summed up the Badger’s day – the opposition was simply too good.