The badger versus the weasel. Mankind has postulated about such a confrontation since the beginning of time. But on the 23rd of May 2009 all the theories and speculation would finally be put to the test. The superiority of one mustelid over the other would be established once and for all.
The Badger's preparation had been hampered by an on-going injury crisis. Having lost all-rounder Pete Jinks to a broken thumb in the first game, opening batsman Oli Blaiklock was also forced onto the sidelines with a subluxating shoulder. However, suitable replacements were found in the form of debutants Andrew Symonds (who, having been controversially left out of the ashes squad, was keen to show his form to the selectors), and Dave Warman (senior brother of badger regular, Pete). All was sett for a titanic clash of fury creatures in the leafy suburb of Chiswick.
The toss won, the badgers were to bat first in bright sunshine on a pitch that looked pretty benign. Cloke and Barker marched purposefully to the crease determined to make the most of the conditions and get their team off to a flier. The weasel's handed the new ball to their wicket machine Dyer and play began with a losener down the leg side which Cloke managed to get some bat on to earn himself a quick single. The first over continued breezily with a series of singles, before Barker chipped his second delivery straight to mid-wicket. However, the first of several fielding errors from the home team let him off the hook as the ball tumbled to the floor; the batsman calmed his nerves a few balls later, confidently pulling a short ball for four. By now the weasels had found their line and length, and set about attempting to frustrate the batsmen into making a mistake. The scoring rate dried up and in the 10th over Barker finally made an error giving an easy catch to Percival at square leg. Despite some mishaps in the field bowlers Bishop and Dyer managed to keep a tight rein on the run rate and, barring one expensive over from Dyer, only gave away 27 runs from the first 14 overs. However, the two men at the crease, Smith and Cloke, were looking in good nick, and a change in bowling allowed them some freedom to play a few shots and get some runs on the board. Smith played some attractive cut shots before he fell in the 21st over LBW to Pagan, leaving the badgers on 62 for 2 and bringing Dollimore to the crease. Whatever it was Richard Dollimore ate for breakfast that morning it was clearly a good choice. The badger was focussed on one thing and one thing only - getting his batting average higher than a certain P. Jinks. He set about the weasels attack with gay abandon, delicately chopping one ball down to third man before smacking the next to the long on boundary. The weasels responded well and Cloke, having played one of his trademark patient innings, soon followed Smith and the badger's middle order collapsed like a poorly made souffle. Warman senior was unlucky to get a ball that hardly bounced off the pitch at all, and Symonds followed him in the same over, looking to be aggressive from the off - still in the IPL mindset perhaps? Marchant steadied the ship in his usual fashion, confidently swinging at every ball that strayed wide of his stumps, and together with Dollimore who by now was in full flow put together a very useful partnership, taking the total past the 100 mark in style. However, all good things come to an end and the breakthrough came when the weasel skipper finally brought back his first string bowling attack. Marchant flung his bat at a wide delivery only to get an inside edge which bounced painstakingly slowly over his foot and into his off stump. Next up was Norris, who proved an effective foil to Dollimore's increasingly belligerent innings, and soon afterwards the badger's champion reached the 50 landmark to record his first half-century for the club. Your erstwhile reporter was too far away to hear accurately, but it is believed that during the celebration the phrase "eat that Jinksy" was whispered quietly under his breath. Time was running out and, personal battles taken care of, Dollimore selflessly resorted to all out attack, smashing his next ball for four, before skewing the one after up in the air to be caught out on 57 from 52 deliveries. The badger's resident biffer, Mackrell, was the next man in and hopes were high of him blasting the badgers score up to the 180 mark. However, his knock was short lived and the badgers innings soon fizzled out, with Norris swinging and missing a straight one, and Warman junior popping a simple catch back up to bowler Bishop to leave Hirst stranded on 0 not out.
158 was a reasonable total, but the lack of any wagging in the tail meant the Badgers were about 10-20 runs short of where they should have been after Dollimore's excellent knock.
Tea was a swift affair, particular note should go to the coronation chicken sandwiches which were excellent. However, it wasn't long before the badgers were back on the field, this time with ball in hand, and looking to make the weasels fight for every run.
Opening bowler Mackrell was on the money straight away as usual, and gave the weasel batsmen something to consider as they plundered only a single from the opening over. The second was a different story as Michaels clearly decided to make use of the shorter boundary on the off-side, blasting 10 runs from the over and making the badger's 158 look a little fragile. Bowler Marchant responded well and after a few patient overs received his reward with the wicket of Percival. The badgers continued their good form in the field this season, cutting off potential singles and boundaries with some committed diving and chasing, and managed to keep the weasel's scoring rate under control. Despite this however, the two batsmen at the crease, Michaels and Chatrath were looking increasingly solid, and when the Weasel's 50 was brought up in the 14th over the badger's skipper decided it was time for change and switched to a different attack in the form of Dollimore and Symonds. Both bowlers found their mark straight away, but the weasel's batsmen proved to be ruthlessly efficient, consistently hitting at least a boundary every over. At 20 overs to go the weasels needed 96 runs, their 10 man line-up with 8 wickets still in hand. Batsman Michaels was in supreme form, keeping a cool head playing each ball on its merits and punishing anything that strayed off a good line and length. The 100 run mark was passed with 12 overs remaining, the Badger's still had runs to defend, but couldn't find the breakthrough they desperately needed. Finally, however, Chatrath played a false stroke, skying an attempted pull shot to square leg where Marchant took a simple catch off the bowling of Warman P. Cloke sensed an opportunity and brought his main strike bowler, Mackrell, back on the next over. A decision that paid dividends straightaway, as Wilson fell without troubling the scorers. The weasels batting wilted under pressure as first Coote, then Bishop went in the next two overs. The score was now 125 for 5, 34 runs required from 8 overs with 4 wickets in hand. Hurley was the next to go a few overs later to a ball that seemed to jump through his pads onto the stumps. 3 wickets in hand, needing 23 from 5 overs. Next up was Samson, however, who lived up to his name and defiantly refused to budge. He together with Michaels, still looking imperious at the other end, comfortably saw the game out in style. The weasels wrapped things up clinically with 2 overs to spare. Michaels, having carried his bat, finished on 107 not out, and clearly earned his man of the match accolade.
A second loss for the Badgers the season, but one with notable performances from Dollimore with the bat, Mackrell with the ball and Warman senior in the field, who seemed to stop every ball that dared to pass within 10 yards of him. The match was a fitting swan song for Dollimore who will be leaving our shores to wreak havoc on the cricket scene of the Middle East. We wish him all the best - you will be missed Rich.
After all was said and done perhaps the only disappointment from the day was the lack of an weasel-based war dancing.