There was no column last week, I was sick. This is a Good Thing, since I could not write about our trip to Waringstown. Looking back, I could describe the day with the phrase ‘lambs to the slaughter’, but lambs would have put up more of a fight, and it was worse than slaughter.
This week we travelled to Belmont, another venture into the lions’ den, although – mercifully – the head of the pride had returned to South Africa earlier in the week. We also won the toss and batted first, so that ruled out conceding another couple of thousand.
As usual I opened, but having been ill, not having slept the night before, and not having eaten for 36 hours, this was never going to end well. And so, thinking that I had timed a straight drive back down the ground, I set off for a non-existent single and was run out by about six miles.
Still, this gave me some time to sit on the side-lines, to bemoan United’s impotence as they struggled to break down Newcastle’s defence, and to enjoy lengthy debate with my teammates on a range of issues. Did we talk about cricket? A little bit. Did we talk about football? More so. Yet the majority of the time was spent on immigration, gay marriage, and foreign policy.
James McClean’s ideas are terrifying. First, he wants Donald Trump to win next year’s American presidential election. Then he wants The Donald to solve the West’s energy problems by invading Saudi Arabia and seizing their oil reserves. If the countries of the Arab League protest, he wants Trump to invade them too. The less said about his policy on Russia the better…
As we set the world to rights, James Kennedy fought hard in the middle and finished unbeaten on 40 as we scraped to 110. That is not a lot of runs, but then the pitch was literally not flat: some parts of it were heavily grassed, others were completely bare. The mower, clearly, was not cutting all parts of the pitch to the same length, which led to uneven bounce and sharp turn.
One could even had described the pitch as serpentine (spitting like a cobra, you see). Given this, I was handed the new ball in place of Michael Glass, for he was encamped in the Mournes, leading Duke of Edinburgh students to their Gold Award but also – probably – to hypothermia, ruin, and the world’s end.
I started by bowling a few pies to Dougherty, one of which went for four through mid-wicket, another of which was cut to deep point, and the last of which was held – diving, hand outstretched, inches above the turf – by our captain at cover. One of the best catches of his life, he reckons, which is pretty good by any standard.
As I picked up a few more – Matchett bowled off his arm, Johnston bowled off the pads, Jones caught at cover – Matthew Purse bowled beautifully from the Strathearn End. Swinging it both ways, at decent pace, he impressed everyone. His figures do not tell the whole story.
At 29 for 4 and 51 for 5, CI were struggling. Johnny Thompson, though, remained at the crease and, with support from Cameron-Dow, he saw them home with ease. JT batted maturely and aggressively, and – alas – he spoiled my figures with two consecutive blows over mid-wicket. He’s probably the best all-rounder in the league.
Elsewhere in the NCU, Carrick beat Instonians to all but guarantee safety, and to all but relegate us to Section One. Even if we beat Carrick next week at Eaton Park, our run rate is so bad that we also have to beat CSNI on the final weekend of the season. That probably will not happen.
So if it pans out that way, I want to congratulate Carrick on survival. We have not beaten any of the ‘bigger’ teams, and they have beaten CIYMS and Instonians. They will survive despite an injury to Kammy, despite having a home ground that does them no favours, and despite being winless until late July. Honestly, well done.
As for us, a good few – myself included – are almost relieved that next year will be spent in the league below. I played in it for a few years before we were promoted and I enjoyed it immensely.
For a number of reasons, next week’s column will be the last: the season is coming to a close, I’m running out of things to say and people to annoy, and I need to enter the real, money-earning world. Anyone need a history, economics, or Oxbridge admissions tutor?
The final entry will take the form of an awards ceremony, honouring the good, the bad, and the ugly of the 2015 season. All nominations are welcome.