The Thunderers' fixture list is as complex and as agonisingly wrought a document as
exists anywhere outside the British Museum. Our match against Seaford cricket club on 9th September 2018 was a prime example.
We sent Thunderer Dan Tuite to live in Seaford around eight years ago, to inveigle
himself with the local team and find out as much as he could about the strengths and
weaknesses in their middle order. After biding our time we suggested a fixture, and
finally, relying on his growing influence in the club, got him to organise the fixture for the day after their massive Tudor style annual dinner. The poor souls stank of mead and biriani, and their eyes rolled back as they saw the approach of the Thunderers across the pitch. Impeccably turned out, dangerously good-looking, and made up of 90% solid rocking banter. The 10% of us that isn’t banter is science, and on the train on the way down we had discussed almost nothing except how to ensure we won the toss. Tosh Graham had posited the theory (Tosh: “It's not a theory”) that big coins always land as heads, and little coins (£1, 20p, 5p, 1p) land head side down. Tosh was very insistent on the reliability of all this but Sandys-Clarke, seeing the Seaford captain lining up a shining quid on his trembling thumb (his hangover just properly getting going) forgot all the advice and, inadvertently showing scant trust in his opening bat, boldly called ‘Heads!’ thereby winning the toss. The theorists confounded (Tosh: “There’s always an exception that proves the rule”) Sandys-Clarke then rather uncharitably asked Seaford to bowl in the midday sun.
It was a lovely track with a quick outfield and we were blessed with a perfect day for
cricket. Warm but with a brisk sea breeze and a vast blue sky with fair cloud cover.
Rumours that we were actually below sea level and how that would affect the east/west movement of the ball after 35 overs kept us fully absorbed all afternoon.
Jones and Graham made a terrific start against some sharp Seaford bowling, putting 32 on the board without loss. Rink came in at 3 and had an absolute Prom Night, scoring 52 runs from just 24 balls- possibly the quickest half century this season. Both he and Jones scored 3 huge sixes: one of Jones' flew high over the pavilion, and Wrighton, fearing for his life, stood up abruptly and attempted to run inside for safety. He managed one pace before smashing his head on a wooden pillar and promptly sitting down again. With Rink sadly caught, we saw the redoubtable Goodwin, who seemed to be settling in but was bowled by Maxwell Wright. Zac Lloyd, making his Thunderers' debut, made a very useful 29, including 2 sixes and 3 fours. Jones was finally out LBW on 96. A disappointment not to make another century- but a brilliant innings.
Local boy Tuite, playing against his compatriots, was never going to have an easy ride, and perhaps unsurprisingly found himself taking his guard surrounded by a ring of 3 slips, a gully, two sillies and about two wheelbarrows' full of bloomin' banter. But with the same honest and friendly tone which both teams enjoyed all day, there was clearly no hostility, and he faced returning openers Z Hearsey and JP Smith and scored an extremely nifty 22, before scoring a four and then being bowled by Brown.
The gallant Villiers came in at 7: when asked over a drink later whether he would like to talk or possibly sing a song about his innings, he said he'd rather prefer it if one of us did.
Regretfully Muir wasn't playing that day- for surely he would have brought us close to tears with 'Unbeaten Thirty Two'. Wrighton was keen as mustard to add to the three
delicate red blush ball marks on his smart new bat, but sadly was hardly allowed near the bowling during his short time at the crease. Nevertheless, the two men strode back to the pavilion with their heads held high. Thunderers 256 for 6 from 35 overs. A mighty target of 7.3 runs an over.
The match tea was of a high quality. No one is exactly sure how much sugar was in the Rocky Road or the flapjacks - but two or three Thunderers' jaws were glued together while their eyes bulged. Dee-licious. Eyes flicked to the scoreboard at the Oval. Cook was heading towards a century on his final Test appearance and the Thunderers sought inspiration.
TTCC got off to a cracking start in the field. Cameron Simon flayed opener Brown's off stump with the second ball of the innings with a sensational delivery while at the other end Rink opened with a maiden and followed it with a wicket maiden- with Gerrard-Wright taking a very nice catch indeed on the on side. (It was a very nice catch in which G-W seemed to levitate straight upwards in a tucked position before swooping forwards to take the ball like a swallow swooping on a fly or whatever it is swallows eat. Ed.)
At 9 for 2 it looked rather as if TTCC were in danger of doing rather too well.
Goodwin and Gerrard-Wright relieved the openers and chivalrously allowed the
opposition to build their total a little. Their number 2 Edmonds bashed the ball around a fair bit, getting 30, and their numbers 4 and 5, Wootton and Z Hearsey, both scored 23. Wootton was run out by a carefully aimed throw from Tuite at Long On, and Hearsey an excellent caught behind by skipper and keeper Sandys-Clarke, off Goodwin's bowling. Tuite also proved an invaluable bowler, taking the wicket of J Smith with a nice catch from Lloyd at square leg. Gerrard-Wright was unfortunate not to be rewarded with more than his one wicket, after a run of enforced absence over the summer and a couple of edges finding gaps in the field he was very relieved that the figure underneath the big hoik over his head was that of Jones, who caught the ball effortlessly, polished it and returned it before the batsman had finished his follow through. Gerrard-Wright was unable to return the favour to Jones a few overs later when he found himself in the right part of Sussex to yell 'I've got it!!' and then to run around in an ugly parabola, with the ball plopping down untouched several feet from his outstretched arms. Very few misfields on the day, but a few dropped catches, which against a stronger batting side may have made more of a difference.
Jones came on to bowl and prevented Benvenisti's social club from gaining its rhythm by clean bowling him with his first delivery. Seaford's number 8, M Wright, showed a little panache, scoring 35 (just 11 off his highest ever score, he told us breathlessly) and was not out.
Seaford never got their run rate up and played with dignity and brio but never looked in danger of achieving the total required and weren't really after trying. In the last 5 overs they only scored 12 runs. In the previous innings, Rink had managed that in two
consecutive shots. However that's not to diminish the Thunderers' efforts in the field.
Athletic and brave as ever, Wrighton excelled in preventing boundaries, as did Simon,
Graham and Lloyd. If the three of them could somehow sort themselves out with some proper surnames that don't sound like Christian names this would all sound a lot simpler.
Sandys-Clarke had a great game as keeper, and was as vocal, supportive and inspiring a
captain as ever. The most workaday of long barriers or a decent return to the stumps
never goes unrecognised, appreciated and named by our skipper, which keeps the field alive and a-buzz.
Man of the Match was split between Jones, for his excellent near century and great
bowling, and Rink, for his 56 and his bowling- bringing home figures of 2 for 20 off 6
overs, with 3 maidens.
Half the team gamely headed for the ocean- which had some fairly fruity waves-
Wrighton in particular attempting to breathe, right himself, and prevent his red pants,
now full of pebbles, from falling to his ankles- while 6 consecutive breakers crashed into his tightly shut eyes- might well be an off pitch champagne moment of 2018.
Drinks in the pavilion were followed by the discovery of a very nice little station pub and the skipper providing a haul of beer for the victorious visitors.
Left to right:
Lloyd, Goodwin, Graham, Simon, Villiers, Jones, Tuite, Rink, Wrighton, Gerrard-Wright, Sandys-Clarke
11 September 2018