Perhaps it was the day, which had a slightly dreamy quality – early summer, dogs and children at the boundary, West London somehow held at bay by the vast trees of Chiswick House – or perhaps it was something of more substance – age, maybe, but the Authors weren’t at the races against a younger, stronger Faire is the XI, and they paid full price.
Hotten once pointed out that when he and McGowan had opened the batting at Arundel against the Afghan Refugee XI, they had a combined age of 102, while the opening bowlers added up to 37. Now came an even more horrible inversion of time. With Campbell temporarily unavailable to fill the creggings and Holland off on his annual dinosaur freebie, the Baldwins’ rapid left-armer Faisal had been recruited but found himself stuck on a train. Stand-in captain Thacker cast around the dressing room and alighted on the unlikeliest new-ball pair, himself from his long run and Hotten, who between them split 104 years – or as Thacker preferred to spin it, eighty seasons of experience.
“What end do you want?” Thacker asked.
“Neither do I…”
“Alright, I’ll have this one…”
“No, I want this one…”
They got away with it to some degree, keeping Faire is the XI to 23-1 from the first nine overs, Thacker picking up the wicket of skipper Alex Stobbs, who middled a pull straight to Faisal, fresh from the train. But once Watkins and number three Potter were set, the tide turned. Chiswick is a hard ground to defend, the straight boundaries short and the outfield fast. Faisal’s first spell was sharp, Hogg and Falk bowled with their usual craft, but it was the Faire pair’s day, both passing fifty and Potter going on to three figures. This despite the urging of the remarkable Amol Rajan, who bowled, chatted, grunted and threw himself around in the field, never more so than when winning the Rathbones moment with a full length dive at the pavilion pickets, despite the ball having come to a halt a couple of feet inside the line.
Rajan is an extraordinary cricketer. In the Authors’ first season, he wore boxing boots in the field. Now, as he prepared to bat, he revealed a new superstition: he brings just a left pad in his kit bag, and borrows a teammate’s right.
His pugnacious, brief stay was perhaps the highlight of the Authors innings, which seemed to take place on a different pitch. The top order wobbled, and the impressive Bowen, sore from a Saturday league stint, came off a few paces to rip out the tail with some zinging yorkers.
He probably won’t want it mentioned, but Alex Stobbs remains an inspiration, not simply a sublimely talented musician but a cricketer full of the strange joy of the game. Well played, Alex.
Faire is the XI 223-5 (Potter 100*, Watkins 53, Hogg 2-37); Authors 118 all out (Hotten 19, Owen 16, Bowen 4-3). Faire is the XI won by 105 runs.
Rathbones moment: Amol Rajan’s full-length dive, saving zero runs.