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Montgomery CC vs Southend CC - Sunday 4th May 2008 - Southchurch Park

Montgomery CC: O.Pidgeon, J.Gillies, M.Aggus, K.Baker (cpt), M.Couzens, T.Smith, C.Smith, G.Turner, R.Clayton, A.Drake, R.Page

S

o... the start of a new season, the third in the illustrious history of the cricketing colossus that is the Montgomery CC.

The first Sunday of the new campaign dawned bright and fair, the Met Office claims of light showers noticeable only in their absence.

Team members Couzens, Smith C, Turner, Aggus, Baker and Smith T met up for a pre-game breakfast and amid much fighting talk of gallant innings and rip-snorting fast bowling, the team got preparations fully underway with a nutritious bottle of cold lager.

Smith T further demonstrated the team’s dedication to a solid start by ensuring he had already taken part in a “tactical chunder” before meeting for breakkie, to remove harmful toxins left over from the night before.

After some collective bowel movements (the skipper aside – he was heard to utter “I’m not going in there after Couzens”), the team set a course for the venue of the approaching gladiatorial epic – Southchurch Park.

We were met by the rest of the elite cricketing unit including returning hero Ashley “Bob” Shore who was struggling just walk from car to pavilion due to staying up till 4am drinking whisky, MCC Debutant Oliver “Olly” Pidgeon who had recently returned from a weekend stag-do in Bournemouth, as well as new fathers Richard “I can do what I like, honest” Page and Johnno “my son will be a surveyor” Gillies.

Making up the champagne 11 was Robert “not quite local” Clayton.

Team Captain Keith “Gravitational Pull” Baker went out with the Southend skipper where he was told the unfortunate news that Southend’s overseas player would be taking part in today’s festivities.

Not yet registered with the Sunday 1sts (until next week), the blond haired leg spinner and heir apparent to a certain C.Smith S.Warne could, according to the sagely Southendian captain, “take the piss out of you.”

With that encouraging news safely imparted, Keith gave us a quick pep talk of “I’m going for a shit.” Magisterial, but it didn’t end there – about 30 seconds he added gravitas to that inspiring first statement with the emotional addition of “Oh no, there’s no toilet roll.”

Thus, it was that at approximately 2pm Messrs Pidgeon and Gillies strode meaningfully to the crease in the knowledge that the MCC had yet to defeat Southend in three previous meetings and that our overall win percentage of roughly 6% had some room for improvement.

With various team members looking rather worried as Southend’s opening pair put the ball through at a frighteningly medium pace and with some swing, Gillies and Pidgeon saw out the opening over with authority.

Indeed, following some lusty blows that saw Pidgeon and Gillies launch both bowlers to the boundary, talk began of a strong opening partnership.

Alas, disaster soon struck its first cruel blow!

Left armer Collins got through the defences of Pidgeon to clip his stumps and send him on his way for four. Next to the crease was 2007 top scorer Mark “Mmm Bop” Aggus. Unfortunately hopes of a repeat of his last innings of an unbeaten half century, were quickly curtailed as he tried to force one onto the on-side and was bowled for a rather suspect 1 (leg bye).

Taking a leaf out of the captain’s own book for calmly accepting defeat, Aggus merely took a swipe at the pitch, threw his bat and swore both vociferously and repeatedly.

Meanwhile, Gillies was obviously trying to impress both Mrs. Gillies and John Gillies Jnr, by dragging the innings back on track. A flurry of attacking strokes moved the score along towards a respectable total of 20 and with Captain Baker also at the crease the team was aware that a good showing from these two was important if the MCC was going to post a good total and not place too much pressure on the lower order.

Gillies had moved to 18 before he was caught off Wray to give the opener his first wicket of the day. That brought Matthew “Just elected to mayor” Couzens to join the skipper.

By now the Southend attack was a twin pronged spin affair. Well, lots of loop, but not a lot of actual spin. Couzens played his usual array of attacking stroke, before customarily missing a straight one and departing for 16.

Next up Smith T, enjoying his second wind, launched a glorious pull stroke to get off the mark. He was unlucky to lose his wicket to a delivery from Southend’s youngest bowler whose opening delivery did not bounce more than six inches off the floor.

Next to fall was the skipper, who had looked good value for his 22, before hitting a ball onto his foot and then, to add insult to injury, seeing it roll onto his stumps.

With the MCC losing wickets at a pace it was time to take stock of the situation and a steady knock was very much required. MCC stalwart and blocking machine Smith C looked set to be the man most suitable for such a task. However, throwing caution, (and his normal game plan), to the wind he aimed a scything stroke at his third ball and was well caught for a blob.

Fortunately the MCC tail contained a combination of youth (Turner), most improved player (Page), overseas player (Clayton, sort of anyway – he does live in Watford, which is a fair way away), and African sunset (Drake/Auntie Bobbina). These four put on 49 runs (to be fair – three of them put on 48 and Rich got 1,) between them with Clayton finishing unbeaten on 19. Turner and Drake also playing some lovely strokes, to roars of impartial approval from the scorers box, in their respective innings of 16 and 13.

These endeavours carried the MCC to a respectable 142 all out off 36 overs. After watching Turner attempt to eat all the cakes at tea, the MCC plodded out to begin fielding, looking for early in-roads into the Southend batting line-up.

Unfortunately, after keeping wicket during the MCC innings the Southend Antipodean was opening the batting. It didn’t take long for him to open his shoulders and subject opening bowler Matthew “lovechild of Boris Johnson and Victoria Wood” to a salvo of maximums – ably helped in the first over by Couzens’ inability to use the pitch.

At the other end, Keith “Mr. Politically Correct” Baker was having more success, bowling with a good line and length rather than all of his customary pace and aggression, he kept things tight.

The first wicket to fall was Singh who departed for a duck, a good catch taken by Safe Hands Pidgeon behind the timbers, off Couzens.

Next into the attack was the combined assault of Johnno “quick run up before stopping at the crease” Gillies and Chris “air-raid” Smith. The combination of some excellent full-pitched deliveries from Gillies and some cunning and guile from that distributor of doom, Smith, accounted for two further Southendians for scores of 4 and 0.

Meanwhile, at the other end, our friend from down-under was, regrettably, en route to his century and not even some perfectly legitimate Murali-esque rip from the returning Couzens (who was then launched for 16 in three balls, ouch) could stop him.

After 25 odd overs the scores approached level pegging. The field moved in to put some final pressure on Southend skipper Dave Enderby and were rewarded by Couzens finally getting one on the money, bowling him for 7.

Unfortunately that was where the fun ended with Shuffizziman knocking off the solitary run needed for victory.

All in all a slightly disappointing start to the campaign, the major point to remember being that most batmen got some runs on the board and of the 143 runs achieved by the Southend team, the Aussie got 121 and the next highest scorer was extras with 9!

Man of the match was Rob Clayton for his unbeaten 19 and now the MCC retires to lick its wounds before the first match at Fortress Garrison.

Matthew Couzens

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