In his latest take on the quirky side of life at the Park, HUGH BATESON demands the opposition stop picking on the club chairman
There are times when my admiration for Chris Johnson, which is always stratospheric, reaches a new dimension, if that is scientifically possible.
Take Sunday afternoon. I had an early shift at work and after a rare abstemious Saturday popped up the club for a much needed early evening beer and found a cracking game of friendly cricket unfolding.
It was a real throwback. Park batted first and got somewhere just over 200 and Harrow on the Hill, whose first visit it was to the club, were mounting a spirited chase.
It was even complete with a classically correct grey-haired gentleman in a striped cap reeling off a string of MCC coaching manual strokes all around the ground.
Captain Eddie Large was giving everyone a game and keeping the contest on the edge of control. Until, that is, one of their batsman changed up a gear and the run-rate suddenly came tumbling down.
Eddie had two secret weapons: his own ‘reverse pace’ and the first-team opening bowler Jimmy Leather. Jimmy’s spell proved that what works with the new ball on a Saturday has absolutely no relevance whatsoever at the death in a frantic run chase on a Sunday. Or put it another way, he went the distance.
Harrow’s man in form had shots in every direction but against Eddie he seemed to concentrate on just one. At Jonners.
Now, the father of the club had been stationed by Eddie at what the modern game calls ’45 behind square on the one’, or fine-leg saving the single in old money.
It is true that in Jonners’ post-Jonty Rhodes days ‘saving the single’ and ‘on the one’ are wishful thinking on the same scale as getting Fish to take himself off after anything less than 125 overs in the day but he stood there dutifully, stopped one or two and shepherded others to the boundary in his inimitable style.
But, when he missed a steepler from a top edge and then the batsman started peppering him mercilessly, I started to feel for him.
And afterwards in the bar, after the Park had conceded Sunday defeat for the first time this season, I suggested that he should have had a gentle word with his tormentor.
Being me I put it with due tact and diplomacy of course. ‘You should have told him to stop picking on a pensioner on a Sunday,’ I said. ‘Told him there were a host of young pups desperate for a run around the field and to pick on them. Told him it was a friendly, you had only come out for fun, it wasn’t a blood sport and would he mind hitting the damn ball somewhere else, please.’
Jonners, bless him, smiled and looked at me as if I was totally bonkers (always been a shrewd judge, he has). For to my knowledge he has never in the 40-plus years I have known him at the club, been one to have much truck with bantering, sledging and distracting the opposition – unless, of course, it is Roving Reporters.
He regards it as rude and unsporting and Jonners is most definitely neither of those. Which makes him a rarity to be treasured on the modern cricket field.
Saturday’s two games at the Park were rather more noisy affairs, especially on the top pitch as the first team’s batting line-up entered house of cards mode.
Reed, entirely naturally, were all over each new man to the crease like a swarm of angry hornets, appeals were many, encouragement was loud.
And they had worked at it. Benji Cowell, for example, was informed about his recent form, his recent dismissals and how he got out. Yup, Reed had done homework to be better sledgers.
Now that would be a net session worth turning up for, to work out who was going to say what to whom on a Saturday. A whole new line of coaching is opening up. Who should we get to help our lads?