This report relates to friendly games played on Saturday and Sunday friendlies throughout the season, but does not include the weekday friendlies.


Statistics, as we all know, don't tell the whole story by any means. But in the case of this season's weekend friendly games they do tell an interesting one: 24 games played, in 10 of which we topped 200, including a highest total of 258 in a completed game (an amazing 325, including two ‘retired tons from Siddarth and Sourabh, were scored in a late-season Saturday friendly that was abandoned at tea time); an average of approximately 200 runs scored per game; 15 won but 9 lost (including the 258!); four defeats when we scored over 200.

Conclusions: we batted as well, if not better than we ever have on a Sunday, but our bowling didn’t match up; we also played against some excellent batting sides (e.g. Cublington); on four occasions we lost because of an outstanding knock by one batsman clearly used to playing at a higher league level on Saturdays: at Market Harborough (a brutal 165*, when no-one else was remotely as good); Horley (155*, carried his bat); Broughton (a couple of Oxfordshire league first-teamers down the order swung the game their way); & Harwell (a short but sour and decisive late-order knock when we thought it was all over). However, only rarely did we seriously under-perform as a batting unit (Greenflies comes to mind. Were there others?).

On the matter of outstanding individual performances, Varun’s century at Leicester and Srikkanth’s equally measured 94* in the town of dreaming spires and aspiring dreams, as well as Andy Davidson's powerfully cut-and-pulled 87 on a dodgy public park track in Market Harborough, all come to mind, as does a rare appearance by Matt Haywood at Broughton and North Newington, when he raced to 118 in rapid time, courtesy of 9 sixes. Shashank's gung-ho go-for-it approach at the top of the order on a good number of occasions was a delight to watch, and the front-foot square cut against Birmingham Indians in which the ball flew to the point boundary in the blink of an eye will linger long in the memory. So will, for different reasons, Rob Burns’ valedictory 78 not out, batting throughout the 40 overs at Offchurch, a great way to end an illustrious career spanning four decades, in which many thousands of runs were compiled in we-know-not how many minutes/hours/days/weeks/months? Surely no-one more focused and determined has ever played for this club? Talking of which, Chris Cooper's batting against Lapworth and Birmingham Indians, as well as his consistently high-level keeping, also deserve honourable mention. Most pleasurable personal batting occasions for this correspondent came when he was privileged to share in a match-winning 93 stand with Srikkanth against Oxford Staff. The 51 not out against the ultra-garrulous Brummie Indians was also a source of not inconsiderable personal pleasure, given the anno domini factor, as was watching junior Lambs Rich and Chris compile a rapid opening century stand against long-standing opponents Barby in a rare game played on an excellent Lakeside surface. But the stand-out consistent and positive batting performance on Sundays came from Rich Lamb at the top of the order. I’m happy to confess bias, but the stats do tell the story. To score well over 700 runs at the weekend at an average of over 40, including six half centuries, is not half bad. He even ignored his skipper in one game, retiring to ‘give someone else a bat’ (in true friendly-cricket spirit). His determination to attack the bowling right from the start meant we invariably were able to achieve high innings totals. He and Shashank, who scored around 500 and averaged around 30, together with Andy Davidson, Mike Allison and Ali, and, very occasionally, Ankur, Sourabh, Srikkanth, Anish, and Varun, made for as a strong Sunday batting line up as we’ve ever had (q.v. stats above).

So what can we say about the bowling? The stats confirm it wasn’t really our season. We, i.e. established regulars Andy Sellars, David Wilson and yours truly, plus debutants Chris Williams, Lachlan Smith and Yann Lawrence, and (more occasionally) Ali Faridi, Asad and Mike Allison, all had our moments and games to remember, some for the right, some for the wrong reasons: persistent if not always consistent. But we never flagged, even in the darkest hour at Mkt. Harborough when the ball disappeared regularly in to allotments and (alarmingly) a kiddies’ playground. Bowling memories and returns/spells for the Sunday season: Lachlan Smith’s Michelle v B’ham Indians when no-one else could stem the batting flow, Chris Williams’ 8 overs for 24 v Barby, (ditto), Ahmad’s spell of 2-40 at Cublington (ditto), Yann’s demolition of WCCCC’s top order, Andy Sellars’ spell at B’ham Indians (and esp. the look on his face when his best delivery of the season ballooned to slip and was duly grassed; the guy then went on to score 69 in double-quick time) and SL’s and David Wilson’s opening ‘burst’ [is this the right term? Ed.] at Oxford that reduced the hosts to 60-6 (only for us to traipse in to tea some 28 overs later facing a total of 216!). Yes, there were times, at Market Harborough, Horley, Broughton  and Cublington, when it would have been much better to have been a batsman. But that’s Sunday cricket: you never quite know what the opposition will turn out! The imperturbable Lachlan's debut season was never dull, ranging from the aforesaid spell in Birmingham to a rather less rewarding stint at Newbold Verdon, plus some interesting moments with the bat (e.g. his very short-lived opening of the batting on his Napton debut!).

The fielding was, as ever, variable, ranging from some execrable drops and misses through some amazing ground fielding from Chris Williams, to some superb catching. We'll gloss over the former (Chris's bowling stats are a particular victim of poor catching) but highlight Rob Burns' amazing catch at Barby, although a rare attack of modesty forbids this correspondent from detailing his efforts against Barby and Leek Wootton. Honourable mention should go to Chairman Lincoln Allison, who, despite shoulder problems that prevented him from turning his arm over (literally!), still extracted maximum joy from captaincy during May, i.e. he was the only Sunday skipper to finish with a 100% record. Other Sunday skippers were Ankur (pre SNCL), Steve (June), captaincy debutant Andy Sellars in July, who enjoyed bearing the mantle, albeit it was a little more onerous than you would want the first time round, Mike Allison, whose period of office was accompanied by a return to batting form, and latterly Nicky in September, whose success at Temple Grafton (the perfect Sunday win, with all 11 men well involved, and capped by his prize match-turning wicket of their top scorer, Wayne Killian’s brother Liam, with a dipping slow yorker) went some way to mitigate his Newbold Verdon angst when forced to bat in post-shower civvies, as his middle order suddenly collapsed, leaving him to face the frustration of a semi-darkness defeat.


In addition to the customary challenges of fielding eleven men every week, much less of a problem this year, captaincy brought unprecedented challenges, including (for Mike, heroically) providing Leek Wootton with 3 of our players, including Anish, and for Richard (in his only game as skipper) the last-minute demand for a serious contribution to our hosts’ (B’ham Indians’) costs of hiring Old Edwardians’ ground, when fixtures secretary Harry thought we were playing Old Eds. anyway! We negotiated the fee down to include the tea, but still ended up paying the equivalent of more than one sub. Hardly satisfactory, but Coops and I made sure we still got our money’s worth by batting the full 40 overs!

But, as the match reports testify (and thanks to all who contributed to sustaining this tradition), overall such challenges will never be allowed to diminish, but will rather enhance our enjoyment of a brilliant way to spend a weekend afternoon!


Tragi-comic moment of the season: the single-ball sole appearance of one relatively new non-native English speaker member, unfortunately sent out to bat in too-high a batting spot against probably the best Sunday team of the season, whose coaching did not include the chapter ‘how to respond when asked by the umpire if you want a guard’, resulting in understandable bemusement, followed (rapidly) by their quickie’s immediate demolition of the timber and a slow return to the pavilion. A timely reminder to us all of the ultimate unfathomability of this most complex and esoteric, indeed eccentric of sports that we all love so much, and which can often appear in its most extreme and entertaining form in Sunday friendlies.


Steve Lamb, September 2013