C.E.C.C.| Shepherds Cot | Crouch End | North London | N8 8JJ
Definition of a Hungarian goulash – basically, a few leftovers put together with a bit of meat about to turn a.k.a. Crouch End IVs. The ingredients this week, the usual creaking backbone, with a couple of added colts, a nag returned from retirement and, yes, a Hungarian who, despite his enthusiasm, had never lifted a bat in his life. And so, on a hot sweltering day in Wembley, the stew was put out to simmer.
Despite a half decent start, the short boundary, slow wicket and erratic bowling down the leg saw the oppo stretching away to a big total. But the question is, how big a total do you need - 280, 290, 300? Seemingly oblivious to the advantage of having more overs to bowl out your opponents, Wembley waded their way on to 338 for 4. When we went in for what was a very decent tea (potato salad, pasta, scotch eggs, cheese and tomato rolls and, of course, scones with cream and jam), talk may have been on chasing the pony, but thoughts were on can we defend for 47 overs (and can I fit in another scone).
An important factor at this point was that FB had, in his brave attempt to take a caught and bowled, snapped his little finger and ended up at Northwick Park hospital. Not so much his batting was missed, but the lack of his sheer presence and sophisticated motivational techniques could prove costly.
To start with, the run rate was alarmingly good – too good, as it gave the batsman the false illusion that we might actually meet the mountainous total set. A few wickets later and reality set in. As new batsmen took to the crease, this started to get lip from the field, with a hint of contempt for the difference in quality. So when the last two batsmen (not counting Akos the Hungarian and FB the Invalid) found themselves at the mercy of the baying bowlers, not all looked good.
Never presume. The two batters both had things to prove. Luca, one of the colts, had dragged his dad out to watch him stand in the sun doing nothing in particular at fine leg for three hours. Now was his chance to justify the wait, and get his dad in trouble for being late home “cos they’ve got guests coming”. At the other end was Hassan, also with something to prove after dropping a sitter, then failing to run out a grandmother with one leg who’d stopped for a nap.
Both put their heads down and blocked. And blocked, and left, and blocked. The banter from the field died down and, however close they stood to the bat, the bulwarks wouldn’t budge. Sixteen overs later, both walked off the pitch heads held high, with the Wembley crests fallen. Never has a losing draw felt more like a crushing victory. Bringing in colts has to be the way forward as we can learn from them just as they can learn from us.
Special thanks to both Sanket and Akos for coming in at the last minute and for Luca’s dad for missing his dinner.
The Hungarian Drive...
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