Following another administrative error in the Waring household that regrettably resulted in a further points deduction, I returned to the snakepit that is the Bentley 2nd team changing room to much moaning and groaning, as well as the occasional murmur of "#BeaneyIn". Clearly last week's fine victory had united the troops in opposition to a common enemy; the skipper. But alas, I, the Theiftain, rule this team with an iron fist, and I was eager to demonstrate the strict authoritarian regime I run. Thankfully, a lost toss and Tillingham's decision to bat first presented me with the ideal opportunity to remind my troops whose kingdom they preside in.
As I distributed the fielders for the first over into their respective positions, eyebrows began to raise as potential bowling options were evidently not being given the honour of the new ball. Albie? No. Crispin? Not to be. Cyril? Do me a favour. For a brief while, it appeared as though last week's hero Nick Binnell would be rewarded for his exploits as the youngster marked out his run up. However, this was all a grand ploy by myself to claim the first alpha-ing of the day. "No not first over Nicky, first slip mate". And as the red-faced seamer trudged off to be consoled by wicket keeper Sappy, I strode towards the umpire, grabbed the red cherry from his grasp and marked out my own run up. Captain's prerogative doesn't just apply to the batting order, even if you are a wicket keeper.
And once the game started, I soon had my second alpha-ing of the day, thankfully in the form of an opponent, their skipper nonetheless, as opposed to one of my comrades. Having started my spell in patchy fashion (wide, no ball, dot, wide) I suddenly found my line (my line? Like I have ever had a line that I am notorious for bowling? This really has gone to my head) and induced a faint edge through to Sappy who gleefully gobbled it up. An ideal, if unconventional start. Albie began from the other end in customary miserly fashion and between us, we were able to put Tillingham under pressure early doors. This pressure told as I soon claimed the other opener in very similar fashion to my first wicket, before Albie joined the party with their number 3 snicking off, Sappy in fine fettle to put us in a commanding position. Tillingham tried to haul themselves back into the contest with some powerful hitting, but Albie pegged them back with a brilliant reflex caught and bowled. Nonetheless, some powerful hitting from their number 6 saw the game in the balance still at 90 for 4 as myself and Gav both finished our 10 over spells.
Thankfully, Sam slotted straight into his groove to snaffle two huge wickets in two balls to put us firmly back in charge of the game, firstly having their number 6 caught excellently on the extra cover boundary by Snelly just as he threatened to take the game away from us. Then, inducing an outside edge from Tillinghams number 7 where Nicky showed a safe pair of hands. Sam was desperately unlucky not to claim a hat-trick for himself, with a ripsnorter of a delivery to follow these two prized wickets which narrowly avoided the new batsman's edge, and indeed on another day would have taken a few more wickets given how well he bowled. However it was not to be as last week's debutant proceeded to take centre stage to bring the first innings to an abrupt end.
I was initially concerned to see Nick persisting with a remarkably short length in his first few overs, however, under the advice of Sappy coupled with the dearth of options remaining, I persisted with Binnell and was duly rewarded. Cyril, prowling like a tiger at backward-square leg, swooped like a gazelle to claim a fine grab, as Binnell's length improved to go with his excellent lines. Who knew this would prove to be an effective combination for cleaning up the tail, as an LBW along with a couple of clean bowled dismissals saw us into tea with Tillingham all out for 135. In his two Second XI appearances, Nick's combined figures read 10.4-1-51-8. THIS IS VILLAGE CRICKET.
As my teammates tucked into their teas with a combination of glee and bewilderment, I contemplated which of Asics, Adidas or Gray Nicholls I would choose from to sponsor the bowling boots I now needed. However, this is the Bentley, and we don't do simple short run chases.
Gunnar and Sappy started strongly, however the dismissals of Gunnar and Greeno seemed to set panic about the Bentley batting line up, as no one appeared to want to lead us to victory. Whilst man-in-form Sprulesy was inviting everyone to bat ahead of him to allow him to attend to a spot of cloud watching, Sappy and Manno were getting out to less than impressive deliveries, and our top 4 were back in the hutch with just 63 on the board. Sprulesy was eventually forced out to the wicket and after crunching a couple fours, looked set to put our minds at ease and lead us to victory with Snelly, who was looking increasingly assured. Fatally however, Sprulesy gazed once more to the heavens above, where he couldn't help but notice the shape of a slithering serpent in the clouds and just as the heavens had instructed him, Sprulesy obliged by snaking his skipper by snicking off.
Next up was our bowling wizard Nicky. Now if we thought it took a while for his bowling to get up to speed, you should have seen his batting display. The childish insults of "more misses than Henry VIII" or "more swings than a playpark" were applicable to this painstaking innings, yet he was able to hang around whilst Snelly pushed us closer to the total. He would eventually make way for Albie to bring a sense of calm and stability, as we finally looked like hauling ourselves over the line. But there was still time for one more slight twist.
Just as we thought we had silenced their chirpy bowler, whose 'banter' had appeared to fall on deaf ears amongst his own teammates as well as ourselves, and with the scores level, he pouched Albie for a simple caught and bowled before Sam snicked off, and I, the heroic leader who had lead from the front and stood up to be counted that day put myself in the firing line by striding out at number 10 to face the music. I stood fearlessly at the strikers end, the bowler galloped in. Wide ball. I had done it. I won the game. I had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. (Snelly scored 38*, it was decent but this is my moment)
My teammates clapped me off, and I can only assume that there were no congratulations on my batting performance because of how awestruck they all were, which was I understand fully. In light of the questions raised about my leadership before the game and on reflection of my performance from this past Saturday, I will leave you with this quote from author of '21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader' John C. Maxwell:
"A leader is the one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way."
Following back to back wins, we have resurrected our chance of staying in the division and a win this coming weekend against Writtle should lift us out the relegation zone, so there is plenty to play for as we approach the final third of the season. And with any question of my alphadom over the snakepit removed, I am confident I will continue our good run of form.