Holtwhites v Octopus CC - August 10th 2008

 

The weather gods once again shone on the Octopus team as the day dawned fine and hot on Sunday as they prepared to face Holtwhites in the return leg of their annual home and away fixture. However the weather gods have developed a twisted sense of humour this season, as this fine weather lasted till precisely 2pm as they sent forth a torrential deluge right on cue just to remind everyone once again how appalling English summers really can be.

 

But the customary eight Octopus players who had arrived on time for the start of play however were not perturbed, and they willingly took the field after the downpour abated, smarting from two consecutive losses and eager to arrest this mid season slump.

 

With Rocky still trekking his way from East London it meant that Harsh would accompany Stu opening the attack. Stu as always appeared fresh as a daisy despite proffering to us that he had just enjoyed two days liquid entertainment at the Oval test and a wedding in Gloucestershire, so any fears that he may have upset his usual his pre match routine with a night in with a DVD and pizza were swiftly allayed.

 

In a break from usual Octopus tradition this season, Harsh eschewed the team huddle, perhaps taking his cue from the English cricket team who had done the same, also maybe thinking a change in routine was needed to spark the Octopus into life.

 

With the pitch juiced up from the earlier downpour, it was immediately apparent that Holtwhites were going to struggle against a fired up Octopus team, as Stu began right on a good length exhibiting an extra yard of pace, and the ball fizzed into keeper Alex's gloves right from the first ball. Despite there being more gaps in the field than a block of Swiss cheese, Holtwhites couldn't take advantage as Harsh also had the batsmen tied in knots and struggling to hit the ball off the square.

 

In the 6th over Si Ingram arrived, then soon after Rocky and Agman completed the 11 in the field, and finally the Octopus had their full complement of tentacles, as they strangled the Holtwhites openers. After 4 overs of quality opening bowling, Stu took a well deserved breather and Rocky, barely onto the field, took the ball and embarked on a memorable solo destruction mission that could only be described in the words of George Bush as "shock and awe".

 

With his only his second ball, he went straight through the opener's defence and a vociferous appeal for LBW was upheld seeing the batsman on his way. Before the new batsman took guard, Alex quipped that he had a very new looking bat, and this subtle distraction seemed to work a treat as the first ball demolished his stumps, and as the batsman departed the wreckage he looked quizzically at his bat as if it actually had a hole right in the middle of it.

 

Rocky on a hat trick, Octopus sensing blood like a shark who's come across a shipwreck.

 

The field surrounded the new batsman facing the hat trick ball, however with Rocky trying for another ripping inswinger the ball swerved down legside. A momentary stay of execution however...

 

In the very next over, Harsh using his subtle variation in pace, lured the opener into a false drive, and the man of the moment Rocky positioned perfectly for just such a stroke, snaffled a sharp catch at short cover. Holtwhites 21/3, three wickets for no runs and the Octopus were hysterical.

 

Next over and with Rocky now steaming in reminiscent of Waqar Younis in his pomp, the Holtwhites batsmen looked positively shit scared. Two balls flew past the clueless batsman, and it was no surprise that the next ball uprooted the off stump. 22/4, Rocky with 3 wickets in 5 balls and Octopus now in a state of ecstasy rarely seen on a cricket field.

 

An over from Harsh was safely negotiated before Rocky continued his blitzkrieg and picked up his fourth wicket, showing good reflexes to grab a caught and bowled, and Holtwhites looked out of it at 24/5, much like the Octopus team who were almost hyperventilating from all the excitement.

 

Completing a good spell, Harsh picked up his second wicket clean bowling the batsman with another crafty delivery. Agman then took up the assault with his left arm swing bowling. Rocky was finally being thwarted by the Holtwhites batsmen and a mixture of edges and bold hitting took the score to 55. However a dubiously taken run to square leg, the batsmen unaware of a shrewd change in the field by Harsh, saw Pete rifle a return to Alex, who swiftly removed the bails with the batsman short of his ground. Note to opponents - don't take on Pete "the Panther" Hayward...Holtwhites 55/7.

 

It was now Agman's turn to initiate his own version of shock and awe through the tail enders, first of all clean bowling the batsman, and sending the bail halfway to the boundary. Then next ball the batsman drove uppishly to Ogilvie at short cover, who calmly picked one of three he could see out of the air . Agman on a hat trick, Octopus surrounding the bat once again like bears at feeding time at the zoo, however the number 11 youngster survived, and the Octopus averted the display of unabashed pandemonium that would have ensued. A useful 12 run partnership took Holtwhites to 67 before Agman brought an end to the bloodshed, executing a perfect outswinger that Alex expertly pouched one handed in front of first slip.

 

End result, Holtwhites 67 all out and the Octopus heading to the lunch break with a spring in their step, applauded from the field by their hapless victims. After another typically exceptional lunch, Rocky and Pete set out on the chase for 68. With words ringing his ears from his fellow Octopi to the effect that "no total is too easy", "play yourself in" and "don't play any rash shots" - everyone aware of previous mishaps chasing small totals and spectacular collapses – Rocky took all this onboard, and said bugger to all that, taking a good sighter by launching the first ball straight over the bowlers head for 6, like an 8 iron from Tiger Woods.

 

With dark clouds looming not too far off in the distance and light rain beginning to fall, he took upon himself to finish off the carnage he began a few hours earlier in the quickest way possible. Boundaries flew in all directions, and even Pete got in on the act with a four cracked over the bowlers head that could have been mistaken for the blast of a shotgun. With a few runs needed, this author ventured forth on the sideline that "it's safe to say Holtwhites are our b*tch", then swiftly removed his size 12 foot from his mouth as fellow Octopi made him aware of the Holtwhites scorer and father of two of the team sitting in front of him... and in the 11th over victory was completed. However next year the Holtwhites 1st XI may be the opponents after two comprehensive victories by the Octopus.

 

Holtwhites slunk away, shunning the offer of a beer at the Woodend, but due to the early finish of the game a full quota of Octopus made it to the pub to enjoy a celebratory beer, which lead Stu to believe maybe the team should reverse the order of the day, and begin each game at a pub instead. The 7th win of the season, and on the horizon the but before that a match against Bavingdon. The two match losing streak ended, and Octopus looking to finish the season in style.

 

 

Warners End v Octopus CC - August 3rd 2008

 

A typically barmy, sizzling English Summers day* greeted the Octopi for their trip to Hemel Hempstead to play their annual fixture against the amusingly named Warner’s End Cricket Club.

 

Being an old fashioned lot the incorporation of technology into the team selection process in the form of ‘Google group notifications’ had successfully turned Thursday’s thirteen available Octopi into ten by Sunday with Gopi, Aagman and Simon K all politely making way for each other and thus all staying in London.

 

So it was that the ten trooped out onto Warner’s oval for the pitch inspection. What they found was a track more rugby pitch than cricket wicket. After mere seconds of analysis the universal reaction of the team and skipper was BOWL!!!

 

Harsh did the honours with the opposition skipper and probably still slightly out of kilter by having his nipple tweaked by a friendly granny on the train near Watford Junction duly lost the toss. The Warners captain waited barely a nanosecond before inserting the Octopus on their bog of a wicket.

 

The rest of the team retired to the Warners Pavilion – a crude warren of brown muddied changing rooms strangely and annoyingly devoid of any form of seating – while openers Harsh and Pete went to face the music.

 

Initially the music was a sweet sounding symphony with Hayward and Joshi effortlessly seeing off the opening bowlers. Pete in particular went straight onto the attack, uncharacteristically getting off the mark with a gun-shot sounding four cracked to the wide mid on boundary. The skipper too seemed to have put his nipple gripple trauma at the hands of the “Watford Granny” behind him as he moved comfortably to eleven.

 

However, the Octopus relief at the good start was short lived as Harsh just failed to clear deep mid on and departed the crease with the score at 31.

 

The reason for the lack of seating in the pavilion suddenly and frighteningly became apparent – none of the batsmen were going to need to sit down for very long!!

 

The middle order lasted about as long as a pork chop in Homer Simpson’s fridge. Rocky came and went for a typically good-looking dozen. Winter added a 4 with sumptuous on drive before being skittled trying to repeat the shot, while Ogilvie also found the fence with a shot he described in his own words as “ an exquisite extra cover drive in homage to the blubbing former England Skipper Vaughan" for his 4 before ballooning a sitter to point.

 

In the midst of this collapse Hayward also bowled for what turned out to be a team high 24. He strangely cited mental tiredness in accumulating this mammoth score as the reason for his uncharacteristic waft at a straight one – perhaps the generating of a 3D mental wagon wheel of his innings complete with annotation coupled with calculating his career batting average after every ball may have caused this mental lethargy.

 

Braham Jr’s unfortunate lack of footwork didn’t trouble the scorers and in a flash 31 for 1 had become 68/6.

 

Fortunately for Octopus a total disintegration was avoided by some fine marshalling of the lower order by Graham. Promoted up the order following the previous week’s last wicket heroics he managed to repeat the trick while overseeing the addition of a further invaluable 24 runs with Huffy, Ingram (added in his personal quest for the duck trophy on this occasion) and Shaky while hitting 15 himself.

 

92 for 9 all out in 30.5 overs was the final analysis after yet another collapse of epic proportions.

 

Tea was of course taken standing up in the chair-less pavilion but the best thinking is sometimes done on your feet and as the clouds got even gloomier the skipper hatched a plan.

Perhaps inspired by Martin Crowe’s decision to open with off-spinner Dipak Patel in the 1992 World Cup Harsh threw the ball to resident Octopus leggy Mr Marsh.

 

Opening the bowling with leg spin seemed to rattle both the Warner’s players and umpires.

 

Marsh immediately found a good line and length that troubled the openers who were obvious more used to medium pace. However, as soon as Graham dropped his length (so short in fact that the ball may not quite have been legal delivery due to some extra opportunities to bounce) the batsman took the chance to cut loose by hitting out, unfortunately for him the ball went straight to Ogilvie lurking at mid-off. Their umpire was obviously slightly bamboozled by the whole affair and raised the dreaded finger despite mutterings from the departing batsman.

 

1 for none and the Octopus were on their way!!

 

With Stu opening from the other end and moving the ball away nicely the pressure was suddenly on Warners.

 

The Marsh-Ogilvie combination worked again in over number three to remove their second opener and with some better umpiring to the Marsh googly it would have been three down as a plumb LBW was turned down.

 

Sensing an opportunity and with now constant drizzle making the pitch very skiddy it was now time for the express pace of Rocky from the Pavilion end. After beating the bat with a couple of sizzling deliveries Rocky found his mark and castled the Warners number 4 to leave them precariously placed at 31-3.

 

Octopus sensed the chance to go for the kill….Warners sensed the need to regroup and with the new batsman delaying his arrival the umpires signalled a break for rain.

 

The break only served to further energise the Octopi and with the rain quickening the pitch and slowing the outfield there was a now a real chance as the Warners middle order wobbled. Good chat from the infiled and excellent ground fielding from boundary riders heightened the pressure.

 

Rocky and Stu were now fully into their fast bowling stride and with assistance from the pitch coupled with a few nerves from the Warners line-up the wickets started to tumble. Two cleaned bowled wickets each for the deadly duo saw the tail exposed.

 

These dismissals were complimented by a wonderful piece of bowling from Rocky to induce an edge that was superbly snaffled by Harsh in the gully - “Wow, that was just like proper cricket!!” was the somewhat surprised but euphoric reaction from Octopus team.

 

83-8 and the Octopus just needed two more wickets for an unlikely victory.

 

Unfortunately it was not to be on this grey day as aerial shots went in gaps and good balls went by the stumps.

 

Victory for Warners by a narrow margin, but a good performance salvaged by Octopus.

 

The victors generously laid on some good hot food at the local pub (complete with seating!!) and then it was back on the train for the journey home (complete with excellent cricket chat!!)

 

The day finished with the skipper surreptitiously covering his right nipple as we sped through Watford Junction.

 

*Actual weather murky grey and drizzly with the constant threat of rain but wanted to start on a positive note.

 

 

Octopus CC v 12 Angry Men - July 13th 2008

 

The be-tentacled Willow wielding warriors, rested from battle while the rain fell the previous week now had the 12 Angry men in their crosshairs. With trigger fingers itchier than ill fitting woollen underwear, the Aloysius Battalion gathered in preparation for the age old battle of bat V ball.

 

The troops on each side convened in the standard dribs and drabs, with a cabal of West Indians swelling the opposition number on a bright summers afternoon. The call to arms had reached the burgeoning, mostly kiwi, Octopus fan club with several chairs positioned on the clinically aligned symmetrical boundary.

 

Skip for the day Ogilvie did what he does best as skipper and lost the toss. A combination of jedi mind tricks, subtle persuasion and hungover physical menace ensured the Octopi were padding up and striding to the middle. A solid beachhead was secured by Hayward and Krishna with the latter re-twanging his hamstring before a shot had been played in anger. Like John Rambo with a slightly higher percentage of body fat Gopi stood firm repelling the leathery onslaught securing 29 of the queens runs before his defence was breached. Shot shy Bisht didn’t last long, bringing Octettes™* favourite Winter to the front line. The brothers in arms were soon parted after some ingramesque hesitation from Hayward resulted in a Platoon aping knee slide / run out combo.

 

N-n-n-n-n-n-n-ineteen year old** Hodge into battle for his first tour of duty. No sooner had pleasantries been exchanged Winter was on his way back to the Octettes™, victim of a smart caught and bowled. Skipper to the crease. The battle plan was hatched: a perfect two pronged attack - Private Hodge picking up the runs with a snipers precision while Captain Ogilvie unleashed a caution free shot selection policy rarely witnessed outside of “friendly fire” tribunal testimony.

 

66 runs were added before Captain O fell in the line of duty. Octopus now in sight of a decent total.

 

It was left to Hodge to do battle with ANZAC import Knowles, adding 8 before his stumps were cast asunder by the West Indian mercenary Franklin.

 

A moment of quiet descends the field of dreams as Aagman Bauri enters the fray. The horrors of war are etched into his face, as the stark prospect of another scoreless innings sparks another bout of post traumatic stress disorder…the screen goes wavy as the lazy ‘nam sterotype flashback kicks in….

 

…Aagman is terrified. Separated from his platoon, the sound of approaching Charlie is coming at him from all angles as he runs through the dense north London undergrowth,. The coarse foliage is tearing at his once pristine whites and Duncan Fearnly combat equipment. He can sense them gaining pace, the panic now rising with every strained step as the 20 foot yellow plastic duck tethered to his waist gets heavier and heavier. He can go no further. The duck is laughing now, quacking insanely as the red bullets arc through the muggy, oppressive sky…

 

Aagman comes to, clinging to his bat, rocking back and forth like a mentally damaged polar bear. Will gently coaxes him out of the foetal position to the strikers end whispering “it’ll be okay man, just tip and run. We can do this man”

 

The bowler is into his delivery stride, the Octettes™ look on nervously as a quivering Aagman awaits his fate. The looping ball sails through the air as time seems to slows down. With both eyes fully closed he makes contact and the ball drops to short cover. The sound of leather on willow snaps our hero to full alert and he calls the (suicide) single: “YEEEESSSSSSSS”. Slow motion resumes as a wide eyed Hodge takes off. Aagman, arms flailing like a drowning paraplegic, is into a sprint. As Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkaryies” blasts out over the bright Highgate sky, Hodge goes airborn, determination ingrained in his now war torn features. Stretching with every sinew he makes his ground a faction before the bails tumble. The run is given, the crowd goes wild as deep within Private Baury’s sub conscience a blindfolded plastic duck is put to the firing squad.

 

Like a forgetful dog the tail wags sporadically with Private Hodge marshalling the troops to 200 all out and the highest total of the season.

 

Retiring to the mess hall for a fantastic feed courtesy of Mrs Krishna, the assembled troops were soon ready for action.

 

With an Injured Rambo Krishna now being held together with barbed wire, an improvised jockstrap and the love of his good wife, Octopus were down to 10 fit men.

Heroes don’t die – they just reload as Krishna hangs onto a shell at first slip. First blood to the good guys: 1 for 1.

 

An intense early barrage of aggressive bowling had the Angry top order falling like drunk toddlers in a three legged race. Soon 5 down with only 29 on the board, the Angries were staring down the barrel.

 

A combination of Captain Ogilvie’s combat rotation policy and some strong middle order résistance had the score steadily creep up. Special opps Hayward’s blitzkrieg of wide, straight, quick, slow, wide had the Angries in knots as an off cutter slipped through the Hibbert defence like a Vaseline clad Andy Mcnab. Lee soon followed him back to the hutch as Knowles first sortie in 3 years knocked back the leg stump. 76-7, surely no way back now. Surely?

 

The Angry men showed their mettle and chipped away at the score, run by run with Mercenary Franklin digging in. It soon became clear with Franklin turning his end into the Russian front we needed to break supply lines and outflank the Angries at the other end.

 

With the big guns now back on, run machine Baury induced a skyer from Hadfield which Ingram clung onto. Partnership broken, Middleton to the crease. The number 10 showed the kind of sterling résistance the French could only dream of, nudging and nurdling in tandem with the free hitting Franklin to within 35 of their target before offering a return catch to Reid.

 

Last man Meadows was a walking wicket and he knew it. Some expert strike stealing from Franklin took them to within 18 of the seemingly unsurpassable total. It proved to be one scrambled run too many as the ball ricocheted off the shot-shy Meadows and invoking an oft un-used rule and the leg bye was chalked off for no shot being offered. Meadows trudged back to the line of fire. One ball later Reid had him LBW and the game was up.

 

Hard fought with great spirit from both sides but there can only be one winner.

 

Viva la Octopus!

 

* Octettes™ = the female Octopus supporters club

 

**May not be actual age

 

 

Octopus CC v Finchley CC - June 29th 2008

 

There are few things that make an octopus heart sink more than the sight of the very old, the very young or the very female lining up for the opposition. Finchley, our esteemed guests from down the road, included two of the three. The prospect of being castled by foetus, fogie or female is not one to relish but like the stomach of an obese Vegas blackjack player - it was on the cards.

 

With players hailing from as far as India, New Zealand, Canada and the Peoples Republic of Bristol, on paper it was one of the strongest XI we've put out for quite a while. Unfortunately 5 of them remained on paper, with only 6 on site for the 2pm kick off. Winning the toss by virtue of only having half a team is nothing to be proud of, but remarkably effective.

 

In light of Pete's absence the skipper opened with former new ball refusenick Rocky. A mere 24 on the board before Rocky was bowled for 9. Like women and technology the new ball and Rocky clearly don't mix. Pete up next. Harsh continued to take the game to the Finchley opening bowlers before first change Shipley persuaded the skipper to scoop one to square leg for a swashbuckling 35.

 

In light of Agman working to central European time Alex "McCullum" Winter was up next.

 

The Alex and Pete show lasted about as a long as Amy Whinehouse in rehab. Pete's extended tube journey clearly upsetting his equilibrium, unable to go through his pre match rituals of stretching, stat preparation and reciting Richie Beneuad commentary vignettes from 1993 he fell LBW for 4.

 

Gopi in next. When one thinks of Gopi one thinks of many things; the ying and yang of his outrageous outfield catches and drops, chatting on the phone at square leg - possibly ordering Pizza, the sight of him turning up to matches on a scooter with full kit, his infamous 100 partnership with Syd for the 9th wicket are just a few.

 

One image rarely conjured is: Gopi = Athlete.

 

So it was a mixture of shock, awe and inevitability as he took off for a single so quickly there was a sonic boom! Well, I say sonic boom, it turned out to be the audible twang of his hamstring snapping quicker than a menopausal woman. Oh Dear. Gopi off, retired hurt with hamstring knack.

 

Ogilvie to the crease with a man sized hangover and a form of beer induced tourettes that causes the sufferer to keep shouting "I was in Poland this morning". The runs continued with Alex smashing a maximum to the long on boundary "How great was that? My first ever sucks and my girlfriend is watching too". Having watched "Once were warriors" the booze addled brain of Ogilvie managed to process this as celebration of hitting a six rather some bizarre kiwi sexual perversion.

 

Blows were traded and a quick fire 30 ish was added before it was one heaving scythe too many and Macca was bowled for a credible 26. Knowlesy to the fore. It was fairly evident this was going to be a battle between the batsmen; a battle for who had the biggest hangover. This was aptly illustrated after Ogilvie called a sprint single which effectively stopped any further runs for about 10 minutes. Then calamity struck; they bought on the girl.

 

Sobering up rapidly Knowles and Ogilvie proceeded to make Miss Begg look like Malcolm Marshall. Ogilvie chasing wides to get off strike and Knowles defending like the Russians at Stalingrad. Sensing their opportunity Finchley then bring on a foetus at the other end. Cricketing kryptonite to the Octopi. Still patting himself on the back after a majestic cover drive Knowles missed a straight one that turned and was bowled by Miss Begg.......

 

The screen goes wavy as the lazy Octopus national stereotype flash forward kicks in

 

....12 hours later somewhere in Clapham the full weight of what happened hits him. A slumbering Knowlesy shoots bolt upright in bed, hyperventilating, a clammy sweat enveloping his full Maori tattooed body, his all black shirt clinging. Emanating from deep within, a blood curdling "NOOOOOOO" erupts, waking the 18 other bar staff he shares his bed-sit with.

 

A wicket in sound:

 

woosh; clatter; owzat? not out.

WOOOOOSH; clatter; owwwwzeeeee?, out.

 

Agman stumped for exactly no runs. Ladbrokes stop taking bets as the duck trophy beckons.

 

With wickets falling faster than Hong Kong chicken farmers during a SARS outbreak, Ogilvie and Reid assess the situation and agree a cautious approach. This is promptly ignored as Sam does a randy dog impersonation and humps everything to leg before being trapped LBW. A hat trick of LBW's was complete as Ogilvie was Harshly adjudged leg before from the bowling foetus (Harsh was the umpire, the decision was a fair one). Ogilvie trudged off muttering "I was in Poland this morning...that little shit better end up playing for England"

 

Ingram, fresh and new at the crease now joined by a second hand Gopi - with Rocky as runner. Ingram then got run out. I could leave it there but I shouldn't, I can't and I won't. Gopi struck a firm shot to midwicket and Rocky took off for the easy two. Simon looked up and saw a stationary Gopi and a running Rocky, whimpered slightly, (allegations that a bit of wee entered the play at this point are strenuously denied), he then looked at his bat, then the ball, did a Sudoku, a quick cha-cha-cha half way down the crease, put on his clown outfit, went back to his crease, exchanged confused glances with Rocky - who promptly ran back. Simon then gave chase, honking his clown's nose in Gopi's general direction, turned, fell over his bucket of glitter and was promptly run out.

 

There was more action to finish off the innings but alas, the tears in my eyes and the pain in my side curtailed any further analysis.

 

Finchley chasing 166 to win.

 

To cut a long story short we won. Here are some of the highlights;

 

* Reid takes a wicket first ball of the innings: An anchored Gopi, manfully battling on at first slip, unable to get out of the way as he juggled the edged ball (training from Coco Ingram?) before clasping it at the second attempt.

 

* Long left-right partnership infuriating a hobbling Gopi.

 

* An early reprieve for the young tyke, dropped by Rocky off the Bowling of Ogilvie. There are people who have no thumbs that would have been disappointed. Inexplicable!

 

* Building in confidence he heckles himself after being given not out caught behind – again off Ogilvie: “is it past my bed time?”

 

* Ogilvie smashed out of the attack by Ian “foetus” Botham. A furious Ogilvie cancels his direct debit to save the children.

 

* Redemption! A smart one handed catch at extra cover by Ogilvie sends Hatchett back to his crayons! Giving Ogilvie the last (multi hyphened) word: come-back-when-your-voice-drops-young-sonny-jim-i-was-in-poland-this-morning.

 

* Superb run out by Knowlsey from first slip to the bowlers end sends him off on a lap of the field in celebration, arms wind-milling like crack addled wind turbine.

 

* Always breaking the ladies hearts, Harsh catches out Ms Begg after a resolute 6.

 

The skipper wraps up the tail as Finchley fall 30 runs short.

 

The Landlords up next – will the run continue? Will Gopi’s hamstring recover? Will stuart resume his save the children direct debit? Will Simon join the circus? Will Mark get a mention in the match report?

 

For answers to all of these question and more stay tuned to www.octopuscc.co.uk

 

 

Enfield Invicta CC v Octopus CC - June 1st 2008

 

Early week rain gave way to murky clouds as the countdown to only our second game of the season counted down in the standard hour by hour, day by day format that some bloke with a sun dial in Greenwich invented.

 

Early week radio silence from Invicta had us fearing the worst, especially as their previous offering consisted of 3 players, one of whom was 11 years old. Good things come to those who wait however and the call came. Weather permitting we were game on......

 

In weather terms, the early English "summer" has been one big shit sandwich and we've all been taking a series of shit filled soggy bites. The law of sod is fairly clear on this subject:

 

“If thou has 12 players, I bring forth the piss of the gods, to sodden the outfield and saturate the square. If thou cancels a match, say on a Wednesday, the fire of the gods will warm the field of dreams and the suns rays will taunt you with every life giving second of their ultraviolet splendour.”

 

Good old Sod, nothing if not eloquent.

 

With the clouds convening and 12 Octopi vying to pull on the famous shirt, sod was poised to strike. It was therefore with mixed emotions that a series of withdrawals and hasty replacements saw us with 11 on Saturday evening. The clouds held their watery payload and we were indeed game on.

 

Invicta's ground is an odd shaped arena with small boundary’s mixing it with longer efforts, all set at peculiar angles to each other – a bit like Peter Crouch trying to hump a midget. The ménage a deux was encircled with ball enveloping, nettle stinging, bramble scratching greenery. It had all the hall marks of a tranquil village setting, spoiled only by the tinnitus inducing qualities of the nearby M25. The outfield was almost squelching underfoot and the square was only a little better, prompting the comment "this is basically rolled mud".

 

The lucky dip team selection continued with Waqas and mate AWOL. We were down to an all too familiar 9.

 

Harsh sploshed to the middle with Invicta's Mike Gatting-a-like skipper, won the toss and elected to bat.

 

STAT ALERT: The Octopus opening partnership of James and Hayward had faced a combined total of 3 balls between them since last season.

 

It soon showed.

 

AJ failed to pick up a full one and was bowled for a nice round quacking number and after a few nice strokes Hayward went agricultural, with all the effective output of a 1980's Ethiopian farmer. Harsh and Gopi were now at the crease, passing Raul Dravids "Big book of dull defensive Cricket shots" back and forth between overs. The Skipper hung around until the 8th over, copping one on his big toe before receiving an unplayable in-swinger which did loads off the pitch, parting his inscrutable defence, splaying the timber*. 12-3.

 

The shout of "we'll be home for songs of praise" was a fair one. "We'll catch the end of country file if this continues" slightly less fair and the battle cry of "come on lads, lets make sure we're not home before last of the summer wine starts" would have made Braveheart weep salty tears of defiance.

 

I shall sum up the rest of the innings using a metaphor:

 

The innings was like a bookshelf.

 

On the bookshelf were 4 books and a pamphlet. One of the books was the aforementioned Dravid tome, another, the newly released "Ogilvie's Slog selection: the agricultural edition". The pamphlet was entitled "New Zealand tail wagging and the dogs who wag them". Either side of these volumes were two well thumbed copies of a book which every Octopi past and present has read: "The Octopus CC guide to batting collapses".

 

Ogilvie's innings of 47 was brought to an end after the rotund long on improbably caught one with snow on. Claims he'd mistaken the ball for a limited edition Terry's Chocolate Orange are still unfounded.

 

With the 85 run partnership at an end Gopi decided to call it a day later that over, having made 31. Some late innings hitting from Alex saw the 9 limp to 122 all out.

 

Due to our profligate batting the oppo asked for a quick turnaround and 8 overs before grub was up. Invicta, clearly with their minds on the sarnies and quaking at the sight of the Octopus President sub fielding at long off, were in early trouble. First blood (second if you count Harsh's claret filled sock) went to Gopi, Inducing a nick behind, which stand in keeper Harsh expertly snaffled. The Gopi Show continued - taking a sharp diving/collapsing catch at point off the bowling of Ogilvie. Not many for 2 at tea.

 

Cricket is one of a select few sports where the participants can actually finish a game with more calories on board than they started with e.g.

 

Stood at slip scratching arse for whole of innings + Extra helpings of Mrs Muggins Cream Tea + 8th wicket partnership of 0 = net 1000+ calories.

 

There is undoubtedly some research to be done into this and I think the ratio between average waist size and boundary circumference is definitely an area of interest, with Invicta a good place to start!

 

The game was evenly poised at the resumption - a few quick wickets and Invicta would be speed reading the “Octopus CC guide to batting collapses”.

 

Alas it was not to be. The number four earned a second chance after being dropped off the bowling of Hough and didn’t look back. With President Steve departed and the sub fielder doing a Waqas the small field suddenly seemed very big. Knocking off the singles and the increasingly frequent boundaries only one more wicket fell - another caught behind from Huffy’s bowling – before the total was surpassed and the Octopus 2008 undefeated record lay in tatters.

Back home for Time Team with Tony Robinson. Result!

 

*Translation: Terrible shot to a straight one.

 

 

Octopus CC v Henleaze old Boys CC - May 4th 2008

 

Pre match tension, post game trauma.

With the season barely underway the annual Octopus V Henleaze old Boys match loomed large on the fixture list. The vagaries of an English summer mean that the only guarantee you can put on the weather is that it will keep you on your toes. Near constant rain in the build up to this illustrious occasion had the groundsman kept firmly in the pavilion, leading to the square receiving as much attention as a fat lass at a party. By Thursday the weather had cleared, but by the time this had happened the fat lass had done one. Probably to get some chips.

 

Early season wickets are supposed to be green but the hallowed turf of St Aloysius had developed it's own eco system; short square leg was home to a small family of badgers, cover point had yielded a fruitful early season crop of rhubarb and the slip region was being patrolled by a displaced member of the Vietcong - laying mines and generally trying to further the communist cause. Evidently not fit for a game of cricket. Even against the badger loving, rhubarb eating Bristolian commies.

 

What to do? A dozen Bristolians were by now half way up the M4 in a mini bus, soberly eyeing up the barrel of Cider, that by regional stereotype law, has to accompany all West Country citizens out of the region.

 

Salvation arrived in the form of the newly laid all weather strip at fortress Aloysius -GAME ON.

 

The usual farcical coin-less toss took place and after deciding that we wanted a bat and they wanted a bowl we did exactly that.

 

The line up saw a couple of Octopus debuts: Graham the twirler, Knowlesy the Kiwi and Sunny the erm, er, colleague of Rocky’s. Ingram, fresh from a winter of 2,000 hours in the Oval nets opened the batting for Octopus with Bisht for company.

 

The finer points regarding the nuances of every cut, pull and leave aren’t always necessary in a match report. This is one of those occasions. Rocky’s 50 came up for the loss of no wickets with 55 on the board. Extras were second top score. By the time Ingram departed for a hard fought, 2007 average tripling, 5 runs, more than 11 overs had been survived. Hundreds of miles away in Yorkshire an involuntary shiver ran down Sir Geoffrey Boycott’s back.

 

Harsh came to the fore, striding to the plastic pitch with purpose and run scoring intent etched onto his captain-like face. The dream team weren’t together long before Rocky decided smashing it to the boundary was passé and delicate taps to fielders were more his thing. Agman up next. Agman gone next. Run out without facing a ball, after some smart work by HOB Adams and some over eager backing up - the pace has been set for the 2008 duck trophy.

 

Gopi kept Harsh company for a hard fought 7 before mistiming a drive off the skipper – not the last time the sluggish synthetic conspired against the willow. Sunny to the crease. Harsh’s innings didn’t last much longer, one nipping back from the dangerous Davies to tumble the timber.

 

Hosepipe bans, bank holiday traffic jams, wasps, burnt-on-the-outside-raw-on-the-inside-sausages, Glastonbury mud baths and Octopus batting collapses. What do they have in common? They’re all inevitable, annoying, English summer occurrences. Gopi a goner: Ogilvie into the action. Sunny didn’t hang about much longer, with another dangerous Davies delivery doing the damage. Knowlesy in at 8 and off the mark first ball. The dibbly-dobblers of Ashford were into the attack, with a god mix of slow and extra slow keeping the score down. It was however, Davies striking next, picking up his third with Ogilvie splicing one to SJ Smith at mid on that saw the collapse keeping momentum. Graham into the game. Ashford wound one up and surprised Knowlesy with a genuine medium pacer that cleared him out. Gloveman Braham up at 10 and the Clingfilm was coming off the sandwiches. The flies didn’t get too much opportunity to feast on the cheese and tomato, as a mistimed drive apiece from Graham and Braham saw a stranded shaky the only average-less Octopi. Half time oranges came with the home team all out for lightweight 125, from one ball shy of 31 overs.

 

The mind games kicked off over tea, with Ogilvie cunningly playing down the home teams chances of defending the below par score. There were however, 3 weapons in the Octopi arsenal that gave quiet hope to the multi limbed sea dwellers;

 

1) Rocky;

 

2) Our swing friendly new ball; and

 

3) A massive barrel of Cider that the Old Boy’s were being drawn towards with gravitational force

 

Bisht and Ogilvie opened up with the new cherry. The good cop / bad cop openers of Davies and Serjeant dealt with the tidy bowling in different ways; good cop Davies, playing by the book, and paying the price by taking a couple of severe blows before ultimately being yorked by Rocky. Bad cop Serj swinging from the hip, with the ball “falling down the stairs, guv” on a couple of occasions before it was one extrajudicial blow too far - sunny taking a fine catch on the drive from the bowling of Bisht.

 

The change bowlers of Agman and Sunny kept the pressure going, with Sunny’s cha-cha-cha inspired bowling technique of quick-quick-slow-slow claiming the wicket of Serjeant the younger and Agman toppling the skipper, both for got-in-then-out 12’s. The Old Boys meandered on through the innings with Lamshead the junior showing some stern resistance and a fine line in gurning, Sam was saying hello then goodbye to Smith the fatter after a useful 17, caught by harsh from Agman and Fillingham the knee knacked for 6, bowled by Sunny.

 

The wickets were falling with enough resistance to see the Old Boys well on top in terms of runs on the board with the face-ache Lamshead compiling his boundary-less runs the hard way. The skipper bought himself into the attack and unleashed the worst ball he’ll ever bowl to claim a wicket! The barely legal delivery had just enough legs to avoid the second bounce, the advancing Lamshead and tickle the timber to dislodge the bails –gone for a noteworthy 27.

 

With the requisite runs required in sight, the bums of all present were squeaking like a cadre of castrated cats. Bisht back into the attack, keeping it tight but his remaining overs proving wicket less. Ogilvie now in tandem with the skipper and some extra bounce induced Adams to loop a catch to Rocky after a tail wagging 12. Ashford, fresh form a liberal sprinkling of Cheddar Valley, was now sharing the crease with penultimate batsman Zographou - the score, a tantalising 15 from victory.

 

Harsh continuing from the tree end of fortress Aloysius and a straight one thumping into the pads saw a reluctant finger go up, the Greek go off and Octopus on the verge.

 

Perennial bat shy no.11 Caller up the crease, 10 short of victory and facing a fired up Ogilvie. Beating the bat was of little consolation but Callers casual leave of one that had bowler and umpire intaking breath sharply, as it missed leg stump by a fraction gave hope.

 

Ball four of Ogilvie’s last over proved decisive in the match and Mr Callers immediate medical future. Using the force, Ogilvie guided the delivery like a photon torpedo into the heart of the death star, nutmeging the bewildered batsman and thwacking into the pad-less knee of the back leg. Honest skipper smith raised the finger of doom and victory was secured! Joviality encompassed the fielders and bum holes collectively relaxed.

 

The scenes of Joy were quickly rescinded as it became apparent the delivery had cost Caller more than his wicket and HOB’s the match.

 

As Leigh was carried from the field, it was a strange mixture of guilt and pride that consumed Ogilvie as the Tom and Jerry like lump and seam mark combo were revealed to the crowd. As the assembled cricketers continued to tap the barrel of apple based loony juice, it became clear that an evening in Soho was going to have to make way for Songs of praise, the antiques road show and a carefully placed bag of frozen peas for young Leigh. Or so we thought….

 

……Back at HOB tour HQ, Mrs Ogilvie kept a watchful eye on the injured and with the knee steadily growing and the pain increasing the paramedics were called in. A hit of gas and air with a morphine chaser saw Leigh floating off to casualty. Two nights of MRSA dodging ensued, before the x-rays and MRI cleared the knee of long term knack and burst blood vessel diagnoses.

 

Being a caring lot, the rest of the team drank the night away in various Soho flea pits, eschewing gay bars and bemoaning the price of London beer.

 

The trophy remains in all 8 tentacles until the Old Boys host the return in June.