The weekend double-header started with a Saturday evening game of hit-and-giggle, which saw the Old Boys’ batsmen doing plenty of hitting, and their bowlers plenty of giggling at Barbarian attempts to do the same. The Old Barbarians saw welcome cameo appearances from Rammers and Plenders in Baabaa colours, but even these two yeomen were not enough to resist the horde of Finnish runs, and the visitors ran out winners, among much muttering from Baabaa conservatives that Twenty20 isn’t a real game and it doesn’t count.
The teams regrouped on the Sunday for a proper match to resolve the destination of the Ryland Gibbs-Harris trophy for the year. Having failed to chase effectively the previous evening it was decided that the Barbarians would try again and captain Bummers led his team into the field, skipping and gambolling like spring lambs, or skidding and gambling like sprung mutton, depending on who had partaken of the pre-match G&Ts.
Bummers opened with his brace of trundlers, the military medium of Stiffers and the Kiwi medium of Bevvers, and they pinned the oppo firmly down before the dodgy umpire sprung his trigger finger and returned the openers after they had been rapped on the pads, with Bevvers adding the number three for good measure. With wickets coming faster than boundaries, the Old Boys started to dig in and hunkered down for an attritional grind. Twenty overs passed with Tiffers and Sashers pounding in and Koggers and Pippers floating in, with only Garners’ solitary breakthrough to show. The visitors were unused to the slow outfield and at first scored at a run rate that qualifies only as ticking over, with Bummers keeping his field and the screws tight, but as the innings moved into its later stages the scoring rate and the fielding captain’s heart-rate both inched steadily upwards.
Eventually Bummers decided that he had had enough and it was time to put an end to the matter, so he called in his strikeforce to finish things off. Limbs creaking after their mauling on a rugby pitch the previous day, Robbers and Stiffers wrapped up the remaining five wickets in two and a half overs, four of them neatly castled, the other seeing the lightning reflexes of Pippers and Dungers combining to beat the septuagenarian running to the danger end for speed, while Vangelis hummed in the background. The Old Boys had, however, posted a challenging total that was going to require solid contributions all down the order if the Baabaas were to chase it down.
They duly set off in the determined style with Sashers swinging and Dungers defending, both building a base before going aerial to pepper the boundary. Sashers in particular took a dislike to the square leg umpire and fired several vicious volleys straight at his head, missing each time and finding only the rope. With fifteen overs gone and as many runs as the Old Boys had had at that point for a sight fewer wickets, the openers decided they had done their share and they took their leave to go for a bit of a breather. This allowed the Baabaa middle order to step up to the plate and show its mettle, but the mettle turned out to be somewhat rusty and the brave batsmen stepped up instead to the block, each one dispatched with a sharp swing of the umpire’s finger before reaching double figures. The big-hitting Bummers, Tiffers and Pippers all hit hard and high and what goes up must indeed come down, and so it did, straight to a fieldsman each time. Koggers, the hero of Helsinki, couldn’t reproduce his defensive form of that day and missed a straight one, while the dashing duo of Bevvers and Chizzers attempted to live by the sword but instead perished by it, stumped and c&b, but not for want of trying. With the boundary rope untroubled by the procession, and with the tail coming in, Baabaa hearts and hopes were slowly sinking like the late summer sun. The Old Barbarian lower order of bloodhounds – those who are sent in after the rabbits – did offer some hope of entertainment however. Having already participated in one amusing hat-trick in Helsinki, the comedy batting duo of Robbers and Garners were again sent in one after another, Robbers doing the necessary to his first ball and Garners then chipping his first delicately up to short extra, but the fielder politely decided that two hat-tricks in two matches would be too much and watched the ball plop gently to the turf beside him. The reprieve didn’t matter much though, as Stiffers promptly fell on his bayonet and the innings folded.
The chase had again proven a boundary too far for the Barbarian batsmen, but they had not been found wanting in spirit, especially the spirit that is forty proof and goes nicely with quinine and lemon. A sterling effort on and off the battlefield and a weekend of enjoyment all round were in the end much the most important things that all involved will remember, whichever side of the water the Gibbs-Harris trophy may finally have ended up.