Report: Shakespeare tragicomedy in SW6
Jesters 300-8 dec (Harris 97, Shakespeare 54)
Hurlingham 253-9 (Bridcut 3-56, Shakespeare 3-66)
Hurlingham's final pair clung on to deny us victory in SW6. Earlier, Louis Harris came agonisingly close to notching two Jesters hundreds in a row but was run out by his partner for 97. Captain Jonny Bridcut has penned the tragicomedy...
The Jesters, having lost the toss, were invited to bat first on the usual Hurlingham belter, much to the delight of Simon Butler, returning to the side on the back of three hundreds in three fixtures here.
However, all good things must come to an end, as it took the home side only seven balls to remove their nemesis (who had also been dropped and reprieved by the umpire within the previous six balls!).
With Simon back in the shed, we found ourselves in the unusual scenario where another Jester would need to take the responsibility of masterminding the innings.
Up stood Louis Harris, fresh off the back of a rampant 144 the week before. It did not take long for Louis to find his stride, making the most of the short boundary towards the clubhouse.
Louis built steady partnerships with the wounded warrior Rowan Clapp (20) and the resurgent Mike Palmer (35), before Mike suffered a brain-freeze the ball before lunch. Still, 145/4 at the interval was a healthy platform, with Louis (68*) well poised for back-to-back hundreds.
As Louis politely stole his lunch from other picnic-goers, all he could think about was the Arnold Woods trophy. Would successive tons bring him the season's biggest prize?
After promising, but brief, contributions from Shorbo Nag and Karim Sutton, the Jesters soon found themselves on 197/6, a fair way from a par score, but with Louis in commanding form on 89*. Out strode Andy Shakespeare for his debut Jesters' innings. His first task? To see his senior partner through to three figures.
However, Andy had his own script to follow. With all the world his stage, he smote the home attack to far-flung corners of SW6. The 50 partnership came up within 29 deliveries, with Louis contributing 3 and Andy an astonishing 45 (with one of his pull shots clearing the 100 yard boundary, the large netting, the wall and the road…). The Jesters had unearthed a second Rowan Clapp, though this one can bowl!
Triumph soon turned to calamity as the play took a chilling twist. With Louis at the non-striker's end on 97, Andy pushed one into the off side and called for a rapid, and desperate, single. Louis, the epitomy of a team player, trusted the call implicitly. And foolishly. The throw came in, the bails were removed, with Louis out of the frame. This was very midsummer madness. With his head raised to the skies and arms aloft, he stormed off to the far side of the ground, away from his teammates and supporters, to seek solace on a remote park bench.
Andy was joined by his skipper, who immediately told him not to worry in the slightest. Andy eased his way past 50 (off 32 balls) though soon fell on his already-bloodied sword, lofting one down long-off's throat. The better part of valour is discretion… with an array of powerful nudges behind square, the skipper saw the visitors through to 300, which brought an immediate declaration.
The hosts started their chase in positive fashion, though before long Shakespeare began to control the narrative, with a fiery opening spell of 3/30. With the skipper and Andy Mortimer also chipping in with wickets, Hurlingham had lost half their team with just 67 on the board.
However, a useful 6th wicket partnership of 55 steadied their ship, and it took the creative intervention of the forlorn Harris to bring a wicket – the inevitable full toss slapped to cow.
This brought to the wicket the departing batsman's father, on debut for the club. After a solid but unspectacular start, the former Kent player suddenly found his feet and took heavy toll on the visiting spinners, as well as the Hurlingham azaleas, striking three sixes in four balls. Racing to 50 in 35 balls, with just enough overs remaining if the onslaught continued at such pace, all four results appeared to be back on the table.
With the field spread and the boundaries protected, the skipper eventually managed to squeeze one past his flashing blade and into his off stump, ending a superb innings of 77 off 46 balls.
The very next ball Karim Sutton took a sharp catch at slip, having previously taken an equally impressive return catch off his own bowling, to reduce the hosts to 231/9 with 5 overs still to go.
However, the last pair safely negotiated anything the visitors could throw at them before the curtain came down, with a draw probably the fair result.
Many thanks, as ever, to Hurlingham for their wonderful hospitality and we look forward to another cracking game next year.