It was great to spend a day away from work today. Well, sort of. I was playing cricket, but with a bunch of wine trade colleagues, but that doesn’t count as work, does it?
Today’s game: the Wine Trade XI versus Gents of Essex at Coggeshall, a lovely ground in the Essex countryside that’s used as a county second XI venue. The pitch is invariably what is described by seasoned cricketers as ‘a road’, meaning that it’s so flat and consistent it favours the batsmen over the bowlers. This makes it great for pros who are bunging the ball down at 80 mph+. For the likes of me, it can make life a little harder, especially if you are bowling against good club-standard batsmen.
I met up with five others from the Wine Trade XI at Liverpool Street, where we boarded the 1018 to Kelvedon. We sat there in the carriage for an hour and a half before the train finally left, and the total journey time was 3 hours, which is 2 hours 20 minutes longer than it should have been . As a result, our side batted first, and so by the time we arrived, just in time for lunch, we hadn’t been missed as Mark Leveson-Gower, Geoff Taylor and Howard Sayers had put on 100 with just the loss of Geoff.
Lunchtime was accompanied a lot of wine. From memory, I recall trying the 2001 Ashbourne (the icon Pinotage – no, don’t snigger – from Hamilton Russell which was refined but very green), Esk Valley Verdelho, Storks Tower Cuesta del Aire red and white (a very attractive fruit-driven Spanish pair), Nicolas Potel Bourgogne Rouge 2004 (a bit herby/stalky), Zontes’ Footstep’s high end red (very rich and soupy with lots of everything, but fun if you are in the mood), Quinta de Sant’Ana red 2007 Estremadura, Portugal (lovely fresh, fruit-driven red with a hint of meatiness – very nice), Quinta de Sant’Ana Sauvignon 2008 (very impressive with lovely Sauvignon character), Quinta de Sant’Ana Fenao Pires 2008 (brilliant, fresh rendition of this variety), and Rosso di Montalcino and a Lazio white from Howard Sayers that were delicious. It was the best set of wines I can remember at a wine trade match.
After lunch we did the English thing and had a slight middle order collapse, but no.8, Sam Harrop, began to attack the Gents’ spin bowlers with some fearsome hitting. He was eventually out for 49, which represented an awesome effort, and helped us on our way to a respectable-ish total of 213. The comedy moment was probably John Worontschak going out to bat and only realising he didn’t have gloves and a box when he reached the middle. Much attention was also focused on the performance of our no. 11, Pierre, who is French. After receiving some explanation of what the lines on the pitch represented, he faced half a dozen deliveries and ended up 3 not out.
The Gents opened with two rather serious batsmen who made their intentions clear from the beginning. They hit us around the park a bit. Soon, our field was dispersed with several on the boundary. Our hands began to feel sore from stopping some lusty blows. Howie was the pick of the bowlers with his line and length, but debutant Tim – a Kiwi – did an admirable job bowling at a brisk pace from a run of just a few paces. The Wine Trade team has discovered a new opening bowler, and he can bat, too.
But while we gave ourselves a sniff of a chance with a few wickets, including some staggering catches – first a high, long swirler that Stuart Peskett bagged very proficiently, and then a remarkable diving catch from Howie after he’d run 30 metres to dismiss the Gents’ best batsman, Jimmy. But by this stage Jimmy had hit a fantastic century, and the Gents closed on our target with five overs to spare.