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    From the President

    Surtees famously alluded to Fox Hunting as “the image of war without its guilt, and only five and twenty percent of its danger”.  I put it to you that Cricket is the image of war without its guilt (and only five percent of its danger) – and in war many, perhaps most, battles are drawn.

    Among the many pleasures to be derived from a day spent playing cricket are:

    –        the satisfaction of being part of a team of fellow-cricketers striving to achieve the best possible result, meeting again old friends (and some we love to hate) among the opposition,

    –        the opportunity, if we are young (ish), to develop our skills, or, if we are old (ish), to exploit such vestigial skills as time has spared,

    –        cricket teas (given precedence over cricket luncheons because, though these are frequently overwhelmingly impressive, they can only have justice done to them with a clear conscience by those whose innings are over, and by those confident of fielding in the slips for the remainder of the first innings – and the former, depending on the number of runs they have scored and the nature of their dismissals, may not find themselves able to focus fully on the delights of the table),

    –        the possibility, however remote, of personal success,

    –        a day spent in the fresh air, with or without family, usually in beautiful (and child-friendly) surroundings, which have almost always been cared for with palpable devotion.

    Those of you who have ploughed thus far through this year’s sermon will have noticed the absence of the words “won” or “lost”.  Well, it is of course true that it does add a little something to the day if your side WINS the game (after all, that is what you are striving to do), but in my experience at least, winning does not add as much as losing subtracts – in other words the sum total of human happiness is greater following a draw than following a victory for either side.

    A closely fought draw, with all four results possible until near to the end, is, obviously, an excellent game of cricket, enjoyed (one hopes) by all twenty-two players – a one-sided draw ends with eleven players pleased with themselves because confident that they were the better team on the day, and the other eleven pleased with themselves because they fought a successful rear-guard action.

    In PROPER cricket, where draws are possible, it is rare for play to lack meaning – this can occur only on those blessedly few occasions when the side batting first scores a lot, and the side batting second, though losing relatively few wickets, falls catastrophically behind the required run-rate.  Even in this situation skilful captaincy can resuscitate a game, as Philip Spray demonstrated so ably at Cerne Valley.  Sadly captains with Philip’s abilities are an endangered species – few nowadays possess the skill to use effectively “Little Hasteners” as purveyed by, for example, Dick Bennett in the Sixties.  In the rather one-sided draws which started and ended the tour, play was never meaningless – in the first the Old Blundellians were thwarted by a splendid tenth wicket partnership, and in the last tension was maintained until a very few overs from “stumps” as the Gentlemen of Berkshire strove to capitalize on their daunting first innings total.  The tension might have been even greater had their captain had more experience of trying to take wickets as distinct from trying to depress the run-rate.

    In IMPROPER (limited overs) cricket, where draws are impossible, periods of meaningless play are all-too possible, and frequently occur when the side batting first scores a lot but does not need to take wickets to “win” the game – the 2011 tour provided examples of games which could have suffered severely in this way, but fortunately, under the captaincy of martinets various, Sou’Wester bowlers continued to press for wickets, so at least one side was demonstrating a sense of urgency.

    Thus ends my third (and last) Presidential contribution to the Year Book – I now return to the ranks, whence I look forward to umpiring PROPER games of Sou’Wester cricket for at least a few more seasons – including a reasonable proportion of draws.

    Christopher Dean