The 2016 Fumble

Report by Daniel Mortlock:

When Baz Dare started the Fathers And Sons Cricket Club in 1982, he might have imagined that it would outlast him, given that the "Sons" (or its replacement "Sprogs") in the title provides an obvious mechanism for its continued existence, but he surely wouldn't have even dreamt that it would outlast the United Kingdom. And yet in this crazy post-referendum world of Brexit there is the very real possibility of Scottish independence and the end of one of history's great political unions . . . all with FAS still going strong.

The reason for mentioning this is, of course, that Baz himself, a man of great inner (and physical) strength, hadn't been going so strong of late, and we all knew during this year's FAS Fumble that Baz had just a few days left. There's no escaping the sadness of this, but there is surely some solace in the fact that his final memories include the knowledge that, for the 35th time, his extended family of fathers and sprogs were playing the sport he loved so much, and that so many were introduced to through him. There was inevitable talk about whether the Fumble should go ahead at all, but as we shared our favourite memories of Baz at the end-of-tour dinner on the Wednesday, there was a sense that this was perhaps the best possible celebration of a life incredibly well lived.

And the atmosphere of a the Fumble really was that of a celebration, with some truly joyous cricket being slotted in among the evening wine tastings - the flagons of Jouster which defined the tour in the '90s have been largely replaced by decanters of fine riojas (although that didn't stop some of the younger tourists experiencing their first beer- and cider-fuelled hangovers). After a failed run-chase in the pre-tour match against Remnants we learned our lesson and managed spectacular pursuits of 162/3 in 31.2 overs against the Bunnies and 228/6 in 30.4 overs (our biggest ever winning chase) at Temple Grafton after their extraordinarily ungenerous decleration. Rather annoyingly, our one opposition to bat second took a similarly successful approach, as Fladbury, who we last lost to in 2005 swept past our total of 206/9 with the best part of 5 overs to spare. There were frustrating cancellations, both avoidable (when Bibury failed to get a team out and didn't let us know until half of our side were already at the ground) and unavoidable (when the Royal Marines were, rather ironically, defeated by water falling from the sky). The fixture list was rounded out with a couple of internal matches, the highlight of which was a twenty/20 "test" in which Cliff's Concubines successfully defended 62 against Joss's Jousters in a most intriguing fourth innings chase. That left the final ledger for the tour at a neatly symmetric 2 wins, 2 losses, 2 internal games and 2 cancellations.

In amongst the above team efforts there were of course some great individual performances, which are largely reflected in the awards. The batting was dominated by Jameses, with Houlder (195 runs at 48.75), Wyatt (158 runs at 79.00) and Streeter (127 runs at 42.33) the only three players to get into triple figures. James Houlder got the batting award for his consistency, with three scores above 40, including a Fumble-high 93* against The Bunnies. The bowling was a bit more open, although the two stand-out performers, Harry Houlder (9 wickets at 15.22) and Jamie Dare (6 wickets at 18.17) also gave the stand-out performances, with Harry's 5/80 against Temple Grafton the only five-for and Jamie Dare's 3/8 in the "test" including comprehensive castlings of James Houlder, Rufus Dennis and Tom Hall in four overs of venomous left-arm swing. In the end the sheer quality of these wickets, combined with the raging send-off he gave his cousin later in the same match, held sway and Jamie's bowling was so stunning that he also got the most improved young player award for a record third time - but also the last time, as he's clearly now a proper adult cricketer. Sadly, Harry's dream of one day winning the bowling award will have to wait another year, and he could also count himself unlucky not to get the fielding award, which went instead to Daniel Mortlock, apparently for almost taking a series of spectacular catches. This theme extended to the wicket-keeping award, which Dave Kittow won in part for a series of non-dismissals, albeit of the umpire-induced variety: a lightning fast, but very clear, stumping was turned down by one of his own trade at Fladbury; and then his one-handed diving take off a bottom edge was all for nothing as the delivery was a no ball. The all-rounder award was similarly self-selecting, in so far as James Wyatt's combination of 158 runs and 5 wickets (at 18.00) was miles ahead of anyone else. The captaincy award was also self-selecting, Cliff Dare dominating proceedings to the degree that he won this title despite not having actually been named as captain for any match on tour. That's the sort of performance that could have easily led to yet another character of the tour win, but that trophy could only go to one player, and their names are Tom Reynolds (which is also the placeholder name of the nice cat that decided to adopt Mill Dene as its new home mid-way through the Fumble).

All these awards were announced at the end-of-Fumble dinner (as distinct from the more traditional end-of-dinner fumble), where we also presented presents as thanks to the Dare family, this time even more heartfelt than usual. The dinner ended with us all sharing our favourite memories of Baz, which revealed clear themes of incredible generosity, quietly getting things done (although one suspect he'd have hated the "keep calm and carry on" virus with which our society has been infected) and a wonderful sense of humour. In that regard, FAS has been very much created in his image, and long may it continue that way.