A Melbury Hall XI

I am somewhat of a collector, curator and creator of 'imagined' cricket teams. Sebastian Faulks in his homage to PG Wodehouse, Jeeves and The Wedding Bells, introduces the reader to such a team in a match played between Melbury Hall and Gentlemen of Dorset. Both Jeeves and Bertie Wooster take part but under the 'nom de plume' of Lord Etringham and Wilberforce.....
















The pavilion had a low picket fence in front and a balcony on the upper floor under a thatched roof. Pinned to the inside door of the home dressing room was a handwritten batting order, which read:


Melbury Hall XI vs Dorset Gentlemen Saturday 19 June


1. Rev. H. Pinker

2. Mr S. Venables

3. Mr E. Haddock

4. Mr P. Beeching

5. Mr H. Niblett

6. Hoad

7. Sir H. Hackwood

8. Wilberforce

9. Liddle

10. Lord Etringham

11. Mr R. Venables


Start: 2.15 Tea: 4.15 Stumps: 6.30



Faulks words, lines, sentences and paragraphs give us an insight into the individual characters and ability as they play the match over the course of an afternoon.


'Stinker' Pinker and Sidney Venables (the elder of the two Venables playing) open the batting, whilst 'Stinker' is a fine batsman Venables comes up a little short waving, it is said, his bat like a dowager attempting to swat a wasp. Haddock seems to be a rather extravagant fellow who favours bright blazers and takes to the field in a multicoloured cap which causes asides and sniggers from the opposition fielders. However Wooster says that he is a "huntsman, sonneteer and all round good egg." 'Woody' Beeching appears to be an active and fine players who caresses the ball just as Niblett applies the long handle. Niblett is a stout yeoman, a fine specimen of West Country manhood, his skin tanned to the colour of a ripe cobnut. The American Civil Wall general Stonewall Jackson is referenced to the defensive play of Hoad, a style best described as inert. Sir Henry Hackwood is both Captain and wicket keeper. Though his batting seems capable his performance in the field led him to be called 'Old Irongloves' - fielding efforts which usually end with the phrase "sorry bowler." Our hero Wilberforce/Wooster is forced to slink back to the pavilion following a splintering of wood and an unsporting cry from the Dorset Gents wicket keeper. Liddle was next in who managed to squirt a couple away before Sir Henry declared on 225.


Niblett opened the bowling with 'Woody' bowling from the opposite end. Liddle bowled "wobblers" delivered by a process of whirling both arms from which the ball emerged at a friendly pace. Etringham/Jeeves proved to be a capable bowler. Venables senior, a man with a supposed cricketing pedigree from the Indian subcontinent, bowled in-duckers which 'Woody' described as cafeteria - help yourself!


It was 'Woody' Beeching who bowled the last ball against the Dorset Gentlemen who needed six to win the match off the last ball. And it was Wilberforce/Wooster who caught the ball and then carried it over the boundary rope to loose the match.

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