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Jan 9, 2018
East Hanningfield
My friendly invasion

Many years ago, in fact it was 23rd July 1985 I was lounging in the sunshine in Southchurch Park in Southend it was a Sunday. The reason for me being prostrate on this beautiful Sunday was I was watching a one day match between Essex and it could have been Warwickshire or may be Glamorgan, but it matters not. Essex where the Liverpool of their dayback then in the Eighties, they won everything. In fact the Killing Joke anthem Eighties should be Essex’s cricket signature tune!

Anyhow my pals and I where lapping up the oppositions situation, Graham Gooch and Ken McEwen were at the crease. Anyone who can remember these fearsome two openers or who saw them play will remember they could take a bowling attack apart within a few overs.

McEwen a swarthy South African of Boar decent was the perfect foil for the more aggressive Gooch, but both men could easily destroy a bowlers figures in a single over.

I and my associates had found ourselvesa tented watering hole, now beer tents at cricket grounds are usually sited away from the viewing gallery, this particular venue was the Rotary Club oranother such organisation who boasted a deck chaired Shrimper’s legend none other than Bill Garner.
With a nod from Bill we climbed over the obligatory rope thatsets out the member’s area from the common riff raff. Bill was in full flow oftales of Charlie Cooke, Mickey Droy, and Ray ‘Butch’ Wilkins. The day’s temperature was now reaching the high 90’s, the beer is flowing and I mean flowing. Bill has got bored with the slowness of the keg tap; we are now taking delivery of our beer from the nozzle of a green water can! As the beer was drunk, Gooch and McEwen continued there destruction of their opponents attack.The ‘Wivenhoe Express’ AKA Neil Foster, had already bowled the opposition out for little over two hundred. Foster and Pringle were at that time two prongs of Englands first 11 attack. (In fact in my brief cricket career batting number 6 for Unigate I faced up to Foster scored two off him the only time I could lay bat on ball!)

I digress, back to the hot SouthchurchPark and Bill Garners beer tent, now the populous are reeling and a rocking, Bills asleep, the rest of us are slaughtered, Goochie has hit his 50 and is fast catching Ken who is roaring towards a ton. The next announcement is that it is Gouchie's 32 birthday and wouldn’t it be great if he got a 100.

The invasion or should I say unwanted congratulations plot was then hatched by a severely ****ed gang of supporters. Wouldn’t it be great if someone ran out from the boundary if Gouchie gets a hundred? We could wish him happy birthday? In our inebriated state this sounded a great idea. Full of encouragement from Mr Garner we continued the plan, we would draw straws who would carry out the warm beer and give our congratulations…………I drew the short straw.

Now Gouchie and McEwen had seen off their opponents fast attack, the spinners were trying vain to halt the deluge of runs that were hammering from the bat brazened with 333 ( A score that Gouchie had once administered from it) both players now in the 90’s the game would be over very soon. The boundary was raining sixes as I prepared for the friendly invasion. In those days I had a lot of hair……loads of it…….half waydown my back, I was also wearing only shorts, in my hands I clutched two very thin plastic pint beakers full of warm lager carefully poured by Mr Garner.

Gouchie went to a 100+ with an enormous drive that soured into the air like a missile, the crowd responded with hearty shouts and loud applause off you go boy encourages Bill and my very drunk comrades. So off I set, very soon the first beaker gives way leaving a trail of warm lager on the parched out field. As I scuttle past the sweat soaked out fielders they seem as pleased to see me as another Gooch/McEwen 6. I reach the square where our hero is replacing his helmet on his sweat soaked head. I now have little than a quarter of a pint left in my plastic glass, which I present to the baffled Essex champion. Goochie is a lot bigger in the flesh close up, his fore arms flexing like tree trunks armed with the revered 333 bat hanging in his hand like Excalibur in King Arthur’s. I compose myself and offer him a drink...Happy Birthday Gouchie I slur, feck off you fecking stupid hippy he growls, scraping his studs on the crease like an unbroken mustang. The out fielders are now getting more agitated my presence holding up their impending and inevitable demise.

As I turn and flee I am met with a barrage of abuse and insults as to my lack of a father and unwanted refreshment delivery. I made my way to the boundary vaulting kicks from Essex’s opposition and made it back to the Rotarians tent faster than a McEwen off drive.
I was met with warm applause and distain from the Rotarians who were not party to our planned pitch invasion. Bill denied all knowledge decrying it an act of gross stupidity with a wink of his eye.

A reprimand by the steward was cut short as a fly red missile sailed over the tent………..Essex had won by 9 wickets.The green watering can re-emerged and Bill Garner replenished empty glasses as we all toasted Goochies birthday.
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