It was another scorching hot day during what felt like the longest summer ever. Our cricketers came from all quarters, accepting the invitation to play against Copthorne for the 3’s. They gathered at St John’s, the advance guard of a daunting incursion into enemy territory. Setting off in their cars, a whirling hurricane appeared, Mason ‘Dorothy’ Foley behind the wheel and his faithful sidekick Joeto spinning away to strange lands.

“I don’t know where I’m going,” declared Dorothy, his hair covering his eyes. “I’m going to try and drive on this grass verge for a bit.”

Joeto simply cowered in his seat, thinking of the runs he might score if they ever got to Staplefield.

Time passed, fellow road users trembled and breathed a sigh of relief as the hurricane abated. Confusion reigned.

“I don’t think we’re in Burgess Hill any more, Joeto,” said Dorothy.

“What are we going to do?” barked Joeto. “I need to get home for Love Island this evening.”

A loud and raucous cackle split the air and the Wicked Witch of the West appeared.

“The first task you must complete,” he boomed, “is to win the toss of the coin against me. Then you will decide the path you must follow.”

Dorothy and Joeto were afraid to be so far from a tv, so they sent forth Elph to stand firm against the witch. Elph returned triumphant to his group of followers that had been ravaged by injuries earlier in the week.

“We won the coin toss guys!”

There was much cheering and celebrating at this news.

“We might just get to see Love Island after all!” declared Joeto and Dorothy.

“And the golf,” added Andy McNiven, for he was keen to see Tiger Woods in action on the telly.

“NO!” The witch reappeared. “The Second Task you must complete is to bat on the yellow track road. It is dusty and fraught with danger. We have laid many traps to test you, such as the youth bowler making his debut and the well known ‘ball that pops’ from a length. You must overcome this test before you can rest your idle bodies in front of awful television programmes, eating popcorn and drinking beer.”

The witch disappeared, leaving Dorothy and Joeto trembling in his wake.

“Let us peruse this yellow track road,” said Elph.

On the way to the yellow track road they met a scarecrow and a munchkin. The scarecrow wore an unfashionable mullet and appeared to be overstuffed. Elph decided that this pairing would be a suitable opening salvo on the journey to 30 points.

The scarecrow was not amused for he had overdone it the night before at the Youth Presentation Evening. He glared at the cracked and dusty yellow track road. The heat from the sun continued to bake the wicket and make batting seem particularly difficult.

The scarecrow began to sing.

“I could bat out here for hours

Just like a chubby Gower

Our points I’m sure we’d gain

I could bat with no fear

All these cracks would disappear

If we’d only had some rain

If we were on a trusty wicket

Our batsmen wouldn’t brick it

Drive their bowlers all insane

We could smash it to the boundary

There’d be fifties all around me

If we’d only had some rain.”

And so, the journey on the yellow track road began, the scarecrow and the munchkin starting watchfully against some tidy bowling. Disaster struck early though as the scarecrow tried to guide a ball through the slip cordon only to help the ball on its way to the waiting hands of an enemy fielder. As he trudged off disconsolately, the dream of scoring runs fading from his straw stuffed brain, he shrugged in disappointment, a fallen warrior of Dorothy and Joeto’s army.

Andy McNiven joined the munchkin and looked in fine form straight away with a confident looking stroke that couldn’t make it past the infield. At the other end, the munchkin fell foul of the youth bowler on debut trap, suffering the double indignity of finding the ‘fielder who can catch one handed’. Not the beginning that Elph had planned.

Joeto trotted eagerly out to the yellow track road. Andy nicked an awayswinger to the slips and made his way back to the scorer’s table to think about the golf. Dorothy came out to join Joeto and our band of heroes watched eagerly, hoping that they could steer us onward in our quest for the 30 points. Sadly, Joeto lost concentration and his stumps, his first failure of an otherwise excellent season so far. He retreated to the pavilion looking for a place to hide and think about Love Island. A frustrated Elph joined Dorothy and looked confident from the off, striding out of the fire of potential defeat to stand firm against the wicked witch and his minions. Dorothy clubbed an impressive boundary away, the first of the innings. However, all thoughts of a resurrection were to be dispelled as Dorothy pushed out at a ball that popped a little from the yellow track road and gifted a catch to the cover fielder.

That brought Adam ‘Tin Man’ Hughes to the crease, singing a merry tune. The Tin Man always took great delight in teasing the munchkin and the younger members of the team.

“I could be a bit more pleasant

To all those who are present

But I don’t know where to start

I wouldn’t be so mean to Charley

Not be just a little snarly

If I only had a heart.”

“Elph,” said the Tin Man, “if we get 30 points, do you think the league will help me find a heart?”

“Adam, what are you talking about?” asked Elph.

“I don’t know to be honest, and this match report is taking forever to get through…”

“It’s that pretentious scarecrow, isn’t it? Come on, let’s get on with the story. Bloody Hepburns!”

So Elph and the Tin Man put together the best partnership of the innings with the skipper cutting powerfully and finding the boundary with fluency, thwarting the wicked witch’s plans for a very early tea.

Sadly, it was not to last and the Tin Man fell, caught behind for 4.

“Now I’ll never get a heart,” he wailed and strode off to take it out on the munchkins.

He was replaced by the King of the Beasts, a brave and orange haired Ryan coming in to bat. But this was to be a false dawn, for the bravery was a façade and he was a cowardly Ryan, hiding behind his gloves to the first ball that shot up from the yellow track road and gifting his wicket away. Suddenly, 7 wickets had fallen and a grim defeat was on the horizon.

This brought the first of the Under 14’s out to bat, the third Hepburn to stand against the wicked witch. Elph continued to score freely until disaster struck and he was yorked for an excellent 24. Freddie Fortune clipped a full ball away to the fine leg boundary before falling to a shortish delivery, finding the wicked witch at third slip. Tristan was the last wicket to fall, caught at slip off another ball that popped. 64 all out and the writing on the wall.

From the first ball of Copthorne’s reply, it was apparent that the wicked witch was up to no good, any demons in the yellow track road having disappeared.

“The pitch is dead,” declared the scarecrow.

“Ding dong, the pitch is dead,” sang the munchkins, except they didn’t and it was the only way that I could get that particular reference into the match report.

The cowardly Ryan discovered his courage and bowled without luck until one of the witch’s lackeys smashed a ball straight to Joeto at deepish mid on. Was the quest for 30 points back on?

The witch cackled once more from his wooden, and slightly run down castle.

“The 30 points won’t be yours today, for we have yet more traps to confound you. And your little dog, too!”

The final trap that extinguished all hope of gaining points and finding the way home arrived in the form of ‘oblivious umpire’. The left-handed opener pushed the ball to the munchkin at cover who swooped and unleashed the firebolt that smashed into the stumps at the bowler’s end with the batter short of his ground. Sadly, the umpire remained unmoved until Tristan exacted revenge with an ill-aimed throw over the head of the now brave Ryan which hit Colin on the head, leading to an early exit.

The final act of the game was for one of the witch’s minions to deposit one of the Tin Man’s balls into the forest again, which isn’t nearly as painful as it sounds. Except for the Tin Man’s father who got a branch in the eye attempting to retrieve the aforementioned ball.

Dorothy and Joeto, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Ryan, Elph and the munchkins crept quietly off the pitch, shaking hands with the wicked witch and his minions. The 30 points were lost and there was no way home, not even with the aid of the ruby wicket-keeping gloves. An air of sorrow descended upon the team.

“I’ll never get my heart,” bemoaned the Tin Man.

“And I’ll never see rain again,” grumbled the Scarecrow.

“And I’ll never be brave again,” wept the Cowardly Ryan.

“Never mind that,” replied Dorothy. “I’ll miss Love Island. And who is going to eat my popcorn?”

Everyone gagged at the thought of Dorothy’s popcorn, apart from Andy, who was thinking about the golf.

“Lindfield at Whitemans Green next week guys,” said Elph.

“Great,” replied Dorothy, clapping his ruby wicket-keeping gloves together. “I hate away matches. There’s no place like home…there’s no place like home…”

Ok, aside from the numerous Wizard of Oz references, there are 14 linked words and phrases in this week’s match report. I reckon it’s slightly easier than last week’s search!