French House 17 June

By Erik Samuelson

Well, actually it wasn’t the Germans, it was the French – French House, but it seemed more topical to put it that way.

I don’t have the scorebook with me, so this will be reported from memory, which is fading as fast as my other faculties. Therefore, some of this may be apocryphal, not to say wildly inaccurate.

But first, imagine the scene, with a late evening Summer sun, slowly sinking towards the horizon as the four Gardeners’ spinners wheeled and twirled in an eerie silence, masters of their art, spinning their webs of constraint in a cricketing form of sympathetic harmonic motion. From Stewart and Monahan, to Curtis and Jamu, the pressure was unrelenting, and French House finally caved in. Ah, The Music of the Spheres – actually, it was all done to the music of Kenny Ball’s jazz men, who were somewhere at the other end of the common, playing “I wanna be like you” (and who wouldn’t, in the light of this array of talent??) while all this went on.

The early omens were good when Gardeners won the toss and decided to bat – “that way, we are all guaranteed to do something”. Following on his success of last week, Tait was retained as opener, with Samuelson, who set the early pace.

After 5 overs Gardeners were more than 30 for 0, before French House brought on their promising newcomer, Jason Amesbury (well, hasn’t he been promising to repay his debts at some time or other – what better sort of ‘promising’ is there?). Straight away, a rush of blood to the head (the only place it rushes to these days, regrettably) and Samuelson had gone, with a cross batted swipe, for 19.

After that, the game settled into a rhythm, with Tait and Curtis pushing the score along steadily until, after his usual elegant innings, Curtis was fooled by a slower one and was bowled for about 20. In came Sessions, who hit some mighty blows in a very speedy 20 or so, before Amesbury was brought back on and bowled him off his pads. There was some delay after this dismissal as, unusually, the batsman decided not to watch the large screen replay but, instead, chased the bowler round the pitch, trying to hit him with his bat. He missed, for the second time in a row, you might say.

All the while, Tait was accumulating his runs with quiet efficiency, picking the bad balls and thumping them very hard indeed. Now Steve Graham, making his second appearance for the Gardeners, came in and played a very straight bat until he too got a rush of blood to the head and went for about 3. In came

Monahan, always a man for a crisis but, unfortunately for him, this wasn’t a crisis, so he was out for about 2.

Gilkes strode purposefully to the crease and provided solid support while Tait reached his maiden 50 with yet another 4 (he hit 9 in all). Tait was eventually bowled for a record 70, having played a chanceless innings until tiredness caught up with him towards the end of his stay in the middle. A splendid knock, well appreciated by all who watched.

Then came the largest shock of all as the Gardeners batted out all 35 overs for the first time for many a month and, with Gilkes unbeaten on about 15 and Fox making a steady 6 or so, the total was 179 for 6. Not a record, but certainly a worthy effort. Oh, yes, French House had only nine men for this part of the game.

When Gardeners opened their attack, Fox quickly came good and although he was hit high and hard to the boundary for a 6 and a 4, he took 4 wickets in a penetrating spell of 3 overs before being taken off in case he took so many that Rod Birtles would find it unbearable next week. One of these wickets was that of Amesbury who edged his first ball for 4 and then was tricked by Fox into reaching out almost full stretch for a “fading” ball (Mike’s description of a wide) only to snick it with the very tip of his bat. Tait, seemingly hovering like a bird of prey, suddenly swooped out of the air and snatched the ball inches from the ground in a Godfrey Evans-like take, or that’s how he described it to me.

At the other end, Wroe provided steady support and, in his fourth over, finally got the wicket he deserved. At this stage French House were about 30 for 5.

From then on it was a procession, with four more bowlers taking a wicket each: Monahan with a steady catch by Gilkes; Jamu who tempted the batsman into a high hit straight down the throat of Curtis at deep fine leg and then ruined his chances of anyone wanting to catch any more off his bowling by trying to hug him; Curtis with a Chinaman which totally bamboozled the batsman (“mainly because it didn’t turn at all”, according to Dan) into providing another catch by Gilkes; and the final wicket fell to Stewart in his second spell. (If you’ve been counting, their 10th player arrived during the tea interval – hence 9 wickets fell.) In total, French House succumbed for 92, giving the Gardeners a win by 87 runs.

Taken with some excellent close fielding, this was a strong all round performance by the Gardeners, which is just as well as we face Eversheds next week.

OK, OK, this report got a bit lyrical, but it’s my first win as captain this season and it just went to my head.

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