Oak & Beech 2 Sept

By Mark Gilkes

Cricket report 2nd September 2001 – Oak and Beech

James Tait Gets Shock Lift Home

Salmagundi Gardeners travelled to Amersham on Sunday and, staggeringly, all travelled back. Numerous attempts to confuse James Tait into being left behind, as he was so famously once before, failed – but, as some small consolation, success came on the field.

Official disclaimer: the report this week may contain some inaccuracies (as against the usual deliberate and downright lies) because Oak and Beech ran off with the scorebook in an attempt to prevent a report being written and through this somehow lessen the extent of our gloating. No chance. This was another fantastic victory, all the more pleasurable because, yet again, we held our nerve when they really should have wrapped up the game.

Salmagundi batted first and, due to an opening partnership of 81 between Tait and Brewin, and with good support throughout the order, not least from Chris “Tavare” Packham, who held up an end, scoring zzzzzz runs off zzzzzzzzzz balls, a competitive score of 153 was posted.

After the loss of a wicket in the first over, Oak and Beech scored quickly to reach a similar position of eighty-odd for the loss of one. Wickets fell slowly as the target was approached, and they never looked in any danger of not making it. Then came the Champagne moment in a match full of intoxicating incidents: Oak and Beech, who, like us, do not necessarily bat in order of competence, had a very strong batsman at the crease who was threatening to very quickly move the close run chase back in their favour. Brewin bowled, the batsman smashed it back over his head, and Mike Fox gave chase. Now this is something worth seeing just in itself, Mike moving so fast, but better was to come, as he leapt to meet the ball, adjusted in mid-air, and took it spectacularly one-handed with his leading hand. The very next ball Tait moved quickly, crab-like (or was it more like potted shrimp?) and took an excellent catch low down in front of first slip. Brewin was on a hat-trick and Oak and Beech were almost felled. A sharp cutter just didn’t quite come in far enough to give Brewin the hat-trick, but he did have the pleasure of taking the final wicket an over later.

Once again Oak and Beech had succumbed to the Salmagundi machine with four or five wickets remaining and needing only about 20. Here are some of the key performances:

Phil Sessions took three catches in the slips, one a one-handed overhead catch of such nonchalance that it might have been he was simply putting his hand up to appeal when he suddenly remembered he actually had to take it.

Mike Fox took another fine catch, which looked pedestrian once we had all seen his balletic effort to hasten the collapse.

James Tait’s catch capped a fine wicket-keeping performance, in which his skill in standing up is leading to him making even more stunning stops of leg-side wildness, and he expertly read the trajectory of the ball to assist in Joe Fox’s long-distance run-out throw. Incidentally, this run-out, effected by Joe, was off a Jim Monahan no-ball. The next ball from Jim was a wide, from which Tait stumped the batsman, only for it to be incorrectly not given. Your correspondent then made merry with these facts to Jim, only to be told (wholly reasonably) to shut up. Jim was wearing a sort of blue white shirt, clearly one which would have benefited from putting itself in the washing machine had it intended to come out something like the colour it went in, and Jim rather hoped by wearing this item he would feature in the match report as interesting – a colour piece, one might say – but the shirtiness of the day was reserved solely for the source of the hugely witty encouragement he was getting from mid-off. Could it be we are actually getting good enough to be as humourless as the Australians? We already most of us have our own kind of baggy greens: grass stains on the knees, elbows and seats of our whites…

However, never let it be said that experiencing Salmagundi’s own version of the famous Alex Fergusson hairdryer would colour this correspondent’s reporting. Jim’s three wickets and excellent yelling at people to get right back on the boundary played no insignificant part in our triumph.

Bruno’s four wickets (near hat-trick already mentioned, but mentioned here again, and why not?) and calm catch, simply added further glory to his half-century on opening (or was it a near half-century? I don’t have the scorebook).

Particular praise goes to the young players, Jake Wood and Joe Fox. Both bowled extremely well, keeping runs down in the tight chase and neither getting the wickets they deserved with the edges they found. Each took a wicket, Joe adding to his run-out, and it would be wrong not to mention that at a crucial part of the game, with only ten runs needed for Oak and Beech to snatch victory, Jake’s father overran a ball, letting through a four which probably represented a large percentage of Jake’s eventual bowling figures (but I don’t have the scorebook so I can’t be sure of this. Not that I need to be sure to draw attention to Adam backing up his son in this creative and original manner).

Adam did play the crucial role of skilfully hitting the four which took our total past 150, thus giving us this mental watershed in our favour. The tea was sumptuous and thoroughly splendid and provided by Adam. Unskilfully he revealed the substantial involvement of his lovely wife Heather in the preparation. Mike Fox then proved himself to be even less skilful by letting slip that the whole Fox tribe is recruited to make the sandwiches he claims as his own. (This strikes a rather Dickensian image and should not be dwelt on.)

Have I mentioned the Tavare-like innings of Chris Packham? (I know I have, but it’s probably still going on.) His other contribution was to bowl seven overs of the highly effective off-spin which produced five for very little last time he bowled it on this ground. Except that he didn’t bowl it because he unskilfully (this team is full to bursting with skill) revealed to Mike before he started bowling that his intention was to bowl off-spin. Mike, who probably thought Chris, in Tavare style, was still batting, and so couldn’t bowl at the same time, declined to allow us this treat – a treat for which James Tait, in a historical interchange between these two protagonists, would probably have been asked to stand up.

This is not the first time Oak and Beech have lost to us in this way. Perhaps they should reconsider their tactic of including the square leg umpire in their mid-pitch discussions between batsmen. He is, as they are batting, of course from their team, but is he really helping?

So ends this week’s report. If I have left out any thrilling moments, or failed to mention those who should have been mentioned, I apologise (I do not have the scorebook). Those who think I should apologise for what I’ve written about them here know exactly what I will suggest – and I’ll suggest it a lot more wittily than “Why don’t you try bowling a leg-bye and see if you can get a wicket with that?”

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