Marble Hill 7 July

By Mark Gilkes

“In The Summertime…

When the weather is high/
You can stretch right up and touch the sky…”

…or words to that effect. With the weather continuing to be so dismal, it was returning Salmagundi cricketer Chris Packham who took it upon himself to remind the sun, wind, and rain what season it was supposed to be by the novel method of sporting an extravagant set of Mungo Jerry sideburns. This far from subtle in appearance, and far too subtle in meaning, suggestive device did have one or two fielders humming “Alright Alright Alright,” but this later hit, which got to number three, remains irrelevant. Meanwhile, evidence that we are in the summertime, or even in the vicinity, continues to elude. Flaming June was only flaming in the way it equally could be described as being flipping, sodding or bloody; while “hotter than July” applies only in that “currently, anything is…”

Our opponents on this gloomy Sunday, Marble Hill Cricket Club, whom we had earlier in the season beaten easily in the sport of rain-cancelled-game-drinking-in-a-pub-in-Ham, were oblivious to the MungoJerryism inflicting Packham (although a conversation about the movie An American Werewolf In London was certainly prompted by something) but were, however, as concerned as we were with the state of the Barn Elms pitch. For some weeks our indefatigable (which doesn’t mean he can’t put on weight) Fixtures Secretary, Jim Monahan, has been bombarding Wandsworth Council with letters of complaint regarding the facilities. Usually the showers are too hot and the changing rooms filthy. It was with a triumphant air that Monahan announced the changing rooms were now clean, the thermostat on the water heater now mended, and that a refund cheque was on its way to the Treasurer. The satisfaction of these injustices now righted carried us through the dense undergrowth as we sought the square – until suddenly the realisation settled that there were crowds of bemused cricketers in all corners of Barn Elms, none of whom could make a convincing case for having found a cut strip. While Monahan raced off to complain once more, and receive a letter promising a refund, which the member of staff assured would guarantee restitution but which would not in any way be improved by the inclusion of his signature, the rest of the players looked at the various “pitches” and wondered if it might be better to play on Packham’s sideburns. Eventually a strip was chosen. It might be true that it had no marked creases, but at least the batsmen would not be required to machete their way to any quick singles.

As usual this summer the forecast was for rain and thunder, so a quick start was needed. Salmagundi, batting first, were quickly out to the crease, and then more often quickly out than quick between the wickets. Malcolm Birks made a solid 26 on debut, which proved to be top score, and was supported by Bruno Brewin (17), Packham (16) and Mike Fox (12), but the team never really got going on a difficult pitch which produced shooters and rearers from identical balls. The outfield was damp and the grass was long, but the biggest hindrance was the tight bowling of Marble Hill. A smaller hindrance was the extreme politeness of scorer James Tait, who, upon noticing that one of the Marble Hill bowlers was commencing a new over after finishing his allocation, made those round him aware of the error but declined to raise his voice to the umpires in anything even approaching gentle inquiry. Luckily, not everyone who plays for the Gardeners is so refined. The exchange that followed drew to mind phrases such as, “economical with the truth,” and, “parsimony of the actuality,” as Tait proceeded to confirm that the bowler’s name was Nield, while an individual on the Marble Hill side attempted to insist that the bowler’s name was Julian. The fact the bowler’s name was Julian Nield was a matter it was presumably hoped would slip past Tait – and who can really fault anyone the try? The end of the innings produced one of those moments that often causes Richie Benaud to say, “That’s not clever cricket.” Going out to bat with four overs left and four wickets in hand, Mark Gilkes hit a confident single off his first ball and sprinted through the hayfield. The Marble Hill fielder then tripped on, presumably, a mass of mangrove roots, and ended up lying flat out on his back with the ball lying two yards away. Gilkes saw the opportunity to sneak a second run, but his plan was fatally flawed by his extremely loud shout of, “Come on,” which, although it made it past the furry animals on Packham’s cheeks and into his ears, also roused the comatose fielder – who instantly leapt up and flung in a return to the keeper which saw Gilkes run out by six inches (coincidentally the length of grass to which Wandsworth Council prepare a cricket pitch). Gilkes therefore produced the interesting innings of one run and one wicket off one ball. He justified his actions to Mungo Packham with the lines:

“Have a drink, have a drive [to mid-wicket]/
Go out and see what you can find.”

Which naturally received the tuneful retort:

“In the summertime/
You’ve got women, you’ve got women on your mind… ”

The innings closed with a neat little vignette of a collapse – necessary for the reputation to remain intact of Salmagundi never batting out their overs, although some accused Monahan of being the cause by laying out the sumptuous tea he’d prepared with still ten overs to go. The tea was veritably an impressive spread, and many marvelled at the mystery of how Monahan had managed to produce it within the budget. Later, the mystery was solved when it was revealed that “budget” means for some people, “What I wanted to spend.” Possibly Wandsworth Council operate a similar system, pitch preparation being listed on their “things to do” with “levels of urgency” under the heading, “If anyone can be arsed.”

The Salmagundi score of 103 was not huge, but many felt the conditions might make it competitive. Marble Hill went to the crease with black clouds looming – which worried nobody as they had been there since dawn. Both openers made 31, and moved their team to within striking distance of victory, but Salmagundi never lie down (except for Gilkes, who was sulking at being sent to fine leg) and the bowlers fought back admirably – revelling in the sharp keeping of Birks, who was standing up to everybody with enough skill not to offend those bowlers who still imagined themselves “pacey”. Fox made the breakthrough which gave a glimmer of hope, and he ended with three wickets and four maidens. Packham bowled a tidy 10 for 1. Indeed, it was the hirsute Packham, with simian agility, who led the fielding, throwing himself onto the soft, long grass to make numerous diving saves, and taking a difficult spinning catch at square leg. However, it was to no avail as Marble Hill cruised home with overs to spare, the better team on the day – although they were beaten hollow in the tea eating.

Mungo Jerry, after successes with “In The Summertime” and other top ten placings, went on to become the producer behind the Scottish disco queen Kelly Marie. Her biggest hit single was, “It Feels Like I’m In Love.” She has never sported sideburns.

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