Oak & Beech 30 June

World Cup Final: Kahn 1 Gilkes 2

In 1994 the similarities between the Brazil of Bebeto and Romario and our great team Salmagundi were striking: both teams played in yellow (or yellowing) and were frequently seen to take to the field holding hands. Two World Cups later and the staggering coincidences continue as Oliver Kahn and Mark Gilkes, sharing both hair colour and universal popularity, allow crucial balls to slip through their fingers. Kahn’s mistake handed the game to Brazil. Would Gilkes – trying twice as hard by spilling two catches – similarly give the game to Oak & Beech? Or would some hero emerge to spill even more?

The day was planned thus: an early Tube ride to Amersham, find a pub in which to see the World Cup final, beat Oak and Beech. With only 9 players selected, the latter part of the plan was optimistic – but the weather was far more doom-laden, so that gave us hope.

Salmagundi, whether by toss or arrangement, batted first and started positively. James Tait, who the week previously had declined to bat, was the obvious choice to open lest he once more position himself close to the cakes and refuse to budge. It seemed sensible to partner him with Mike Logsdon, who had also the previous week declined to bat (in his case whilst opening). This pair, lacking the teeth of Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, nevertheless bit hard on their task. Logsdon, although only making twelve, struck the ball fiercely. Tait, meanwhile, mistimed and middled with equal enthusiasm for an impressive 62 – a flatish pulled 6 being his last scoring stroke. Gilkes and Mike Fox offered little support, both making 5 before offering catches, although Fox’s 5 became a 9 in a moment of influence upon the scorer worthy of Sepp Blatter at his most “diplomatic”. Sessions hit well for 17 before getting a ball that “stayed a bit low” (they all do when you’re his size), and there were a few mighty strikes by Rob Pimlott late on, batting in an ideal position for his style as runs were chased in the last overs. Salmagundi also managed the unprecedented feat of batting out their overs – by recruiting two Oak & Beech discards, Dwain Matthews and Adam Barnett, who satisfied themselves both with six not out. With the boundary set well back, 173 looked a competitive score – unless somebody was going to be dropped and then go on to make a huge…

Of course, the game is not just about winning, so why dwell on the result? Dan Riemer, a young American student who made his debut on Sunday, is mentioned here for fielding particularly well. Dan’s batting is that of the keen explorer, full of courage and invention. The shot he made for a single to backward point, by recognising he could not get any more in line and so electing to not even move his bat, is worthy of a name all its own. A riemer, perhaps? (To rieme. He riemes. They rieme. Salmagundi riemed their way to…) Dan, knowing only a little about cricket, is to be commended for his performance, and also his good humour. He enjoyed a laugh with Jim Monahan when, coming out to bat and not knowing the term, “Am I facing?” he enquired if he was to hit or run. Jim wittily said do both, but perhaps Dan knew all along what he should’ve said and recognised that such a remark would appeal to Jim – a man who had earlier enquired about the name of the world’s most famous referee, Pierluigi Collina, with the question: “Who’s the manager?”

Such ribaldry and fun continued unabated into the Oak & Beech innings as Gilkes did his Kahn impression with a lobbed chance in the covers and repeated it for those who might not have been paying attention with another at mid-off. Monahan and Pimlott then proceeded to refer to Gilkes for the rest of the match as “fingers.” Gilkes regularly acknowledged the tributes, showing at times one and at other times two of the fingers concerned. Monahan later knocked his glasses from his face when coming in to bowl – which saved anyone else the trouble.

Oak & Beech have some very powerful hitters, men who can make a team pay for dropping them, and, despite a few wickets falling (Sessions taking a fine slip catch off Mike Fox), the score progressed steadily towards the target. Unedifyingly, Gilkes began to look to the darkening clouds. As a chilly light rain began to fall, there was seen a strange dance at mid-off, accompanied by incantations of a Native American tone (not translated by Dan). The Oak & Beech batsmen suddenly had the range of the bowlers, and one in particular had the Salmagundi fielders on the boundary ropes. Yet even through this onslaught the quality of the Salmagundi bowling held true. Fox took 2 for 11, Monahan 2 for 14. Joe Fox, who went for 39, took much of the punishment in the powerful hitting, but he held his nerve to take 3 wickets, and at crucial moments. Mike Logsdon, although hit for 27, also hit back taking 3, including an almost athletic caught & bowled. With five overs to go Oak & Beech needed about 6 an over – still within their range – but fittingly it was a catch that won the match, and, after all he’d been through with his Oliver Kahn copying, fittingly it was Mark Gilkes who was standing nearby when Mike Logsdon took it.

What could’ve been a game remembered for a German mistake became one remembered for Brazilian brilliance; and what could’ve been a game remembered for two dreadful errors by Gilkes became one immortalised by his dreadful prose.

(If anybody has escaped insult this week by slipping through my typing fingers, I can only apologise. Me, Oliver – we’re human after all.)

Finally, it was Amersham – so what was left behind?

Tait’s socks.

(Nearly.)

Monahan’s shoes last week, Tait’s whole body a couple of season’s ago – a pair of socks just isn’t worthy of the mention. Get a grip, man. You scored 62 runs! Isn’t that enough?

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