Our much awaited return to Ardington – despite the many tales of the long, long Saturday night of last year, the bucolic splendour, the excellent hosts – some of the Gardeners had tangled up their diaries, others found that a trip outside the M25 might give them homesickness – so Lord Fakenham and Nick went into post-midnight Soho to source players and found Keith Richards lookalike Murray. ‘Yeah man cricket I used to do that long time back, I fancy another gig’. Actually, I think he is Keith Richards. In the meantime Richard had responded to a lonely hearts ad in Play-Cricket.com: “Single cricketer, early 20s, keen, no distressing personal habits, seeks band of like-minded gentlemen for fun involving leather and willow on summer afternoons”. Enter Mike Edwards, Cambridge Engineering graduate and all-round decent fellow. Still one short, Adam enlisted his brother Simon “he’s not very good, he’s not very keen, but he fancies an afternoon out”. Actually as events turned out Wood-the-younger was pretty handy, very keen and had a remarkable afternoon out.
All the usual Gardeners shenanigans – missed trains, wrong directions, working out where the hell they were when they woke up – meant it was somewhat miraculous that all 11 got to the splendid pavilion before 2pm. On the way we saw some people riding; “Wild Horses” said Murray, but they looked pretty tame to the rest of us. A genuine pleasure to meet up again with Shuffs, Dave, Nigel, Bruce and all the other larger-than-life characters. Richard for once won the toss and (a) because it was sunny (b) he fancied a bat and (c) he wanted to write down the batting order whilst he could still remember it, elected to bat.
Richard and Paul Jordan – our friend from the French House who’s brother would also open for the Boars Head – opened the batting. John Buchan delivered a maiden over, ably assisted by Shuffs telling Richard that the tea would be delivered by Nina … and perhaps she’d be wearing her Abba outfit from last year’s fancy dress party. I can’t remember focusing on any ball in the over after that and it’s amazing I survived. Paul told me to pull myself together, it looked like my mind was on something else. Perceptive man.
Some sharp singles ensued with the occasional boundary and we’d seen off the opening spells. Dave Richards – last years batting nemesis – came into the attack and Richard decided to be a bit more adventurous, pulling a four then lofting a straight drive for four. A neat cover drive followed and Richard called for a run – disaster as the ball was fielded expertly by Paul’s brother at cover and Richard was sent back to the pavilion run out by a direct hit for 26. A solid opening on which to build thought Richard after he’d stopped kicking himself.
Paul continued to bat neatly, Adam chasing up the runs. Shuffs decided to roll the dice and wheeled on Nigel Baring. No not literally, he doesn’t field in a mobility scooter despite some rather unpleasant suggestions from his team-mates. Nigel found his rhythm after a few overs and Paul offered a low chance to Cover that was expertly taken by Tarrran. Dave 2-Bats Hollingsworth nervously entered the fray, looking like a man who’d eaten a bowl of raw beansprouts. It turned out Dave’s delicate constitution had been shaken by an exchange shortly before he headed out to the middle. Whilst watching one of the many dogs around the boundary licking it’s nether regions Dave commented “I wish I could do that”. The lady owner responded with “give him a biscuit and he’ll let you”. Dave edged his first ball over the slips and took a single. Next ball … Adam was out lbw to the master of flight … Paul “Barking” Brasted had given the decision without an appeal being apparent. However, Nigel is a most undemonstrative man and had simply turned to the Stoke Newington Shamen and whispered “that was out, wasn’t it?”, at which point he was inclined to point skywards. Two wickets in 3 balls immediately became 3 in 4 as Chris Packham aimed an ambitious pull and was bowled around his legs rather like Peter May was by Richie Benaud in the 1961 Ashes. Hat-trick … all the field came in and Lord Fakenham could not resist the lure of the empty outfield and aimed an ugly slog, swung over the ball and was bowled. 4 in 5 balls including a hat-trick. Legendary stuff. Richard gave The Norfolk Cobbler some friendly advice when he returned to the Pavilion: “To a good ball early in your innings, LEARN TO PLAY A F***ING FORWARD DEFENSIVE”. Shortly after debutant Mike chipped a delivery from Richards into Yearling’s hands and we were in deep guano.
Enter Simon Wood. A man who had not played much since his school days – which obviously weren’t that long ago. Simon tested the fielding on a number of occasions and the hot weather was clearly causing problems – added to the fact that 2-Bats had now settled totally and was clubbing runs all around the park. Simon kept the wickets column quiet and nudged a few singles as the score started to approach respectability, all of the bowlers apart from Nigel getting some entries in the runs column and being frustrated by Simon deftly “leaving” a number of deliveries that were close to his stumps (John Buchan was certain the wicket moved out of the way of the ball more than once). An amazing stand of 88 in 16 overs was eventually ended by Tarran bowling Dave for an impressive 62. Simon continued, adding 20 with Crazy Paul including a lovely straight drive over the bowler’s head for 4, as the Gardeners posted a reasonable total with Paul pulling to the midwicket boundary.
Salmagundi Gardeners 178 for 7 in 35 overs
Richard Higginbottom run out 26
Paul Jordan c Tarran b Baring 26
Adam Wood lbw Baring 2
David Hollingsworth b Tarran 62
Chris Packham b Baring 0
Lord Fakenham b Baring 0
Mike Edwards b Gaylard 0
Simon Wood not out 21
Paul Brasted not out 11
Boars Head bowling
J Buchan 7 – 0 – 17 – 1
Bulpin 4 – 0 – 19 – 0
Richards 6 – 0 – 31 – 0
Baring 5 – 1 – 17 – 4
Yearling 3 – 0 – 17 – 0
Gaylard 5 – 1 – 17 – 1
Shufflebotham 2 – 1 – 18 – 0
Tarran 2 – 1 – 4 – 1
B Buchan 2 – 0 – 13 – 0
Tea … where’s the Abba costume? Just as well got some work to do in the field. A marvellous spread, we all ate too much. “Better than a Beggars Banquet” mused Murray. As many of the Gardeners were still belching, the entry to the field was delayed by Richard calling for a team photo. This reinforces the opinion that Salmagundi can only be kept in a tight group and controlled with the provision of food and the promise of alcohol. So maybe next time I put out the stumps for a game I’ll place a bottle of Claret behind one set and some Muscat behind the other. Then leave a trail of crisps from the boundary to the square.
An excellent start for the Gardeners as Mike dropped one in a bit too short, Tarran’s eyes lit up and a pull was mis hit to Murray who hung on well at Mid On. “Satisfaction” he modestly reported, tucking his ball into a pocket and lighting up a fag as Shuffs approached from the pavilion. “Slow him down man, I need some nicotine!”. Pete likes to ensure the ball gets a good outing on a summer afternoon, the tennis courts, car park and wheat field being favoured destinations. This time he clanged a head high chance at 2-Bats who (unusually for him) declined to hang on. Ominous. However, amends were swiftly made as a much harder chance was held on to by the cunning linguist off Chris to send Peter in for an early shower. Small children, dogs, a cockerell and a murder of crows cleared the area as Shuffs neared the pavilion. A resounding crack was heard as he got there … but relief all round as it turned out he hadn’t shot himself but had tested the strength of the pavilion steps (not a mark showed – well built structure that). Enter Dave Richards to join Jordan-of-the-Boars (Jo-Bo). Fakenham replaced Chris bowling down the hill and Murray came on up the hill, both keeping the scoring rate in check and producing chances, sadly which were not taken. Surely a matter of time before another wicket fell. Murray’s bowling defied his lack of practice and he was unlucky to take a wicket in his 7 over spell. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” he said. Doosra Duckett bowled a thinking man’s spell and was genuinely unlucky a couple of chances didn’t stick. We had a tight huddle to work out how to break the partnership, “Hey, You, Get Off Of My Foot” said Murray to Simon. Hot conditions, good wicket, Richard brought back on the seamers and both Jo-Bo and Richards showed serious class in dispatching anything short to the boundary. During this period 2-Bats enquired: “Richard shall we get Mike to move deeper?” – Richard: “No we’ll get his Lordship to bowl straighter”. We got to the 32nd over but our lack of wickets meant the pressure was limited and two superb batting performances were our undoing. Well played the Boars Head. “I Know It’s Only Bat And Ball but I like it, like it, la-la like it” quipped Murray as we headed back to the pavilion.
Boars Head 181 for 2 won by 8 wickets in 32.1 overs
D Jordan not out 78
Tarran c Murray b Edwards 0
Shufflebotham c Hollingsworth b Packham 1
Richards not out 84
Chris Packham 7 – 1 – 31 – 1
Mike Edwards 5 – 0 – 30 – 1
Lord Fakenham 7 – 1 – 32 – 0
Murray 7 – 0 – 40 – 0
Nick Duckett 5 – 0 – 35 – 0
Richard Higginbottom 0.1 – 0 – 4 – 0
A few drinks in the pavilion then we decamped to the Boars Head. At about 9.30 Richard went on a circular tour to drop Paul J and Mike at Didcot station and check in at the two pubs we were staying at in East Illsley. When he got back Murray had his hat on and had effectively become Keef. “Let’s Spend The Night Together” he suggested to barmaid Joan, making Chris squirm with embarassment. Joan showed poise in ignoring this nonsense. “Some Girls” muttered Keef. Fakenham remarked he had little Sympathy For The Devil. On learning that Murray had been recruited for Sunday’s opposition, Doosra Duckett became a veritable Street Fighting Man: “I’ll slog you all round the ground and get you out for nothing” he pointed out to the Stones guitar legend. “What are you looking at?” he then asked Shuffs. “Is he mad?” 2-Bats enquired of me. “No, completely wrecked”, I advised. Fortunately Peter knows the condition well and was not offended. Nick then threw his half full beer glass down and was trying to work out why his feet were wet and he hadn’t got a drink any more. Murray’s hat was being worn by everyone in turn including a bemused looking old man out for a late night spot of fresh air. Nick was about to use it to save himself a trip to the loo but fortunately Chris recovered the situation before it became catastrophic. Someone suggested a game of wheelie bin cricket using Shuff’s car as the wicket. “With you lot bowling my insurance isn’t under threat” he replied. Fair point. Bruce produced some very good food for us but was so busy it took a while. When he was questioned why he was “so f***ing slow” (Duckett again) we had to restrain the Big Man – turns out he was nursing an abscess. Ouch! Get well soon Bruce. Eventually it was time to get to our overnight accommodation … thanks for another memorable day to the Boars Head. At The Swan, Duckett continued his pugnacious form. “I’ll take the lot of you, you Southern w**kers!” he cried, Chris swiftly advising: “Ignore him he’s pissed”. “Surely not” the rather lively and pleasant locals responded. We put Murray in with Nick as between them they’d achieved a three figure alcohol unit count; “no worries – just Gimme Shelter man” said Keef/Murray. Fakenham and Chris repaired to the Bridal Suite and we called it a day.