By Richard Higginbottom
Aren’t we supposed to be away this week? The mist in Jim’s crystal ball had cleared in pre-season and he’d booked Parliament Hill on this date as he had a feeling in his bones that the Actors may have some issue with the fixture … as it turned out, Ham House had withdrawn their ground for use this weekend leaving us able to host the Actors at our usual home. Actors Very Anonymous? Don’t recognise too many of them … turns out a team going by the name of Cincinnati didn’t have a fixture this weekend so six of them took up residence in the Actors team. Will there be a noticeable difference in standard? … read on.
Richard won the toss (getting the hang of this now) and elected to bat as this fine Summer provided us with another beautiful afternoon, the accompaniment of Greek music from the bandstand lending a distinctly Mediterranean feel to proceedings. The Kentish All Rounder and the Walthamstow Babelfish have been in good form this season so the skipper put them at the top of the order. Accurate opening salvos from Actors’ captain Harper and Huds kept us honest with the exception of a couple of back-foot drives from Chris until Dave got a jaffa from Huds. Chris and Toby looked solid in partnership until a miscue from Chris sent him back to the pavilion. Faisal replaced Huds and … ah this Cincinnati team must be pretty good – fast and accurate, Bashford and Toby getting a going-over with little let-up from second change bowler Saqib who took over from Harper. Jeremy’s resolve was broken by a fine ball from Saqib; the intensity in the middle was cranked up another notch as Mark lasted just a few balls before going the same way. The skipper attempted to get Toby on strike (a mixture of good sense and shirking responsibility), eventually played a trademark late cut, set off for his second, pulled a thigh muscle and for once had some sort of excuse (literally lame) for getting run out. Note to self: shout “NO” if already low top speed has been halved. Mr Monahan … can you bat with Toby to recover the position? Of course! The bowlers with overs left returned as Jim was instrumental in winning our first encounter with the Actors this season, giving him a working over including a fat lip from a top edge (ouch). That slowed the Praying Mantis down a little but now Toby moved into overdrive, hitting the roof of the building beyond the sightscreen at the Tennis Courts end, a highlight amongst an array of superb shots. Jim received another good ball – this time from Burling – who started unpromisingly but then got into an accurate rhythm. Conor bludgeoned a couple of fours before going in identical fashion to Jim. Paul was run out in the captain’s usual style, calling for a run that wasn’t there and turning back far too late. However he blamed his partner whereas the skipper is usually quick (and right) in taking responsibility. Will got one away for 4 before Burling found another excellent ball to account for him. By this time we were in the last over and Toby was pawing the ground. But now it was the last ball – which Lord Fakenham survived – and Toby was left stranded for a magnificent 94.
Tea … ah now this is very good … a home-made cake from Mrs Hayles, a lovely selection of sandwiches and savouries, Jim and Richard brewed up. Well played again Jim for managing to avoid dribbling despite the developing lump on his bottom lip.
So we go out to field with a good total to defend … whoa wait a minute, we’re used to Richard-the-Barnacle Hayles stone wall defence, but Cincinnati insert Lowe is caning everything that isn’t on a good length and line – and some that are. Quickly put the field back to cut off the boundaries. Luckily very few singles are being taken as some of us (captain and vice captain) were alternating between long-on/-off and silly mid-on/-off for the different batsmen. Lord Fakenham and Chris had borne the brunt of this early assault so Richard had to resort to his back-up plan (keep Toby back unless we really need a wicket) at a very early stage. Salmagundi’s own Cecil B De Mille didn’t let us down, inducing a mistimed drive from Lowe, Chris securing the catch. This brought in Saqib … who made his Cincinnati team-mate look positively pedestrian, taking liberties (also known as boundaries) against Toby and Jim. Time to put Toby back into the back-up plan and give Jeremy a go. A very intimidating time to come on and Bashford took a bit of a bashing, although Jim had now found his line and length (despite his captain barracking him for “not using the pitch”) and removed Hayles and then Bruce in the same over to get us back into the game. Huds batted well in the wake of Saqib’s continuing onslaught until he blotted his copybook slightly failing to walk having edged the returning Lord Fakenham to keeper Paul. “You hit it, you’ve got to go” explained Lowe (now umpiring) showing splendid fairness to add to his batting prowess. Not many runs to play with now, Toby’s back and at last Saqib played a false stroke, giving a return catch to our star all-rounder. Crank up the fielding pressure, Faisal succumbs playing an extravagant shot at Toby and being rewarded with having his stumps scattered. A bit too late, as Abid released the pressure with a snick for four and a daisy-cutter left Paul with no chance for four byes, Actors skipper Harper playing the ball into the deep for the winning runs. Next time I will get Andrew Strauss to play for us …
Actors Anonymous won by 4 wickets
After the match Jim dragooned someone into taking a picture and unfortunately we don’t look anything like as miserable as we should do. Perhaps there’s something in the Australian adage “if you show me a good loser, I’ll show you a loser”. Onward and upward!