By Richard Higginbottom
It’s now over two weeks with no rain and another glorious Summer day greets the Gardeners and Antares as we gather – in dribs and drabs – at Parliament Hill for a duel in the Sun. Richard calls correctly (that’s four in a row) and backs his batsmen, setting Antares the challenge of toiling in the 30C heat. David S and Chris opened the batting against some hostile fare from Winter and Amir. Antares fielding superbly as our openers started to play some handsome drives. Dave had made his way to 11 being largely untroubled until a shooter left him plumb in front to Amir. Richard’s first two balls from Amir both reared off a length – swayed away from one, the other played by the forearm. Greenwood took over from Amir and treated the skipper to some deliberate bouncers – pretty easily avoided – Richard took a couple of runs then advised the bowler to pitch it up – and then got out lofting to Mid Off from an ambitious drive that was not quite full enough for the shot. 2-Bats settled in well against the variable bounce whilst Chris got on the wrong end of Try’s wrong ‘un to be pinned lbw. Jeff was also bamboozled by Try, incredibly high bounce causing a top edge that was expertly caught by Westgarth at slip running backwards. Dave had hit a number of stylish boundaries but then lofted a drive just out of reach of … no … Henry sprinted around from Cover and made a brilliant one-handed catch to dismiss the Walthamstow Babelfish. Looking forward to getting Henry to turn out for us again one day, mused the skipper now standing at umpire. Now, whilst I’m on the subject of umpiring it appears that my performance in the white coat has received some analysis in that I gave no-balls of four different types at Ardington (including my first ever 3-behind-square call). Surprisingly, I managed my second ever 3-behind square call here but sadly only clocked up 3 different types – the most traditional front foot one being conspicuous by its absence. In the next match report, expect a lengthy monologue on what symbols to use in scoring no-balls and wides. I suspect the anticipation is already tingling within you, dear reader. Anyway, Stuart played some fine shots (coruscating drive through Extra Cover and a delightful sweep included) while Jason poked about a bit before miscuing a drive to Joe Banks at mid-on. Stuart went after a wide one but bat hit ground and ball lobbed gently to Point … ah I thought we might just put together a useful score. Paul played some funny shots and some good ones (lovely pull for 4) and the calling between him and Jim was hysterical … “Yes – NOOO!! – WHAT? – F*** YOU!” … what an excitable man. Paul was bowled by a high quality ball from Greenwood and two balls later Amardeep – who very graciously had agreed to step in at number 11 as Sas was touring around Hampstead Heath visiting all of the cricket grounds apart from this one – received exactly the same delivery with the same result. The wicket’s not good but that’s a low total to defend.
Tea included (ta-da!) tea … two silver pots supplied by Richard; Jim charmed some hot water out of the café (with the added bonus of a dead spider). What fun. England had won a tight test match just before we started play. Could we emulate them?
Opening bowlers Lord Fakenham and Paul appeared intent on getting home early as they frequently declined to use the pitch, offering a number of full tosses that were gratefully taken advantage of by the imposing batting of Joe Banks. Then Paul located the wicket and sure enough a nasty shooter broke through to send Henry back to the pavilion. The baronet then straightened out his line and length and gained an lbw to remove Westgarth who stood motionless quite a way down the wicket offering no shot. I have no truck with players offering no shot and the baronet and skipper chorused a banshee-like appeal which may have helped in securing the wicket. “Batsman’s friend” Jeff thought it wasn’t out. I think this is the only gap in his otherwise excellent keeping prowess. Right, both openers have a wicket but runs are continuing to leak at an alarming rate as Joe keeps pouncing on anything loose. So I deploy the man I always back to get the quality players out, Chris Packham. He doesn’t necessarily realise that I hold him in such high dudgeon – and was surprised to get the call – but after some excellent probing, Grant was induced to pop one up to allow Jeff a straightforward catch. Then shortly after, a good length ball on the stumps was climbed into by Joe … but he hasn’t hit it as far as he’d hoped … underneath it Paul moves into position, looks unruffled, and takes a splendid catch with excellent calmness and technique. SALMAGUNDI!!! Could this be the turning point? At the other end Jim bowled some tidy stuff then Amir belted a couple of good shots (one of them producing an hilarious flapping attempt at stopping the boundary by 2-Bats) – so the skipper switched out the now red-faced-with-effort Chris for Stuart and David S took over from Jim.
Was this the Whitley Bay Champion’s best ever opening over? Two streaky fours off the edge and then two wickets – both bowled – off the last two deliveries as every ball had the potential to take a wicket.
Was this the Southampton Slinger’s best ever opening over? Bang on target from the off for a double-wicket maiden including Amir who had looked threatening during his 17 – both wickets also bowled.
Both bowlers now striving for the knockout blows … Dave rearranged Try’s furniture and there was one wicket to get. Owais drilled a Cover Drive that only resulted in a sore thumb for the skipper. Stuart took advantage of the opportunity for a second over to trap Boatright on his back foot for a very adjacent lbw and the Gardeners had sealed the victory. Yet another close match in what is turning into a classic season.
SGCC won by 17 runs
Thanks to Henry for taking a picture of most of us after the game; Jim also got Chris toasting our victory at The Vine a bit later. Thanks very much to Antares – we have agreed to play two matches with them next season as they are a fine bunch of fellows and this was a great match.