By Richard Higginbottom
After a year’s break due to the Olympics (that’s the only thing Seb Coe got wrong), LICS were warmly welcomed back to London to resume hostilities with Salmagundi on a balmy weekend in Central London. The first encounter was a T20 on Friday night at Regents Park with midweek skipper Nick taking the reins. Nick continued our winning ways with the coin of late and elected to bat, Richard and Jeff opening the innings.
Richard settled into a dogged attritional innings after offering a difficult chance to slip off the first ball of the match from LICS captain Paul. Jeff smashed a boundary off Andy Gore then declined to play a shot at a ball that would have uprooted his leg stump, Mr Packham sending the Seal Clubber back to the boundary. For the record the non-striking batsman would have advised Jeff against a review had the DRS been in place.
Roger (aka W G Grace) as always timed the ball sweetly as Richard nudged and deflected (except for a cut and a cover drive for 4s), putting on 50 until Roger retired on 25 and shortly after Richard drove over a good ball from Rob for 18. 2-Bats clubbed the ball around impressively to make 15 in no time before holing out to Proc off Andy G. Nick played his trademark late cut for 4 and then got bowled by a jaffa from Andy G, who together with Rob was giving us a lot of trouble. Rob emphasised this, Paul catching Chris off his bowling just as the Kentish all-rounder was beginning to settle. The middle order continued to crumble as Conor perished without troubling the scorer to Andy G. Jeremy looked calm under pressure as the carnage continued at the other end, with Paul contributing a single before Rob bowled him and Stuart getting a superb off cutter to hit the top of his off stump for a water fowl of the golden variety. Who’s this ginger haired latecomer at number 11? It’s none other than the Whitley Bay Champion, who traded elegant drives and pulls with General Joystick in putting on an unbeaten last wicket stand of 50 to post a decent total and deny W G a return visit to the wicket.
Ah Summertime – the Baker has switched roles to being the Beerman and brought a coolbag stuffed with beer. This may have contributed to a slightly dazed performance in the field as the game wore on, but the Gardeners started their fielding stint in impressive fashion, Stuart trapping Arthur for a duck as both he and the WBC found a good line and length. Steve Fines and Rob coped with the bowling very well, cutting and driving intelligently until both were undone by first change bowler WG’s stylish inswingers, Fines being caught by Jeff for 13 and Rob bowled on the same number. Andy G was perplexed by the sultan of swing’s next ball and it was hat-trick opportunity … Richard’s ready not to miss this one … ah no, confidently played for a leg side single by Paul.
Chris had taken over from Stuart at The Hub end and bowled some testing stuff that Paul and Mike manfully dealt with … we re-positioned the leg side field to put a man in prime catching position at midwicket. Packham delivered the ball. Paul played the lofted pull-drive. Circling and scrambling underneath it to get into position was our own Paul (he of the Crazy variety, the King of the Night Time version being on duty in Club Land). He’s slightly overrun it … no he’s in good shape … here it comes … CRACK!!! Silence fell as the ball had avoided Paul’s outstretched hands and smashed into his eyebrow. Blood poured. These Viking invaders always cause carnage and tonight was no exception. A couple of people said “should have caught that” after we realised the injury was unlikely to be life threatening. Hastily rearranging kit and bags, Richard turned the Touran into an impromptu ambulance to take the Somerset Shaman and his doting girlfriend Sarah (“what happened?”) up to the Royal Free Hospital. They gave him stitches in pretty quick time and a long overdue “check-up-from-the-neck-up” to determine that he was “not in danger”. Phew. Whilst the medical team were doing their fine work, Richard had returned to the Park just after the game had finished to find that:
1 Paul and Mike had completed their 25s in good time and retired,
2 Dave S had forgotten how to bowl (per the man himself) and got mugged for 14 in the 18th over and
3 Jeremy had bowled a good 19th over to give us an outside chance of a win, but
4 Dave bowled a wide to leave LICS as the victors.
“You b*****y shower I knew you’d fall apart after I left” said the uncharitable Richard, seemingly forgetting he’s not exactly Jonty Rhodes in the field or Joel Garner with the ball. Great game and now we need revenge on Sunday at Parliament Hill.
“Can you play on Sunday?” Richard asked Paul as he collected him and Sarah from the Royal Free a little later (having deposited some Gardeners to partake of strong liquor at The Volunteer with our guests). “No he shouldn’t play” interjected Sarah. “Yeah, you’re right” said Paul, “is that a problem?”. “Oh no” replied the Salmagundi skipper. “I’ve got a 12th man”. To be continued …
LICS won by 4 wickets
… so after a couple of nights of LICS laying waste to the capital, we resumed our friendly hostilities with on Sunday at Parliament Hill, Richard having secured the services of Roger in place of the stricken Paul. A blisteringly hot afternoon, LICS captain Paul called correctly and took the option to bat (which Richard admitted he would also have done). Richard was getting prepared to keep wicket when Sas offered his services, gratefully taken up by the skipper. Clean glovework ensued. Richard: “You’ve obviously kept before”. Sas: “No this is my first time”. Impressive.
From the Athletics Track end Chris steamed in working up a good pace but struggling to find his usual line in the Corridor of Uncertainty. “Sorry, what a load of crap” he uttered. It was actually not that bad, but he drives himself hard. Meanwhile at the Tennis Courts End Lord Fakenham was finding an excellent modus operandi and pinned Paul lbw after the LICS skipper had looked dangerous with two driven boundaries. Very soon after the Norfolk Nobleman added fellow LICS opener Jo to his hunting bag, bowling the maiden to underline a good start for the Gardeners. Paul had quite quickly changed out of his batting gear to take up umpiring duties and gave another lbw decision Salmagundi’s way to remove the flabbergasted Steve Fines in the baronet’s next over. Chris Packham is an unselfish man but was becoming jealous of the attention his opening partner was getting and conjured up an excellent delivery to claim another lbw (wow these LICS boys play fair) in the next over. It’s four down and here comes Jeff. “Come on lads we’re at the tail!” called Chris. Jeff was given some stern tests of his technique by Fakenham and Chris until the skipper decided it was time for the twirlymen and brought on Ricky and Stuart (no, not Bruce, but our irregular and similarly talented all-rounder, Caughlin). An inauspicious start by Ricky as Jeff slammed a full toss to the (go on, guess … yes you’re right) midwicket boundary. Ricky likes being hit for four about as much as Richard likes being called on a match day by someone with an “unforeseen problem” and he demonstrated superb control just as Stuart (relieving Lord Fakenham after an inspired spell in the early afternoon heat) was tying down the batsmen similarly. Ricky induced an edge from Rob who had defended stoutly for more than 3 overs, Roger taking the catch skilfully, and then had the prize wicket of Jeff, taking a straightforward return catch. Neither bowler was giving away anything and the field was getting tighter and tighter. “I like this,” said Ricky “lots of close fielders”. The tension ratcheted up still further as Stuart got Trev lbw (an unprecedented fourth verdict in the innings) and Ricky bowled Jimmy for 4. Time for the alternative twirlymen Nick and the captain to take over … ah, LICS stepped up to the plate now, playing some good counter-attacking cricket though offering some half-chances that the Gardeners weren’t quite up to taking advantage of. Doosra eventually got one to bounce at chest height (must have been the top spinner though some people thought the wicket had a part to play) and Steve H couldn’t quite work out what to do, ending up tipping the simplest of catches to Sas. This released Andy Gore into the wild who partnered the increasingly confident Proc in a stand of more than 60 (is he Ashton Agar in disguise?) until the skipper tired of his own bowling and brought back Stuart who applied the coup-de-grace within 3 balls, bowling Proc agonisingly just three short of his half century.
A good tea was enjoyed by both sides … we are the folks that play on the Hill and we always play well in the interval. There’s a song in there somewhere so I’ll get Louise of Louise Rose & Dirty Boots to write the music whilst I work on the lyrics.
Earlier in the day I’d asked 2-Bats if he fancied a bowl. “No thanks I’d rather bat further up the order” he’d replied. I thought about making him number 10, saying “you would have been number 11 if you’d have bowled”, but figured this would have been a trifle harsh even by my own aspiring-to-diabolical standard. So the Walthamstow Babelfish opened proceedings with Ulster’s WG and proceeded to crash the ball all around the park – occasionally using the edge but generally opting for the middle of the bat – some very handsome drives and pulls. At the other end, Roger was impressed by Dashing Dave and very soon upped his tempo – a delightful clip off his legs through midwicket followed by a straight drive of such power it nearly broke the sightscreen. The carnage continued and by the end of the tenth over we had reached 82 for 0 – neither the skipper nor Chris could remember a higher total after ten overs. Slightly too good to last and we lost our first wicket to Jimmy, taking over from Paul at the Athletics track end, one that stayed low winning the lbw shout. Though both batsman and bowler thought the ball may have pitched outside leg stump. Perhaps Lord Fakenham, now in the white coat, thought he could claim another wicket today? 2-Bats then went from 39 to 51 and retired in the course of an over – another good innings from David who’s having his best season so far. Rob replaced Andy G at the Tennis Courts end and bowled the highest ball of the day (would have been head high to Duckett if he was standing on Richard’s shoulders) but then settled down to bowl a good spell, accounting for Adam (caught behind) and Sas (caught at Cover). Score was now over 100 and the usual alarms of clattering wickets were not evident as Conor, increasing in confidence and improving his technique in each game, hit a couple of superb straight drives to finish the game ably supported by the calming influence of Stuart at the game’s denouement.
SGCC won by 7 wickets.
Both sides agreed at the Vine afterwards that the tour was a resounding success and we look forward to LICS visiting us around the same time in 2014. Richard will be looking at the fixture list and seeing whether a tour to Leeds is feasible during next year as well. Three tours in one season? Come on let’s do it!