By Richard Higginbottom
A 1pm start for the first ‘Ashes Test’ of 2013 on Parliament Hill. So of course there are 5 Gardeners there at 1pm as new dad Jeff swings through the gate. We were up to 1o by 1.15pm and just as we took the field (Richard having lost the toss – that’s 4 out of 4) the Lord Fakenham showed up – ready to play. Some confusion after a range-finding first over from Mick as the Whitley Bay Champion had already been allocated the Athletics Track end but the skipper had asked the belated baronet to open up without bothering to inform Dave. Other Gardeners note: no hissy fits from the Finchley star despite this shoddy handling. The baronet is probably the only player we have who when arriving last can go straight onto the field of play and open the bowling finding a perfect line and length just about immediately. I commented to Jeff “the man’s a natural”. Jeff said “a natural what?”.
Mick’s now getting the ball to talk and very quickly it said “thud” as it thumped into Langridge-the-bat’s pad to get the Gardeners on the scoreboard with an lbw. This brought W.G. Grace (no I mean Players’ captain Roger) to the wicket. Mick and Fakenham continued to bowl very well whilst Billy Yates and Roger demonstrated good technique in keeping the ball out. His Lordship then matched Mick with an excellent full length delivery to pick up our second lbw and send Billy back to the bench. Now Dave gets his hands on the ball as Fakenham takes a break and is getting some swing with some full length deliveries, culminating in Hickox popping up a catch to Paul J who stepped back initially so he had to make a diving catch that was way more spectacular than it could have been. This is good – we like a showman here at Salmagundi which is another reason for the Players games being the highlights of the season. Mick bowled a rare loose delivery to new batsman Beake who obligingly hit it hard but straight at Adam at square leg who made no mistake. Very soon after Dave induced Billy Cooper into a wafted Cover Drive that Paul really did have to dive to gather – this time a fabulous effort taking our fifth wicket and putting us in the driving seat. Roger’s getting a bit fed up at the regularity of wickets falling and latched onto a shortish ball from Mick to despatch over square leg for six. Two balls later Mick found a fine inswinging yorker to exact revenge as Roger drove over the top leaving the stumps rearranged. 67-6 at drinks and the Gardeners looking very good. Fielding played some stout defence in support of number 7 Sweet who was looking ominously strong with some early boundaries as Mick gave way to Ashley at the Tennis Courts end having bowled a ten over stint. Dave induced an outside edge from Fielding to give Jeff a neat catch behind the stumps before he handed over to debutant Dave Harper at the Athletics Track end. We’re all aware that Sweet and Langridge-the-ball are very capable batsmen coming in down the order as they have significant ability with the ball in hand. Today they had the chance to show their batting prowess and took the opportunity with both hands as the ball was getting pinged all around Parliament Hill whilst respect was shown to the many good deliveries they faced. “Who’s got a golden arm?” thought Richard and brought on Adam for a bowl. This was a mixed bag as the batsmen played like Bradman against the Chesham Luvvie. What I mean by this is that when asked to describe how The Don got his runs, his team-mate Bill O’Reilly reported “he belts everything he can reach”. Adam cunningly decided more flight was required and delivered a ball of full length (ok it was a big full toss) for Jeremy to swing too fiercely at … out bowled for an innings-saving 33. Sweet continued to plunder as Lord Fakenham and Dave rejoined the fray – Ghost supported well and was cheered loudly for scoring his 100th career run for the Players before Lord Swingalot castled him. Sweet was left unbeaten on 77 as the minor peer put last man Francis out of his misery.
Tea was enjoyed by all parties to the feast I’m happy to report. Fruit Monitor Packham scored a bonus point for bringing a pineapple that he’d prepared for consumption pre-match. Those Salami & Gherkin rolls must have been good as they vanished in no time.
Into bat and we’re going at 3 an over for the first seven overs with calmness emanating from opening pair Stead and Packham. Then Chris top-edged a pull off Francis … “that’s safe” said the skipper just before Billy Yates caught a splendid catch over his shoulder as he ran towards the boundary. 22-1. Doosra Duckett’s been showing steadfast batting this season and had a good day in the field – indeed he saw so much of the ball Jeff came up with the idea of telling him he’d already had a lot to do so would be batting at 11. Unfortunately I started laughing as I was explaining this to Nick so he realised I wasn’t being serious. Dave was continuing his brilliant form from last week hitting boundaries all around the wicket. Nick decided to let fly at Ghost as soon as he came into the attack and crashed a Cover Drive over Roger’s head. Unfortunately W.G. stuck his hands up there and Nick was out. Lord Fakenham got to the middle wearing his Michael Caine specs and a helmet as well as a crisp white shirt. It’s confusing enough scoring without wondering who this “newcomer” is. A few predictable swishes before we all realised who he is again – lbw to Ghost. Ashley hit some nice shots in supporting Dave but got one that pinned him on the back foot from the Ulster Lobster and was also gone lbw. The score is now 71-4 and the skipper walks in. Never has the stage been better set for a captain’s innings … supporting Whitley Bay’s finest and getting the team at least within sight of a victory. Well all that was a ridiculous daydream as Richard proceeded to play as if he had a stick of rhubarb in his hand and was playing in a swimming pool. Two lob bowlers on at the same time? Embarassingly predictable as he top-edged a high full toss for Francis to take the catch off Billy Cooper. Some nonsense tantrum about a no-ball that did him no credit before he calmed down and admitted he’d played a rubbish shot. Couldn’t write the match report for two days because was too depressed. Jeff came in and played exactly the sort of innings his captain wanted to play – watchful for a start then playing some magnificent shots – a flat six over square leg and a very handsome extra cover drive that we all thought was going for 4 that the new Dad had to run for. Dave had got to 65 but then picked out Beake who was having a great day in the field and made no mistake off Billy’s bowling. Jeff kept going for a while but then also found Beake off Jeremy Langridge. Adam played some useful shots in his skip-a-de-hop manner. Mick crashed a 4 then got out to another big shot (good catch by Fielding off Jeremy). Dave Harper looked very handy with the willow but kept hitting the fielders until the Langridges combined and he was caught at the wicket. Adam then hit ball straight to Cooper off Billy Yates leaving Paul J stranded and we had succumbed to defeat. Now I’m feeling depressed again. Last point … did I miss a hat-trick anywhere? No not this time …
The Players won by 47 runs
From the digital device of Mr R McCann: