By Richard Higginbottom
The Gardeners limped into this fixture licking our wounds following three defeats in our first three games. Roger McCann made his season debut for us to size up the opposition for next week’s Ashes. If he wasn’t such a fine player and decent bloke I’d have turned down his application to join our ranks for this game. Tom Monahan also got time off from the café to make his 2013 debut.
We’re always mildly disappointed that Woodstock don’t turn up smoking reefers and playing loud rock music … but amazingly all 22 players were at Parliament Hill by 2pm so Gardeners skipper and cycling madman Richard lost the toss (that’s 3 out of 3) and was asked to bat. Quite happy with that as all eleven Gardeners have at least some idea with the willow (or so the skipper thought).
Dave Stead and Roger opened and were very watchful with some extremely variable bounce in the pitch – generally low with the occasional lifter and shooter. Dave didn’t miss any opportunity to dispatch any ball errant in line and raced to 20 with some handsome boundaries and sharp running. Roger was growing in confidence when Woodstock talisman Bob found a sweet spot on the track resulting in our Ulsterman being caught at the wicket. Chris came in at three, unsure whether his reported “hissy fit” had ensured his return to the upper order (it hadn’t, Richard’s logarithmic table had pointed to number 3 slot for the Kentish all-rounder before the Cambridge match report appeared). A bit of prodding about by an uncharacteristically uncertain Chris led to his playing back to another skidder from Bob … that’s out lbw. Paul Jordan was in a very short while – the unfortunate fellow getting the unwanted accolade of “shooter of the day” – one that failed to raise even one centimetre from the pitch tickled the woodwork and we were now in serious trouble at 23-3; and all 3 to Bob. Paul’s girlfriend consoled him by giggling remorselessly at Paul’s expressions of dismay and was sent to purchase a beer for her Gardener to make up for this shoddy lack of support. 2-Bats headed to the middle with instructions to “steady the ship” and was looking relatively at ease until Bob dropped one at long-hop length that made Dave’s eyes light up … then of course the ball failed to bounce much … the ensuing attempt to convert a big drive into a block looked like “an octopus falling out of a tree” according to post-match analysis from someone with a Norfolk accent. Bowled. 29-4. Tom’s in and Steadley is apparently maintaining his composure. Though I suspect he was thinking “what next?” Tom always looks unflustered and the demon Bob took a breather with one over left of his allocation. Spinner Sunil took over from Bob at the Tennis Courts end and Tom decided to immediately assert his authority by dancing down the wicket to show him who’s boss. He certainly achieved that … Sunil’s the gaffer, Tom stumped for 6. Captain cannot repeat his reaction in print. Dave’s now reciting the part of ‘If ‘ that says “When all about you are losing their heads”. Though Dave normally thinks of exceedingly good cakes when it comes to Kipling [short and gently amusing anecdote available from the great man on request]. King Jeremy the Wicked [the man himself will get this] joined Dave and at last we had two batsmen at the crease who were taking the game to the opposition. This gave our North Eastern hero some further confidence resulting in a superb six over Extra Cover amongst some other fine strokes. Jeremy was playing stylish shots all round the wicket in support until Paul found a good ball to remove our silver haired marvel for 11 – a stand of 33. Doosra Duckett … skipper told him he needed Dead-Bat Duckett to ensure Dave could reach the magic 3 digits now looming into sight. Nick played some good shots and managed to rotate the strike as Dave continued finding boundaries – going onto an ice cream (99) with a big six over deep mid-wicket They’re still looking for the ball now. An easy single and another century to confirm Dave’s well-earned moniker of the Whitley Bay Champion. Then he got out – 7th wicket stand of 53. A bit lazy really and his skipper told him he wanted a “daddy hundred”. Lord Fakenham and Doosra pottered about and we had a defendable total on a pitch of unpredictable nature.
Into the field and the captain was vilified in his decision to let Mick and Lord Fakenham select their own ends. Between you and I, dear reader, if the skipper had selected ends for them he would have reversed them. So that goes to show how much he knows about bowling. Anyway, on with the motley as Mick took a few balls to find his range – very useful for the captain who was making his first foray behind the stumps for the season – using his feet to good effect to deal with the low bounce and getting some decent exercise. Bob was opening and as usual was showing some menace but our fielding was holding its own … then we gave Bob a life … oh dear Paul’s now feeling like someone wants him to have a bad day. However nothing deters our fearless Tasmanian and an inswinger that moved about 5 inches in the air on a perfect length castled the Woodstock wonder … and such is Bob’s impact on the team it immediately felt we were ahead despite it being just 11-1. The Lord Fakenham’s new lease of life continues to give our opposition problems and the North Norfolk Baronet produced some extravagant swing from the Lido End, but then found a slightly straighter one to confound Bob’s opening partner Samir – lbw for 8. Sal-ma-gun-di! Our friend Kevin who convened this fixture with Doosra a couple of years back came in and received a searing examination of his defensive technique from both ends as our opening bowlers vied to take their second wickets. Kevin stood up well to the test until Fakenham claimed another plumb lbw to put the Gardeners firmly in the box seat. Mick swiftly followed up with a classic off-cutter to trim Noel’s bails. Doosra took over from His Lordship and new batsman Darren put Nick’s space-balls to the sword as Woodstock’s reply started to gain some respectability. Skipper checked on the fitness of W. G. Grace (sorry Roger, this is meant to be a compliment to your excellent beard) and the hirsuite son of the Six Counties took over bowling duties from Nick. Roger took very few balls to find an excellent line and length accounting for Sunil to get us to the half-way mark in terms of wickets. Jeremy had a couple of overs after Mick’s allocated overs were done (great effort Micko) as Roger continued to pick up regular wickets with a mixture of timber-striking and lbws. A very high-class show. 2-Bats gave Darren some to hit and some to miss – could easily have had a wicket there. Keep on Roger at the Lido end as he might just get a 5-for … Tom’s on at the Tennis Courts end and striving to find a line and length … ah not such a good ball that … belted to square leg … picked up clean as a whistle by Doosra Duckett – who gets rid of the ball quickly to Stumper Higginbottom and notches a splendid run-out. Bonus – that’s top scorer Darren out for 43. Wish I had taken a picture of Nick’s face at that moment. Brilliant!
Roger duly found a straight enough ball to tempt Bobby into trying to clear Lord Fakenham at mid-on … the nobleman putting up one hand to nonchalantly complete our victory and Roger’s first Gardeners’ 5-for. Last word to Bobby: “I’m glad I hit it!”.
SGCC won by 46 runs