By Richard Higginbottom
September already? What a superb Summer it has been since the oh-so-cold May to mid-June. We’re now up at the Extension (Golders Green) to resume battle with our good friends Woodstock on a beautiful afternoon. The Gardeners captain called correctly and opted to bat because that’s what he likes to do. Despite the fact that Woodstock captain Bob looks to have mustered a tea of immense proportions and we may be staggering around in the field later as not many of us are good at the art of tea-time restraint. In fact I think that for some of the Gardeners it’s the only meal they have at the weekend.
Chris faced the first ball – an out-of-character slow full toss outside off stump from the normally unerring Bob. A few years ago this might have been called a “one off the mark” type of delivery to a professional playing in his benefit match. Chris was obviously feeling more like a benefactor himself as he failed to go through with his off drive, lobbing a catch straight into Mid Off’s hands and standing there mortified by his action. [Captain’s note: this is so typical of me, not of Chris, that I completely understand the level of self-approbation]. Doosra Duckett sensibly saw out the rest of the over, pinching a single to keep Lord Fakenham pawing the ground at the non-striker’s end. A couple of balls later and Nick had rotated the strike so the baronet was facing his first ball … meat-and-drink, a half-track long hop from Darren that had “hit me” written all over it. His Lordship duly obliged, using the top edge to place the simplest of catches into Mid Wicket’s hands. Both openers gone for Golden Ducks. No-one could remember being at any match before where this had happened, let alone played in one. So another first to … er … “boast” about in the coming years. Paul J’s made a welcome return and he’s battling his way into form against the sort of bowling that doesn’t suit him. In the meantime Darren pinned Nick on the back foot and Doosra headed to the boundary. Jason Topp is playing his second afternoon game for us and despite struggling with his timing still managed to club a lot of boundaries on his way to 27 before Darren’s quicker ball deceived him. Conor followed soon after, giving a return catch to Darren and then Kevin took over from the Golders Green end and hit a perfect line and length, Paul and Stuart unable to up the scoring rate. This frustration led to Stuart taking a big swing to one that at last was wide of leg stump … only for the ball to ricochet onto leg stump. Richard prodded around a bit then played for leg spin that never happened with a ugly swipe and was bowled. Adam and Steve supported Paul in making the score respectable as Sam took a couple of late wickets.
Tea was indeed immense … we lumbered back out onto the outfield and found wickets hard to come by after Jason T had removed Stuart early. The advent of Lord Fakenham brought a cluster of wickets but in the meantime Mark Buttle – who we had lent to Woodstock as they were one short, played himself in after we had gained the ascendancy by Bob offering a faint edge and walking immediately (a class act, as we all know). Chris returned to nip out Paul but then Darren played some good shots to work with Mark to close out the game.
Woodstock won by 4 wickets