By Richard Higginbottom
O to be in Enfield now that Spring is here. Challenging week on the build up to our season opener … a lot of the stalwarts aren’t quite ready for action yet so Captain Creativity is making calls and sending texts to all sorts in the hope of getting 11 souls together willing to represent the Salmagundi cause. Wrong ‘Un Matt Incledon generously agreed to join us on the Thursday. Next problem is the iffy weather – North Enfield fixture secretary and vice captain David Malleson stayed in contact throughout and we made the call to proceed at 11am on the Sunday. Just after this, Matt had to drop out because of a family illness (best wishes to you and your brother). For once Lady Luck smiled on me as Roger texted “looking for another Gardener?”. Wow what a 12th man! The Ulster Maestro had his game in Berkhamstead called off so we were back up to 11.
Usual shenanigans getting to the ground – friendly note to players – getting to grounds always takes longer than you think, so allow more time. Richard won the toss and elected to field just as the final four headed into the changing rooms. Not wishing to delay our generous hosts any longer, Roger bowled the first over to the Salmagundi 7 … Richard deployed a canny 3-2 field and shouted “keep it tight!” Somewhat unpredictably, a Maiden got us underway as the four stragglers entered the fray for the second over.
For those of you unfamiliar with the local topography, the North Enfield ground is on a considerable slope … in fact compared to the so-called “slope” at Lords (9 feet) this one is a monster …. over 20 feet drop from North to South …. and we play across the slope, so at least the captain doesn’t have the onerous task of lumbering someone with a long spell up the hill. Anyway, Jason and Roger both dealt with this admirably, beating the bat and causing problems. Roger got a breakthrough in his fourth over as debutant ‘keeper Chris Spicer spotted Ricketts had been batting a long way out of his crease so stood up and of course the batsman then nicked it … tough chance but Chris grabbed it to claim our first wicket of the campaign. Shortly after Jason drew a lofted drive from Conway but our second debutant Joel Kinahan couldn’t quite hang on …. surprising as Joel had been fielding superbly … and continued to do so for the rest of the innings. Jason fingertipped a couple more hard chances before taking a breather and being replaced by Joel. Whoa! What have we here? Wides, full tosses, ah that’s a better one … then more random fare. The batsmen are obviously starting to think “easy runs” when Joel produced the most sublime jaffa to rearrange Moxham’s stumps. Is he a lucky bowler? No he’s a really good bowler – he’s simply betraying the fact that he hasn’t played for 18 months and is coming back from a dislocated shoulder. Roger continued for a couple more overs – was there a nick that we appealed loudly for ? Well, the batsman didn’t walk and the umpire didn’t give it. No dissent from the Gardeners, so well contained. Richard had to summon Joel for a second over. “After that rubbish?” queried our genial newcomer. “You took a great wicket … I forgot everything else” replied the Salmagundi skipper. Second over a bit more of the same except only a couple of wides and looking generally more threatening. Roger now needed a rest so Richard brought on Jeremy who betrayed some early season nerves as Conway started to open his shoulders. Then Jeremy started to swing his arm through properly and found some probing deliveries. Meanwhile the Joel show continued as the good balls were now vastly outnumbering the bad ones, to Webster’s cost as a lethal inswinging yorker returned the North Enfield number 4 to the pavilion. Ah here’s a left hander … Webster played some neat shots in support of Conway until Jeremy bowled him with a lovely drifting ball. Paul, Adam and Richard all had a bowl as we tried to remove Conway to no avail who reached an impressive century, Phillips keeping him company as the home side declared at tea on 204-4.
Tea was very good – ah the joys of a proper pavilion. Joel had been working so hard in the field he was actually glad to be given the number 11 berth. Paul Jordan had lived up to his nickname ‘King of the Night-Time World’ with less than three hours sleep so was an obvious choice to open with the skipper. A solid opening stand ensued as we got the hang of the slope, Paul hitting a few boundaries whilst Richard collected singles. The captain punched through two cuts for fours and thought it’s time to move on a bit, resulting in not hitting a lofted cover drive hard enough and holing out. Roger strode to the wicket and North Enfield found some good deliveries to put him under pressure until a couple of well played strokes settled the Ulsterman down. At tea Jason had told Roger “extra weight not slowing you down in the field I noticed” to which Roger replied “I’ve wintered well”. “Perhaps putting on a couple of stone would help your fielding” the Norfolk nobleman was advised by his skipper. Nasty barb that. Roger and Paul were gradually upping the tempo (I’m guessing at this stage via the scorebook, I was having a shower and getting changed … the one benefit of getting out too soon). Anyway I took the best view in the house after I re-emerged, taking the umpire’s coat from Lord Fakenham. Everything was now ringing off Roger’s bat and when last 20 overs was called at 5.45pm we needed just under six an over. The first of those 20 overs gleaned 20 runs as Roger hit two sixes and two fours … now we’re in the ascendant. Paul was beating himself up for not hitting everything out of the middle … but was actually playing really well. After all, today it was Roger’s world, we just play in it. A spectacular stop by an Enfielder left him prone in obvious agony. “Looks like a collar bone” opined Paul. Richard ambled over to inspect the damage; “it’s cramp in his left leg” called one of his team-mates. Note: if Paul offers to perform first aid in the case of future incidents, be very afraid.
Paul struck a few more fours and then perished in similar fashion to Richard agonisingly one short of a half century. 2-Bats entered the fray in spectacular fashion, scoring two fours in his first 4 balls. Roger responded in similar fashion as we accelerated further. Astonishing straight drives, sublime cuts, muscular pulls, deft touches, the caress of steel. This was a joy to behold for everyone of the Salmagundan persuasion. The target is looming up and the question is can Roger reach a century before we cross the line? Roger took his score to 98 with a cover drive for four and we’re 2 short of the win. Richard hurried over to Adam (thanks for umpiring our entire innings) and 2-Bats. “Dave – just block, do not score any more runs, do not get out; Adam – I don’t care if it’s the biggest Wide or No-ball you ever saw, don’t give it”. Dave got the message and then took up his batting position right in front of Adam. “DAVE GET OUT OF THE WAY!” advised Adam. “I thought it was the over” said Dave, returning to the non-striker’s position. Roger added a single. Dave blocked the last ball of the over and declined a very easy single for the win. First ball of the next over … dropped in short … Roger pulled majestically for four, his unbeaten century, and the win.
Shortly afterwards in the changing room the captain proclaimed his love of all things Salmagundi Gardeners. Then apologised to those Gardeners who didn’t get a bat. “Normally we all get a bat” he truthfully declared.
SGCC WON BY 8 WICKETS