By Richard Higginbottom
It’s the third weekend in July already and that can only mean that central London’s bars have taken in extra deliveries of strong liquor to cope with the influx of those formidable men from Leeds, LICS.
First up it’s the Friday night T20 – this year at what we like to call “home”, Parliament Hill. Richard continues his rich vein of form with the coin (that seems to be the only good form he’s in) and elects to bat first – mainly because only 5 of the 9 Iwecould muster (everyone’s gone away for the weekend – I think they’re suffering Yorkshirephobia) are there when we want to start. So the batting order is exactly what Richard has suggested for quite a while – strictly in order of appearance at the ground. Thanks very much to debutants Sachith and Keshan for swelling our ranks at short notice.
Richard and Dave H decided to settle in until Richard spotted one dropped in slightly shorter by Rob and hauled over the top of it. Can’t offer any excuses for that one as the bounce is notorious on the Hampstead Heath wickets – straight bat anything on the stumps! Rob and Andy continue to apply the pressure as Jeff joined 2-Bats in the middle, some sensible play nudging the score along (Jeff belted one over Extra Cover) until the Seal Clubber reached out to a stray one outside off to Rob and Jo took the catch neatly at Point. Dave continued to play authentic cricket shots whilst Sachith swiped at everything, rarely connecting as Arthur and Tom both bowled well, the latter being rewarded with Dave’s wicket lbw. Keshan’s left handed so LICS line suffered a little as both our debutants started to connect. Arthur had bowled 3 tight overs for 9 runs then Sachith belted everything in his fourth to all parts of the ground – magnificent strokeplay – retiring after the fifth ball of that over, only for Paul to square drive the last ball for 4 to add to Arthur’s final over misery. Keshan then stepped up as Paul scampered around having grasped the urgency until he was skittled by Mike. Tom got a good ball from Trevor, Rob catching him; Corey charged his first ball (missed) then stood and swung at his second (also missed, this time hitting the stumps) and then Conor and Keshan managed to work well together to at least set a reasonably challenging total of 118.
So we had some water, a few crisps, not to mention beers, and went back out into the field. Of the Gardeners regular bowlers, only Paul is here tonight. Jeff’s legs are suffering so Richard took the gloves so there goes another (dodgy) bowling option. Paul couldn’t quite get his mojo working and we got the benefit of a borderline no-ball (height) to remove Arthur for a duck (caught by Tom). Corey had confessed to feeling “crook” having drunk his own bodyweight the previous day (though somehow getting through a day at the office) and (to use another Aussie saying) chucked down pies of many delicious flavours to our visitors, Tom and Steve Fines gorging themselves to make the target look very small. Double bowling change … Dave H bowled splendidly as Tom and then Fines retired whilst Sachith proved to be a real dangerman, his fast off spinners really putting the brakes on and richly deserving his two wickets – quality batsmen Rob and Andy. 2-Bats got a reward off his final ball, a return catch off Mike. However, the total was now in clear sight for LICS and the captain had run out of bowling options … time for Jeff to get us another consolation wicket … maybe not, first ball wiped to the boundary for 4 by Paul (who had played a composed and skilful innings), first blood to LICS.
LICS WON BY 5 WICKETS
Now it’s Sunday and those folks at the Meteorological Office had promised storms of biblical proportions. However, some of us must be righteous because the clouds conspired to go around the Heath Extension all afternoon to enable us to get underway. This time Richard had no great difficulty getting a team up … then Jeff reported that all in the Round home (the Roundhouse?) were down with illness. Sachith managed to persuade another friend to play with us (welcome Randy) who we gave to the 10-strong LICS team; then Richard’s “mystery man” (another fleeting recruit) obviously decided he had something better to do than play cricket with us and failed to show up. So, if you’re buying or selling something on Gumtree, beware of people who only stick to using the Gumtree mail service and won’t give you their email or phone number (unlike the splendid Sachith and Keshan).
Richard again won the toss and again batted. And again used the same opening pair. And again played an injudicious shot, this time holing out to Point off Arthur having chased what may have been called a Wide. Toby’s in and – oh dear – suffers another duck. So wickets tumble early, ’twas ever thus. The Whitley Bay Champion is back! The two Daves had to withstand some excellent bowling, particularly by Rob and Andy, though there are no passengers in the LICS bowling lineup. A few good LBW shouts aside, a solid stand was being put together until Dave S was caught in front “plumb as can be” (per Lord Fakenham, umpiring) – only problem being that no-one in the visitors team appealed. “They’re not typical Yorkshiremen”, remarked the man of Lancashire (Doosra Duckett). Both players increased their tempo with the innings going on, having played a wide range of shots (Dave S confiding that he couldn’t remember using the middle of the bat until he’d been out there for over half an hour), reaching their 50s in the same over. Shortly after 2-Bats got a beauty of a delivery from LICS captain Paul and was bowled. The WBC played another couple of big shots (nice straight six I recall) before perishing caught (also off Paul). Sachith continued his Friday night exploits, belting the bowling around the park in the closing overs as Conor supported to get the score up to just under 5 per over.
Tea … the new technique of “help yourself” continues to win approval (saves making loads of sandwiches) so at last the captain has got some of his life back. Into the field and Toby’s been pawing the ground following his early departure from batting and bowled some great deliveries that Tom and Paul were dealing with quite well until Tom got under an attempted pull-drive, giving Toby an easy return catch. Not to be outdone, Lord Fakenham deployed his slower ball and Paul swung across it too early, pinning him in front. Shortly after Arthur dragged a ball from the baronet around to Square Leg where Trevor (our sub from LICS) took a good catch. Time for the spinners … though Richard (keeping) found that Sachith is as quick as most of our seamers and stood back to (a) prevent Byes escalating and (b) preserve his teeth and eyewear. Jeremy bowled some great stuff early in his spell as Sachith was very difficult to score off, his speed and accuracy both being remarkable and getting his reward with Steve and Jo being bowled by consecutive full length balls each turning a bat’s width. Andy showed great technique to keep out the hat-trick ball. Rob and Andy now batted very well together as Jeremy’s line uncharacteristically started to suffer, so Doosra was brought on to replace him – who put in a tidy spell. Paul took over from Sachith just as the LICS players had played themselves in and now we were chasing leather, our previously dominant position now coming back towards parity. It’s time to test the Whitley Bay Champion’s back. Now deploying spin off a short run up, the technique is still pretty classy and he’s found a good line and length as Toby returned to make runs hard to come by at the other end. Rob and Andy realised they need to press on and Rob promptly gave Dave the charge, the ball went on with the arm and Richard took a smart stumping. Randy smashed Toby over Mid Wicket … no … Sachith’s onto it … ah can’t quite hold on … would have been the most stunning catch. If Randy stays in for two overs we’re in serious trouble … Dave pitches one up, Randy carves under it, the top edge goes over Richard’s head … and Lord Fakenham, back-pedalling from slip, takes the catch expertly. Toby’s bowled out so the baronet returns … Steve Fines is now playing some good shots and with Andy he’s starting to make us sweat again … then Dave bowled a good length ball on Andy’s stumps, it stayed a bit low and the big man departed for a Heinz (57) of the highest quality. So, an easy trundle now for the Gardeners to the conclusion … of course not! 14 required off the last (Fakenham) over, 8 wickets down. Mike hits a 4. Then gets bowled by a superb yorker. So it’s 8 to win off the last 2 balls with number 11 Trevor to face. A full length ball on the stumps … gets clipped away through backward square and it’s just outside 2-Bats’ range. All players except keeper and bowler now back towards or on the boundary. Same ball. Same shot. But this time Dave’s further round thanks to the reinforced leg side field and securely rolls to ball back into Richard’s gloves to render any further runs impossible. Breathless.
SALMAGUNDI GARDENERS WON BY 1 RUN
So … all parties agreed to a resumption of hostilities next year as we walked off the pitch and the Gardeners commented that the LICS team are indeed a fine body of fellows and it’s a privilege to host them.