By Richard Higginbottom
Another pleasant valley Sunday here on the Hampstead Heath extension. Captain Higginbottom put in the stumps, set out the boundary markers and decided to bat first if he won the toss. Remarkably, that was exactly what happened, so out marched Paul J and Tom to open. Here the plan started to unravel as Paul got an absolute snorter from Boughey to offer a straightforward catch behind and in the next over Tom had his stumps rearranged by a rapid delivery from Harvey. Time for some rebuilding and J-Top worked well with Stuart Caughlin (making his season debut) to get the score moving along from a miserable 0 for 2 to 33 when Stuart was lbw to Boughey. When Stuart reached the boundary he was bemused and a couple of the Gardeners figured that he wasn’t sure about the lbw … “oh no that must have been pretty adjacent, I’m fed up because there are runs out there”. This was true because despite some very good bowling from the Strollers’ openers, if you got the ball away it fairly flew over the ground towards the boundary. 2-Bats looked comfortable until he reached for a rare wide delivery from Boughey and managed to locate Conor who was subbing for the Strollers whilst their 11th man was making his way to the ground. 53 for 4 now so the captain decided a shoring-up operation may be needed and promoted himself to 8 ready for this. No need for such safety-first precautions though as Stuart now provided J-Top with the support he needed as the Strollers made their bowling changes. Jason played some quite breathtaking shots, combining his immense power with top quality technique to pepper the boundary all around the ground. The Strollers figured Stuart needed some work on his leg-side play and offered him a variety of deliveries to get that part of his game in shape, the South Coast Slammer taking advantage but resulting in his innings looking unusually lop-sided. Both men cruised past their half centuries and perished as much due to the burning Sun and dryness, Jason getting bowled by the spin of Brown for 78 and Stuart shortly after off the Strollers other useful spinner Cauldrey. The 5th wicket stand was 141 which may be a Gardeners record for any wicket and is definitely the best in the last 5 years (statto captain to do some research). Chris kept up the tempo with a brisk 19; Conor and Paul B fell for low scores trying to keep up the stratospheric scoring rate but then Steve ‘Wang’ Bulman applied the bow-whip technique to his batting, two big sixes featuring in an unbeaten 28 to take us to the rarefied atmosphere above the 250 run line as the 35 overs came to a close.
Tea was hastily cobbled together and Stuart and Richard combined to always put the cheese in with the ham therefore neglecting to leave a vegetarian option. Apologies to Paul J who deserves better from his team-mates. Also Tom must have gone hungry. Will ensure that all diets are catered for in future …..
Into the field and the luck of the devil is following the captain around today as there’s now some light cloud cover to take the edge off the temperature and Wang is continuing his impressive day’s work with some quick bowling at the openers Brown and Cauldrey; we thought we got a wicket as Brown was given out to a Wang appeal … but the umpire had given out for caught behind and we’d appealed for an lbw. Once that was established we revoked our appeal as the ball was too high for an lbw and it had clearly not hit the bat or glove. Well played Gardeners that’s how to play the game. Short-lived respite though as Paul B bowled a crazy mix of deliveries including one snorter that Brown fended off to Wang who made good ground at slip to take the catch. Cauldrey started to play some attractive strokes as Wang kept the pressure on, resulting in a superb inswinger castling Morgan for 5. Paul got Robin to loft one into the off side where Stuart claimed a comfortable catch. The Strollers now got a partnership going between Cauldrey and Betts as Stuart C took over from Paul B and immediately found a superb line and length, superb flight combining with a real rip on the ball to have the batsmen constantly struggling to preserve their wicket when they really needed to get going. Cauldrey duly succumbed to Stuart’s constant probing, offering a return catch and no mistake was made. Wang bowled out his 7 overs … can’t believe he didn’t take more than one wicket … and Stuart took over down the hill, uncharacteristically struggling for direction (probably late-onset sandwich phobia). Anyway, Richard realised that J-Top had told him he may need to leave a bit early, so decided he ought to have a few overs to get us well ahead in the game and replaced Stuart with the Kiwi Strongman. In a five over spell Jason took wickets in overs 2, 3 and 5 to effectively close out the game as Stuart completed his spell of 7 overs straight off, very similar to Wang – 7 overs for 15 runs and amazingly only 1 wicket given the high quality of delivery. Tom came on and once he found his range was very tidy, good to be able to give him 6 overs and he richly rewarded us with 2 wickets for 27 as the overs ran down. Richard shook Jason’s hand and gave him the last half an hour off as the captain and then Paul J had a couple of overs each to complete our allocation, Betts and Morgan playing some attractive shots towards the end to at least have the Strollers have one wicket standing as the Gardeners completed the win.