By Richard Higginbottom
Congratulations to my Uncle Arthur and Aunt Vivien who celebrated their golden wedding anniversary on the day before this game. Could some of our own golden oldies or perhaps a dashing young blade produce a match winning performance today? Arrival at Parliament Hill and every person with access to four wheels in London has decended on the Heath. This is partially due to TfL’s continuing assumption that no-one wants to travel anywhere on a Sunday (made a mess of Lord Fakenham’s trip to the ground). Anyway, having parked 3 streets away I hauled all the apparatus to the ground (on the way a cyclist asked “all that … for cricket?”).
We’re all there apart from three of us – the aforementioned baronet plus Vikas and Stuart who were in the same car. Apparently Mrs Sareen was directing Vikas on a short shopping tour of North East London to the “amusement” of Stuart in the back seat en route to the ground. The wicket as always didn’t look too promising so Wrong ‘Uns skipper Matt Ames decided to field when he called correctly. The Wrong ‘Uns had brought twelve players so we agreed on a 40 over match with one of our players to go in twice should 10 wickets go down. The old schoolmates Nick and Adam opened the batting and fairly soon Mike Day (yes, that Mike Day, he’s played for us a couple of times) thumped one into Nick’s pad and we were 2 for 1. The captain looked pretty calm and there were limited worries until – shortly after a magnificent lofted drive for four – the Beetley Beetle got a bit tangled up and Tettenborn took a regulation catch off Harby. Richard hit a four, relaxed and promptly looped the next full toss into Cover’s hands from Mike Day. Not a very disciplined reaction to his shortcoming. Oh dear. Jason Topp had been playing his way in then belted an enormous six off Luke “Sepia” Copus. Richard went round to retrieve the ball, handing a spare cherry to the fielders; found a different ball and came back to find that Jeff was now back on the bench having been bowled by Ames. It’s 85 for 5 so we need a good stand to give us a chance in this game. And that is exactly what we got. There was a lot of tight bowling which both Chris and Jason expertly negotiated and on anything loose the Kiwi Strongman cut loose, hitting impressive boundaries all around the park, especially square and straight, losing two more balls in the process. Nik played some tidy looking shots and then misjudged one, leaving the scene for 11. Chris played splendidly in support of J-Top, accumulating, expertly calling the runs, staying very cool amongst the mayhem. Despite JT’s incredible hitting the Wrong ‘Uns stuck at it manfully, a brilliant catch by Ames on the boundary failing to stand as he fell over the line and another great attempt to knock the ball back into play then catch the rebound narrowly failing by Allan Young (saved 5 runs, though). The stand had realised 84 runs when J-Top tried to hit Allan Young onto Hampstead Road, only succeeding in giving a simple stumping. A sensational 91 off only 59 balls with seven sixes. Jim, like all of us not used to having to wait so long for a bat, dragged his back foot out when defending his first ball to Allan, missed the ball and was stumped for a golden duck. Stuart plays for the Wrong ‘Uns often in the Victoria Park midweek league and got a lot of banter. He rose to it well, hitting a splendid six over midwicket. Then he was baited again and this time the result was a simple catch for Wendleborn. Vikas batted like a man in a hurry (perhaps Mrs S had forgotten something), a fabulous straight six featuring whilst Chris was caught off Ames for an excellent 27 which helped to hold the innings together. Fakenham tried to bash one, only succeeding in giving a fairly easy return catch to Allan. Jim went in again for a couple of balls as the 40 overs came to a close.
The captain had provided the entire tea because (a) he’s a sucker for punishment and (b) with this Summer of many players it’s hard to find players that play regularly enough to ask to bring something.
So, into the field and Stuart’s straining at the leash following his sub-optimal batting display … very good first over. However, Vikas from the Tennis Courts end immediately finds a great line and length, Luke finding his inswinger impossible to get a bat to and we’re into the wickets very early. Matt Incledon is playing well, keeping out the probing deliveries from Vikas and punching away a few loose deliveries from Stuart; Tetters was watchful in support until a superb yorker from Vikas knocked back his stumps. Well into the game now but Wendleborn and Incledon got ahead of the required rate with an enterprising stand despite some top quality bowling until Wenders went for a second run on the arm of Nik Patel … and Nik lasered in a flat throw to Chris who handled expertly to complete the run-out. Matt shortly after went after a wide-ish one from Stuart, locating the bucket-like hands of J-Top at Cover. So it’s four down … but don’t forget, we need to take 11 wickets today. Kwong had been kept very quiet by some very tight bowling until Vikas found another pearler to rearrange his furniture. It’s 55-5 and we’re in the ascendant. Lord Fakenham and Nik took over with the ball and both kept it under control, resulting in Spike swiping across a rare full toss from the Norfolk Nobleman, it hitting him square in the family jewels. Both bowler and keeper thought “unfortunate fellow” but the captain is far more practical/focused/uncaring/mean (you choose) and hollered “HOWZAT!” as from his vantage point at 1st slip, this looked to be hitting the base of middle stump. Sure enough the umpire agreed. Nik was proving very difficult to get away, and bowled an extravagant off-cutter that stayed so low it left a batsman of Ricky’s expertise flummoxed to get us to seven wickets. Michael Day now stood up for our visitors and mixed some exciting attacking strokes (great straight six off a good length Fakenham ball was the highlight) with classic technique to keep out the frequent grubbers. Allan Young meanwhile was good enough to get his bat to a Fakenham outswinger, Jeff at Gully taking the catch. This was shortly after the Seal Clubber had narrowly failed with a brilliant attempt at a diving catch off Nik’s bowling. The Wrong ‘Uns skipper Matt Ames joined Michael and now the Gardeners were on the receiving end as Jim – replacing Nik – struggled to find his usual excellent line and length. Higginbottom decided to keep Nik going … ah a bit too keen there, he’s had eight overs … so Stuart stepped in and all too predictably got us back ahead by bowling Mike. Matt now starts to open up against everyone as Paddy joins him, they added 20 in no time before Paddy also had his timbers rearranged by The Prodigy. Now it’s Bobby (who someone with a Norfolk accent unfairly claimed was in his “natural batting position”) at number 12. Drama!! Jim bowled a full toss, Matt wiped across it, steepling catch taken well by Stuart amongst catcalls from the Wrong ‘Uns but “no ball” called by the Square Leg umpire. Bowler, skipper and bowlers’ end umpire all thought it was closer to knee height. Higginbottom and Round later apologised for unseemly criticisms as Stuart and Chris thought it probably was a no-ball. Matt hits another couple of fours and the Wrong ‘Uns are nearing 200. Bobby popped one just past Lord Fakenham (who might have got the return catch a few years ago). Over 200 now. Squeaky bum time or what!!! Bobby didn’t get hold of a pull off the baronet and Jim tumbled over to take a low catch. Celebration time … no! … most of us thought Jim had taken it cleanly but the man himself couldn’t be sure so refused to claim it. It is exactly this standard of sportsmanship that is so admirable of Jim and, I hope, of the club. In the meantime J-Top has been bowling brilliantly from the Athletics track end, getting so many ground-hugging snicks that the runs have been racking up. Eventually he bowls a superb delivery, the wicket assists somewhat as the ball stays low, and Matt’s stumps are splayed for an heroic 59. The cries of relief rather than exultation were very noticeable. To a man the entire Gardeners’ team went to console and congratulate the Wrong ‘Uns hero. One of our greatest games.
SALMAGUNDI GARDENERS WON BY 4 RUNS