By Richard Higginbottom
Summer is here … blazing sunshine and 25C temperature greeted the two teams as we convened on the Hampstead Heath extension. Mark and Joel have brought a friend along … and Stuart of Woodstock tells me they’re one short … so it’s 11 vs 11 for a duel in the Sun. Richard lost the toss and Stuart clearly thought “result wicket” (it never looks too promising) and decided to insert the Gardeners. The captain has been a bit distraught at the batting collapses (actually, not collapses, we were never in a good position, so we didn’t collapse … perhaps “dysfunctional batting” is a more appropriate term) of the past two weeks so promoted himself to open with the King Of The Night Time World.
Paul was pretty quickly into his stride, blocking the good balls and belting anything loose to the boundary. The captain was struggling to hit the skin off a rice pudding, even taking to wearing a strapping on his reported tennis elbow this week and using this as a somewhat lame excuse. Nevertheless, we reached 47 after ten overs at which point Lorne took a breather and Bob proceeded to bowl a spell tighter than an elasticated elbow support. The bounce was less variable than we expected … everything stayed incredibly low, with a few rolling deliveries to keep us on our toes. Richard tried a few shots to break the shackles, usually missing or hitting straight to fielders, until he tried to hit Darren onto Hampstead Way and was castled for 20. Can tell the folks at the boundary had fallen asleep when I was batting as I got two fours, not one as per the book; still, Paul deserved the bonus as he played a great innings of 65 (he’s previously had two 49s for us). Abraham – showing good style in a tidy spell – took Paulie J’s wicket lbw (sorry Paul, looked plumb from the boundary). Mark was run out by a bit of smart fielding and then Jeff – clearly impeded by his ankle injury – managed to notch 23 in quick time before being bowled by Kevin. Big Alex in the meantime was bowling an inspired spell, his leg-spin accounting for Patrick, who had played some enterprising strokes in his 7, Nick for 1, Jim for a duck and Chris for 3. Some late resistance from Lord Fakenham took our score up to 150 for 9 at the end of our 35 overs as Kevin took Tom’s wicket in the last over.
Tea … highlight was Jim’s potatoes. Thanks to all the other contributors. Not many bananas taken. About time they had a café on the extension … perhaps we should put it out to tender?
Into the field and Richard determined on a strategy of speed down the hill, spin up the hill. So the Norfolk Nobleman took the new cherry and promptly got spanked to the midwicket boundary by Bobby. Who probably shouldn’t have celebrated quite so much, the Baronet rearranging his stumps a couple of balls later. Jim bowling up the hill took a while to find his length, Bob taking advantage with some big boundary hits, but then found a beautiful ball to bowl Stuart, who played back to one he probably should have come forward to. Jake swiftly became Fakenham’s second victim … to possibly the most awful shooter of the day. Don’t think anyone would have kept that out. Bob continued to boom the stray balls to the boundary – very few from Jason, not many from Jim, but he never failed to capitalise. Note at this point that the nonpareil was batting on one leg, having pulled his calf muscle re-enacting Aaron Ramsey’s extra-time cup final winner after a few celebratory beverages the night before. Darren as always looked comfortable at the crease and had hit some good shots, just about always being intercepted by a Gardener, until he made a charge at Jim and Chris took a smart stumping to send the left-hander back to the imaginary pavilion. Within a few balls … carbon copy … David chasing after the Praying Mantis this time, Chris staying low to gather and sweep off the bails. It’s 90-5. Game on. Abraham … after a while I recalled Mark playing for Woodstock last year and helping Darren to a backs-to-the-wall victory. Was another one of our loan players going to thwart us? Joel had meanwhile been bowling beautifully having replaced Fakenham, I can’t recall a loose ball … making Bob work very hard to get runs (completing a stylish 58) before he found a way through and it’s now 110-6. Kevin played sensibly, Abraham dealt with the low bounce expertly as Joel and Paul continued to apply the pressure. Jim said to the skipper “let’s have a chat at the end of this” during Joel’s fifth … revealing a cunning plan … the skipper liked it so much, it was immediately deployed … keeping two Joel overs up his sleeve and bringing on the captain’s lobs to try to tempt the batsman to their demise. It didn’t quite work out like that, but the lack of bounce created an incredible incident where the captain produced a shooter that left Abraham floundering … and amazingly went between Middle and Leg stumps (grazing both) without dislodging a bail. “I’m the new Chris Packham” mused Richard, alluding to the Kentish All-Rounders traditional lack of fortune with the ball. Repeat for a second over … this time Abraham tries to thump away a floating delivery outside off stump … only to offer a regulation catch to Mark in the Gully. Kevin’s looking more solid now. Lorne’s the new man in. Bring back Joel. Paul’s spell (which got much tidier following a couple of overs trying to get his length right) came to an end and Patrick tried his luck. Lorne’s recently been to Sri Lanka and has sucked in some of the T20 spirit, belting a couple of splendid hits to significantly reduce the target. Joel’s still looking likely to get a wicket, but the Woodstock numbers 8 and 9 played some skilful strokes to see them home. Another tight game! We’d better improve a bit for next time as Bob might have the use of two legs by then.
WOODSTOCK WON BY 3 WICKETS