By Richard Higginbottom
Earlier this season I told someone “we have 4 tours per year” and they replied “there’s only 3 on the fixture list”. Well, this is the fourth one – where we act as hosts rather than tourists. So that counts (sort of).
Friday … we’d managed to book Parliament Hill for both matches this year but unfortunately the booking clerk hadn’t told the groundstaff so we inserted the stumps into an “unprepared” wicket (it doesn’t make much difference, the quality is always questionable). LICS captain Paul called correctly and inserted the Gardeners – skipper Nick Duckett choosing to open with LICS Alumnus Jeff and your correspondent. Jeff clouted two of his first three balls for four then got one that took off a bit, and Jimmy did well to take a diving catch to send the Seal Clubber back up the hill to the bench. Richard crunched a square drive away off Andy then Jeremy was bowled in Paul’s second over. We’re playing like England! Well, in terms of early wickets lost … Sachith joined Richard and proceeded to plunder runs in all directions as Richard’s timing was about as good as a broken watch. Sachith reached the agreed 25-and-retire number in very short time and Richard’s not too shiny innings was brought to an end … can’t quite remember how … think I holed out at Mid Off but I’m trying to blot out the whole sorry tale. Anyway Matt looked very classy as he played some fine shots whilst skipper Doosra played a pull and a flip over the slips for a quickfire (yes I am not kidding) 11 before Arthur bowled him … immediately followed by Dave H who edged behind. Couldn’t quite get the hat-trick but a few balls later Nik Patel got a length ball that took off and Jimmy scampered round to complete the catch (Arthur again) and he had his second hat-trick opportunity after Graham was caught for another golden quacker. Profligate scoundrel failed to convert for a second time(!). Chris was skittled by Andy which enabled Sachith to return for the last 3 balls of our innings. He smashed the first two for four then was lbw on the last ball of the innings. 132 to defend.
Nik’s been bowling well all season for Thomson Reuters and kept LICS in check; Chris has recently re-commenced his cricket career and took a little while to find his rhythm, but was first amonst the wickets as Paul hit straight to Nik. Quality 2nd wicket stand by Rob and Andy was ended by a Jaffa from Nik rearranging Andy’s woodwork. Shortly after Chris accounted for Mike as our openers completed their spells and were replaced by Ashwin and Graham; Richard missed a stumping off Rob to Ashwin who then punished us by hitting a six and retiring. Jimmy was playing well now and he and Steve plundered anything loose until Sachith came into the attack – when less loose stuff was available. They got the target to within sight and made their quarter centuries. An excellent late spell by Sachith got us into the 20th over but LICS would not be denied as Arthur hit the winning runs to complete a brilliant all-round performance.
Up to the King William IV after the match for some food and drink; I believe it got a lot messier after I left (driving) but some things that happen on tour should stay on tour …
Wind the clock forward to Sunday and having made up the teatime rolls Richard pointed the Touran to Parliament Hill … where he parked up and got the 214 bus down to Angel to give his monthly Discover The Regents Canal talk … fancy coming one day? Details on this link. Having done that, walk back from Camden and plug in the stumps. Pitch has been prepared but still looks ropey. Lost the toss (again) and we are again inserted. That’s OK, I’d have batted. The two Daves played brilliantly, putting on 76 for the first wicket, the Whitley Bay Champion got a top edge 4 short of a half century that included six 4s, Steve Lyne judging the catch well. Richard again in no touch whatsoever somehow managed to get under a pull to a ball that stayed low from Jimmy, Mike taking the catch at Square Leg. Dave H had made it to 25 but also mishit a forcing shot, Mike taking the catch again but this time off Paul. Adam, Mark and Will struggled against some fine bowling and the variable bounce, going for a combined total of 7, Jimmy, Andy and Rob benefitting. Jeff calmed the innings down a bit but then got a snorter from Andy that ricocheted off his bat handle, over his head and was well taken by Jimmy running round from slip to leg slip. 113 for 7 but we do bat right the way down … which Jeremy and Graham proved, Jeremy particularly playing some calm and assured strokes whilst Graham swished furiously and occasionally connected to get us up to a respectable 155.
Tea featured Colin The Caterpillar … no the food wasn’t bug-infested, Jeff on cake duty had bought this popular children’s confection – greedily scoffed in no time. Jeremy ate the face in celebration … he likes sheeps eyeballs and monkey brains so no surprise there.
Into the field and both opening batsman are in the mood to chase the total down in a hurry, seizing on anything loose until Dave S bowled a fine delivery to the Fines Master – 24 for 1. Rob batted very well and put on 36 with Paul until Graham’s special delivery – a shooter – found him plumb lbw for 20. Another big stand (33 this time) as Jason managed to stem the flow of runs but Paul and Extras started to accelerate until His Cobblership (per Jeff) bowled Jo to make it 93-3. At last a short stand as Dave performed a measured run-out to defeat Steve and it’s 98-4. The wicket’s still playing tricks but LICS are batting very well to deal with it – although Mike picked out Will at Mid Wicket for us to take our 5th wicket with about 50 still needed. Game on … but as we strained for more wickets, Paul and Andy showed a great deal of class to add the required runs with 3.3 overs to spare, the skipper reaching his half-century just before Andy hit the winning runs. It’s the first time in our series the result has been other than 1-1, so next year’s trip is already agreed and the Gardeners need to strive for a LICSwash in 2016. Final point – happy birthday Paul – we didn’t give you that half century for your 40th birthday – you earned it. Many happy returns.