Abdul Aziz 3 May

By Stuart Bruce

With the first game of the season against Edmonton being as one sided as Pacquiao vs. Mayweather (Paul, if you still haven’t seen the result, it’s your own fault) the Gardeners came into our first home game of the season eager to get the season going with at least a split decision, if not a knock-out.

The weather seemed to have other ideas though, and after heavy rain on Sunday morning the game looked unlikely to go ahead. However, an improving forecast, accommodating ground staff, and some persuasive phone calling from Richard meant that the game was on  with a slightly delayed start to allow time for the pitch to dry and hungover stragglers to turn up physically, if not mentally.

Captain Richard was away this week (missing his first game since August 2013) – taking out Mrs. Higginbottom for her birthday. Your correspondent can’t imagine a better birthday treat than a day out at the cricket, but that probably says more about him than it does about Mrs. H. This gave Stuart his debut as captain, and he got off to a fine start by calling wrong and being put into bat on a damp and lively surface.

Paul & Dave H were sent into open, and soon realised that the pitch was even livelier than expected – James opening the bowling from the lido end was getting some serious lift off a good length, with several balls bouncing feet over the head of both the batsmen and wicket-keeper. The openers were finding runs hard to come to off the bat, especially from the naggingly accurate John, however E. Xtras (making their season debut) kept the score board ticking along as some early-season rust was shaken off.

With the gardeners on a solid 35 off 10, first change bowler David made the breakthrough, bowling Dave H for 5. This brought Nick to the crease who continued where the openers had started, blocking the good balls obdurately and allowing extras to keep the score ticking over. With two overs to go to drinks he was trapped LBW by George for 1. Mark was fired up after a desperate cycle to go and get water that Stuart had forgotten and started his batting suitably aggressively. At the half way point the Gardeners had played excellently to be 65-2 on a tricky wicket.

The pitch was starting to dry and play slightly more truly, so with wickets in hand the Gardeners began to attack. Mark & Paul both moving the ball around the pitch well before falling in consecutive overs – Mark for 17 bowled by George & Paul bowled by the returning James for an excellent 36. Incoming batsmen Dave S and Matt wasted no time upping the scoring rate, both scoring several fours all around the ground until Dave walked on 20 after slightly flicking a legside delivery from Arc to keeper Rob. Apparently this was the first time in many years of cricket he has been out this way, hopefully he didn’t enjoy it enough to try it again

Matt soon followed Dave back to the pavilion bench for 19, caught and bowled by David. Sachith & Jeff kept up the rapid scoring rate and pushed the Gardeners over 150, one enormous six from Sach that cleared the roof of the adjacent groundsman’s compound was an especial highlight. Both then fell to the returning David, Sach LBW via the hip/arse region for 25, Jeff bowled for 6. Steve and Jason then kept attack going for the final over, with the Gardeners ending on a very competitive 179 for 8 off their 35 overs.

After everyone had finished stuffing their faces & debating what had caused the air ambulance to land on the field next to us, (the popular theory was Sach’s huge six had probably killed someone, we didn’t like to check though…) the Gardeners headed back into the field.

Steve opened the bowling and mixed his line and length to good effect – opening bat Rob was reading the short ball well and attacking eagerly, however Steve soon had him trapped LBW for 15. At the other end Stuart was trying to bowl a tight line to keep the runs down, however his traditional first ball of every over, a huge legside wide, wasn’t helping matters. It did however let Jeff show off some excellent acrobatic stops and let him know the season had properly started.

Jason then took over from the lido end and stuck second ball, David misreading the ferocious away swing, edging behind for 9 to Dave H at first slip. New bat James lasted only one ball, Jason inducing a false shot that Stuart took in a tumbling catch at mid on.  Hat-trick ball and the Gardeners were crowded around the bat, Bruce doing well to avoid hitting the ball as Jason produced another away swinging peach.  He soon had his man though, re-arranging Bruce’s stumps in the next over with another beauty.

At the other end Sachith had replaced Dave S who had been bowling well after finding his range.  Sach soon had a wicket, bowling George for a duck and quickly following this by catching Abdul debutant John T off his own bowling, also for a duck. Opening bat Tom was watching the wickets fall from the other end and obviously decided it was time to attack before he ran out of partners. He played some lovely straight drives back down the ground to reach his 50 and keep the game within reach for Abdul.

Captain Stuart brought himself back on at the lucky lido end, and it seemed to work with Arc swiping across a full ball that didn’t bounce for a duck. Eduardo, playing his first ever game of cricket, came in and defended well for three overs before playing a straight ball slightly too early and giving Stuart his second wicket, caught and bowled for a duck. This brought in last man John L, who the Gardeners were struggling to remove as he started hitting the ball to the boundary. However a very optimistic second run attempt and an excellent piece of fielding by Paul & Jeff ran John L out for 6, ending the Abdul Aziz innings on 117 with opener Tom stranded not out for a high quality 61.

An excellent game all round, with a marked improvement in the Gardeners batting, bowling and fielding. Richie would have been proud.

Salmagundi Gardeners won by 69 runs.

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