By Richard Higginbottom
Thwarted at our attempt for a late-night game of pool the Gardeners tour party of Shuffs, Sanjeewa, Sachith, Doosra, Roger and the skipper got a mixed night sleep and spent a leisurely breakfast discussing cricket. Yes that is how interesting it gets. Pete headed off sharpish to catch up with his family in Cambridge, Richard, Roger and Nick took a nice easy drive across Norfolk and stopped in at Ely for a coffee. It appears there are some caffeine quality problems as the breakfast coffee was lukewarm and they’d given us half a thimbleful of espresso in the cappucino at the otherwise delightful Almondry which nestles in the grounds of the Cathedral. Quick stop to pick up Jeff at the station and the temperature has doubled since yesterday. All looks good as the home captain Jim Sipthorp greeted Richard – who called correctly again, this time opting to bat. First use of a good looking track? Maybe … but his legs were about as sore as you’d expect an unfit 50 year old to have after his first stint behind the stumps for 8 months the day before. So I put my feet up, got the scorebook out and sent the lads out to get the runs whilst I added them up. Sometimes I do behave like an accountant.
Mixed bowling from the Jesus College openers betraying the fact that this is their first game as Roger is very clearly determined to get a good score today. Chris – first time he’s opened – also looking composed until Gallagher produced a sharp lifter out of the blue to be caught at the wicket. Soon after Gallagher gets caned towards the boundary by Matt but Read made ground smoothly to his right and took a catch from what may have been a six if he hadn’t been there to intercept. We’re now two down for not many so with strokeplayers Amesbury and Shufflebotham at 4 and 5, anchorman Duckett is advised to pad up for a prospective shoring up operation. However, Roger’s now into his groove, a number of classic cuts interspersed with a textbook straight drive building his score steadily and Jason is playing like a cavalier, the ball finding its way all around the ground – a great six over wide Mid On being the highlight until he was bamboozled by the spin of Sharma for an entertaining 21. Peter looked comfortable from the off and was also peppering the boundary regularly until he shelled one to Cartwright at Point off Sharma for a 20. Frustrating for the big man. Nick now gets de Saxe’s best delivery and returns to pavilion without troubling the scorer … except that the scorer is Richard who can evidently see that the shoring up plan didn’t work. Drinks now and Roger asks how many he’s got. Richard tells him, he duly resumes play and gets out also caught at point having added no more runs. Disappointed with his 38 but he showed he’s moving into decent nick. As always a treat to watch. The stage is now set for Jeff … and the Bishop of Bludgeon (actually that’s a bit unfair, he played a lot of classy strokes) delivered in sublime fashion, often hitting to the long boundaries and gettings 2s and 3s on what would have been 4s on other grounds. Sanjeewa joined in the merry making and contributed an exciting 20 as we continued to maintain a healthy scoring rate. Could we get to 200? Sanjeewa was caught by Cartwright off Read and Sachith added and unbeaten 8. Not quite 200 but a great effort with Jeff seeing it though to the conclusion of our 35 overs on 42.
So who’s not too knackered following yesterday’s exertions? Jeff – nominated to keep – handed the gloves to Chris so they both got well into the game. Sanjeewa’s nicely loosened up so he bowls the first over from the Hare End and promptly gets driven back past him for 4 by Gallagher. Ominous. So another well pitched up ball on the stumps and … completely inexplicably the batsman leaves it. Now – this one did not deviate significantly after pitching nor clip the top of the off stump – it thumped half way up middle stump. How odd. And how welcome. Jason opened up from the Parkers Piece End and had Evans driving hard at him – good stop by Doosra at Mid Off. So he tried to hit the next ball harder – but it was bang on a good length and he succeeded only in locating the baronet who pouched the return safely. Jason’s now on his mettle having an excellent all round game and accounts for de Kempener with a jaffa that breaks his wicket. 8-3 after 4 overs. He should also have got the prize wicket of Sipthorp early on but the captain’s hands failed him. Not strictly true – actually it hit his wrists. So after 9 overs Adam and Richard (11 and 10 today) went on twirly-man duty, some variable deliveries getting occasional harsh treatment from Sipthorp but being pretty useful vs Sybil who needs a bit of pace on the ball. Almost zero of that from these two. Adam bowled the tidier spell but Richard was fortunate enough to have Sybil caught by Sachith at midwicket. Jim is now seeing all the bowling very well as Roger and Sachith take over the bowling duties, and he is supported very well by Cartwright as the home team force themselves back into the game with some enterprising strokes. A lot of half-chances not being taken in this phase of the game so our bowlers’ figures don’t reflect how well they bowled … until Sachith castled Cartwright with an even quicker off-spinner. Blanchard-Lewis supported Sipthorp well for a while until Sachith got an edge and Roger made a difficult low slip catch look much easier than it was. Can we get their skipper out? Jim clobbers another decent delivery from Roger to long off where Sanjeewa collects himself well and takes a big catch very calmly indeed. The run rate – thanks to our excellent start Cambridge were always struggling to keep up though Jim was making it look possible – now climbed with Read (a good 20) being stumped by Chris as he tried to force the pace off the returning Sanjeewa. One over to go and the target is now only mathematically possible so Nick comes on and we’re all delighted when Nick tempts Aspden out of his ground and Chris completes the stumping. The home team left 21 runs short with 9 men down. A very enjoyable game.