By Richard Higginbottom
Having been at Carrow Road on Saturday to see Norwich prevail in the East Anglian play-off semi final, the captain made the tea in a good mood, loaded up the Touran and headed for Hampstead Heath. I got to the ground early to make sure that we had the best choice of pitches. The lower pitch secured, there were three wickets marked out for potential play. How shall I describe the choice? Let’s call pitch 1 “The Beast”, pitch 2 “The Hospital” and pitch 3 “The Widowmaker”. So I resignedly plugged the stumps into option 1, put out the boundary markers and watched the text messages come in from people who weren’t sure what day or time it was (my weekends are far too dull by comparison). The Players mustered a bit earlier so when Roger called incorrectly Richard took the option to bat. Well, it’s a timed game, maybe it will give us control.
Control did I say? Jez Langridge and Roger kept the ball on an excellent length and line and the run rate competed with the number of overs for the opening ten. Lots of tight squeaks including a number of shooters. Openers Higginbottom and David Hollingsworth showed tenacity and technique to survive. The bowlers changed to Davies and Arditti and still the runs crept along from Richard, though Dave did crack a couple of boundaries. More and more desperate groping in vain by the captain as Dave belted a lofted drive down the ground … the bowler (Arditti) parried it and Scott at Mid Off remained calm to pouch the ricochet. 37 for 1. “Watch for the low one” Richard advised number 3 Bobby Hillman. Bobby got a single then Davies produced one that stayed a bit low to spread the wicket. 39 for 2 after 20 overs. Painful stuff. Michael Callaghan is now on and Richard is at last moving his feet … which he continued to the considerably swifter Sweet at the other end – who got one to lift and therefore left the Gardeners skipper floundering, Ford claiming a terrific stumping to put Richard out of his misery (and that of anyone else who had the misfortune to witness it). Sachith hadn’t played Ghost before and took a swing which resulted in the Demon Lobster’s first wicket of the day – bowled. “Stay in” Nick was advised and then received arguably Ghost’s best ball of the day to be caught behind – more sharp work by Ford. Hat-trick ball and one of the Players suggested “everyone in” to Roger – who wisely said “no, the leg-side field can stay back”. Jason denied Michael his hat-trick but was kind enough to heave across the next ball to make it three wickets in four balls. Whilst all of this is going on George was playing really rather well and hopefully someone could stick around to keep him company. Not debutant Jamie unfortunately who is also bamboozled by Ghost to return to the side of the pitch crestfallen. Chris Spicer … a dependable man in a crisis. However, the Scientific Mancunian is made of flesh and blood and simply couldn’t resist trying to score a maximum off Ghost – and holed out to Fielding at Long On. Oddly as Nick took the ball he went down like he’d been shot. Turns out he’d pulled a calf muscle. But let’s not detract from the indomitable Callaghan who had now recorded another 5-for against us, this time for only 3 runs. “Tim can bat” advised the captain as the Leicester Tiger played a couple of pleasant shots before hitting one straight to Farrall to give Scott his first wicket. Stuart we all know can bat but the South Coast All Rounder never quite recovered from a big Saturday night and a diversion via Parliament Hill and was bowled by Scott for 3. 76 all out.
Tea went down well so I’ll mention that YES the cakes were home made but NO they were made by the current Mrs Higginbottom rather than Richard. Who has proved she makes better cakes than me. As always.
“We’ve got a good bowling team” said Richard to the team as we took to the field. For once he was talking sense as Stuart generated some pace whilst George bowled at the stumps well – and we got into the wickets early as first Gee and then Fielding (nursing his sore calf and batting with a runner) were bowled by Tebbutt shooters for 0 and 5. Sweet is looking quite good and played a couple of handsome shots off Stuart …. for some reason the skipper thinks he’s going to hit one in the air off Stuart so Bobby is pushed to deep Cover – a difficult chance immediately arrives which after an entertaining (not for the batsman) juggle the Eastbourne Sparkler took. Stuart is always his own harshest critic: “Take me off I’m bowling sh*t” he advised Richard, who gave him one extra over (as he was nowhere near that bad) and then applied The Clamp. Tim’s taken the Clampo Tango out of his run-up but is doing exactly the right thing by bowling at the stumps and gets a reward by bowling Ford for 9 – who had belted a superb shot through Extra Cover off Stuart the previous over. Tiger Tim continued in the same vein, lovely rhythm, whilst George bowled a classic off-cutter to trap Farrall lbw. Tim advanced the Gardeners’ cause further by bowling Davies for 1 then getting Arditti lbw for 0. Jez Langridge now arrived at the wicket – the best number 8 we ever bowl to. He’s having to work hard for his runs but a rare loose one on leg stump is whipped away for 4 and his straight driving is admirable. Sachith ups the ante by bowling Scott off a series of deflections (a bit unlucky) for 0. Roger’s in at 10 and it’s squeaky bum time. Calm accumulation for Roger whilst Jez seized on a very rare tree ball to club away a 6. 12 to win now and Roger pops one up towards Gully off Sachith but it’s just out of Tim’s reach. No more serious panics after that (though the wicket is still causing great issues) and The Players reclaim the urn. Though it’s in the “Higginbottom Museum”. The one thing I failed to bring to the ground in the overstuffed Touran boot.