Report by Richard Higginbottom
Summer’s here! Well that’s a bit of a loose interpretation given that the mercury peaked at 11C and most of us were wearing long-sleeved sweaters. Still, the Sun came out as we took to the field having won the toss and elected to bowl. Captain Higginbottom’s plan this was not … for once he listened to his prospective upper order who expressed a firm preference for batting second as they would otherwise have been straight from train to skipper’s car to pads on to the middle.
Blue Star play at the very attractive Loring Hall ground in Bexley – an idyllic spot. The wicket had quite a grassy covering but played very well as Gopala Krishna and Sanjeewa Jayathilake opened proceedings for the Gardeners. Very early on a number of chances were spilled betraying the fact that (a) it’s cold, (b) we never practice fielding enough and (c) we’re Salmagundi Gardeners. Ten overs and three catches dropped and no wickets – time to change the bowlers. Stuart clicked into form immediately, inducing an edge from C. Pitt who up until that time had shown a deft touch behind square on the off side, Tim getting into position at 1st slip and taking a comfortable catch. Soon after, Stuart bowled a pearler of a delivery to trap the other opener A. Chenery – who had played a number of enterprising drives – lbw for 25. Then the South Coast Express had P. Grimsley put down and a strong shout for lbw turned down in successive deliveries. “Hat trick ball next time” someone from behind the stumps with a Norfolk accent said. I’ve had words with the individual (i.e. I looked in the mirror and told myself “no-one loves a smart-arse”). Stuart is not a man to be denied though (according to legend … and don’t forget I work with him as well) and trapped Cruze in front for a duck in the next over. So getting runs proved to be Mission Impossible (with apologies). Steve Bulman replaced Sanjeewa and after he had his first practice for a while (referred to in the scorebook as his first two overs) he gave the batsmen several problems, also being the victim of a couple of missed chances. Time to apply The (Tim) Clamp as P. Grimsley is now into his stride and playing some fine strokes whilst Blue Star number 5 M. Peters is essaying delightful strokes on both sides of the wicket and the run rate – pedestrian up to this time – is now accelerating. Sachith Dassanayake took over from Stuart and was pretty accurate from his first ball, getting the aforesaid rate down a bit. M. Peters attempted to break the shackles but his pull off a Sachith shorter ball wasn’t quite middled and Gopala held on to the catch at Deep MidWicket – a stylish 25. Time to push for more wickets, but P. Grimsley is now getting shrewd support from R. Pitt who displayed some very nice touches whilst mainly ensuring his partner got back on strike. The Whitley Bay Champion (also known as David Stead) bowled an incredible variety of deliveries to prevent any unseemly acceleration in the last six overs whilst Gopala and Sanjeewa returned to good effect in terms of economy though unfortunately not adding to our wickets tally. Fine innings from both of the not-out batsmen.
TEA! Let’s go a bit Egon Ronay here. Good tea out of a proper big teapot was much appreciated. Wide range of sandwiches and savouries. Home made cakes which were by all recipients deemed delicious (captain’s sugar ban continues but he trusts the cake tasting skills of the team). Thanks Blue Star – that’s a gold star.
So let’s start the reply … 179 to get in our 40 overs … seems like a fair target but the wicket’s slow and we soon find out that the Blue Star openers S. Chenery and G. Hill are bowling an immaculate line and length. Paul Jordan was probably suffering from the cold more than most of us and couldn’t find his rhythm, an inside edge off G. Hill safely pouched by ‘keeper M. Chenery. David Hollingsworth joined David Stead at the crease and steadied the ship. Or the critical might say, steered it into the doldrums. But the fair-minded would counter that a slow wicket, first game of the season, very accurate bowling meant that it was tough in the middle. The two Daves saw off the openers after 12 overs with just 22 runs on the board; G. Hill 1-10. Clearly time to press the turbo switch and the bat was being swung more lustily now … with mixed success. A few boundaries to Dave Stead and then a slightly mistimed pull off R. Pitt saw Cruze move well to his left at Square Leg to take a neat catch. Useful innings of 31 to get Dave’s season underway. Shortly after Dave H managed to nurdle a leg side floating delivery from Blue Star skipper Rob Mills pretty much perfectly vertically, ‘keeper M. Chenery making the ground to send the Walthamstow Babelfish back to the boundary. Stuart got a smart off-cutter from R. Pitt to depart for 3. Looks a bit ominous at 50 for 4 after 19, but Graham Bruce and Sachith gradually started to ease off the close season rust to at last give us some sort of outside chance. The score had got up to 80 when Graham was undone by Cruze and bowled for 9. Sanjeewa then combined very well with Sachith and at last we recorded a ‘big’ over of 13 runs as boundaries were traded by our Sri Lankan stars. Slightly too good to last as Cruze bowled a lovely looping off spinner to knock back Sanjeewa’s off stump as he was trying to hit him over square leg. The captain added one then perished trying forlornly to get Sachith back on strike (there was never two there for anyone). Sachith then tried to smash M. Peters – looks as handy with the ball as the bat – but was caught behind for 32. Gopala was not out on six having played a couple of good shots whilst either side of him Steve and Tim were accounted for by excellent deliveries from M. Peters. A disappointing result, but a great location and the opposition are a very sociable and sportsmanlike team.