Players 21 August

So we’re back up at Golders Green for the second Ashes test of the Summer.  The pitch is looking somewhat like an unfortunate man living in a homeless shelter – it was forced to take a shower overnight and has had a rough shave at some point in the last week.  Looking decidedly green around the gills, at least he was well supplied with weed (broad leaf plantain especially).  Ghost got me to call incorrectly and inserted the Gardeners.  Roger was a picture of elegance, sashaying to ground in dark clothing, a sharp looking titfer on his head and a pineapple tucked under his arm.  He stood in for some dastardly last minute drop out from the Players’ ranks.  Someone lent him a shirt (good) and some black shorts (oh well).

The skipper opened with Dave Stead and Young was exploiting the pitch very well, outside off and back of a length, the bounce very unpredictable.  At the other end Scott couldn’t adjust his radar for a while, Dave standing and watching a variety of wide deliveries (some of them signalled) whilst he found his more customary accuracy.  Higginbottom clipped Young over the slips for a boundary then was stuck on the back foot and failed to adequately defend an off cutter, playing on for 4.  Dave Hollingsworth joined Dave S who were subjected to a superb spell from both openers, only seven scoring shots in the next 8 overs.  Dave S was caught by ‘keeper Tim Langridge when Young clipped the edge of his bat, then Roger (a.k.a. “Blackshorts”) took over and got DH in a tangle, the ball looping up and Tim judging it well, coming forward to take the catch.  35 for 3 after 14 overs.  Brewer’s loosener was also Stuart’s, the South Coast slammer hitting a head high full toss over square leg for six.  He put on 28 with Sachith until Billy Cooper risked his trumpeting livelihood by claiming an excellent high catch off Brewer to send Sachith back to the pavilion.  Us old timers at the boundary had warned Cameron that Ghost is a most unusual type of bowler, a true throwback to the golden age of cricket.  The Tyne Mouth (working nickname, probably a bit too harsh) is of very tender years so probably thinks the Golden Age started in 1990 rather than 1890, and the flight perplexed him somewhat until he located Richard MacKay’s bucket like hands at Wide Long On.  A number of post innings comments by Cameron berating the bowler were met with “he gets lots of wickets”, “well, you’re back here”, “we’ve all got out to him at some time”, etc by the other Gardeners.  I suppose I should have let on that Ghost has played for the Gardeners and is a good pal, but that would have been less entertaining.  Anyway, George is finding similar difficulties though as it’s the first time he’s batted this year, was shaping up pretty well until he located Roger with a mishit drive.  Stuart was in the meantime playing an innings of excellent judgement and telling execution, the rare bad balls he received were dismissed to the boundary, the good balls treated with due respect and sometimes played for runs too.  He had got to 43 when he failed to connect strongly enough with a shortish ball from Neill, Ghost taking a very good running catch over his shoulder at midwicket.  Now 109 for 8 and I have to confess I felt it could be the Players day.  Jim played very well, getting a couple of boundaries, but Raj, Jeremy and Jason all fell to the combination of Neill’s accurate bowling and MacKay’s quality handling.  All out for 128.

Ghost provided a very pleasant tea and we had a most pleasant chat.  Black shorts had gone to his musical engagement (we’d lent a fielder for the final throes of our innings) and now into the field.

Richard, having been all to0 aware of the variable bounce, put on a box and lid and positioned himself at boot hill as George and Stuart opened up.  Early success for Stuart as Brewer edged an outswinger to Sachith who pouched expertly at Gully.  Tim Langridge and Richard MacKay then played some quality shots so Higginbottom got rid of the protection and retreated only for George to get one to leap at Tim and land pretty much where he had been standing.  Oh dear.  Powerful drives from MacKay (aka Jabba), elegant cuts and pulls from Tim with the occasional languid drive put the Players firmly in the box seat.  Jason tried his arm but we haven’t got many runs to play with so the captain was uncommonly ruthless in removing his county mate from the attack.  Jim bowled incredibly well and got us back into the game with a “plumb” (his word) lbw to remove MacKay for 38.  Your correspondent (at midwicket) said to Jim “didn’t that hit the inside edge?”  “Oh no it was out” was the reply.  Well, this proved that the umpiring Billy is part Gardener and took pity on us poor mortals.  Young also played some handy shots as Tim reached his half century.  Sachith then Dave S also tried their arms.  Jeremy could have had a wicket in his first over, then he did take a sharp return catch to remove Young for 17 but it had become academic at this point (oddly I’ve never used this phrase in a Jesus College match report).  Breakspear coolly supported Langridge in reaching the target with bags of time to spare.  The pineapple supplied by the Ulster Maestro was heading to the Langridge home in recognition of his match winning performance.

Later at the Old Bull and Bush.
Jabba: “So Billy, when are you going on that ECB Umpires Course?”
Stuart:  “I thought Jabba was going to smash us all around the park”; Richard: “You were right”.
Factoid:  Ghost has around the same amount of career runs and wickets for the Players.  He’s actually not that bad a batsman, I was an honoured guest in a Players team a few years ago when he was in an heroic last wicket stand to win the game.

Oh well, Ashes gone.  Must do better.  At least they are and always have been the finest set of men to do battle with.

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