In order to make life easier for the Gardeners, the skipper hatched a plan to pick up players from Stanmore tube station rather than the usual location of Didcot, reasoning that it’s considerably cheaper and (for many) equally convenient. What was not so convenient was Higginbottom taking two wrong turns, getting into heavy congestion and going round in circles, culminating in Stuart saying “I went past that on the tube 90 minutes ago” as we passed the Wembley Arch after Richard had at last worked out how he was going to get to the ground.
Fortunately there were no such shenanigans for the other five Gardeners and David Stead negotiated for us to bat first so we could start at 2.10pm. I’m reliably informed that Adam Klewin and Ajit Shah batted very competently indeed, keeping up their wicket until Richard reached the ground at 2.55pm – by which time the Boars Head had rattled through 17 overs! If test match sides got through their overs this quickly they’d only need three days. Adam advanced down the track and missed one; could have got back but decided he’d like a rest so we were 82-1 (Owen Pye – who was struggling after tweaking his back before the match – claiming the wicket). Graham has a mental block about batting number three which wasn’t helped by a fine delivery from James Fletcher rattling his stumps. Paul Jordan was back in the fold after a hand injury, hit a four, eyed one back of a length from Fletcher, looked to pull and a daisy cutter did for him. So the Boars Head are right back in the game. This means I’m responsible not only for more than half the team being late but for a batting collapse. Ajit played steadily on: high class accumulation. And talking of Steadley, the Whitley Bay Champion played a sublime cameo of shots all around the ground, reaching 28 before Theo Hutt rearranged his woodwork. Cameron Finn hit a couple of fours and then scooped under one and Colin – who generally catches everything he can reach – made no mistake. Conor played very well, hitting a magnificent straight drive on advancing down the wicket and playing a most spectacular hook for another four before he unselfishly ran himself out as we continued trying to up the rate. Ajit retired having built the foundation for our innings. Jason couldn’t quite bring willow and leather together, and then Imran played well just before Stuart hit his first ball for a one-bounce straight four, scrambled a single somewhere and then got an all-ran five, the unlucky Imran being run out as they attempted the sixth. 210 and that’s quite a hefty target.
Tea was superb … hot dogs with mustard, pizza … David Parry tried to get me to eat a piece of cake (he’s read the Test Match report) but I wasn’t weakening.
Stuart charged down the hill with intent and the Boars Head stood up and took both him and opening partner Imran on, the ball flying around as the batsmen showed serious intent of their own – Hutt profiting on the off side with some flowing strokes, Fletcher battering anything full to the longest boundaries. Impressive. This would need some special bowling to make a breakthrough … Imran got a fabulous inswinger to beat Theo (would have beaten most) and then Stuart put a slower ball onto the perfect line, James swinging a bit too early and the ball hitting the stumps. Time for a bowling change and Owen (despite being restricted more than a little) and Colin continued to put bat to ball as Jason and Dave were challenging them. Amazing lofted drive off Dave by Owen clanged into the container next to the pavilion … “do they always sound a gong when you hit a six?” enquired the skipper, at last recovering some composure after his chastening anti-navigational experience. Some of the fielders were taking advantage. RH: “Could you go to third man please?” GB: “Sure can you tell me where that is? … oh no, I’ll find my own way”. Also “I thought your lack of direction was limited to this side of the boundary”. Jason found a special ball of his own to get Owen out (for 21)… the second-bounce yorker doing the trick for which the Clerkenwell Cobbler looked duly ashamed. I think Owen was relieved to get a rest. Shortly after Dave got Colin to offer a chance up to Imran who made no mistake; a good innings of 28. The Whitley Bay Champion had been bowling a good spell and reaped his reward, shortly after bowling David Parry with one that just clipped a bail off and then providing another catch, this time into the captain’s hands at midwicket, to account for Lindley. Jason’s bowling well now and deserves a wicket – sure enough he gets it, Imran taking another catch to see Darren Weal back to the pavilion. Seven down and we’re well in front. We need someone to bowl who will conclude the match decisively for us. Blow that, I’ve driven all this way, didn’t get a bat, so I’m going to have a bowl. Besides, I love coming down here and all the opposition teams cheer up when they see me come on. Ah, but as W. G. Grace said, the best thing a captain can be is lucky (less so Graham who was bowling very well at the village end but without any reward). Joe Scholes took a big swipe around a rare ball that I’d got on his stumps and Jason took the ball at slip as it looped over ‘keeper Cameron’s head. Paul Freeman collared a drive to Mid On where Dave took a splendid high catch and then Stuart ploughed in from the deep to claim a catch that either Richard or Dave should have got off Nigel Scholes to finish the match. 3 for 18. There are lies, damned lies and statistics.
“The Changing Room is this way”. “I’m going to the Boars Head now, do you want to follow me”. “Have you got a map? Do you know how to read it”. Oh this one will run and run. Next year I’m riding my bike to the ground and you can all get the Wantage Bus from Didcot.