The almost surreal long hot Summer continues and we arrive at Cambridge which is more like the Sahara desert rather the usual lush green photogenic spectacle we are used to. The mercury was pushing up to 30 Celsius again, so obviously should the Gardeners’ captain win the toss, we would look to bat in the fierce heat of the early afternoon. Win the toss? It’s only happened twice this season and Hapless Higginbottom called wrongly again subjecting his team mates to the dry heat.
Mahender Padidam clearly didn’t find it too taxing, immediately getting his line right and castling Luke Perera to get us underway very early; 0-1. Some tremendously tight bowling from both our openers as at the Hare End Graham Bruce was skilfully managing to control a lot of swing as Kawsar and Aspden tried to build a solid foundation for the home side. Graham trapped Kawsar with a neat inswinger for 11 and it’s 26-2 after 11 overs (though we’re playing a timed game today). Huw Edmunds now played some powerful strokes as Aspden also managed to score a few boundaries. Jeremy Gostick and Stuart Bruce replaced our openers and after a couple more overs we made some dramatic progress as Stuart bowled a fabulous fast off-cutter to beat Edmunds, breaking a bail in the process. Huw’s young son Max followed and Stuart bowled him with a smooth outswinger two balls later. Next ball and Stuart bowled another fast cutter to remove John Dudley first ball. 69-2 had become 69-5. Jeremy then got into the act, as Aspden miscued a square drive into John Stead’s hands at Point; 73-6. “Cravat!” Someone shouted in delight (though actually it was a bit too hot for Mr Aspden to be wearing his dandy neckwear today). Dave Gallagher was looking to apply bat to ball and a slower one from Jeremy, just short of a length, tempted him to heave in the direction of midwicket … shouldn’t really do that so early on in your innings when the ball is on target for middle stump … 88-7. Stuart and Jeremy kept going, but now Alex Evans (who had already played some neat shots, particularly strong off his legs) was joined by home skipper Cai Read who played very skilfully. After a few more overs we brought on David Stead and Adam Wood and the run rate accelerated as even a minor indiscretion in line or length was seized upon by the Jesus rearguard. Anything that beat the infield raced to the boundary on this sun baked field and a century stand was realised in very short order, both batsmen going along at comfortably more than a run a ball. Dilemma: Does the captain bring back the openers? I’ve still got bowling options … Dave’s now finding his length too … John comes on to bowl in tandem with his twin. Evans veritably smoked a straight drive back at Dave and the Whitley Bay Champion had just enough time to check his stride and get his hands into position to take a great – and particularly brave – catch. Evans was a bit nonplussed at it, which is a rich compliment in itself. A high class 70. It’s now 196-8 and left hander Barnard supported Read well until he located Dave’s hands at midwicket off John’s bowling. Read had been informed he was now on 49 by number 11 Peter Sparks and then received a good ball from John which stayed a little low and ended the innings on 217. Cai reported that it would have been his maiden half century; in consolation I can say that with the talent showed today, many will come in the future.
Tea … oh yes it was delicious. Thanks to our excellent hosts.
Stuart and David Hollingsworth set about chasing the target in different ways – Stuart hammered the living daylights out of anything loose whilst Dave played his way in, gradually gaining in confidence. A brace of lofted Extra Cover drives from the South Coast slammer underlined his intent and the scoreboard wasn’t just ticking over, it was humming along like a fan (maybe that was part of the strategy). On 46, Stuart mishit a drive to midwicket and Dudley made ground smoothly to take a good catch – 73 for the first wicket in 10 overs. Shahed Ahmed continued in similar vein, going along at a run a ball – and also Dave now played some imperious strokes, a back foot cover drive at the top of the bounce for four resonates in the memory. A mini-collapse followed however, Dave departing for 33 and then Shahed for 22 as we went to 127-3 as the Stead twins joined forces. Dave’s building a platform whilst John played some delightful strokes in what proved to be a cameo when he danced down the wicket and played over one from Huw Edmunds for 16. 156-4 immediately turned into 156-5 as a half tracker first ball was pulled away strongly by Graham – straight into Kawsar’s hands at Square Leg for an aquatic bird of the precious metal variety. Hat trick ball and Conor managed to just avoid the grasp of the fielders for a catch. Then he hit a boundary straight afterwards. Dave is now controlling play and looking very assured, which Conor capitalised upon with some style, notching the fastest scoring rate of the day (200%) as he and Dave drove the Gardeners to victory with dashing strokeplay, the winning runs coming at the end of the 31st over. Salmagundi! Though personally I was looking forward to a bat as I was next in. But I’ll take the kudos as winning captain!