As I was preparing the sandwiches for the match in the morning I thought to myself “we might be on a roll”. Actually I was on French sticks, but I was referring to our bright start to the season. Would my decision to go for a fully vegetarian lunch (I believe that’s a Gardener’s first) deprive our boys of the necessary protein? Let’s get down to Parliament Hill to find out.
High times for the French House – instead of me having to find an extra player or two, they turned up with 12 (though I hasten to add they included dyed-in-the-wool Gardeners Paul Jordan and Joe Woolmore who played for the French House first and therefore I reluctantly concede to the splendid Jonny Spitfire). Jonny was (some would say) unfairly lauded as “London’s Least Fit Cricketer” during our game versus the Intangibles last season. Yet again Higginbottom lost the toss (that’s all weekend games so far – only won a T20 toss) and Jonny decided to bat.
Mahender Padidam and Spike Harby were both getting a lot of movement, resulting in a higher than usual number of wides, but this was more than compensated for by the likelihood of wickets. Spike removed both openers R Shepard (3) and H Shepard (6), bowled and caught behind respectively (lovely lifting outswinger that). Paulie J was trying to steady the ship – a lot of variable bounce. Meanwhile Mahender got Fitzpatrick to pull a ball that was not short enough and David Hollingsworth at slip took the resulting sky-ball. Spitfire hit a very good 4 but then prodded back to Spike, who made good ground to take the catch. Tim Richards replaced Spike and bowled a beautiful outswinger to Paulie J – which our loanee would probably have negotiated if it hadn’t have scraped along the turf before connecting with off stump. Joe then played a classical forward defensive to Tim – thumped into the pad – both Tim and Richard (keeping) thought it was worth an appeal and so did the umpire. George Grylls was making his season debut and was a little rusty, eventually tuning his radar with a sublime inswinger to remove Tipper. Seven down for 55 – but we’ve agreed 11 wickets to accommodate the French House’s bonus player. Now some good batting from Rose and Fenton who put on about 20 before Rose inexplicably declined to play at another outswinger from Tim which circumnavigated the batsman’s leg side and took out the leg stump. Fenton and Bedley combined even better to get the score up towards three figures until Bobby Hillman bowled Fenton with a classic down-the-hill off cutter for 15. Bedley looking to go big now, so we moved back Sachith Dassanayake and Dave H – the latter being under the resulting lofted drive – very good judgment by the Walthamstow Babelfish meant one wicket to go. Sachith had meanwhile drawn blood, Frazer top-edging a sweep into his face to give him what looked like a cobra bite across the bridge of his nose – which he used as an excuse to be the spare fielder (i.e. loll around on the boundary doing nothing during our reply). Bobby angled one across Reg who got a big flying edge on it – oh good stop Tim at slip – oh my word he’s only held onto it! Stunning catch. “DID YOU SEE THAT?!” Richard shouted to Tim’s entourage (wife and a few friends) who were lucky enough to witness the act. Great grandstand finish to the innings.
Let’s have some tea. Approval from the vegetarian members of the teams and no concerned voices at the lack of dead animals on offer from anyone else. Those falafels are very good. Thanks to Dave for a great selection of fruit and cakes (peachy, some might say).
On with the game and Nick Duckett likes to face down Jonny, so he’s in at number one offering bowling advice to Mr Spitfire (not invited nor appreciated). Got him away for a couple of runs in the first over. Joe is bowling superbly at the other end (Jonny’s doing well too) and although there were limited alarms, the score was 26 after 10 overs. Which the Gardener’s skipper was fine with though our number 3 (Shahed Ahmed) was pawing the ground. Nick got a low one from Rose having put on 30 for the first wicket with Dave; Shahed sprang into action, heaving at everything, sometimes connecting. Joe had been rested but came back and Shahed showed no respect, giving him the charge – actually playing an excellent on-drive for four. This also ignited Dave’s innings, who connected with both considerable power and timing to harvest a number of boundaries. Shahed perished on 16 to a good ball from Rose. Raghavender didn’t see much of the strike as Dave decided he’d now totally adopt the Shahed mantle, and then got another good ball from Rose who put in a fine spell. Can Dave get to his half century before we reach our target? Not quite, though he hit what proved to be the two last balls of the match for further impressive boundaries to conclude on 48 not out, Sachith also unbeaten on 5. Very impressive all-round show by the Gardeners.