Flaming June … well it really is as the late Spring glorious weather has become early Summer. Richard lost the toss (again) and home captain Alex Lee took the unsurprising decision to bat first on such a hot day.
Joe Woolmore and Shahed Ahmed spearheaded our attack and were miserly from the off, backed up by some sharp ground fielding from our ten men (Will Towers was rendered unable to join us having contracted a virus on Saturday). Joe got us underway by yorking Moore and shortly after trapping left hander F Nathan lbw with a neat inswinger. 9 for 2. Both bowlers were rested after 4 overs apiece and Tim Richards bowled a maiden – 10 runs after 9. Can we sustain this pressure? Graham Bruce came on at the pavilion end and bowled the most spectacular opening delivery your correspondent can remember from a Gardener … having an excellent view at slip. The ball was heading around 2 feet wide of off stump as it approached the batsman, then turned sharply inwards in the air like a guided missile, continuing its almost magnetic flight to its destination at the top of off stump (via the pitch on a perfect lenght). A glorious sight to behold (unless you were the unfortunate Guiseley). S Nathan worked hard with remaining opener Moore to get into the game, the run rate continuing to be very sluggish as the Gardeners were on fire in the field. After a period of attritional play, Moore struck a Cover Drive and called for a sharp single; Tim gathered and released in one smooth movement, scoring a direct hit and gaining our 4th wicket. Soon afterwards in the midst of a probing 8 over spell, Tim got Lee to snick one off the inside edge and Jeff Round (keeping) took an outstanding one handed diving catch. Papineau looked composed under pressure, but Moore may have been contemplating the run-out when he top-edged to Joe off Graham; 39 for 6. Greg Struthers is well known to us as a fine bowler – today he also had his batting boots on, ticking all the textbook boxes by keeping it in the V, waiting for the bad ball (not many of them), generally removing risk whilst allowing the scoreboard to tick over as Jeremy bowled a very tidy spell, surprisingly not taking any wickets. Papineau and Struthers had added 46 when they decided to put extra pressure on our fielding, resulting in a misunderstanding as Tim shelled the stumps (missed) and Jeremy also fired (hit) to run out Papineau for 22. Jeremy could have actually walked to the stumps and removed the bails, but he does love the spectacular. Joe came back on and kept the lid on the scoring. Graham and Shahed bowled out the closing overs, Shahed claiming the richly deserved wickets of Struthers (19) and Pitt (a workmanlike and sensible 16), leaving Park and K Struthers (Greg’s brother visiting from Capetown) unbeaten. Footnote: thanks very much to the Sunday Times for lending us a fielder for the duration of the innings.
Batteries recharged in the pavilion, we headed out to begin our reply. And Richard headed back in again, having no game plan, no clear thought and not really a shot as the ball thudded into his pad giving Joe no option but to give him out. In the shower: dark thoughts of retirement: I’d rather be cycling / golfing / swimming / etc; I travel 40 miles though the centre of London for a golden duck (first ever in my life when batting number 1); can do without the whining of the occasional (very rare) player who doesn’t buy into the Salmagundi raison d’etre. OK that’s enough self pity let’s get back out to support my team. Ah, Shahed has hit a six and David Hollingworth’s not exactly comfortable but he’s still there. A stand of 44 ended when Shahed edged to Moore from Park for a solid 22. Raj Singh was bowled by Pitt and then Dave was lbw shuffling across (I almost cried when I gave him out) to Park. 46 for 4 and it’s tight as a mouse’s ear. Jeff and Graham were communicating well and playing sensibly, and took us to 63 when Graham was out to a return catch by S Nathan. Conor Aspel has brought an entourage today who encouraged him to his usual fine fielding performance and then treated them to some lofted drives, most of which only went for one owing to the slow outfield (another factor in limiting the Sunday Times’ score). Conor, Jeff and Jeremy all then departed quite quickly after one another, leaving us in the precarious position of 78 for 8 – remember we only have 9 wickets today. And Tim has a hairline fracture of his left elbow. Joe looked in great form from the outset, the fielding side after a while trying to get the strike off him as he was placing the ball immaculately and occasionally striking it with aplomb (two superb drives over wide mid-on off Moore come readily to mind). Tim played with great skill and application in support, no risky singles were taken. We got into the high nineties … can we do it … another splendid four by Joe and two by Tim. It’s 108 and it’s a good job I’m umpiring as I can hardly bear to watch. A wide goes to the boundary and … well maybe anticlimactic … but what an amazing finish. I think this is the first time I’ve been able to report on us snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Retire? Get over it Higginbottom.