It’s the Ashes … our first opportunity this season to get our hands on the Bonnington Urn; some concerns over the prospects of play following a downpour on the Saturday, but reassured by the groundsman, Richard completed making the rolls, loaded the A4 up with the team kit bag, the tea, own kit bag and when he got there found that the wicket resembled a sponge, and not the chocolate victoria sort I’d made late on Saturday. Ghost, captaining the Pineapples as Roger is commentating on Ireland’s historic first test match versus Pakistan for Guerilla Cricket, called correctly and opted to bowl. Stuart and Paul handled the opening bowling – particularly tidy by Tom Hickox – pretty well until Paul was trapped lbw – a bit contentious. Richard prodded around fruitlessly before popping one up to Ghost at midwicket to give Tom his second wicket. Debasis decided his average needed knocking down and promptly slapped his first ball into Steve Sweet’s hands at Cover for a quacking bird of the precious metal variety. And then George – also a heavy scorer for us – continued his Parliament Hill curse with another duck. And Graham broke the spell, getting 1. Then getting out. Both of these wickets going to Sweet, bowling a high quality spell (nothing new there). Amongst this mayhem, Stuart was playing with calm authority, punishing the rare bad ball and demonstrating impressive defensive technique. Sachith is not normally noted for this sort of control, but our swashbuckling Sri Lankan knuckled down to some serious defence; Stuart latched onto a short ball from Gordon only to locate Sweet at deep midwicket who took the catch expertly. Matt worked well with Sachith, putting on 25, until Gordon got him out. Enter Nick Duckett, with instructions from his captain to “not get out”. The Lancashire Limpet was in his “they shall not pass” mood and the “dream partnership” that the captain had hoped for gradually materialised as Sachith managed to connect with a few loose deliveries as Nick wore his metaphoric tin hat whilst piling up the sandbags in his metaphoric trench. Sachith amassed 60 runs before holing out to Tim Langridge off Billy the Trumpet and after a bit more swishing, we declared on 150 for 8. Unusual events: Ghost bowled 10 (very economical) overs but did not take a wicket. And Richard managed to persuade an invading dog off the pitch and out of the gate. A very rare example of any living being doing what he asked.
Tea went down well – Paulie J complaining that the Banana Parkin was “too good” so he had to eat more than he planned. Were the cheese and pickle pastries OK? Can’t have been bad as they vanished quickly.
The weather had been steadily improving and the wicket – which although damp and slow, had not played badly – now became a bit more comfortable for batting, plus the outfield had completely dried out. Nevertheless, opening bowlers Mahender and Stuart gave openers Tim Langridge and Brewer plenty to think about, though both were looking calm and assured. 30 for 0 after 10 overs; Stuart takes a break and on comes Jeremy; within 3 balls Brewer cracked a Cover Drive straight into George’s chest who hung on to get our first wicket. Jabba: Imperious and Tim: Tactically excellent. This game was starting to get away from us. Mahender was relieved by George at the Athletics track end. We had a drink and Richard switched Jeremy for Debasis at the tennis courts end. The batsmen knuckled down well until (a bit out of the blue) Jabba’s feet remained montionless as George turned one past him. 43 including two stunning sixes – one over the longest boundary over Square Leg and another drilled over Long Off. Sweet looked composed and then George found another Jaffa to bowl him. Scotty looked a bit nervous so we surrounded him and Debasis skittled him with a fine delivery. And then followed that up when one stayed low to trap Tim in front of the stumps for a well constructed 45. We’re really starting to buzz now. Jeremy Langridge is in at 6 instead of his customary 8 and looked very solid from the off, peppering the shorter boundary successfully for a while until we got into a yoyo fielding rhythm – back for Jeremy, in for his partner. Ford got another pearler from Debasis and departed for 3. Sharp turn from George induced an inside edge from Hickox and Nick pouched the catch at Short Leg – good one Doosra. Wickets were falling but the target was getting close to single figures. George dropped one slightly shorter to Billy and he went for a heave, only to top edge back to the bowler. Jeremy released the pressure with a superb pull drive over deep midwicket for 6. 147 for 8 and Gordon is playing French Cricket (getting everything in front) as we all got into catching positions. Jeremy took a single off Debasis. We all came in again. 149-8. Back of a length, just outside off stump. Gordon aimed a cut. Flew off the top edge. Richard stuck out his left hand at slip. Didn’t hold it. But … parried it upwards and wrapped his hands around it. Wow this is exciting. Here’s Ghost … what’s that squeaking noise? Better not dwell on that … 3 very good deliveries from Debasis – all defended stoutly. George, you need to get Jeremy out; just over pitched and was put away for four to end the match. Breathless and brilliant stuff. An honour to play in this game.
Later at The Vine … Paulie J discovers that his pen picture on the Gardeners website “looks like Ken Livingstone”. Doosra revealed that he saw the Rolling Stones at Brixton in 2003 and was immediately put off by Jagger opening the evening by saying “this is a laugh innit?” in his mockney accent. It was only rock and roll, but Nick didn’t like it enough that night and decamped well before the end as it was Crazy Paul Brasted’s birthday party, where a good time is always guaranteed. So you can always get what you want … if you know the right people.