Sunday Times 2 June

South of the river – bit of a trip for the captain from “way up North” in Stevenage … but could this through train to Blackfriars work … yes indeed … bit of a schlep with the team kitbag, but I’m there before most Gardeners and just about all of the oppo – making up for a couple of times in the past where I’ve turned up here shamefully late.  My good day continued when I won the toss, but as we had 10 (Lord Fakenham delayed by one of his catalogue of possible extraordinary reasons), I invited the home side to bat so we could get on with the game.

What a joy it is to have such bowlers – most weeks I have the privilege of casting around the field at my team-mates and just about all of them are more than competent with the ball.  Spike and Joe opened up for us and were immediately posing problems for the batsmen, the scoreboard hardly moving until Joe trapped Gatward lbw for 3.  Soon after F Nathan – left handed – had Spike considering going around the wicket – but when Spike decided to continue over the wicket, he bizarrely had the sightscreen moved “just in case”.  Anyway, it seemed to unsettle him and not long after he skied one to David Hollingsworth who took the catch confidently.  D Paul looked to be moving into position well, but Joe got a nice bit of outswing to give ‘keeper Richard a neat catch.  Time for the home team to buckle down as Stuart and Toby took over the bowling, which L Moore and Hayward did for a while until Stuart (shaking off a heavy one, as Elbow sang) yorked L Moore with a classic inswinger.  M Ryan also batted well until he mistimed off Toby (who was immaculate in line and length), Joe smoothly moving into position to take the catch at Cover Point.  Guiseley tried all manner of shots in a brief stay at the wicket, including some extravagant swings against very good balls.  Eventually he gave some slip catching practice to Spike off Stuart, who made no mistake.  G Moore tried to accelerate, taking on the returning Spike – a skier to midwicket, where debutant Callum called for the catch in a trilling falsetto, and duly delivered on his claim.  McWilliams also looked positive, but perished on charging down the track to Jeremy, Richard completing the stumping.  Schoolboy J Moore clearly has some talent, playing a tidy looking shot off his first ball to Jeremy, but lofting it to give Callum another catch.  Callum was wondering if he should claim the wicket … of course, this is “proper cricket”.  If kids are playing the game, give them the same respect as adults (as Jeremy later said “Spare the bouncer, spoil the child”).  Possibly my favourite quote of the season so far.  So we need to get 153 to win.  Well batted Hayward, undefeated on 61 – a brave and workmanlike innings.

Stuart went after the bowling from the off – though it’s worth noting that he only let fly into anything loose – but he was in such fine form that there didn’t have to be much wrong with the delivery for it to be disappearing to the boundary.  Stuart eventually perished on 45, trying to hit a six over cover.  Eleven fours and only one single.  Lazy!  Two excellent on drives and a couple of punishing Extra Cover drives will live long in the memory.  George Grylls has come into the team today – a delight to see him – and he played in a graceful and effective way, adding 18 quickly as Dave Hollingsworth started to develop his innings.  “I want you here at the end” the skipper advised 2-Bats.  When George got out, Nick, Toby and Callum fell in fairly short time (though not without moving the score on) before the skipper got in and supported Dave (completing a most elegant 59) to enable us to reach the victory target with 5 wickets in hand.  As we came off the pitch, Spike said “I wasn’t going to bother putting my pads on with you two out there”.  Joe replied “I’ve seen Richard bat enough – I was constantly ready to go in”.  Harsh but fair.

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