Alarm rings at 6am chez Higginbottom; I’ve prepared well for the weather forecast – it’s 3C outside so with 3 layers on I cycle the 11 miles to Luton to pick up the minibus, and drive back, load up the club kit, have some breakfast, drive to Stevenage station and load up with 7 other Gardeners and point the bus towards North Norfolk for day 1 of the East Anglia Tour. We took a pit stop in a Garden Centre for an early lunch and the air temperature was by now around 7C. To add to the sense of intrepid tourism, it hailed onto the plastic corrugated roof which was rather dramatic. However, the howling gale (which the locals call a moderate breeze) had kept the ground dry enough, but as rain breaks were likely Gardeners skipper Richard Higginbottom agreed a 35 over match with Holkham captain Peter Matthews. And then won the toss and decided to field as it seemed the team wanted to cosy up in the pavilion later on.
Normally it’s an advantage to bowl from the Hall end at Holkham (it’s slightly downhill), so I invited Joe to do that, with Graham bowling uphill. Only issue today is that the wind is coming in off the sea, meaning that any swing Joe got was being magnified further away from the stumps than we wanted, and Graham was having no problem keeping the ball up to the bat. Both bowled pretty tidy spells but the home openers M Todd and S Patchett dug in well. We changed the bowlers to Guru and Stuart, who both bowled really well – Stuart particularly unfortunate having the same batsman dropped off consecutive deliveries, before Richard (keeping) hung onto an outswinger from Guru that Todd tickled. 62-1 but the run rate is relatively sedate (or so we thought – it might be difficult bowling in this wind and cold weather, but it’s far from easy for a batsman to time the ball). Tim profited from this soon after he replaced Guru, W Bale sweeping over the top of a well directed stock ball from the Leicestershire off-spinner, the ball narrowly evading the backside of the batsman before dislodging the bails. 74-2. A period of attritional cricket ensued as J Harrison (who has racked up a lot of runs against us over the years) and S Patchett attempted to accelerate in the face of nagging accuracy by Tim and Jason, our own North Norfolk man inducing a skyer to wide long on where Graham made a tricky catch look easy. Shortly after, S Patchett completed his half century and Jason got him to offer a straightforward return catch … however, the Clerkenwell Cobbler stood rooted to the spot watching gravity get to work, but the alert Guru chased in from Cover to claim the catch. 130-4. Intelligent placement and the occasional fine strike saw Holkham advance to 171 without the loss of any more wickets when our overs were completed – P Matthews and W Patchett working well together.
Tea was delightful; the carrot cake was a tour de force. And never was a hot cup of tea more gratefully received. The temperature peaked at 8C, and the occasional squall took it down to around half that – however, due to serious commitment by both teams, no rain breaks were taken.
Time for our reply. Richard was planning to open with Paul, but has tweaked something in his knee, so decks himself out in Canary Colours as well as the white coat to do some umpiring (Jason’s not the only local here, though I come from South Norfolk). Stuart steps up and the bowling is of top quality at both ends, meaning that scoring is put in check. Eventually C Banks produced a jaffa that Stuart couldn’t keep out and we are 34-1, the South Coast slammer having made 22. We made another 34 runs for the second wicket, Debasis punishing the rare loose delivery, until he played on to a good length ball from W Patchett for 20. Guru played some pleasant shots for 16 runs before missing one from J Harrison, then Paulie J was bowled by the returning C Banks after a staunch and disciplined 31. We’re running out of overs now, but Nick and Graham combined well (i.e. Graham belted what he could reach and Nick kept running and taking singles of his own) until Graham ran Nick out, then got out himself. Adam and the captain were aware that it’s not possible to score over 30 off two balls, so Adam defended one and hit one for 1 not out, leaving the losing captain 0 not out without having faced a ball. Well played Holkham.
After the match, we had our usual pleasant chat with the home team in the Victoria, Paulie J continued his fine sporting form by winning the game of Killer on the dart board, then we got to the chippy and sat down and ate inside (it was that cold). Stuart advanced the thought that he was wearing a similar jacket to Paul and was admonished for his lack of fashion knowledge – so hopefully Stuart now has seared into his brain Harrington details such as flap pockets, checked lining, vented shoulders. Later in The Edinburgh Paulie and Les Freres Bruce are locked in further earnest disagreement to the amusement of the rest of us. This inspired the captain to allocate the rooms at the YHA as 1. The Debating Chamber – Paul / Graham / Stuart; 2. The Quiet Space – Debasis / Joe / Guru; 3. The Old Folks Home – Richard / Nick. Sweet dreams.