Bamburgh had the bunting out – figuratively at least – on a gloriously sunny Sunday morning. Sunnier and gloriousier than we had a right to expect the day before, when the secretary and his missus drove around the rain-lashed Cheviot hills, alighting in Alnwick to be asked by locals, "Are you here for the Jessie J concert?" The bunting wasn't for GCC – no repeat of the "Bamburgh welcomes South Africa" branding, although you can buy biltong on the high street – but for the Bamburgh fair. Still, the welcome couldn't have been warmer. Eric had invited Laura and Rich to his house for a drink the previous evening. Very kind.
This tour wouldn't have happened without Eric. On match-day, he was up with the lark and the heavy roller, sledging his son Geordie Matt in absentia by disclosing the big fella been "listening to operetta" late into the night with his belle, Helen. Technically, Matt was maybe possibly sort of available for this fixture. But a man does need a life beyond cricket, it's true, especially when he's about to spend weeks in the Yukon. Laura and Rich bumped into the pair at the fair, where Cunners ought to have been donging the strong-man bell (blacksmith-style) if he hadn't had a prior engagement with his digestive tract. Having stayed the Saturday night at home, David was glimpsed, bright and early, marching from the pavilion in search of coffee and an energy boost. He would later prove that cupcakes can give you wings.
John had been first to arrive in Bamburgh on Saturday afternoon. Laura and Rich took him to see Budle Hall, the tour manager's residence for the duration. It took John, as predicted, less than 30 seconds to make a quip about the potential embezzlement of club funds. He changed his tune somewhat while drinking tea in the drawing room and making a very favourable impression on the housekeeper's pussy, which drooled over his jumper in quite the most unforgettable way. A friend for life, that Imelda. In fact, John spent longer stroking the pussy than he would at the wicket, but then his interests have been beyond the boundary of late.
The contents of the Doc Bongomobile (Fatty, the Metronome and the man soon to be known as Poker Face) were straight into the footy on arrival, as Rob's tour diary explains. As for the other transport, James "Jig" Heanley looked jiggered when he emerged from his car, which had borne Cunners, Chuck and Greg T northwards. Top effort on his part. Cunners seemed ready for anything in combat pants and a leather jacket, Greg as if he had just woken from hibernation and Chuck like he had joined Green Day. Or least his hair did, dyed jet-black since last in Gardeners colours. Will S, hotfoot from Tam's, would complete the line-up.
During the T20 banter, Fatty's inner Yorkshireman had outed himself as a captain in the Close/Illingworth/Boycott mode of "give the boogers nuthin'". Fighting talk. Like it. GCC batted first, and John opened with David in traditional tour fashion. One sighter, one slap through cover for four, a dot to keep us guessing whether he might last the over and then a swish over a straight ball to scotch that foolish notion, it was classic latter-day Lloydage. Later, John wouldn't take the keeper's gloves, insisting that he had only been contracted for that role (indeed, to play, period) on the Saturday. He made wide mid-on his manor, as Chuck filled in capably behind the stumps with almost incessant chat to boot. Promoted to No 3, Rob took a leaf out of John's book, only without finding the rope first. 12-2 then.
Will joined David to steady the ship, or maybe park the bus to use a footballing metaphor, but not before lamping a six over long-on, the sort of not-quite-timed but have-it anyway kind of shot that Will C has been known to bring out of his golf bag. A partnership of 71 followed, David working hard for every single on a slow, sticking pitch – his 22 would be worth double that in effect – and Will equally tenacious but more fluent through the offside. David snicked the ever wily Eric to be caught behind; Chuck followed suit off Alsapt: 87-5. Andy O then looked ideally cast as the Fairbrother-esque middle-overs foil until he was bowled for 10. Will progressed to a vital 50, but three wickets fell on 105, including his own. 105-7 represented a mini-crisis. James/Jig and Cunners, however, were equal to it. Hitting out from a platform in the 30th over that the earlier batters had built but also with their own true ball-striking ability, they put on 50 in nine overs. James was bowled, bringing Captain Fatty in for the last few deliveries. He smote one to deep square to show his pulling prowess is still second to none.
Bamburgh had been set 176 to win. First, however, we set about an excellent tea. It should also be noted that our innings had been watched by possibly the largest domestic crowd ever at a GCC match. Well, "watched" might be an exaggeration but there were plenty of people passing by, most on their way to the beach or to buy tea and cake. Laura had been given some tips on scoring by David, Jig and John (the old seadogs), and thus scored with the local Bearded Wonder during our innings. He invited her to stay at his guesthouse next time she was in the area. She also managed to do a fairly good job of the statistics.
The Metronome and the Silver Machine (the latter surely an obvious musical nickname for Rob's fellow drummer, Greg) began smoothly with two maidens. Their bowling was spot on, too: arf, arf. Shiel couldn't get bat on anything; the teenage Lobb, meanwhile, continues to develop into a decent cricketer, as does his bowling counterpart, Lakey. Together, they sound as if they should have played for Stuart Surridge's Surrey or been Brill Building songwriters. The opening stand had reached 47 when Clayders sneaked a slower delivery past Shiel; the younger Convery fell in the same way but not before smacking the "spinner" for four. Jig had nipped in to bowl the No 3 on his way to a haul of 3-28. If he's available regularly next season, he would make a great addition to the side. Chuck hung on to a catch to give Jig his second wicket; Jig's third, the sturdy Lobb, came when David leapt at backward point to take an outstanding two-handed catch, another smashing grab from Woodhouse.
To their credit, Bamburgh, who had fielded superbly, then began to run aggressively and give Fatty, who had posted sweepers early on, something to think about. His answer was to throw the ball to Andy O, for his first bowl of the season. Having tweaked his shoulder (or was he only being bashful?), the man soon be known as Poker Face reckoned he was only worth one over. He ended up bowling seven off the reel, snapping up a crucial caught-and-bowl, too. Fatty gave himself the responsibility of the death bowling, and didn't shirk the task. There was an altercation with the non-striker as the tension rose when Fatty whipped off the bails, the batsman having backed up too far. This was not the "Mankad" scenario that was to cause a spot of bother for Surrey the next week but a relay throw from the keeper after it had passed the bat. The non-striker thought the ball was dead, but you can bet he would have scampered a single if Chuck had spilled the take. Hmm, where's a copy of Tom Smith when you need it? The incident rattled the batsman. Fuming, he cut his next ball to Jig at backward point, who juggled the catch as he dived but held on. At 156-7 in the 30th over that was the key wicket. Poker Face conceded for only four singles off the last over. GCC won by 15 runs. RC
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Oliver Cunningham (life)
Jamie Elliot (life)
Rob Navratil (life)
Hugo Nisbet (life)
David Woodhouse (life)
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