Not even Jesus and Batman could force a win for Gardeners in our last match of 2012. In recording their innings, Highgate Irregulars dropped the "De" of Dan's name – appropriate for his near-miraculous late burst of stump-shattering – while Mike "Christian Bale" Richards removed his cape and tights... sorry, pads and gloves... to bowl the final over. The Skipper took one wicket, diving forward to clutch a caught-and-bowled, but three would have been real comic-book fantasy. In a declaration game, we finished two wickets short of victory.
David reminded us about the format when he arrived at the ground. North Middlesex CC was baking in the sun (albeit with a strong breeze) and the pitch was almost shimmering. After weeks of sticky wickets, Woodhouse relished the prospect a truer deck and an outfield that looked faster than superfast broadband: time to download some big runs. Highgate won the toss (an injured Charles was only there as umpire) and stuck us in. Their strategy was obvious: put the onus on the visitors to declare and, if necessary, the home side could cling on for a draw. We simply had to take 10 wickets. Not so simple, though...
A leisurely approach to taking the field on their part didn't help our cause, but this kind of game is all about being a bit crafty. And, of course, taking your chances. Fatty fell so early – chipping to mid-off – he missed his chance to impress Gemma, joining Laura, Rebecca and Michelle on the picnic blanket, with his last knock as a free man. Poker Face then put on a steady 54 with David. The latter had made expert use of what the Aussies call the back-cut to reach 23 and was looking set for much more when given lbw sweeping the persevering Rose (Cunners, who'd been anxious not to umpire, raised the finger). The talk on the "balcony" was very relaxed nonetheless. We were told to let "Miguel" know when we wanted drinks. Ludo rocked up and began salivating for ice cream having seen the "seafront" aspect of the new pavilion and concrete "pier". It was more Marbella than Eastbourne. Ludo and Rob were also glued to the guitar shredding that drifted from a nearby house. And the smoke. "Is his amp on fire?" Mike sledged Cunners about Cell Block H. Parasols had minds of their own.
Andy was dropped at point, as the ball bounced out when the fielder hit the ground. Apart from that his innings was chanceless. In the company of @theStobbs, he began to find the gaps – one scorching cover drive sticks in the memory – and soft-hand singles to the in-field. Tom also found the fence in more unconventional fashion in a hard-working 19 before Dan arrived just as his favourite Greek restaurant was about to open. His 19-ball 40 took a heavy toll on Kyriakides but the Highgate captain did get his man by coming round the wicket and the change of angle did for Dan's timing: caught at mid-on. Ludo went out with "intent from ball one": unfortunately, ball two – a grubber – bowled him. Hugo was stumped and thus the Barnet joined Cunners, who had already taken a leaf from Dan's big-bash scrapbook. It was Tom, however, who arguably shone most. His sparkling 19 not out off 10 balls featured an exquisite clip through wide mid-on. Having been unbeaten for 12 months (since the last game against Washington), Cunners thought it was a good time to give himself an average and so missed the final ball: 222-8 off 37.4 overs. It was surely enough, but had it taken too long?
GCC used 10 bowlers in our quest for 10 wickets. We did create enough chances and victory might have been ours if an early caught-behind decision – which looked blindingly obvious – had gone our way. However, lusty hitting by Miller sent a ripple of doubt around the side at 60-1. Cunners then bowled a dirty full toss first ball to the No 3, who lamped it at a diving Hugo at mid-off: 61-2. Eventually, Elwes went lbw to Ludo, and a smart one-handed return catch by Cunners – proffering his mitt like Oliver Twist asking for more – removed Marshall. At 87-5, we were back in the hunt. Mitchell, their No 4, was the stumbling block and it was pivotal that he was dropped (we'll spare the fielder's blushes here) off Tom L. A sitter, alas.
We needed divine inspiration: enter De Jesus from the far end (if that's not blasphemous). It was hardly Dan's fault that had only bagged one wicket to this point in 2012. And when Rob couldn't hold another stinger in the gully, it seemed as if Dan was destined to be the sorriest bowler. There was only one thing for it: take your team-mates out of the equation. Gray was bowled to make it 111-6; four runs later, Ullah and Rose were scuttled in consecutive balls (and, no, Mr Rose, it didn't stay that low, you were beaten for pace). Michelle wondered, not unreasonably, why Dan couldn't bowl all the time. She was gently introduced to the concept of overs, as Rebecca revealed that they weren't measuring the action out in units of six balls so much as glasses of wine (they were on the second bottle). It may have been at this juncture that Gemma explained how her dad claims to have "married two lesbians". Ask her later.
Any hatches that were unbattened in the Highgate innings were now lashed down. Their No 9 is reputedly a specialist for just this scenario. Mitchell, too, was obduracy personified. Rose on the sidelines ticked off the deliveries. It was most gripping, nerve-jangling session of the season. Poker Face couldn't conjure a wicket either. The game seemed up when the last over was due, but Mike's Gotham City off-breaks kept the tension going to the penultimate ball: 140-8 off 42 overs. Thanks to everyone who has played this year – and especially the Metronome for the van driving. It's been good fun despite the wretched weather. RC
We play most of our games in Dulwich and net during the winter at The Oval. Send us an email at email@example.com
Jamie Elliot (life)
Rob Navratil (life)
Hugo Nisbet (life)
David Woodhouse (life)
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