"A change in the weather/gonna be extreme," sang Bob Dylan in 1974. Who'd have thought he'd be predicting the difference in climatic conditions between the first two matches of the Gardeners' 2012 season? Last week, Ice Station Kempton; this week, a Duel in the Sun. Happily, in such a heated atmosphere, GCC had the coolest heads. Cunners, debutant Tom Stobbs and David played winning hands in an increasingly fraught run chase, after a good team effort in the field – and Fatty's 50th career wicket, followed rapidly by his 51st and 52nd – had restricted Pretenders to 197-9 in their 40 overs.
A score of 200 looked par when Pretenders won the toss and batted on a true pitch that had the merest sheen of green. Their powerful new opener, Hulme, announced himself in no uncertain terms, driving on the up through cover and pulling dismissively. Dan and Rob fought back. The Metronome got his reward for a few "dry" deliveries when Hulme blasted a backfoot shot straight towards David at extra. Woodhouse didn't wince in a catch-that-or-face-a-large-dentistry-bill scenario: 29-1. After the leftie Ahmed had struck his way to 51, and with the equally robust Dalton well set, Pretenders were poised to do serious damage at 158-3. Both batters gave Clayders the long handle, while Hugo bowled the hard yards – his run-up now as smooth as one of the Major's dress shirts, thus invalidating almost his entire player profile (credit to Nina's off-season coaching/coaxing?).
It was then as if events had served only to take the shine off the ball for Fatty's swing. In the 30th over, he had Dalton caught behind. Forrester, the Pretenders chairman and another leftie, was soon bowled; the very next ball Horatio Money pinned lbw. Fatty was on a hat-trick at the start of his next over. Pretenders' admirable captain, Duncan Stahl, calmly dealt with that, and went about bolstering the total as Cunners and Rob put on the squeeze. Cunners bowled a corking yorker. Mark Fellowes was neatly pouched by Dan off Rob at backward point. @thestobbs, sporting more pro undergarments than a Romida catalogue, spilled a swirler off Stahl, but was to prove it's always best to embarrass yourself early as a spur to future performance.
David and Fatty strode out after tea with possibly the largest ever GCC crowd urging them on – or at least temporarily glancing up from their newspapers. Tom L and Victoria, Caroline, Michelle, Gemma, Laura, Rebecca and her posse, and Oval netter Shiv were all "watching", sending the attendance soaring into double figures. Fatty was snared at slip then David and Dan built a contrasting partnership: canny cuts and sweeps from Woodhouse, full-bloodied drives and baseball pulls from De Jesus, until Dan fired one straight to deep square: out for 42.
The returning Will Sutton played several sumptuous off-drives before getting in an lbw tangle. Once David fell for a typically determined 63, the pressure was on at 138-4 in the 32nd over. Andy Offord and "Dave Gorman" (Andy's lookalike claim for Tom during the in-car banter) began to turn the tables, running with jailbreak abandon. Hulme dropped a tough caught-and-bowled chance off Tom, then hurled the ball for four overthrows. The next over, Tom smote a six and a four off the first two balls. Pretenders seemed to be cracking. Yet there were further twists in the tale.
Stahl bowled both Andy and Tom in the 37th over with 19 still needed. Enter Cunners, the finisher. Two boundaries and swift running with Mike reduced the equation to three off the last. With scores level, Mike hared to the striker's end. A direct hit. An appeal. Not out, says Sutton. A four-wicket win. It was tight, to be sure, but who would bet against either Mike's legs or Will's honesty? (Or vice versa.) The next encounter will be tasty. RC
We play most of our games in Dulwich and net during the winter at The Oval. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jamie Elliot (life)
Rob Navratil (life)
Hugo Nisbet (life)
David Woodhouse (life)
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and may involve some poetic licence. GCC cannot be held liable for any misrepresentation in these articles.