On Wimbledon finals day middle Britain finally got what it had been waiting for. With the mercury touching 100F and the Great British Sun blazing overhead, the country's new hero finally delivered
us from years of
disappointment and dashed hopes. In pubs, parlours and pavilions across the nation people rose to toast a figure who at times has provoked controversy, but now could be universally acclaimed, having defeated a formidable opponent from overseas. The victory so many had craved for so long was finally ours to savour.
But it wasn't all about Theresa May and Abu Qatada. The Gardeners had a tough clash against old sparring partners Jesmond Jaguars to deal with, and elsewhere in south London there was more grunting and sweating from a Dunblane native than has been seen since Will Sutton moved to Hampshire.
Gardeners batted first and set up a field HQ in the shade of an oak tree on the far side of a sweltering Turney Road. The returning Vincent opened with the stalwart Warbrick, and the two made hay
with some crowd-pleasing strokes, particularly off the back foot. Jaguars were visibly starting to wilt in the heat and
grassed a couple of chances. With the score on 68, from nowhere the partnership was broken by a smart piece of work of his own bowling by Bond to run out Vincent. Thereafter wickets fell steadily, and once Jim was out for a well-constructed 57 only the ever-reliable de Jesus (49) held things together. With 10 overs to go, the bullish talk under the tree was of targeting 210 or 220. Unfortunately, the catches had started to stick, and Gardeners crumpled to a mildly disappointing 186 all out at the end of the 40th over.
Tea was taken and Gardeners could draw twin inspiration from Murray's snaffling of a crucial second set and footage of Qatada's arrival at an airbase in Jordan. The pitch was bouncy but slow and the consensus was that if we bowled well it would be a tough ask for the Jags.
The "short-run-up-Shultz" was soon asking some searching questions of the Jaguars' openers, but regular boundaries meant Gardeners struggled to apply pressure early on. Finally, the breakthrough came and the runs began to dry up for the Jags on the parched surface and in the face of some stifling out-cricket. Aked's strategy of wide long-hops bore fruit, de Jesus taking two regulation catches at backward point. "Princess" Leahy held a fine catch on one leg at slip, and then tempted the stubborn North into trying to hit him out of the ground, amid goading from the close fielders. Jim did the necessary with a minimum of fuss at mid-on.
Cunningham Jnr was putting in an immaculate shift behind the sticks, not conceding a bye all innings, and confusing batsmen with his cries of "bowl at his feet!" and "make him play!". He combined superbly with his big bro for the seventh wicket, a run out; Tasty sending a howitzer from the cover boundary to leave the batsman halfway down, looking bemused.
The Gardeners were cock-a-hoop and appeared to be closing in on victory, Jaguars seven down with 50 runs still to muster. News had filtered through of a Scottish British triumph at the tennis and optimism abounded. At this point, it became clear that the Jesmond batting order was longer than a 21st century extradition saga, and they now deployed their equivalent of the European Convention on Human Rights, in the shape of their number 8 and 9 batsmen. With a mixture of crafty singles and some clean hitting they made the task look easy, leaving Gardeners to rue their earlier batting collapse. An extra 20 runs could well have proved crucial.
All in all, a fine day's cricket in glorious weather on a sporting pitch against an excellent team. MA
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Oliver Cunningham (life)
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