Uncharted territory, unknown foes, uncertain weather. How would we fare on our first visit to the Lions' den? Would the rain hold off to allow a full game? The Hampstead Heath Extension was more out-of-season festival site than savannah. No pavilion, coloured cones for boundary markers, a yokel strip of a pitch. The Lions, a cheery bunch, soon put up a gazebo for the scorer and spectators. We'd need it.
Lions only had 10 and not all of them there. We bowled. The Metronome clocked on with a maiden (oi, oi!). Married life clearly hadn't affected Fatty's ability to find his length (oi, oi, oi!). Or his line. (Gemma heard all about it at tea-time.) The ball bounced as if on a grassy trampoline, except when it skidded low. The first wicket fell as Seaton tried to steal a second to deep point on Cunners's throw. That brought Hammond in at No 3. What a name to be batting at No 3. This was Dan's mate Lewis, not Wally. Still, he proved to be the pride of the Lions line-up, driving forcefully and getting over the ball to cut with venom.
After the Naked had Kalur lbw, Bureau (a Martin Amis-like name for a journalist, no?) joined Hammond. They would put on 60 - was that Dan missing Hammond at slip on 13 or just his commando roll? - before tight spells from Nick and Hugo led to Bureau picking out the safe hands of the Major at long-off in the latter's third over. More stingy work from Polaroid (coach Nina occasionally glancing up approvingly from her newspaper) prompted Hammond to give him the charge. He missed. Stumped Richards. Chris Humphries, our loopy leggie extraordinaire, enjoyed an expensive but encouraging debut. Ludo's bowling might have made a rusty return, but his wit was sharp. "Have you reinvented as an off-spinner?" he asked Hugo.
Dan continued where he left off at Highgate Irregulars - with a double-wicket maiden first up. David backpeddled to catch Edrasinghe at cover. A tumble, broken sunglasses, a bump on the back of the head. That's total Woodhouse commitment for you. Miscommunication with the oppo about tea meant that we had a surfeit of a spread. Fatty was relieved Cunners hadn't made "Cape effing bush-pig" sarnies. Third prize in the culinary stakes went to Ludo's prawn and mayo combo (getting him high on his own supply); second to David's Bulgarian savoury bakes (thanks, Mariya?); first to Rob's lemon drizzle and mixed-spice fruit cakes (to his mum's recipes). "Is that like Old Spice?" quipped Hugo.
Speaking of drizzle, that had given way to steady light rain as we commenced our chase of 130 off 30 overs. Woodhouse and Warbrick looked in control - apart from one comedy drop each. David's involved the Major, as square leg umpire, taking out the fielder while taking evasion action. Smart bombing. Just after the 50 partnership was reached with a sumptuous Woodhouse cover drive, the Major adjudged him lbw, bringing Dan to the crease. He'd make a typically brisk 31 not out, blocking only to make sure Hammond didn't induce a false stroke. Jim's 63 not out was vintage Warbrick. Fine legside touches, the odd clouted pull and one particularly memorable on-drive into the area the fielder had just vacated. The target was reached in the 23rd. Lions were not so much big cats as soggy moggies. Very good of them to let us finish the match. RC
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Oliver Cunningham (life)
Jamie Elliot (life)
Rob Navratil (life)
Hugo Nisbet (life)
David Woodhouse (life)
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