A game of firsts this, reports NC, with weather that scarcely conjured up images of palm trees, sunshine was hardly missed on a day filled to the brim with laughs, fine sportsmanship, smashed-up bats, broken fences, BBQ smoke, jet fumes and a little bit of cricket thrown in for good measure.
To start, Poker Face calls in sick with a bad head cold that five litres of Guinness the previous night can’t cure. Would we miss his Gower-esque stroke play, his Larsen-like death bowling? Only time would tell. State of Gardeners emergency declared, the Major is called up as a late replacement. Skip then arrives a whopping 20 minutes early! Surely something remarkable is on the cards?
The captains are eventually implored to head out to the square for the obligatory tossing. We had two options here, people. We could either bat. Or we could bowl. Palm Tree's Robins (no Russell around) duly wins, and put us in. Blast, tea wouldn’t be as good. Or would it?
After an opening spell tighter than Al Desco’s annual budget, Scouse Jim (10) and Skip (12) do well to weather a storm of decent sling bowling. However, both fall in succession, bringing Jamie and Huggie to the crease. Jamie looks to be back to his best with some gloriously timed strokes; Hugo also pushes the score along with menace. There are more quick wickets, though: Hugo run out (for a change) for 7 and Jamie LBW (26), trying to hoik a dead-straight one onto our Latino friends behind the iron fence. We could hear Elliott's tummy rumbling from the boundary, so off he trudges counting the balls 'til tea. With no PG Wodehouse, no DeeJay and now no Jamie, at 71-4, do the Gardeners have the mettle to post a defendable score?
Into the fray comes one Andy Garrow. The Major. And what a Force Majeure he turns out to be. His innings reads like something out of a Sharpe novel: 36 balls faced, a 12 dot-ball sequence, 18 scoring strokes, 3 sixes, 6 fours, 55 runs! I am given instruction to keep the singles ticking over, but who wants to run when you can just spectate at the other end? His innings resembling a Jedi cutting a droid army to shreds! Scintillating stuff.
Meanwhile back at the hut, Huggie and Jim are overheard discussing John’s bowling after two 9-ball overs in succession. On the surface he looked like a Waqar Younis with guns. In reality, he was a bit more wayward! Hugo describes him as a Random Ball Generator; Jim, who was bowled by him, rebuts, “Mate, I’d prefer to say he’s just shyte!” Chirp of the day.
From 80-4, a grand partnership of 94 in 10 overs between the Major and Cunners (34) sees us through troubled waters. The Major finally falls on 55, knocking on the door of his century! At 174-5 with 10 overs to go, 200 is surely on the cards. Piers "Powerplay" Teakle then falls cheaply, tickling the ball back to the bowler that I almost catch it as the non-striker! Struthers strides to the crease. A run-a-ball 26 Lance Klusener cameo from him sees us home to a respectable 214-8, ably supported by Chris H, aka George Osborne II.
Tea beckons and Jamie is not hanging around, off to the clubhouse faster than a pie in Graeme Smith’s hands. Tummy-rumblings satisfactorily dealt with, it’s back onto the field for part deux.
Rob and Nick open: the Metronome with his usual nagging regularity, Cunners off the new 2013 four-pace run-up. (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!) First wicket to Cunners caught behind. Not one to be outdone, the Metronome follows suit the next over, caught Major at deep mid-off. Moore the opener then takes charge of the Palm Tree innings, and just when things threaten to get away from us after a few dropped chances, Skip turns to the go-to man, Mr Hugo Nisbett. What follows will live long in the memory for all those present (bar the chap getting drinks!):
Ball 1 – Robins pops ball to mid-off, caught Cunners. Two hands, people!
Hugo asks umpire if he’s finished his over yet!!
Ball 2 – Smith edges to gully, caught Chris. A tough catch made to look easy. Tasty even!
Ball 3 – all in close for the hat-trick ball. Wild prod outside off-stump, faintest of edges. Through to Skip at keeper. Gargantuan appeal. Did he edge it? Did it hit his pads? Did we even know what we were appealing for? Umpire nods. Sree caught behind. HAT-TRICK, BABY!!! First-ever for the Gardeners, unless previous stattos can say otherwise.
Ball 4 – swing and a miss, eludes everyone, runs down to fine leg. Almost 4 from 4!
With that, the game had swung irrevocably in our favour. More pressure bowling from Piers sees his first wicket for the club, plus some superb hand-grenade stuff from Chris that never brings the wicket half the team are waiting for - on the leg boundary like a pack of vultures! Eventually, Clayders gets the opener Moore caught behind for 74. Another mixture of hands and thighs from Skip! And good sportsmanship from Moore to walk. Some consolation cameos from their lower order are never enough to get Palm Tree over the line, ending on 171-9. Gardeners win by 43 runs. Much back-slapping and handshakes all round.
And so ended a thrilling days play at Turney Road. With the clouds going down in front of the invisible sun, we all raised our pints to Huggie’s sublime hat-trick, Major’s superb innings and Andy O’s convalescence, and rode off into the sunset. All done while keeping an edgy distance from them Pretenders, also playing at the ground.
But what about the seedy moment you might ask? [Is it even still going? Ed] That honour would have to go to Jim. Not for his chirp of the day, or even his itchy foot (which he had to take his shoe off while batting for a good scratch), but for the catch that never was! Ball smashed high in the air straight down Jim’s throat at deep square leg… good as gone… shirley…Gardeners get ready for more back-slapping… ball hangs in air for an eternity… Jim steadies himself… more BBQ smoke drifts across the ground… ball eventually falls wayyy short… Jim doesn’t even get a hand to it!... luckily the game was already as good as won…SORRY BOWLER!!
Those firsts in full
Skip getting to the ground early
Major getting to the ground late
Piers’s first wicket for the club
Beers after the game!!!!!
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Oliver Cunningham (life)
Jamie Elliott (life)
Hugo Nisbet (life)
David Woodhouse (life)
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