First game of the season this was: always good to see which Gardeners were eager to put down early markers for the season ahead. So much at stake, so much to ponder, so many questions! It was all too much for me as I stared out over a gloomy Turney Road. Would we see any new faces once the pre-season transfer window had closed? Would de Jesus be less Kallis, more Flintoff this year? Would PG Woodhouse keep his grip blood-free all season? Would Pokerface still be rolling his own ciggies? Would Voodoo Chile be as gappy as ever? Would Skip be able to drag himself from Bastard Squad [er, a Young Ones gag? Ed] and get to the ground in time for the toss? Each question worthy of its own seminar.
The XI eventually assembled, with a few newbies. Enter Nick Dudley-Williams, left arm fast/MEAN, handy with the willow, too; step forward also Nisanka Rodrigo (hereafter Sanga – as in Sangakkara), right-arm slow/brilliant, and possible future usurper of Metronome's mantle. Other notable mentions: Jim Warbrick – an emotional mess at the prospect of missing the Kop take on Chelski this close to the title! (Would it affect his game?) And Huggie – so late, he actually missed the match!
After doing some on-field DIY, gardeners-style, with the new pitch covers, it is game on. GCC to field, next stop... TEA. Opening pair de Jesus and Cunners start off well keeping the batsmen honest; de Jesus showing no sign of rust, Cunners still with the trademark 2013 run-up. After a few lucky boundaries and a plethora of near-wicket-experiences, the Big Rogowski (standard spelling) is brought on. Great captaincy from Skip as Bond lobs it straight away to Sanga at mid-off. Gobbled up like a crocodile. The change of bowling is inspired as the Rogowski-Sanga axis prove successful again for the next wicket not long after. Next up is debutant Nick Dudley-Williams. The big guy!
Nickname sorted! Although Schultzie II wouldn't be far off the mark. Second ball, pops back straight back to him: it's caught off his own bowling with the grace of Johnny Vegas on ice. With that, the wickets start tumbling. Chumpy is brought on to entice the batsmen into some catching practice on the leg boundary. Sadly nothing comes our way, the only catch going to Clayders on the other side of the fence. Not even a crack heard on those soft hands! As more boundaries are leaked, the Jags are threatening to get on top of the grassy wicket. Not before the Chancellor flights the perfect half volley to Pett, though. Swing and a miss, and Skip is all over the stumping quicker than lager turns to piss! Got him, YESSSSS. First stumping for the year, another one would follow off Voodoo Chile.
Six wickets down, and a near timed out, as the LFC/CFC proves too much for one Jags batsman who is caught watching the footie at the clubhouse (much to Warbo's disdain), it's the return of Nova. Yes, Cumberbatch. Mr Tom Leahy. Picking up exactly where he left off last season. Some fine left-arm spin has the batsmen at 6s and 7s and bags him a wicket, caught by Sanga at mid-on. Sanga's Midas touch prompts Skip to hand him his debut spell. Right-arm slow mesmerizing! I can see plenty of wickets coming his way this season. Get him back in the team! (Same for Deadly.) Seven Sanga overs bag one wicket and yield a miserly 14 runs, easily GCC's most economical analysis. That wicket involves a great low catch on the move by Leahy. Early candidate for catch of the season. Cunners is also brought on, but by now the pre-season stiffness has already set in... a day early! A nothing ball is bludgeoned straight to Voodoo. Initially losing sight of it in the trees, he recovers in a split second to nab the catch right in front of his nose. High fives, back-slapping, arse –wacking and tubthumping all round ensue as the Gardeners skittle the Jaguars for 154.
As usual, tea proved to be no disappointment as the increasingly inclement weather threatened to break. Overheard at tea:
Humphries: It's close to a ruddy Typhoo out there...
Rogowski: Good idea, Chumpy, get us another tea would ya!
And with that, it was back to the action.
The two Ws, Woodhouse and Warbrick, stride out to bat with that air of anticipation that accompanies all great opening pairs. Would we see something to akin to Greenidge and Haynes? Sadly, it would be more like Panesar and Harmison. A beamer is sent down to Woodhouse, coming through at nipple height. An attempted hook only skies it to the keeper. Triggerfinger Cunners is caught napping and raises his finger immediately before contemplating the no-ball. Sorry batsman! Terrible decision. 1/0.
Enter topgun batter, Jamie Elliott. After seeing off the dangerous opener Eccles, and deploying a marvellous late cut behind point for 4, he too looks like his old self. The same cannot be said for Mr Consistency 2013, Jim Warbrick. He has by now heard that Liverpool have surrendered a 3 goal lead, and is bowled for a duck by a superb inswinger. Enter DDJ at #4 for his first taste of 2014. He, too, is in sublime form, boshing the Jags bowlers to all corners of the ground. Alas, sadly not getting a 5-run goal at the deep extra-cover boundary. But 6s are aplenty as Elliott and de Jesus put on a near-100-run partnership. Top stuff! This pretty much sees us home as the clouds move in and Rogowski's jokes get more laboured. Jamie is the first to fall, LBW for 44 to Mounsey. Plum as they come, he said.
This only brings Deadly to the wicket to further sink Jaguars hearts. Surely more boshing in the Chris Gayle style is on the cards? Alas, he can't quite get going as he falls for 4, trying to put the ball into orbit. Skip enters for another MS Dhoni moment as he sees GCC over the line, for a convincing win over the Jags by 6 wickets. Big shout to DDJ for his superb 82 not out. That partnership with Jamie was the difference between the sides.
Moment of the day. Plenty of hands in the air: Sanga's 3 catches on debut? 3 wickets for Rogowski? 2 stumpings from Skip? Great hand-grenade stuff from the Chancellor? Fine low catch at mid-on by Leahy that would have made Achilles squirm? 82 from Danny? My vote goes to Clayders, for his sterling work beyond the boundary, bagging a catch at extra extra deep square leg with the greatest of ease – protecting the infants and impressing the mums with the coolness of a cucumber. NC
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.