Seconds were out, heck even the sun was out for the rematch between the two behemoths of the friendly non- league, Gardeners and Pretenders. Gallery Fields looked in pristine order as usual. Even tea was waiting for us as we got there! Six-all as we headed into the tie break. What could go wrong? Not even Huggie ambling in on his bike just before the toss. Jonny Vincent was spotted doing a lap of honour prior to the game that would have brought tears to John Lloyd’s eyes, followed by a spot of unscheduled half-naked sun-tanning down at cow corner. Sunglasses definitely required!
A quick look at the Pretenders revealed the usual unfamiliar faces and a strong batting line-up! Ed Hulme to open with the long-standing gentleman Forrester, followed by Danish, aka Inzi, at 3. Dalton at 4 and Horatio a bit further down. This was going to be a tough ask for the GCC boys. First over to the Metronome. First ball…dot. Good. Second ball…six. Here we go again. Looked like Ed was in sublime form as usual. Luckily Cunners, fresh from his Froch/Groves hangover miraculously decided to turn up with some swing! Some fine swing bowling kept the Collina blade at bay for a few overs …
…before a lovely away-swinging yorker (the likes of which I have never seen before) felled Forrester. Boom baby! Gardeners off to a flyer. Next in, a Safa Scot, McCrindle. He proceeds to smite a few tasty blows before being taken at second slip by Jimbo Warbrick off Cunners. Tough catch, made to look easy. Next in, Danish. Our slayer in the previous game. With Cunners still sans answer to his wizardry, the Metronome grabs the initiative back quicker than Iceman switching to guns.
As ever, Danish looks as if he has all the time in the world, this chap is a bowler’s worst nightmare, well mine anyway! Following more off-side late cutting and driving, Danish…
… succumbs to the sticky wicket and scoops it to Jamie E at cover for the easiest of catches. Great dove-tailing! Three down, Gardeners on the up, ass-wacking in order! Thanks, Voodoo.
Next in 007 himself, Dalton. The Aussie Bond. Another dangerous bosher who it turns out loves facing fast bowling (Skip, mental note there!). Sensing his openers tiring, Jamie calls up RBG, the Teakler. After a first over that lives up to the name, he replies with three superb overs that has him renamed CBG (Consistent) by…yes, Voodoo. Good pressure-building stuff that sets it up for Nova to come on at the other end and pin them down. All too much for Dalton…
…as he goes for the proverbial hoik and is skittled by Tom for another low score. Big wicket. Pretenders in trouble. Gardeners sensing a chink in the once impervious Pretenders armour, go in for the kill. Enter Horatio, the great Pretender. Oh yes, he’s the great Pretender.
Gardeners sense they can out-psyche him but he’s too wily for that. He survives the initial pressure cooker and goes on to smash some telling blows straight past the bowlers. But the other end are starting to fall at a rate of knots. Huggie and Rogowski…
…get in on the act as we skittle the Pretenders for a paltry 120. Great effort from the bowlers. Everyone contributed with the ball, and for once we held all our catches. Fielding practice anyone??
Following a successful double-envelopment of the tea counter, and with bellies full, on came the two Ws. Surely their first partnership of the season was on the cards, especially with the Pretenders taking the unorthodox step of opening with spinners! Sadly, this proved to be an inspired choice by Horatio as the first ball popped on Woodhouse from nowhere. Dabbed to first slip, 0/1. Jim followed promptly, bowled by opposition magician Abra for another duck, leaving the Gardeners with a sour taste in their mouths and a serious case of déjà-vu. Both openers back in the clubhouse before our second cup of tea had gone cold! Panic had not yet set in, but it wasn’t far away. This only brought Jonny Vincent and Andy O to the crease. With scant regard for the match situation or opposition bowlers, Pokerface and Vinny then proceed to stylishly stroke the ball all over the ground with all the elegance of Gower and Gooch. Well, Gower anyway! If I hadn’t been concentrating on my umpiring (for once), I’d almost have enjoyed it! Splendid shots abound as both batsmen manage to put on 34 a-piece (corrected to 37 by the Great Lord Spreadsheet), which all but takes the game out of the Pretenders’s faltering lukewarm grasp. Clichés abound as one wicket brings another, which sees Vinny pop one to mid-wicket and Offy get stumped to 007 not long after. This only brings Skip Elliott to the crease for another cameo of swashbuckling strokeplay and gentle twotting to sink Pretenders hearts. He also puts on 34 (read 37) as he sees the Green Fingers home with Tommy Leahy (11) for a long overdue victory over our arch rivals.
Special mention to Davy Woodhouse, aka Fletch, at stand-in wickie. In an effort that would have made Jonty Rhodes jealous [showing your age, Cunners, how about ABdeV? Ed], he saved around 30 runs behind the stumps, most of those down leg at the end of his reach. Superb effort. If he’d saved 34 runs, or even 37, how spooky (tooth) would that have been?? In a game in which literally everybody contributed, PG gets my man of the match award for the special effort he put in behind the stumps. NC
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Oliver Cunningham (life)
Jamie Elliott (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.