“The elements are cricket’s presiding genius. Some of the greatest matches have been given a hand towards immortality by the rain.”
It is unlikely the great cricket writer and critic Sir Neville Cardus had Gardeners vs Palm Tree II in mind when making those comments. The rain played a hand but it was not a classic. For the record, this was the return encounter following a solid home victory at Turney Road back in early June. As is tradition for the woods of Highgate, Palm Tree had strengthened, GCC were … well, happy to have 11 willing to travel this far north of the river.
The first order of the day was the toss. Captain Jamie called correctly and with a belter of a strip and fast outfield firmed up by a week of heat and sunshine and black clouds forming on the horizon, we opted to put them in. The rationale seemed to be that our hamstrung bowling attack wasn’t quite as woeful as our hamstrung batting.
A sound piece of logic, or so it seemed as the opening pair of Navratil and Teakle set about their work with parsimonious precision. The Metronome, who has plugged away all season for scant reward, drew first blood in the opening over, adding a cutter to his natural inswing and knocking back the off stump of a bemused opener. Two overs later, he was back on it tempting the new batsmen into the corridor of uncertainty for a thin tickle gratefully received behind the stumps. At 12-2 after three you could feel the faint flicker of optimism in the air. You didn’t need the wisdom of hindsight to see it disappearing in the handful of overs that followed.
Teakle playing scattergun to Navratil’s metronome tossed a hip-high full toss to the new batsmen, which was clipped straight into the hands of square leg who promptly spooned it back out. Two overs later, Palm Tree’s ever dangerous Bill Wood, who was absent from the Turney Road fixture while fine-tuning his technique at the Chris Gayle School of Batting, came forward and placed a tasty edge straight into the hands of Cunners at first slip. Sadly, the hands weren’t there and the ball sailed between his legs touching nothing but fresh air on its way to the boundary.
That was pretty much that for the next 20 overs. With both batsmen now hitting the ball cleanly to all areas of the ground, a tentative 76-2 after 13 overs exploded into 200-3 by the 25th – with the Chancellery’s box of tricks offering little mystery to Big Bill, who despatched his ‘leg spin’ contemptuously to all corners of the woods. It required a miserly spell from the hamstrung Cunners coming off two paces, a tired top edge from Big Bill (104 off 63 balls) from a Hunter-Tilney long hop and a spot of rain to hold the score inside 300 and keep us in the match.
They say you never know what a good score is until the other side bat. I think we could make an exception here.
By now the ‘spot of rain’ that deprived Palm Tree of its final over had turned into a persistent downpour and there was a slim chance we might escape with a draw without having to show our batting hand. Of course, there was no such reprieve.
With standing water in the outfield, a ball like a wet sponge and a pitch that could easily have doubled as a newly ploughed suburban allotment, the challenge of chasing down 280 was at best unlikely. Three balls into our innings we were off again and thanks to Frank Duckworth and Tony Lewis, 280 off 40 was now 236 off 30.
There was little of note to report in our batting. A top score of 25, three LBWs and five bowled said as much about the twilight as the bowling. Suffice to say, it was not an innings to be remembered and replayed when the history of GCC is finally written. The one moment of levity in an otherwise sodden affair was a delighted Chancellor calling a technical no ball for three fielders behind square on the leg side. Palm Tree were still muttering about it when they cleaned us out for 119 inside 30 overs.
Even with the rain Sir Neville Cardus would doubtless have regarded this as a match to be removed from the memory rather than immortalised within it. SS
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
Oliver Cunningham (life)
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.