According to one well-respected doyen of the game, The Gardeners were "cruelly denied a fair match by an umpiring blunder which surely cost The Gardeners the crucial 20-30 runs difference between the sides," but in reality i Rossiverdi were outplayed in most departments by a Strongroom side whose veteran core demonstrated its experience in chasing down a manageable 170.
Winning the toss on a summer afternoon more
characteristic of the Tuscany that dominated the pre-match chit-chat than Turney Road, captain David Woodhouse sent a depleted Strongroom into the field. Unfortunately, The Gardeners batted like the
Italian army for the first ten overs, losing wickets both controversially and carelessly with the scoreboard almost in reverse; an adagio first movement.
From 41 for 4 after 14, Capt. Woodhouse and Steve Seaton set about the rinascimento. After Seaton departed for a promising 33, Woodhouse (38) and Nick Cunningham then laid the foundations for a later order risorgimento which sadly never came, as Cunningham (37) holed out with five overs to go. Hugo Nisbett (24) drew on his proud Italian heritage to emulate Horatius on the bridge, keeping some lively line and length from Strongroom's seasoned pro Jon Gower at bay but the tail failed to wag, much as the head had failed to nod, and a tally of 170 felt light.
After a tea inauspiciously offering neither Florentines nor Battenberg, the Gardeners started presto, both in pace and in spirit, Rob Navratil (2-26) and Mitchell Struthers (3-25) taking three wickets with lively intent, including the prize of ringer Ferris, promoted to 4 by a Strongroom skipper whose generous/failing vision may have seen Joe Root but got Joe Dolce, and another contender for catch of the season from Salmon Seaton, cruelly denying first slip a chance to shell what would have been a regulation Gardeners drop.
This false dawn merely ushered in the real, experienced Strongroom top order, who realised early that a little catenaccio was all that was required. David Gower and Joe Rahman cantered andante towards the total, with The Gardeners second string unfortunately unable to keep a lid on the loose balls than traversed the dry outfield like so many Ferraris and Lamborghinis. An honourable exception was the niggardly Antoni Rogowski (0-13 off 5) whose parsimony would have made a Medici proud.
The drinks break and inspired captaincy by Woodhouse brought the breakthrough. First Navratil and Seaton combined to deny Gower a deserved half-century, ending a partnership of 88, then Rahman fell too, talked (and caught) out by Jim Warbrick.
The enthusiasm this engendered was short-lived, however, as some lusty blows from seasoned pro Jon Gower put the result out of sight. A consolation wicket for Warbrick merely brought the ebullient veteran Gardeners tormentor and Strongroom skipper Dave Proctor to the crease. The end was nigh, leaving the Gardeners to contemplate why, when Strongroom had brought the elephants, it was they who suffered Hannibal's fate.
Out of respect for the man down, The Gardeners generously gave the opposition not only a player but also a generous portion of wides, amounting to more than two extra overs, which were not needed. It was perhaps fitting that the winning runs whistled across the outfield without troubling batsman nor fielders.
Still, avanti! came the cry and i Rossiverdi will seek their revenge on 22nd at the return fixture in Highgate Woods. Next time surely, no quarter (nor players) will be given. JLo
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Oliver Cunningham (life)
Jamie Elliott (life)
John Lloyd (life)
Hugo Nisbet (life)
David Woodhouse (life)
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