Did you know there are 27 coffee shops in Marlow? Thought not. It is one of a myriad facts you can learn while chatting to the locals watching cricket on the banks of the Thames.
There were a few more facts and figures flying around by the end of a hot day that ended with a six-wicket defeat against Marlow Park.
The stat of the match though was Saj’s record for the most runs in a season. He started the game with 465 runs from eight innings and his 54 took him to 519, beating Mike Richards’ golden summer of 2006 when the erstwhile skipper scored 492 runs in the 10th anniversary year. Saj still has one more bite at the cherry. We dare any skipper to put him in at No 11, where he batted in his debut game for the Gardeners.
There were a few other notable firsts. Dave went dancing down the wicket to their spinner and skip Stevens as though he were partnering Ed Balls on Strictly and Rich became the first player to change into his whites after tea. His decision to turn into a cricketer at 4pm was a good hour after young Ted had got into the action, fielding the ball with his noggin as Laura threw him in the way of the advancing Dukes. They build them tough in Oxfordshire.
But it would be remiss not to mention the punctuality shown by Ed and Saj who amazingly arrived three minutes before the advertised start time. Pity the oppo hadn’t been informed that we were kicking off at 12.30.
Our veritable pilgrims provided a progress report of their journey from south London on WhatsApp. One wonders what international cricketer Brett Schultz, a member of the WhatsApp group, made of that?
Their headway was hampered by a queue at Starbucks where they ordered the drink of champions: coffee. Maybe they could have waited for their brew when they reached Marlow where they would instead have had a choice of 27 coffee shops.
The dressing rooms at Marlow Park are so small that it is akin to changing in a phone box. Unfortunately none of us would emerge as Superman. Matt’s decision to bat first looked a good one and with Dave determined to “get a score today no matter what” our initial progress was slow but solid, particularly against the tricky left-armer Head whose eight overs on the bounce yielded only 16 runs. Heads ups Marlow.
When Sana fell to the tall Ralphs' fantastic caught and bowled [I think they call it a game-changer these days ED] for 10 it was time for the man of the moment, Saj. He always starts his innings with circumspect, measuring the pace of the pitch, and this time was no different. Then came the aggression with shots over the top before he moved into overdrive. There was mention made of a Joe Root-like backfoot drive that was deemed the shot of the day but when you are in discussion with the locals you tend to miss that type of majesty.
Saj’s demise off his 65th ball was to a 2nd brilliant catch by Ralphs just when our No 3 was beginning to ratchet up the scoring.
Cunners, the Nicholas version, joined the fray and, after initial caution, began to increase the run rate alongside Dave who was now in full flow. Their 92-run partnership came off 87 balls and ended with Dave falling lbw for 68. Nick finished with a flurry of 17 off seven balls to reach an unbeaten 52 and the total of 215 for three off 40 overs looked respectable despite the fast outfield.
Tea too was respectable although not quite bowl-first quality. The one puzzling question was whether you could burn off the calories of a sugar-coated doughnut in the field. The Metronome and Greg’s opening 10-over spell against the left-right combination of Stevens and Ralphs produced chances, the best of which was a sharp caught-and-bowled opportunity that was spilled by Greg.
Nick provided some tasty action down the hill but Rich was unable to find a consistent length. With byes coming too easily, it was difficult to build pressure on the opening pair whose 100-run stand was eventually broken by Saj. He followed that up by bowling Stevens and then Ed removed Hana with a catch at backward point by the skipper. The pressure was back on the hosts and our screaming cheer-leaders on the hill were getting excited. (Cricket in Marlow brings all types.)
Saj was back in the action with an excellent over-the-shoulder effort from a steeple-high shot by the dangerous Chalal but alas, our goose was cooked when the Goosen brothers joined to see Marlow Park home with 21 balls to spare. The banker had cashed in on Bank holiday but sadly Saj’s record was not enough to buck our losing streak in Buckinghamshire.
We play most of our games in Dulwich and net during the winter at The Oval. Send us an email at email@example.com
Oliver Cunningham (life)
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