The Gardener's mixed season continued with a loss to Palm Tree at Highgate Wood.
Arriving via a tube replacement bus service (words to send shivers up a Sunday cricketer ...) it was not clear that any cricket would be taking place at all as 22 men were being cajoled, caroused and nagged into completing a lengthy and detailed interrogation by a passive aggressive failed actress/producer/whatever acting on behalf of the Friends of Highgate Woods. After our views on the facilities were extracted it appeared we might get to play cricket after all.
Captain Aked came second at the toss and the Gardener's were asked to bat first. The Gardeners were keen to see if the latest recruits, strong batsmen both, could shake off the Highgate demons. Seaton and new boy #1 Wood looked in control in the opening overs, picking up some tasty fours, Wood in particular setting the tempo and driving strongly through point. The Palm Tree captain made a change as we approached the tenth over and it quickly paid off, firstly hitting Wood's bat high on the splice and breaking the handle, before cleaning up said batsmen who had lost rhythm with the bat change, an attacking 22 a good showing. This brought Saj to the crease and hopes from pitch side Gardeners for some fireworks.
Some tighter bowling from Palm Tree wrestled back some of the initiative they had lost in the early stages, but Saj and Seaton picked off the bad balls (and some good!) for some fluent 4s to maintain momentum including 3 4s from Saj in 4 balls. Seaton looked the consistent, well-organised stroke maker who has scored well this season. The pair put on 75 before Saj was bowled for 44. This brought new boy #2, Hammond in, who immediately looked assured, hitting powerfully and scoring fluently all round the wicket. Yelland, who was bowling at pace then struck twice in two balls to account for Seaton and Spirling. Hammond went for 32 looking for a maximum to the longest boundary. Aked 4 and Allen-Perry 2 fell before Struthers and Cunningham took the Gardeners through to 40 overs. Palm Tree's bowling had been difficult to get away in the last ten overs and the feeling was that we had at best a par score of 203 for 7 from 40.
Tea was taken, pizza, veggie samosas, an assortment of McVities cakes and Tango were consumed, and further surveys completed. No assistance would be offered to Gardeners bowlers as controversially it had been agreed at the outset that we would only use the one ball for both innings. Less controversially the team huddle concluded that an early wicket or two would be welcomed.
Struthers and Navratil opened the bowling and both made life difficult for the batsmen. Struthers beating the edge at will, whilst Navratil came close with an inside edge, and it was the latter who took first honours, setting up danger man Billy Wood with a couple of away swingers before throwing up his stock ball which cleaned the batsmen up. The No.3 came in for Palm Tree and quickly looked to put the bowlers under pressure with some strong driving down the ground. After Saj had bowled the other opener, the no.4 got to work with no.3 and wrestled control for the Palm Tree. Both batsmen looked commanding and their partnership proved pivotal. They added 104 to the score whilst the Gardeners tried a number of options to prize the pair apart. New found Spin Twins Aked and Cunningham worked in tandem bowling with the old left/right off spin. Both bowled tightly, beating edges and stemming the flow of runs.
Saj picked up batsmen No.3, Hutchinson took a good catch to give Aked a wicket, and Navratil picked up another two to add to his earlier effort. However, Palm Tree had still accumulated runs and were in pole position going to the last few overs.
A couple of tight overs from the Gardeners gave us a glimmer which was soon extinguished when batsmen no. 8, Maggs hit a couple of lusty blows in the 38th over, including a straight 6. Palm Tree wrapped it up in the 39th. In the end the Gardeners were about 10 runs short. Positives included two strong debuts, good scores from Saj and Mr Consistency Steve Seaton, and the discovery of some extra spin options.
Onwards to the next game ......
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