Australia at the WACA. Pakistan in Sharjah. England at the Oval… GCC at Turney Road.
Well perhaps not. Blame it on the curmudgeonly ground staff, dodgy teas or the variable bounce, but we have become that rare beast in sport, a team more comfortable on the road than at home. Coming into the first leg of our annual double header with North London rivals, Palm Tree we were two and two for the season with a pair of impressive wins on the road some compensation for two lamentable early-season losses in Dulwich.
On a glorious sunny June day, confidence was high that our fortunes were about to change. Even with a couple of late withdrawals the prevailing view was that we were fielding a strong enough side to follow the usual script with Palm Tree. For those of you new to this fixture that storyline is usually a close win for the home side at Turney Road followed by a sound thrashing for the Gardeners in the woods of Highgate.
So far this season we’ve won and lost batting first and second so it's hard to know if we are a better team chasing or setting. With stand-in skipper, Tom, losing the toss and Palm Tree chosing to bat, it felt like a good day to chase. With the sun on our backs and the pitch looking suspiciously damp just short of a length, Greg and the Nome were eager to make inroads into the the Palm Tree top order before the shine went off the ball. With the batch we have been using this year that meant they had about three good overs each.
One of many mysteries of the season to date has been the form of the Nome. In place of his usual metronomic nagging line and length he has been serving up a buffet of long hops and full tosses gratefully gobbled up by the opposition. This week the old Metronome was back, nipping it back and forth at will. It was the Nome who inevitably made the breakthrough when it came tempting Hamer with a wide one that was tickled behind. He picked up another one soon after with a glorious in-swinger that pitched outside off and clipped the leg stump. Still 62-2 felt like poor return for our early endeavour.
The problem was at the other end where our old nemesis Billy Wood was looking rusty but somehow still there after playing and missing countless times. Billy is a strong guy with a big bat who doesn’t run a lot of singles. Even far from his clean-hitting best he was accumulating runs at an alarming rate. Eventually it came down to the Chancellor’s golden arm to buy us his wicket and it didn’t come cheaply. He was caught on the boundary for 71, but with some good late hitting from Waite and Singh, Palm Tree posted a competitive total of 230.
It could have been worse. We spooned four catches but held the important ones, our fielding was solid if not spectacular and we were tighter in the last six overs than the first six. Pick of the bowlers by some way was the Nome with a season’s best 3-11, ably supported by Tom’s left arm spin (3-43) and the Chancellor’s expensive but critical 2-42.
In truth our bowling has not been the issue, it is our batting this year that has largely dictated glorious success or ignominious failure. Even though it felt Palm Tree were 20 or 30 runs above par, with a fast outfield and the opposition’s traditionally weak bowling outfit, six an over felt achievable.
It felt less so when Dave Woodhouse, the rock around which so many previous run chases have been anchored, departed early and cheaply. That brought Saj, the hero of Teddington, to the crease to join Olly. This was always going to be a key partnership. Although technically very different batsmen both have the same mentality: put the bad balls away, have a full bodied swing at the good ones too and don’t worry too much about singles. If both were still at the crease after 25 overs we wouldn’t be far short.
Sadly, they weren’t and when Saj was bowled by one that kept low for a wristy and breezy 31 there was an ominous feeling about the day. Although all was not lost, with the elder Cunningham playing with uncharacteristic restraint at one end and in-form wicket keeping batsmen, Seaton, not out 29 at the other, the target was under control when we paused for drinks. Two balls later Seaton played on, the middle order collapsed quickly and in no time 103-2 had become 151-9. Olly’s excellent 70 and a record breaking last wicket stand of 34 between Huggy and the Nome were the only highlights of another forgettable batting display.
Overall it was once again a familiar story. Even though 231 is a tough chase, Palm Tree are a team we could and should have beaten. We were a few key players short of our best outfit but we have to improve in all areas if our regular home venue is ever going to turn into a Fortress. The good news is we are not back at Turney Road until early September, so the season is not yet lost.
We play most of our games in Dulwich and net during the winter at The Oval. Send us an email at email@example.com
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.