On the face of it there wasn’t a lot to recommend this fixture. Our record in Highgate Woods is appalling. It’s never an easy journey and on a Saturday lunchtime when the bus replacement service is the only public transport north of Moorgate, it is little short of a nightmare. Then there are memories of the Dulwich leg of this annual double header a couple of weeks back when ‘Mitch and Dave’ knocked off our paltry total inside 18 overs. No surprise then that our starting eleven this time was as much occasional as regular.
On a hot but cloudy day, Strongroom won the toss and elected to bowl. With rain in the air and more promised later in the afternoon that seemed like a particularly stupid decision. But a good one for Saj whose late arrivals have become as predictable as the brutality of his batting.
In his absence Sana stepped into the opening slot to accompany the returning Dave Woodhouse. On a slow wicket with variable bounce it was a careful and measured start with the just 15 coming off five overs before the first hysterical appeal of the day elicited the dreaded finger for Dave. It is impossible to judge the accuracy of such decisions from the sideline but the arrival of Dave’s bat over the ropes a few seconds before its owner left us in no doubt what he thought of it. Unfortunately for Dave the passion and volume of the appeal may have clouded the issue. It was only later with the same ridiculous appeals almost every other over, that we all realised that really didn’t have a clue.
With Seaton replacing Woodhouse, Sana started to open up and the pair added 61 for the next wicket in just eight overs. Well not exactly the pair, Seaton managed four in that time as Sana passed 50 with his eighth four to add to a straight flat six that would have put a hole in the scorebox had it hit it. The latter’s departure in the fifteenth over brought debutant Moideeen, another a success from our French recruiting drive, to the middle.
A cracking cut for four off his first ball was a signal of intent. The real impetus for the innings, however, arrived two balls after drinks when Seaton departed for a stodgy 15 and Saj strode to the middle like a Gladiator ready to smite all before him. Saj has been our star batter all season a bald head and broad shoulders ahead of anyone else. It’s not just his runs but the rate with which he accumulates them that puts pressure on the opposition. His personal stats are impressive but every time he passes 50 we win. This was another of those days.
The day and the victory were largely sealed in the ten overs between 28 and 38 when Saj and Moideen took apart the Strongroom bowling, adding over 100 to the total and both personally passing 50 along the way. From the sideline it was a joy to watch, the experience made richer by our simmering irritation with the opposition. Strongroom’s painfully slow over rate, incessant appealing, arguing with the umpires and foot-stamping, sweater-throwing temper tantrums were embarrassing for a Saturday afternoon friendly.
So was the tea. Please don’t every complain about the Turney Road offerings until you have sampled this shocker: flaccid white loaf sandwiches, cheap cake and lukewarm water from used cups. Makes one maudlin thinking about grumpy John and his fondant fancies.
Even with our recent record in the Woods, 245 felt like a defendable total, particularly with dark clouds forming overhead and the light fading. Still we were grateful for the gift that the irritating Hassan tossed our way in the first few overs. Total confusion on a quick single left both openers at one end with the dangerous left hander run out by 20 yards after he finally started moving. His foul-mouthed tirade aimed at his partner continued long after he’d departed the pitch. As it turned out he was the class of their batting and there was never a moment when our bowling line up was put under any great pressure. Despite a hatful of dropped catches, wickets tumbled regularly and they were always behind the rate. The Nome and Ferris were tight with the new ball, Saj and Steve Macleod, supported by new boy Sam Fryer, put in a curmudgeonly spell in the middle overs to tighten the noose and as darkness loomed, the game faded to a slow death with spin at both ends.
So for once a positive outcome from the long journey to north London, a measure of revenge for Gallery Fields, some memorable batting but in truth not a particularly enjoyable game to play in. With three games to go a winning record for the season is very much within our grasp. Unfortunately, two of those games are at home.
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)
Jamie Elliot (life)
Rob Navratil (life)
Hugo Nisbet (life)
David Woodhouse (life)
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