GCC v Chigwell C.C - Sun 3rd Sept 2017
The penultimate match of the
season should have been against the Bumblers but they bungled it and dropped out. Thanks to sharp work from Rob, a new opposition materialised at Turney Road: Chigwell Cricket Club, ten good men and
true. (The eleventh couldn't make it.)
By a curious coincidence our foes once went under the different name of Aural Sculpture until they realised they were a cricket team not a progressive rock band and changed it to Garden Cricket Club. Alas, a GCC vs GCC tussle for horticultural bragging rights on the cricket pitch was thwarted by their third name change to Chigwell CC in 1998. A flighty bunch when it comes to monickers, our opponents. Could they muster greater consistency on the pitch?
Nick was our skipper for the match. He lost the toss and we were put in to bat. The weather was dull and overcast. Precisely zero spectators were present to enjoy the sumptuous skills on display. Thus Olly's dismissal for a duck in the opening over, feathering a ball behind him, went unwitnessed by all bar the 20 other participants in the game. The disappointed opener withdrew to the foot of a tree to take solace in the goings-on of an indifferent world via his smartphone.
David and Saj put on 39 runs together, mostly from the latter's dashing bat. A pair of dismissive pulls off the second of Chigwell's opening seamers caused the geese at the boundary's edge momentary perturbation, as though the sharp crack of leather on willow were a hunting rifle rather than summary justice to a couple of long hops. They were Egyptian geese, Ed pointed out (he is, as Dusty almost sang, the son of a twitcher man). Meanwhile Chigwell's impressively sharp wicketkeeper - in conversation with your correspondent, who was temporarily fielding as a replacement for the absent member of their team - wondered about the consequences of hitting a bird while batting. Dead ball or five runs?* [Dead bird and five runs? Ed]
David fell to the opening bowler H, the one who got Olly out, a useful seamer. Steve S joined Saj who continued to plunder runs, including four boundaries in off- and cover-drives. It was a surprise when he got out for 58 (off 55 balls), bowled by the first change bowler, a skiddy spinner. The Egyptian geese cackled merrily at square leg.
A score of 81 for 3 became a moderately alarming 92 for 4 when Steve was out lbw to the spinner for 18 in the 21st over. But two much appreciated stand-ins for last-minute GCC withdrawals remedied the situation. Owen, who hadn't played a match for a while, began in the manner of a someone whose cricketing muscle memory had suffered a distressing bout of amnesia, taking 16 balls to score 2 runs, but then awoke from the reverie to score a further 31 runs off 29 balls, including five leg-side fours. He was joined by Swami, who made a rapid 20 (off 25 balls), with two powerful straight fours and the innings' only six, over midwicket.
Both fell in close succession, Swami with the score on 140 in the 29th over and Owen to leave the score on 149 for six with 10 overs left. Our skipper strode to the crease with clenched jaw and resolute tread, followed by the avian expert Ed, chest puffed out to impress the Chigwell-ites in the manner of a great frigatebird. Both batters returned to the hutch having got in but then got out.
Steve M kept his eyes on the need to bat out the overs and take the team to a total of over 200. The bowling was fine but unthreatening. However, he was let down by your correspondent, who celebrated his first cricket outing in a year by bunting catching practise to midwicket. That left us at 184 for nine with 20 balls left. Steve followed soon after for a sprightly run-a-ball 17, run out going for a third run with Rob with the score on 188. Saj, a vocal enthusiast for the third run from the sidelines ("RUN THREE!! RUN THREE!!") while the pair were huffing their way through the second, fell into a profound silence as a disconsolate Steve returned from the wicket. Guilt, or merely a sign that our top-scoring batter was getting in the zone for tea?
Said repast passed without incident, other than the late arrival of the pizza slices, which meant that the GCC embarked on fielding with kilojoules from mass-produced supermarket Margheritas coursing through our collective system. The immediate consequence was an hour of bowling and fielding of high intensity and teamwork, as impressive as any that this greying Gardener can recall.
Rob and Saj were the opening bowlers. The Metronome lived up to his nickname with pinpoint accuracy but betrayed it with it the unpredictable movement he induced through the air and off the pitch. Saj took an over to warm up but then found his rhythm. The fielding was tight. Rob struck first, with the score on 15, Steve S taking the catch behind the stumps. With pressure continuing, Saj bowled Chigwell's other opener to leave the visitors at 22 for 2.
A light drizzle fell as the light grew murky. One of Chigwell's umpires helpfully wore a fluorescent tabard, as though surveying Turney Road for the south-north Crossrail 2 scheme. Our opponents defended doughtily but gave the impression of fragility. The captain put himself on first change, replacing Saj, and promptly bowled their number 4. Meanwhile Rob ended his eight-over spell with four successive maidens, bowing out with a wicket maiden as a back-pedalling Owen caught out the number five at mid-on. Rob's figures were 8-5-7-2.
Nick bowled with venom, inducing the kind of remarks that all fast bowlers like to hear from the non-facing batsman to their partner ("Only two balls to go" etc: reassurance functioning as its exact opposite). Steve M supported him ably after Rob had bowled his allotment. At 20 overs Chigwell were 52 for 4, and our disappointing total looked a bit more daunting.
In the second half of their innings, CCC rallied. Possibly in tribute to the English cricket team, their fragile middle order was propped from below. After Nick removed the most obdurate of the top order for 19, bowling him, numbers six and seven set about repairing the listing innings. Batting with increasing command, they began finding the boundary, an elusive destination earlier (there had been a single four in the first 20 overs).
Wickets fell, with Steve M having the number 6 caught smartly by Swami at gully for 39 (99 for 6) and Steve S taking an even sharper catch behind off Ed's bowling to remove the number 8 (121 for 7). Yet Chigwell, by some mysterious sleight of hand, were still in the match. The fluorescent tabard glowed brighter; the GCC began to exhibit the first indications of fraying nerves, exacerbated by the hoiked six to square leg that unceremoniously greeted Saj's return to the attack.
But one member of the team did not twitch, not even to observe with bird-watcherly interest the squadron of parakeets wheeling over the later afternoon Dulwich landscape in lurid green imitation of murmurating starlings. Yes: it was the ornithological enthusiast Ed who broke Chigwell's late surge towards the total, clipping the top of off stump to dismiss the dangerous number 7 - adjudged the match's Al Desco moment - and then having the six-hitting number 9 out caught with the score on 167 for 9.
Two overs remained to score 22 runs. Being without a player, the number 10 was allowed to continue batting under some complex dispensation that your correspondent was incapable of understanding. At any rate, all such improvisation proved moot as he was run out with Chigwell's score on 175. It had been a good game against a decent team played in the right spirit. We were fortunate to be able to host our opponents.
* dead ball
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