Sun 2nd July - Turney Road
Sunday saw our first fixture of 2017 at those lush pastures of Turney Road. Tuesday saw the Pretenders pull up lame in the final furlong and had to be shot so up step the East Essex Stallions. Delayed by one of them throwing a shoe somewhere near Rotherhithe the runners and riders were champing at the bit. The Stallions won the toss and chose to have first dig on a track more akin to Aintree than Lords. After some horsing around with a rugby ball, play gets underway.
The Metronome takes the new conker but this is no regulation first over. Ball 1: Classic in-ducker plumb on the pad turned down. Still wearing his sunglasses the Nome runs to change his specs. Ball 2: Change of eyewear helps little, Yasir flares his nostrils and swipes the ball off into the trees for six, and is lost. Ball 3: A new new ball. Dot, phew. Ball 4: Short on the off side, Yasir smacks it to the same place, 6 more. Ball 5: Another sugar lump for Yasir to crunch. Same tree different branch. 6 and the second lost ball. Ball 6: 3rd new new ball. Yasir goes for a hoik too many skewing a catch to Sam in the covers. Catch goes down and cues the first of a few f-bombs for the day. 19 from the over, £45 in 3 new balls, a dropped catch and foul language to boot. Some sort of club record I’m sure. The bowler trudges off to the knackers yard at fine leg.
Like Albert and Joey on the Somme, the boys are shell-shocked. With a gee-up from the Skipper, Cunners and Rob look to make headway. Nick making one particular delivery rear up like a Mustang on heat. Whoa boy! “Polishing the horse” yells Tasty. The Stallions never waver from their aggressive approach with opener Rameez skying one straight up in the air. A keeper’s catch for all the money but no, Phil loses it in the sun. Olly is left to piaffe across from first slip. Alas no, another is shelled. Sorry bowler, no Polo mint for you. Phil’s blushes are saved two overs later taking an instinctive catch in the webbing to give Rob just reward for a probing line and length.
James Bradley, he of pedigree stock, replaces Cunners and with the new longest run-up for a Gardener the boys are expectant. Running in like a champion hurdler JB traps the dangerous Yasir lbw first ball. A great first wicket for the new boy and he follows it up with two maidens.
69-2 and Skipper chunters “is that only 10 overs? We’ll be ‘ere all day”
Both openers out and the Gs’ tails are up, if not a little matted. The Metronome in-swings his way through Shahid’s stable door of a gate to take his leg stump. Finishing with a maiden it’s a far cry from that dreaded first over.
Greg enters the fray and with James they wrestle back the reins from this run-away.
Bowling in tandem they put the squeeze on and James reaps the reward with a snorter that takes Haris’s edge with a smart catch from Phil behind the timbers.
With the pressure on, Skipper brings back Cunners inside the first 20 which brings nods of approval from the Gardeners’ faithful but he fails to make the breakthrough. Greg, the ever trustworthy steed adjusts his blinkers and pins the oppo back to 110-3 at 20. We all head to the water trough.
On a deck with more divits than Lester Piggott’s back garden it’s time for the Chancellor with his ever-expanding variations to bamboozle and deceive. Going unrewarded this week he never fails to create chances and we do our best to squander them, fielding on our heels a little too often. The sloppiness is contagious and misfield after misfield allows the Stallions to gain momentum. The paddock is getting animated, tempers flaring, and language bluer. The oppo have us where they want us, arguing with each other. Then comes this season’s ‘Plato Moment’.
Hugo, running free and unbridled, trots round on the boundary to field a single. Someone shouts “bowler’s end” another “keeper, keeper” Poor Hugo fumbles as it hits a hoof mark, stops and shouts the immortal words: “Can everyone stop shouting?! I can’t concentrate. I know the drill!”. That breaks the tension alright, Even the oppo are laughing. It’ll go down alongside “That sounds a bit wooden” from last year.
Tom unfurls his left arm tweak and traps Faisal lbw first ball, gone for 38 just when he is looking set. Hugo, once with a run up to rival an Olympic dressage, now glides to the crease and delivers a great focussed 4-over spell. He gives the batsmen nothing until the red mist descends and Ejaz tries to smack one to Brixton but instead cloths it to Tom at mid-on. A wicket that took 3 overs to set up, beautiful to see.
It falls to James and Sam to round up the strays. Sam gallops in with that long mane flowing. With long-on back Farham looks to smash it through the leg side. As many of our netters will testify, Sam’s balls get big on you, (ahem, matron) He rears up on his hind quarters and mis-cues to short mid-on where there’s no fielder.
Wait! What’s this?, it’s The Chancellor bounding in from a straightish mid-wicket, leaping two-handed. The ball hits the hands at the same time as the rest of Chris hits the ground. It sticks, what a catch! A feat that would later earn him the @eataldecso Sandwich Moment.
That’s the end of their top scorer Farham, one of many extremely tall Shires for the Stallions. 20 hands I’d say. Incidentally the third Gardener to pick up a wicket with their first ball. Sam continues to bowl aggressively, with the batsmen looking to drive on the up, his back-of-a-length is just what we need.
JB’s length is somewhat fuller as he tries some sort of cross-seam knuckle ball. It slips, and unseats his rider Naeem with a beamer right on the noggin. We all fear for the batman’s health and run to his aid but he seems fine and shrugs it off. A helmet is brought out but the words “stable door” and bolted” are heard from the gallops. Handshakes all round and play resumes. Naeem makes a brave 34 before dollying up a catch to Olly at cover. Action right to the final fence as the Stallions try and pinch one last run. Phil keeps a cool head and rolls the bowl for a comfortable run-out at the bowler’s end.
The Stallions finish on 238-9. A really great bowling effort considering the stampede of a start they had. As we leave the field we all agree it’s gettable. We head to the pavilion for our nose bag and there’s no Tesco lasagna in sight.
While we all try to stop a fat, wet, smelly dog from eating our tea, Olly has time for 40 winks in the Pavilion. It’s he and Skipper Leahy who saddle up first, adjust their spurs and head out to the middle. Olly choosing his trusty pump-action Grey-Nicolls, famously used to rob the Roehampton City Stage weeks earlier. Tom, tempted by merchants from the east, going for innovation and dusting off his new piece of imported willow.
The Stallions’ opener Shahid ponies up two half volleys in the first over. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Olly clubbs them both for four, not before hoofing one to short cover on the full only to be put down (the catch not the fielder).
Tom, to face Zohaib from the other end. He's already bouncing in but Tom is still fixing his stirrups. He looks up to see him in his delivery stride. A juicy off-cutter castles the Skip and he falls at the first. The boys are full of sympathy and point out he is still to use his new bat. He’ll have to wait a few weeks before breaking it in. Away it goes and out come the flip-flops.
Enter Birthday Boy Saj at No.3. He starts in his usual cautious way but soon starts to connect hitting consecutive boundaries to opposite sides of the ground, a nightmare for fielding sides. Glad he’s on our team. Olly gets a little bogged down with dot balls but all is calm on the sidelines. In a few blows we can be back up with the rate.
Oh no, what did I say? Olly looks to have nicked off. Everyone goes up, Like the High Plane Drifter, Greg squints, flicks a match on his stubble and lights a woodbine. Olly stands his ground and the Stallions are exasperated. Greg finally raises his pistol and guns Olly down.
“Oh no, he’s gonna be steaming” we say. “No, I smashed the cover off it!” claims Tackleberry de-padding. We discover Greg was giving him the chance to walk, but needed a gentle push with a cattle prod.
The young colt James looks good for 3 gorgeous boundaries but perishes shortly after to a sharp catch at slip for 12. That brings Cunners out of his pen to join Saj. A partnership of some note over the last two seasons, the mane attraction. Saj, not quite timing the ball with his usual cadence but manages ten 4s to reach a much needed 50.
Some great bowling from Azir finds Saj’s edge to the keeper but no, it’s a bump ball. Greg Eastwood’s hands stay firmly under his poncho. The oppo are more than a little disgruntled with one fielder blurting “That’s Out!” when I’m sure he means “How’s That?”
Greg is having none of it and asks relevant parties if they ‘feel lucky’. They all get on with the game.
Saj only lasts a few more balls eventually holing out to Azir for 51. “You ride her till she bucks ya!”
At drinks we are 98 but with 5 fences down, just a few short of their score at half way but crucially our best batsmen back in the stable. It’s left to Cunners to steer our pack through but when he falls for just 10 in the 21st over we look more old nags than young studs. Hugo knows the drill though and joins Greg to try and claw back some initiative but all the while the required rate is climbing above 10. With ‘a positive brand of cricket’ ringing in our ears we are dammed if we were going to block out the remaining 15 overs so try as we can to play some shots. From 98-5 at 20 overs we are then 108 all out just 9 overs later. A collapse of Royal proportions.
In a game that started late and got later as the day went on, we might have been grateful we didn’t bat 40 overs as we couldn’t see any floodlights.
Another poor day’s catching gifted an already strong opposition the upper hand and they won at a canter. A catch-of-the-season contender yes, but the regulation ones still elude us. The batting flatters to deceive with moments of brilliance but then desperation. A bit more application for the boys otherwise we’ll lose three on the trot and it'll be off to the glue factory. Too many Gs were a bit pony and trap today. Long faces all round.
Saj has the final word and invites us all to join him at the watering hole a for a birthday drink but some go for an early brush down. Proving you can lead a Gardener to beer but you can’t make it drink.
What a mare.
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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