Another Sunday at the lovely Gallery Fields for an inaugural fixture against fellow occasional side, London Itinerants CC. Tragic events at London Bridge the
night before had led to the Chancellor pulling out due to work commitments, with new Gardener and friend of the captain, Nick ‘Nicky Boy’ Griffiths very kindly filling in at the last minute – an
eleventh man that would prove crucial in the tight finish to come.
With some of the team under the misapprehension that we were starting later than 12.30pm, a gentleman’s agreement at the toss put the six Gardeners present into bat.
Two big guys opened. That’s “Big D” (Woodhouse) and everybody’s favourite swashbuckler Cunningham Senior. A reasonable start was had; however, on the last ball of the eighth over Olly was caught at
mid on. A brisk 24 from 24 balls. In came a debutant, Phil Atkin, another new Gardener and pal of the Cunningham brothers. Sporting a sharp haircut and Pinewood studio looks, Phil managed just six
before being castled by Wilson. In came Steve S, and he and opener, Woodhouse, managed to put on 25 for the third wicket, before both fell in quick succession. David lbw to Joshi for 27 and Steven
caught at slip off Faizel for 15.
At 88-4 in the 22nd over, the Gs could hardly be accused of setting the scoreboard alight, but skip Leahy and vice-skip Cunners Jr, took matters into hand.
Excellent running and more than a pinch of gay abandon from both men, meant the score rattled along to 156, when Leahy was bowled for a graceful 27 runs. This sparked a miniature collapse, but with
Nick laying waste to the bowling and couple of big overs, including 11 off the last, the Gardeners finished on 200 off their 40 overs. Under par perhaps, but Cunners’s superb 55* off 46 balls had
made sure there was something to defend.
After another ‘bowl-first’ tea from the Al Desco guys, it was out in to the field, members sporting the brand-new Gardeners team shirts, complete with outsize
sponsors logo and quick-dry technology for those hot-under-the-collar moments.
Opening the bowling, the Metronome (Navratil) and Cunningham Senior, delivered the kind of tight lines not often seen outside of a fishermen’s convention. Navratil
taking an early wicket of an Itinerant (and also Palm Tree) opener Tennison with a successful lbw appeal. At eight overs in, the chasing side had been restricted to a paltry 9 runs.
However, after sterling six over spells from Rob and Olly, it was time for a change. Unfortunately, neither Fraz nor Spirling could keep their lines quite as tight
as the two openers. At drinks the oppo had reached the hundred mark, with the loss of just one more wicket: Fraz bowling number three, Motley, for 40. As with the G’s batting, it was the
skip/vice-skip combo who managed to, just about, turn the match back into the home side’s favour. Nick “I quote movies” Cunningham bowled his allotted eight for the concession of just 18 runs,
keeping the pressure on the wilting Itinerants, who fell at the other end to Leahy’s left arm spin, opener Bree, number four Joshi and number six Sargent all skittled.
There was more work to be done though, as number eight Behl set Gardeners hearts a flutter with some lusty blows. Rob eventually prised him out, but not before a
quick-fire 21 had put the visitors in a winning position and just 16 needed off the last two overs. Cue some exemplary death bowling from Rob and Olly, their efforts aided by tight fielding,
especially from new boy Phil and returning friend of Hugo, George Lewis, which left the Itinerants six short of the Gardeners’ total on 194.
Friendly oppo, a close game that ebbed and flowed and could have gone either way was just what the doctor ordered after the shellacking administered by Sheen Park
some weeks earlier. But, with none of the Gardeners able or willing to celebrate in the usual way, via a trip to the pub, the ‘Al Desco Sandwich Moment’ presentation was postponed and the skipper was
forced to celebrate later, at home, with a glass of rosé...