Trees Fall In The Woods
GCC v Palm Tree - Match Report
Sun 1st July 2018
by Steven Seaton
“How was cricket?” asked my wife cautiously as I walked through the front door, earlier than expected last Sunday.
“Really, did you score runs?”
“No didn’t bat, wasn’t needed.”
“Were you keeping wicket?”
“No still injured, barely touched the ball in the field.”
“What about bowling?”
“Don’t be stupid.”
“And the lunch?”
“Mediocre, Warm coke and sweaty sandwiches – but it was a hot day.”
“Hmm, so how was it fabulous?”
Sometimes it can be hard to explain the wonder of cricket to the non-cricketer. I didn’t like to mention the tedious journey back and forth to Highgate on an airless tube or the hour we sat around waiting for the opposition to turn up 30 minutes late for our advertised start time. They didn’t seem like positive points to back up my summary of the day.
Yet it was fabulous, as memorable a game as I can remember and one that will doubtless be retold many times in the years to come. For once the tale will not require exaggeration or embellishment because it was an afternoon when the Gardeners’ were quite magnificent in every department: as relentless and ruthless a make-shift Sunday pub-side as you’ll ever see.
The scorecard tells the story but not the richness of the performance. The home side bowled out for 65 in under 21 overs and fortunate to reach that paltry total only because Mr Extra chipped in with a splendid 32. There were five ducks, four in the top six, leaving a target that the Gardeners reached in under ten overs, book-ended by two magnificent sixes, a demonstration that the demons had entered the mind rather than the pitch.
Sometimes such a sound thrashing comes with a big asterisk against the opposition, a scorer’s shorthand for farmers and pie-chuckers. But not this time. These opponents were the venerable Palm Tree, our long-time foe who we haven’t beaten since 2015 and certainly not at Highgate Woods since Dan de Jesus was a boy. All the usual suspects were there as well: the bald-headed nuggety opener, the flashing blade of Billy Wood and the irritatingly reliable middle order of Kavunakavan, Waite and Robins. All know how to play and have all feasted on our bowling in the past. But not today on this day of days.
If cricket has become a batsmen’s game, this was the day to redress the balance. Our opening duo, with more than a little help from the field, were the story of the day. On a dry sun-baked pitch, more reminiscent of the Oval nets than the paddy fields of Turney Road, Sam the Wildman, looking for all the world like a redneck taking pot-shots at those he suspected had stolen his moonshine, was at his angry, intimidating best. Some shots exploded off the pitch, others whistled by at chin or chest height. Inevitably there were a few wides and no-balls and the odd delivery found the bat and disappeared to the boundary just as quickly. But you’ll take that every Sunday from your opening bowler because for every wayward ball there were two completely unplayable ones.
At the other end, the Metronome was playing Stiletto to the Wildman’s Shotgun. His deliveries were less obviously dangerous but just as deadly, constantly probing for an opening and ever ready to deliver the fatal blow. Inevitably the Nome made the first breakthrough after seven overs when McAndrew chipped a big looping in-swinger into a gap at mid-on. Much to everyone’s surprise – no astonishment - the once-vacant space was suddenly filled by a leaping John Lloyd, showing an athleticism and arm extension rarely seen, to snaffle the ball in his right hand. It was a half chance at best, an absolute blinding catch, and although only the first wicket a huge momentum swing in the match.
In the very next over big Sam bowled Harmer first bowl, a few balls later the Nome deceived Billy Wood with a big in-swinger and repeated the feat in the same over to send the dangerous Kavunakavan back to the scorebox.
In most seasons, our drop to catch ratio in the slips is about ten to one. First slip has become a position to the hide the sick and the lame. Rarely is it genuinely an attacking position and second slip usually means two injured players rather than one. But with the momentum in our favour and the Wildman breathing fire at one end, Cunners pulled his brother from short cover to second slip to increase the pressure. It was an inspired decision. The very next ball, Olly was diving low to his left to take another contender for catch of the season. When Saj at wide gully nonchalantly plucked another difficult head high chance out of the air, Palm Tree had gone from 31-0 to 42-6 and the game was definitely up.
There was some residence from the lower middle order but with Saj and Cunners offering no respite after the openers had bowled themselves out, it didn’t last long.
After just 21 overs and 90 minutes it was our turn to bat. We didn’t even bother to break for lunch.
Palm Tree are a professional outfit who are used to winning, particularly at home, they did their best to rally themselves and talk up the ‘two-paced’ pitch but their hearts really weren’t in it. When you are defending 65 you need your bowlers to give you tight lines make an early breakthrough and exert some pressure. What you don’t need first ball is a big looping full toss down the leg side. When it arrived, Olly dutifully despatched it for six over fine leg. With a mix of half volleys and long hops in the next few balls, we were at 25-0 after two overs and we were all trying to work out if we could still make it to the pub in time to watch Spain against Russia.
Let’s forget the two silly dismissals and the simple chances Palm Tree put down because the result was never in doubt we were just playing out the margin of victory. Sana duly launched Waite’s left arm spin twenty metres into the woods to bring the game to a fitting close. What a day.
Let’s savour the victory and the performance. But let’s not get carried away, we all know the Gods of Cricket have a habit of coming back to bite you when confidence drifts into cockiness. With an embarrassed Palm Tree due at Turney Road this Sunday for the return fixture we all know what’s coming our way. We will need to be just as good to keep the victory bandwagon rolling.
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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and may involve some poetic licence. GCC cannot be held liable for any misrepresentation in these articles.