Palm Tree away is becoming our bogey fixture. Last year, we batted brainlessly against them; this year, we showed more application but lacked the firepower to chase down a decent target of 214. In mitigation, they had the better conditions – batting first on perhaps the warmest cricketing day of this cruel, cruel summer – but the crucial difference was our inability to break the one significant partnership they managed (it was some partnership) and, once again, to farm the loopy spin (or non-spin, is anyone quite sure?) of their über-keen captain, Russell.
With the Skipper still MID (Missing in Domesticity), Clayders led the team in his (small drum-roll, please) 150th game. Figuring we had a stronger bowling side, the plan was to stick 'em in and skittle 'em. Plans, though, seldom survive first contact with the enemy – or the elements. It was beautifully sunny and the Highgate Woods wicket, freshly rolled, looked as much like a belter as it's ever likely to look. Hmm, should we have a bat? As it was, the decision – or indecision – was taken out of the stand-in's hands. The coin fell Russell's way. Our bowlers responded superbly, aided by some extreme caginess from the PT openers.
After the Metronome and Fatty had kept it so tight that Palm Tree were wincing at 14-0 off 10 overs, Tom the Barnet, bowling with guile and turn, and Jeremy "Gamble", bowling with a dodgy toe yet all his customary swing in his first game of 2012, nipped both openers out. It soon became 27-3 in the 15th, Jeremy finding the outside edge of Nair's bat after the No 4 had whipped one through mid-wicket the ball before. Fatty took the catch at second slip – always a cause for celebration that. It was at this point that Rob, on Mike's behalf, kindly mentioned it was Rich's 150th: well, in some on-field version of the commentators' curse, that put the mockers on things, eh?
The wristy Shah and the belligerent Wood, a familiar foe, began a patient and then pitiless rescue mission. True, they had a bit of luck – Wood was caught in the thirties by Fatty on the short straight boundary but the Naked's momentum took him over the line; Jim spilled a slap to square leg by the same man; Ben, in an otherwise flawless display behind the stumps (no byes), grassed a thin edge from Shah during the Barnet's best spell – but we just let them get away from us. The damage was 139 runs in 20 overs. The mayhem was only stopped when Tom L, running away from the batsman at mid-wicket, caught Shah's slog at Rob over his shoulder at full tilt. An absolutely corking catch that would have graced any ODI. Out for 73. Ten runs later, Wood, who had been moving round the crease in IPL style, was outfoxed by Fatty: bowled for the same score. The dangerous left-hander Robins then clattered a few fours as Fatty further impressed with his death bowling at the other end: 213-8 at the close.
David looked in fine fettle as he strode out with Jim. The pitch clearly had some carry, which is how he likes it. With a cut for three and a crunching drive for four, David made a bracing start. Jim, in his own unhurried way, appeared equally on form. Then double disaster: David caught behind, er, flashing; Jim, having just pulled the previous short ball for four, got greedy or perhaps a little lazy and feathered the very next delivery to shortish fine leg: 24-2 in the seventh over and our two stalwarts gone. James Mitchell, with no cricket behind him this season, was all at sea against Russell and bowled for a duck. The same could almost be said of one of our 2012 vice-presidents, James Hollaway. Watched by Anna and young Freddie, he was bowled for a valiant five (incidentally, becoming a veep is cheap at the price: any donation of £10 or more if you're a non-member will do it... and now back to the action).
The Barnet and Fatty promised to rally with some Yorkshire grit, the latter not being afraid to dance down the track to Russell or nudge him to leg. Fatty was another to perish caught behind to a slightly wild stroke, as PT seamers stuck to their task. Ben joined Tom and the pair put on a gutsy 53 before both were bowled with the score on exactly 100 with 10 overs to go. It was not impossible – Jezza had Sian to impress, after all – just highly improbable. Campbell tonked a characteristic forehand past mid-on but was bowled soon after. Clayders played one of the shots of his life (a very short list that's taken a very long time to compile) off the back foot through extra and was then run out when Hugo called a pyrrhic single, leaving the Churchoid to entertain us – and Nina – at the end with a dashing cameo of 18 not out. At least Rob got a bat at last. Very correct his one not out was, too.
We lost by 78 runs, and the absence of Dan and the in-form Cunners was not unconnected. We lacked a long handle to take it to the oppo. Make that a big axe in this context, although the common denominator in our recent wins over Palm Tree is Greg Struthers, who as taken a combined 6-29 against them. We'll know next time. RC
We play most of our games in Dulwich and net during the winter at The Oval. Send us an email at email@example.com
Matt Aked (life)
Jamie Elliot (life)
Rob Navratil (life)
Hugo Nisbet (life)
David Woodhouse (life)
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