After a long and tough season, in which triumph and disaster were met with clockwork regularity, the Gardeners knew what was required to refresh the senses before September's final push: a return to the pastoral idyll; to a place untouched by the modern world; where a 3G signal is an aspiration; men have tattoos; and sheep are worried. Yes, it was to Wales and the town of Talgarth in the Brecon Beacons that GCC turned to for this year's tour.
Our picaresque tale starts in a rainy and windswept London, where a man sits waiting for a phone call...
Saturday 24th August
Trustingly, your correspondent had too much faith in the Metronome's instructions to prepare for a 7.30am pick up to ignore his 6.45am alarm call. This, however, proved to be a mistake. Poker Face, who was first in the queue, had set his alarm for 6pm rather than 6am and the arrival of Rob's white van in Fulham was delayed as Andy scrambled to get his kit together.
Half an hour later than planned the phone finally rang and without further interruption the three Gardeners in a van were soon heading west, leaving a rainy London trailing in the distance. The Metronome's economical driving style engendered steady progress towards the village of Ewyas Harold in Herefordshire and the first game of the tour.
An advance party of Cunners, the Chancellor, Ferris Bueller and Megan Fox (see Appendix A for all nicknames) had reached the Dog Inn in Ewyas Harold first and were found enjoying pints of scrumpy and sandwiches in lieu of a more sporting pre-game warm up. But as the appointed hour approached, pints were drained and we processed through the graveyard and onwards to the mown field and artificial strip that was to be the site of a record equalling feat of batting by two of the three Gardeners in a van.
GCC vs. Ewyas Harold CC
Taking to the field first, the Gardeners' opening partnership of Cunners and the Metronome enjoyed a steady, if unspectacular start. The artificial strip aided the batsmen rather than the bowler, as is usually the case, and the Ewyas Harold openers progressed to 50 without loss.
The breakthrough finally came seven runs later, as Poker Face castled Evans for 15. This brought the husky voiced Sevenoaks to the crease, who, without warning or provocation, proceeded to set about the bowling, despatching the cream of the Gardeners crop into the surrounding hedges and fields. This assault brought up the batsman's fifty quick sharp, but it couldn't last and a couple of balls later a quicker one from Tom brought the innings to a timely end.
Sevenoaks's departure did not completely dry up the flow of runs though. Bambi (35) and Hector (32*) kept the score ticking along, with Ewyas Harold finishing on 210 off the 40. Of the Gardeners bowling, Tom picked up 3-16 and the Chancellor, cranking up the national debt even further, bought a couple with his loopy leggies - finishing with 2-33 off three overs. Also mentioned in dispatches is Voodoo Chiles, who lunged arse first into the brambles in pursuit of one of Sevenoaks's lusty blows. Commitment? Not 'alf.
On other days, a target of 211 off the 40 overs might have proved rather more testing; however, not this day. The ground was small, the artificial pitch held few worries for the batsmen and the openers, Andy/Poker Face and Tom/Nova/Sherlock were confident of a decent start.
By keeping the strike rotating and the bowlers honest, runs came at regular intervals. Pinched singles, the odd two and a collection of fours all contributed to a whirring scoreboard, and the milestones started to come. First the fifty partnership, then Andy's half century, the century partnership, Tom's fifty, and then the 150 partnership.
But, with a new club record for the 1st wicket, and indeed any wicket, just one run away, Tom (60) got a leading edge and was caught at the third attempt at mid off. Nevertheless, a record equalling partnership of 162 was heartily applauded by the handful of spectators present.
Victory now a relative formality, De Jesus was able to exact his revenge for Sevenoaks's innings – the highlight being three sixes in a row that were clubbed off the unlucky Carter. The winning runs eventually came in the 32nd over from new boy Spirling's bat, after Andy, run out for an excellent 71, and Dan (34) had been dismissed a couple of overs earlier.
Victory by seven wickets, friendly opposition, a pleasingly rural ground and a decent post match pint in the Dog Inn all contributed to an excellent start to the GCC 2013 tour, but could it continue? TL
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