On a lovely sunny Saturday, Gardeners ventured up the Northern Line to Highgate Woods to take on the mighty Strongroom for the first of two fixtures. An evening of heavy rain the night before, combined with the boundary partly marked out by trees, ensured that these were humid conditions in which to bowl. Captain Jamie took full advantage of this and elected to field – muttering, too, that he has come round to “the Mike Richards Way”.
We commenced with only 10 players, the Polish Ewok confusing the forest planet Endor with Highgate Woods and thus arriving three overs late. Cunners, celebrating his 50th appearance in the red and green, opened the bowling with the Metronome. An excellent, thrifty spell by Rob twinned with aggressive swing by Cunners reduced Strongroom to 25-4. Cunners obtained a double-wicket maiden, his surprise bumper having been flapped at by the batter and nicely grabbed by our man with the seal paws behind the sticks. Hugo accounted for the second opener: Tom making no mistake with a high, swirling slog to square leg.
Strongroom’s captain, the clubbable Dave Proctor, and the easily-upset veteran Guy Wilson (“F*** a duck!”) took control and batted the remaining overs until drinks in punishing conditions. Upon resumption, the Chancellor fired down what were politely described as “Moon balls” by Proctor. They were as tempting as a water slide on a hot day for Wilson, who couldn’t resist hitting a pig of a full toss to mid-on where Rob was waiting. “You c***,” he cried as Rob ran in 10 metres, realised he’d misjudged it and then backed off nine metres. Raising his right arm and falling backwards, Rob made catch of the season. Wilson was only sledging himself.
In came the American baseball player at number 7 to face further “Moon balls”. His first ball he smashed straight back to the Chancellor, who made the wise choice to protect his larynx and took the return catch. Tom Leahy had commenced at the other end. Proctor, attempting to up the pace, hit a fierce shot through to mid-off only to meet the cat-like Clayders diving to his right and depriving Rob of his catch-of-the-season award.
The tail was polished off as Strongroom were dismissed for 105 in 26.5 overs. This was obviously unforeseen as the cutlery hadn’t arrived for tea. Ingenuity through the ranks saw the Taste the Difference sandwiches self-assembled with the use of various objects to spread the pickle.
With a target of 106, minds were already drifting towards an early beer. Victory was not to be. Jon Vincent was bowled second ball by one that “gazundered”. Craig May and Tom Leahy both then fell – to catches of contrasting clarity – bringing Jamie to the crease far earlier than expected. Upon his eighth delivery, he took a trademark lunge forward, the ball hit his front pad and he was adjudged LBW. Looking incredulous, he trudged off to stunned silence on the boundary. Whether or not this is an impact of DRS on the social game is to be established. The spectators certainly felt there was sufficient scope to grant the captain the benefit of the doubt.
At 21-5, Cunners and Clayders steadied the ship. Later, Clayders, in taking evasive action from a delivery and running two leg byes, was judged not to have played a shot and the team were relieved of what we now know would’ve been two crucial runs to tie it. Clayders fell with the score on 94, with seven overs to go. The Chancellor and Will ("The Seal") Caldwell took liberties with cheeky singles and edged the score up to 103 before an errant fly did for Chancellor, who was plumb LBW. Will fell shortly after and Gardeners were 103 all out in the 39th over.
To take positives from the game: the catches were excellent and there was some good fielding to restrict Strongroom in the heat. To their credit, Strongroom bowled very well with very few poor deliveries to put away. As touched upon earlier, we need to consider LBW decisions very carefully: in that if there is any doubt at all, then the decision should favour the batsman.
The day concluded with a few drinks and an impromptu game of cricket on the Northern Line. Best striking of the ball seen all day. We look forward to the second leg. CH
We play most of our games in Dulwich and net during the winter at The Oval. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Matt Aked (life)
Jamie Elliot (life)
Rob Navratil (life)
Hugo Nisbet (life)
David Woodhouse (life)
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