Strollers make it 3 from 3 with victory at glorious Grantchester
posted: May 19
We sealed a hat-trick of early season wins with a comprehensive 5 wicket victory on Sunday in our inaugural clash with newfound oppo Grantchester CC, deep in the beautiful Cambridgeshire countryside – a new fixture arranged courtesy of Ron ‘Boundary’ Banerjee whose girlfriend Kate is a local resident. Jokes about cricketers coming to villages to steal their women and pillage their runs* on a postcard please.
The location was quite simply the stuff of cricketing dreams; the pitch located in a renovated meadow adjacent to the Orchard Tea Rooms on the banks of the River Cam, with punters, well… punting to and fro throughout whilst the pluck of leather sounding on willow lazily punctuated a warm afternoon. That there was no pavilion to speak of, other than a sizeable gazebo and toilet facilities consisting only of a paltry low-slung windbreak erected to the side of the field of play merely added to the local charm… and tangy aroma. Again, jokes about tall cricketers relieving/ exposing themselves from behind said windbreak (much like a ‘hanging chad’ of sorts) on a postcard please.
Unfortunately, the build-up to the game had proven somewhat less than idyllic. Finding ourselves short-handed owing to numerous injuries and excuses (suspiciously coinciding with the prospect of a commute out of town) we only had seven regular Strollers at our disposal plus Gaurav’s mate Rohit who, having netted with us over the winter, was ready to make his official début.
This still left us three short but fortunately help was kindly offered, firstly from our pals in Chippenham (eventually not required) but also from the oppo themselves who were vastly over-subscribed for the game. The Grantchester skipper Dan gamely donated three very handy allrounders in the shape of Jamie, Sam and Dipesh (the last of whom earning instant admiration from the elder Strollers for having a name evoking memories of an 80s synth band of some renoun).
Despite all their kind accommodations, we still managed to upset the locals before a ball had even been bowled – Gav and Tom earning themselves a stern reprimand from the club president-cum-groundsman for committing a major faux-pas by walking on his carefully nurtured pitch during their customary pre-match inspection. Not that it mattered to Dan who, upon winning the toss, elected to bat first and make first use of what looked like a belter of a track.
This looked to be a sound decision with the Grantchester openers batting sensibly, defending well whilst punishing anything outside off with confidence. Tom – safely returned from Down Under – was happily back to make his first appearance of the year and looked sharp from the off. Gaurav – promoted to open the bowling – also began well, offering little and making several good appeals for LBW early on.
Nevertheless the Grantchester openers batted patiently and managed to maintain an easy run rate of 5 per over against our seam attack until Ron was brought on to mix things up. This almost instantly brought the first breakthrough when, with the score on 42, Dan went to heave one over midwicket, only to be trapped leg before.
Grantchester’s other opener Anderson – who until then had batted rather defensively – took this as his cue to open his shoulders and unleash a flurry of fearsome boundaries to the leg side. This was matched by his new partner Ward, in at three, who also demonstrated an appetite for big hitting. The acceleration in run rate was beginning to cause concern until, shortly after the oppo had passed 100, Anderson scooped one up to Gaurav at mid off and a potentially dangerous second wicket stand was broken.
From here on, Grantchester’s progress was stilted and the run rate was brought back under control. Our guest Dipesh cleared out Wilson’s stumps – to the strains in the field of ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ – shortly before Rohit, demonstrating his speedy slingy action, finally took the prize wicket of Ward who departed for 58… suggesting he may become the Strollers’ answer to Malinga the Slinger?
One further wicket fell to Rohit – that of the Norweigan Sverdrop – before Grantchester closed on 178-5… a somewhat modest total considering their good start.
The standard of the Grantchester tea was everything that we had hoped for… delectable sandwiches, zingy lemon tarts and the moistest of cakes were consumed with such joy that your writer, opting out of opening the batting duties due to a badly bruised ankle sustained earlier in the field, made full and frequent visits to the table under the gazebo, groaning under the weight of such delights.
Our response unfortunately was somewhat less delightful, at least to start with. Matt, fresh from his game-changing knock against the HICCs last week, was sadly unable to repeat the feat and fell early on, bowled by Wilson. Then, having knocked one boundary to third man, George then played down the wrong line and was also bowled by Jones.
However our third wicket stand was far more successful, with both Gaurav and Ron batting sensibly whilst maintaining a run rate noticeably higher than Grantchester’s. The combination of good hitting and characteristically speedy running between the stumps put us back in the box seat and those Strollers watching from the boundary began to relax and feel the target was more than achievable.
The fifty was passed without incident, then the hundred and all looked to be going swimmingly until a moment of controversy reared up when Ron, now in his mid forties (runs, not age – Ed) survived an impassioned appeal for what frankly sounded like a very woody snick behind, only to be given not out – bowler Myers having obstructed the umpire’s view. Ron, meanwhile, remained unmoved and looked on impassively – a ballsy ploy to say the least considering the numerous villagers, including Kate and his potential in-laws, glaring at him from the boundary.
Unfazed Ron took full advantage of the reprieve, firstly by easing past his fifty and then by flaying Grantchester’s attack to all parts (*that accusation of pillaging all their runs perhaps all too close to the bone) until his good fortune finally gave out and he was beaten by Wray’s loopy leg spin for an invaluable 68.
With only thirty-something to get Tom, next in, looked to hurry things along with a couple of nicely struck boundaries. At the other end Gaurav had been ticking the score along nicely but was unfortunate not to notch up his own well-earned half century when he skied one to square leg and was duly caught for a well made 47.
Ron Boundary made an unexpected reappearance as Gav limped to the middle, asking Banerjee to please kindly run for him (you know, seeing how they’re so similar in terms of size and speed – Ed)… Grantchester teeth could be heard grinding some miles away in the next village apparently.
Tom’s dismissal – bowled by Jones – at least gave the oppo a consolation wicket to celebrate but between them Gav and Rohit took us safely past the winning line, the latter shovelling a boundary off Ward past square leg to bring proceedings to a close.
So, three wins from three it was then to start our season off with a clean sheet… uncharted waters indeed! And, after a brief period of mildly inappropriate exposure as we changed back into our civvies in the bushes, we repaired to the local pub The Green Man with the oppo to toast each other on a very enjoyable afternoon – hopefully the first of many if they are inclined to ever let Ron back in the village – and, for skipper Davie G, another job very nicely done!