Bowling hiccups and fielding mishaps hand victory to the HICCs
posted: June 26
This correspondent, far from Crouch End these days in his humid hideaway in America’s Deep South, often grows wistful for the Strollers, the fellowship, the cricket, and for sun-kissed evenings at North Middlesex. After the witnessing from the boundary last Thursday’s T20 against old favourites the Highgate Irregulars, he might have possibly reassessed the factual basis for such nostalgia.
It was chilly, grey, and grew more so as the June evening progressed. There were no lengthening shadows under the old pavilions. It intermittently spat with rain. The cricket was, well, sometimes Strollers-esque.
The Strollers won the toss and elected to bat. Gaurav and Spencer opened the batting, and, after only one characteristically well-timed shot, Spencer holed out to mid on with one that stuck in the spongy pitch a little. Gaurav was joined by George ‘One Eye’ Brown, and the innings proceeded at somewhat sedate pace, the ball clearly hard to get away.
George was bowled for seven, Abhik for six, but Gaurav held things together at the other end. He began to build momentum and passed his 50 with some hefty blows. Ron joined him in the middle and the innings began to look more respectable. Gaurav was given out LBW by Harry on 62 to one that looked a little high, Harry’s mind perhaps addled by the plentiful alcohol, Stakhanovite intake of mind-bending drugs and tireless sexual gymnastics which have undoubtedly marked his graduation from Birmingham University.
Ron Boundary came and went for only five, caught in the deep by Alex Gray, making a challenging catch look annoying easy. By this time Diment was bowling and he bowled straight from very close to the stumps, Statham-esque, and the ball remained hard to get away, particularly on a low, slow North Mid pitch after a lot of rain.
The Strollers were indebted to a late innings flurry of 22 from Nic, which included two sixes from the same over, one of which was helpfully palmed over the ropes by the HICCs fielder at long on. He and Gav, who also found the boundary several times during his invaluable 14, pushed the score on to a defendable maximum break of 147. Sure, there were some runs left on the table, but if we bowled tightly, then on this pitch it was very much game on.
However, we didn’t bowl tightly. Or anything like it. The HICCs innings included no less that 31 wides. This is more than giving the oppo a sporting chance. This is like giving your oppo five extra overs and a 30 runs start. Most of these were bowled in the first 10 overs. A succession of Strollers bowlers – Abhik, Ron, Harry and the skipper – hurled the ball down leg side in impressively accurate imitation of each other. It was if the ball was drawn to an invisible magnet fixed somewhere around leg slip. It became quite eerie: it was as if the bowlers were trying to bowl wides, and perpetrate a private joke upon the rest of the players. One over from Abhik cost 14 runs; one from Ron – suddenly and bewilderingly re-casting himself as a somewhat wayward seamer – cost 16 runs. These are good cricketers. What was going on?
Even with this monumental assistance to the opposition, there were still moments when the Strollers could have won. The HICCs conspired to help us with injuries to Yash, who put his shoulder out and fielded one-armed and might have come out to bat one-armed, like Malcolm Marshall at Leeds in 1984. Tony Mitchell, a mighty hitter, was also out injured. There were some good catches, like Gaurav’s off the skipper’s bowling, to dismiss Diment.
When Alex Gray marched out to bat with five overs to go, the game might still have been won. Alex, the one-man threshing machine, a younger, slimmer and whiter Chris Gayle, has wrought terrible destruction on us in the past, and was perhaps the last person we wanted see at this stage of the game.
After scoring only a couple, fielded in the deep, he launched himself at one that towered into the covers, where Gav lurked. As the ball swung in, Gav leapt like a salmon to meet it full on the meat of the forehead for a brilliant header. The ball soared into the top corner and Gav wheeled away in triumph to take the salute of the crowd. Or at least he would have done, had this been a different sport and the ball larger and softer.
As it was, he tottered and teetered a bit, like a man boarding the last train to Hampton Wick on a Friday night, and was escorted away from the ground his bleeding forehead clearly bearing the imprint of the seam of a cricket ball.
Your correspondent missed the next few overs, applying first aid. Such are the comprehensive medical supplies at North Mid that the ice treatment consisted of various colourful ice lollies, maybe a raspberry ripple or two, applied to Gav’s damaged head. But he is reliably informed that during this interlude, Alex was dropped again, this time by the skipper.
Having sternly declined a last lifeline, the game concluded, appropriately enough, with a wide.
But thereafter we retired to the Belash, in time honoured fashion, and all was right with the world.