Cricket the undisputed winner at Strollers 20th Anniversary Match
Pimlico Strollers CC celebrated 20 years of, frankly, Strolling in fine style with a commemorative anniversary inter-club match at North London CC last Sunday. Boasting a possible world record turnout of Strollers that ranged from regulars and new recruits to those who hadn’t donned their whites in many-a-year; from grizzled old cricketers to the next generation, they were all there… with just a few much missed exceptions. WAGs, offspring and extended family were also present in force, ensuring the carnival atmosphere would at least be well behaved.
Determined that the event could achieve more than simply offer an afternoon of ceremonial back-slapping, it was also decided by a hastily convened ‘steering committee’ some weeks beforehand that the game should become a charity event – so sponsorship was arranged, a fundraising barbeque was lit and a raffle was almost attempted, all in the name of the Cystic Fibrosis Research Unit at the Royal Brompton Hospital, with whom the club has a long standing association.
The stakes for the game itself couldn’t have been higher, for bragging rights were to be had between, appropriately, a team representing the Strollers of the Nineties and another featuring the Strollers of the Noughties! Fittingly, one of the club’s ‘still playing’ co-founders, Andy Moorhouse, had been afforded the honour of leading the veteran Nineties side and it was he that got proceedings underway when he invited his opposite number for the day, Big Gav, captain of the Noughties, to join him in the middle for the toss. On a day that threatened stifling temperatures, muggy conditions and a pudding of a pitch (following an apocalyptic monsoon the night before), Gav risked the wrath of his team mates by electing to field first – a canny move or just outright daft? He couldn’t say.
Assembled in the now-customary, much maligned, pre-match huddle Gav’s impassioned call to arms to his Noughties side was brought to an abrupt halt when Matt Morgan staged a rabble-rousing pitch invasion to the strains of Benny Hill blurting over the PA system on the sidelines. With Dickie Betts in hot pursuit, the marauding Welsh menace was chased off to cheers and jeers and so the match began.
Fittingly, it was ‘the legend’ Betts himself who opened the Nineties’ innings, joined by Georgie Brown, to face the fearsome onslaught of 10 year old Daniel Betts who charged in, determined to knock his old man’s middle peg over. With Betts Jnr successfully hemming in Betts Snr at one end, Brown offered no such hesitance at the other as he set about Simon Boughey’s bowling with fearsome intent.
Brown rolled back the years with a barrage of lusty blows that immediately had the young Noughties side reeling. But, upon reaching double figures, the blood must have rushed just a tad too quickly to Brown’s noggin as he scooped up a skier off a short pitched delivery from Simon to extra cover where Jeremy Gillies - appearing on a cricket pitch for the first time this season - took a well judged catch.
This brought De Dazzler, perhaps the most feared batsman in the Nineties side, to the middle who declared his intentions straight away by marching down the wicket at Boughey’s first ball, but without any success. He quickly reverted his game plan to the classic textbook style for which he is best known and worked the ball around with aplomb, neatly rotating the strike with Dickie who was also striking the ball well – particularly off his son’s bowling …perhaps a little too cruelly to be considered kind.
So the Strollers’ newest recruit, James Connell was then brought into the attack and demonstrated fearsome pace from the off – Dickie survived the onslaught for just a few balls until he mistimed and thick edged it out to Sean Garvey in the covers who reacted sharply and dismissed ‘the legend’ for 15. With the theme tune from “The Flashing Blade” erupting from the speakers on the boundary Chris ‘the doctor’ Deavin marched out to bat next with a clear sense of purpose.
However, the Noughties drove home their advantage even further when Mikey Ward, now on in place of Simon, pitched up a fizzing yorker and knocked out De Dazzler’s middle stump! – a rare sight indeed and the surrounding Noughties looked on agog and Haines returned to the pavilion in bewilderment with the score on 52-3.
Fresh from his pre-match warm up, and having got the barbeque started, Matt was next in and had the air of a batsman enjoying the challenge of putting his side back in contention. This he did expertly, despite son Jamie throwing the proverbial ‘kitchen sink’ at it to try and send his Dad back to the pavilion early. But the Morgan/ Deavin partnership was made of sturdier stuff and both batsmen settled into a comfortable rhythm, scoring a touch more freely than the Noughties skip felt comfortable with.
With a series of hefty pull shots and cover drives both batsmen found their groove, wearing out even the younger Noughties. Mikey, sensing he was beginning to tire, asked for a breather and this brought man-in-form Spencer into the attack bowling the off breaks that had bagged him a stunning six-for just a week earlier. At the other end, Mickey Leighton was brought on with the clear instruction to tighten the screws and, despite his first ball being ferociously cut for 4 by Deavs, this he duly did.
The game entered a period of attrition with spin and seam stifling the run rate but equally not yielding further wickets, and good running between the wickets kept the Nineties on track for a healthy score. But with the skies closing in ominously overhead, Gav sensed an opportunity with the change of conditions and had a quiet word with Spencer to switch next over to swing.
With the first ball of Spencer’s next over swinging away sharply, Deavs nicked to Bill’s waiting gloves behind, just two runs shy of a memorable 50. Three balls later Matt too was back in the hutch, having played on to Fowler, dismissed for a fine 46. Deavin and Morgan had put on a magnificent 99 fourth wicket partnership, but the Noughties sensed they were back in the game.
But the tempo of the Nineties’ innings then increased with regular skipper Chris Lucas now in the middle who, batting with Graeme – taking a break from MC duties – took up the mantle of run scorer in chief with some Calypso shots his Barbadian brethren would have been proud of. However the Noughties field responded in kind with some feiry fielding – in particular from James on the boundary, whose fearsome returns were as much concern to those backing up as the batsmen racing to make their ground.
With Fowler completing his spell, Lucas and Holmes took full advantage of some wayward deliveries until Jez was brought on for his first spell of the year and, with typical ‘shape’, had Graeme caught behind for 22 with the score now at 196. Next in came Nineties’ skipper Andy who opened his account with a neat leg glance off Mickey’s final over. Dominic Moorhouse was brought on to do his best to unsettle his father with some well looped deliveries but the old man was unfazed. John Lucarotti was then brought on to loop the ball even more and was duly punished with as Lucas made hay. However, next over, Lucarotti showed exactly why he is now known as ‘the pale’ to almost match Chris’ bucket hands as he pounced on a mistimed volley from Moorhouse to mid on off Harsh, now operating from the pavilion end.
Sensing that Joshi should quit at the top, Big Gav took him off next over so that he could allow himself a dart at his successor in the pantheon of Strollers captains. Lucas’ eyes lit up on cue and with Richardson’s first ball went aerial …straight down Mikey’s throat at mid off… and there was much rejoicing.
Next in came Trevor – or was it Stevie Wonder? – helped to his crease and clearly of the belief that he’d be seeing the ball well. Joining Bobby ‘the fish’ Fisher, back in Strollers colours (at least the Pimlico version of them) for the first time in years, the Nineties batsmen worked ball around quickly to grab some valuable late innings runs.
Bill, having dumped his wicketkeeping gloves some overs earlier, came on for the penultimate over and with his first ball took full advantage of the Stevie impression and bowled Pile through the gate. Perhaps appropriately, last man in came Bruce – the first ever Stroller – who had, in the space of the innings, seemingly sprouted an impressive afro. With Larry Gomes-esque swagger, the Count dispatched the remaining deliveries of the over round the park. Three more were bagged off the last over of the innings, bowled by Simon and the Nineties closed their innings on an impressive 243-9.
The change of innings offered the Strollers a chance to tuck into the bountiful barbeque that was now in full swing and, as they chomped on their burgers, the Nineties felt satisfied they had posted a very formidable target, and the Noughties a touch concerned that they may have let their elders away with a few too many.
Taking his cue from South Park, Big Gav opted for the ‘Operation Human Shield’ strategy and, in an act of suspected cowardice, sent out Morgan and Betts to open the innings - Morgan and Betts Jnr that is – to the strains of “We Will Rock You” pounding over the Tannoy. This time it was their fathers’ turn to charge in, but the next generation dealt with the attack well and ran at every opportunity as the Strollers of yesteryear flailed in the field.
‘Bucket hand’ Lucas – known for his hard line cricketing policies towards ‘the kids’ – was having none of it however and ruthlessly pounced at short cover on a half volley from Jamie off Dickie’s bowling and the Noughties were one down for 11. ‘Shame on you Nineties’ hollered the baying crowd. Betts Jnr retired to make way for Moorhouse Jnr who joined Caldwell Jnr to rebuild the innings. This they did with textbook strokeplay and, after five overs, the Noughties Academy had put on a laudable 23-1.
With 30 overs of their 35 remaining, the juniors were called off and out stepped Big Gav – to the strains of the Mode’s “Everything Counts In Large Amounts” and Spencer, noted in these parts for his Mr T mohican, to what else but the theme from “The A Team”. However neither lasted long – the Noughties skipper attempted a truly appalling heave off Lucas’ fourth ball that was never there to be hit and instead was clean bowled, without troubling the scorers. As Gav walked off, Chris remarked that revenge was indeed a dish best served cold. Spencer too fared little better as, having got two quick boundaries away, he fell just a few balls later to the guile of Pile. 32-3 and the Noughties were rattled.
However, all assembled knew only too well that the key wicket of the innings would be that of the Strollers’ own Slumdog Millionaire, Harsh, who marched out to bat with a Viv Richards-esque strut that had the Nineties field quaking in their boots. Or maybe it was the theme tune of the Bill announcing the arrival of (do I need to say?) Bill at the crease about to bring the veteran Strollers to book, presumably for crimes against cricket.
Surviving an early drop at mid on, Harsh set about his innings with measured aggression and The Nineties field edged back as both he and Bill worked the ball to all parts. George was brought into the attack in a clear attempt to buy a wicket with some typically lobbed pie throwing but the Noughties batsmen were equal to the task and the score edged towards the hundred.
But then, on 93, Bill took a misjudged swipe at a grubber from Pile and the Nineties whooped in delight, sensing the importance of breaking this crucial partnership. But Noughties’ spirits were raised as the cheerful melody of "Hey Mickey You’re So Fine” accompanied Leighton to the middle and the run chase resumed.
Jeremy Masters and then Gavin Caldwell – both back on Strolling duty after several seasons AWOL – probed the corridor of uncertainty with tantilizing tenacity but both Joshi and Leighton were seeing the ball well and fired the ball to all corners. So, the Nineties side implored leading Strollers wicket taker ever Graeme to get off his arse from behind the sound system and get into the attack. With one banshee-like LBW shout after another, Holmes edged closer to the all important 5th wicket breakthrough until it finally came with the score on 126 – Mickey padding up to one that looked very adjacent.
This brought Mikey to the crease replete with captain’s orders to ‘express himself’. The pitch had all day behaved like a wet blanket but you wouldn’t have known it as Ward the younger, taking a guard so far shy of leg that one would have been forgiven for thinking he was playing in another match altogether, made space and spanked all around the park with effortless abandon, joining Joshi in a full on run-fest.
With charity match rules in force, Harsh was then cut off in his prime, forced to retire on reaching his glorious 50 and the Nineties sensed they may have earned a reprieve. But Mikey was in no mood to slacken the pace and, with Lucarotti supplying stolid support and playing a few fine shots himself, the Noughties forged ahead towards the 200. But, with the score on 196, Captain Moorhouse dealt a masterstroke when he brought on Julian Marshall for his first spell in over two years. But it was as if the old magic had never been away as, with his first ball, Marshall tempted Ward forward, duped and bowled the young all-rounder clean through the gate.
Sensing this may have been a killer blow, the Nineties rejoiced as Sean Garvey marched out to take his guard. But, as he then pulled Marshall’s next ball down to the square leg boundary for four they soon realized the egg wasn’t in the pudding just yet.
John took over the mantle of senior batsman and the Noughties edged ever closer to their target but then Marshall struck again, George taking the crucial catch at long on. With just two wickets remaining and thirty more runs needed, the Nineties felt the palpable buzz of victory within their grasp. But they hadn’t counted on James Connell.
Demonstrating an extraordinary strength of shots to match his fearsome throwing arm, Connell lofted two huge sixes in a quickfire assault. Garvey too got in on the act, with a series of beautifully executed pull shots and, as Guy Barker ran in to deliver the 31st over, the Nineties knew that only wickets could save them now. But it was not to be as yet another towering six from Connell took the Noughties within one more boundary of their target. And so it came with, of all things, four byes sending the result the way of the Noughties with just four overs to spare.
Messrs Garvey and Connell had batted out of their skin, but the winning margin was doubtless far narrower than the final scorecard suggested – the game had ebbed and flowed throughout the day with the advantage continuously shifting from one side to the other, with standout performances on both sides. As both teams returned to the pavilion for photographs, drinks and a splendid Strollers anniversary cake - baked specially for the occasion by the Fowler family - one and all congratulated each other on a truly epic match and a wonderful day. Add to that the important note that we managed to raise some dosh for a great cause in the process, and us Strollers can justifiably feel proud of not just the game but also the twenty fine years that preceded this occasion.
Pimlico Strollers CC is 20 not out. Here’s to the next 20...
Special thanks to:
MC Graeme – for ‘stings’, disc spinning and audio treats throughout the day
Matt & Dickie – chefs de mission, well, chefs de barbeque at least…
Deavs – wot bought the charcoal
Please note: our online fundraising page for Cystic Fibrosis will continue to collect donations until September 2009, so feel free to lob in some cash at any stage. Go on, go on, go on!!