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Match 16 2023 (25th scheduled): September 17

Pimlico Strollers CC vs Alexandra Palace CC

Shoestring Strollers bravely battle on at wet Walker Ground
posted: September 18, 2023

Strollers vs Alexandra Palace, 17 Septemeber 2023

What a week. After combating chaos on almost every front it was remarkable that we got a game on at all yesterday, albeit in wet weather with only a threadbare side at our disposal. Inevitably we lost to last minute stand-in opposition Alexandra Palace CC who we took on for the first time and found that they, at least, were a stand-up bunch.

Winding the clock back a week, our woes began with the demoralising revelation that NLCC had, at the eleventh hour, appallingly pulled the rug from beneath our feet and cancelled our pitch booking to host our friends from Munich CC – who were returning to play us on our turf after our hugely enjoyable tour to Oktoberfest last year. The reason cited apparently being that some contractors would be coming in earlier than expected to renovate the ground and take advantage of the ‘good weather’ (more on that later) despite assurances that the pitch would be ours and that the fixture was secure.

Scrambling to find an alternative venue in the following days and after numerous enquiries all over London we struck gold when the main pitch at the stunning Walker Ground in Southgate became available – a sometime first class county ground in beautiful leafy surroundings overlooked by a towering church spire… picture perfect. Unfortunately, the confirmation came just 20 minutes too late for Munich who had just – and understandably – found alternative oppo to play over in Berkshire. Darn.

With more hastily placed phone calls we initially thought we had found a good solution with the Battersea Bohemians happily accepting our offer of a rematch following the outrageous 650 run shenanigans of the previous Sunday. And then, of course, on Friday, they changed their minds and cancelled. With the hefty pitch fee already paid George frantically looked for alternatives and mercifully found that Alexandra Palace CC didn’t have a game on and would be delighted to play us. The only challenge that seemingly remained was that despite the whopping £350 asking price to hire the ground we would have to bring our own stumps – so Gav exercised his Amazon Prime account and nabbed a set as speedily as he could. Phew! Game, finally, ON.

I mention all of this simply to give those who might not be familiar with the inner machinations of a social Sunday cricket club a little insight into the not insubstantial challenges faced by those who do the admin.

One can imagine then our utter dismay when, having started the day with a full starting XI, no fewer than three Strollers – eyeing a dodgy weather forecast – decided in the morning that they weren’t up for the game after all. One can surely imagine too how galling it also felt for the paltry five Strollers who had arrived at the ground for the appointed 1pm start time, forlornly waiting for their team mates to show up. Embarrassment aside, the task ahead became even more daunting when we lost the toss and found that we would be fielding.

With rain imminent we agreed to reduce the game to 30 overs per side and at 1.20pm we got underway, farcically aided by no fewer than five members of the opposition who kindly volunteered to field for us just to get the game started. Behind the 8 ball from the beginning and against all odds we started well, with three early wickets tumbling in quick succession – Abhik and Spencer bowling out both openers before Davie C expertly clung on to a snick behind from Sheldon.

With the oppo’s fielders gamely doing a fine job of curtailing their own team’s scoring efforts and the first of two hefty rain showers dampening their progress, we managed to contain Ally Pally to 84-3 at the half way stage. After a quick drink we marched back out in a brief break in the downpour, by now thankfully bolstered up to 8 Strollers with the arrivals of Dickie, Dave G and Harry (Brown Jnr adorning a bright red training top and shorts having suffered his own crisis this week after his kit bag was swiped from his car a few days earlier).

Gorton was delighted to remove Haque in his prime for 22 with possibly his first ever yorker (!) and George completed a containing spell with Gav making good ground to collect a lobbed catch to mid on to dismiss dangerman Sheik for a well struck 67.

A 50 partnership for the sixth wicket frustratingly wrested control back towards the oppo before Harry, borrowing Gav’s spikes, set about mopping up the tail with merciless and metronomic accuracy on his way to collecting 3-39 (including a near hat trick). Abhik collected his third victim of the day when he returned to bowl Downing and with heavy rain now pelting down the oppo kindly closed their innings one ball early on 182-9. All things considered, a decent effort by both sides. In an attempt to save what remained of the game we hurriedly rolled out the covers to rescue the pitch from becoming a swamp and returned to the pavilion to enjoy a very respectable tea.

Just as we were about to march back out, astonishingly, blue skies cleared overhead and George mused on the irony that those who ducked out of the game had missed their chance of a knock on a first class wicket. Challenging though it was, that in itself was a treat.

Gav got us underway with a booming square cut for four and, briefly, it looked like this would be doable. However, it quickly became apparent that the pitch had gotten slippery and sticky under the covers and timing the ball would be all too tricky.

George was first to go when he top-edged to backward square leg and, after a brace of lofted boundaries back over the bowler’s head, Abhik followed soon after when he gloved one behind. Things became attritional as Gav dug in but couldn’t get the ball through the ring – remarking to Harry how irritating it is when the oppo have eleven fielders.

Eventually, having seen off the opening attack, the big man was undone for 13 as he tried to make space to drive a skidded ball from Chandrakumar and was bowled. Spencer fell in similar fashion to George for just a single but Harry at least managed to start finding a few shots as we passed the fifty mark until he too was caught in the deep off Omar.

Dickie and Davie C mounted a spirited sixth wicket partnership, scampering singles where they could to keep the oppo honest until Betts offered one up to cover point. Next in, Dave Gorton snicked his second ball behind to card a silver duck but remained in place as, with no further Strollers at our disposal, he carried on for an encore innings. The kitten clawed himself to 13 before he chipped a low return catch to Rory Potts who did well to cling on.

With Spencer also returning for a second throw of the dice we mercifully made it past 100 to bring some respectability to proceedings but when Bajaj bowled Dave in the final over that was that. Despite the heavy loss, we strode off defiantly proud that we had given it our best shot in almost impossible circumstances and, with the warm thanks of the Ally Pally players – who really were a charming bunch – we ruefully wondered what might have been had we been able to show up with a full side… so often the story this season.

So, much to reflect on, both for those who were and weren’t there. But, at the very least, we found ourselves potentially a new ground to play at, new opposition to take on and a shiny new set of stumps. You’ve got to celebrate the little successes… especially this year.

Gavin Richardson


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