C.E.C.C.| Shepherds Cot | Crouch End | North London | N8 8JJ
A big white van with the party balloons was already waiting at the gates when I arrived at high noon for the showdown, in anticipation of a famous Crouch End victory over Dave Jenkins’ visiting Hemel Hempstead side. Surely Dave’s cowboys couldn’t steal the Wagon Wheels?
Skipper Mark and Naggers opened the batting, but finding any gaps in an alert HH field looked tough going, with Mr Babbage showing the runrate hovering around 2 after 10 overs, the skip eventually clipping to gully. By this stage it was clear from the on-field encouragement and sideline baiting that beyond the Jenkins’ own family feud, I might have my own nemesis in opposition fielder Nino, sporting a fetching red warrior headband, favoured by samurai actors in noodle ads and long-haired Italian cricketers across the globe.
In the company of the defiant P Nagler, Alec (20) and then Yorky pushed the rate up to a blistering 3 after 25 overs in the mid-afternoon sun, buoyed by some typically elegant drives from Alec. However not until JJ came to the crease with the score at 83-3 did the runs start to flow a little more freely and the HH fielders start scuttling a little more desperately in their multi-coloured trainers. Putting on 55 for the 4th wicket, JJ drove on to 36 before skying one off the returning A.Kumar, while Naggers crashed on to the Big Money score of 60, finally offering up a c&b to Dave J.
Naggers’ innings of Atherton-like grittiness really set the foundation for some extremely useful late-over runs from Julian (16), Zinzan (n.o 20) and Nix (n.o 10), who all scampered hard between the wickets to put pressure on the sundried and increasingly average Hemel fielders. The score moved from 97-3 after 30 overs to 206-6 after 45. Survey says: competitive, if not impenetrable.
We asked 100 people to name a typical cricketing tea: You said tarka dhal, our survey says…2? maybe? But it was delicious, particularly given that Fastbowler/Chef had been drafted into the team for birthday boy Robbie, extra legwork we were explicitly reminded of. Accompanied by small Indian pastries and a potent chutney, it would make fielding an energised if slightly sweaty task.
With increasingly vocal audience support from K Moody and Robbie (whose allegiances were questionable), Charles and JJ opened the bowling and had both batsmen all at sea. A lot of swishing and missing and a couple of streaky edges through backward point led to one helpless contestant edging JJ through to Naggers, before the other, fed up with swishing, left another beauty from JJ to clip his offstump. EH-UHH.
Amid the rising din of tooting horns and shrieking girls arriving on the pretence of an 18th birthday celebration but clearly down for the on-pitch action, Hemel’s no.3 Dave J was accumulating steadily at the crease, cracking a succession of boundaries off first JJ and then Nix, while wickets fell around him. Zinzan nipped one through the gate of W Stokes, possibly a relation, while Joe removed my nemesis/namesake with a ball that swung and moved just slightly off the surface to push back his off peg. Great bowling.
Dave J clattered on to 56 before striking out with a heave-ho out to JJ off Julian’s 2nd ball. I managed a few tight overs before picking up my first wickets for Crouch End (!), first getting one to ricochet off the No.7’s pads into his stumps and then next ball, cunningly bowling the new bat a wide one to flap at, with Julian taking a sensational one-handed catch at slip. I chose to stubbornly ignore Nix’s good advice and wasted the hat-trick ball to Kumar but his X was marked when he quite impressively played a ball from Julian on from way outside the off stump. The No.11 smeared a few of mine to the boundary before missing a straight one, leaving them all out for 139 with 10 overs to spare. In the absence of £10,000 or a Daewoo to whisk away one of the young partygoers, Naggers collected a beerjug for his efforts with the bat.
All in all a convincing result, albeit with a much stronger-than-usual team, but great to get a 2nd league win. Battingwise, the running between the wickets looked better than in previous games I’ve played in, particularly in the last 15 overs, and the fielding was also tighter, with Charles and Julian particularly alert, managing 2 direct hits for near run-outs, while also running out the captain who cheekily wandered from his crease (and was then generously recalled). A team performance to match in the rest of the season’s games.
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