Jeez it is good to be back
|Opposition:||Streatham & Marlborough CC|
|Man of the match:||Graeme Tong (apologies Ali Higginson)|
|Prat of the match:||Kieran ‘Nugget’ Mitchell|
609 is a sizeable figure. No, it is not the bowling average of Phil Linter. No, it is not the age of Ian Collier. 609 is how many days have passed since the last league fixture that the all-conquering HWRCC 2nd XI played, defeating Old Wimbledonians in a do-or-die clash in September of 2019. After the pandemic wiped out any chance of proper league cricket in 2020, Saturday 8th May 2021 could not come quick enough for the boys, who were toey as a roman sandal for some cricket. The stage was set for the club in 2021. A great pre-season, some fresh new faces, competitive intra-club hitouts, some slightly tighter-fitting jumpers, Talby putting in a huge shift to get the lads up and about, hand sanitiser at the ready, and even Clemmo getting down to pre-season training not once but twice. The foundation was well and truly laid. The squad now bursting with class, and it was time for our first big test, facing a S&M side that has enjoyed some success against us in recent years.
Before the party had even begun, Mother Nature threatened to ruin it, with grey skies lingering over South-West London early doors Saturday. Undertaking the usual Saturday morning routine of a brief walk for a skinny flat white and The Times in the delightful Clapham South, your scribe was left wondering if he had indeed missed a trick by not playing the rain card. Nevertheless, the bags were packed, and it was onto the rattler for the 10:45am meet time at HQ, with the prospect of either a day’s cricket, or a day bending the elbow consuming 609 days’ worth of Moretti. It was a win-win. Upon arriving, your scribe noticed something, something a little unusual for those of us who have been lucky enough to grace the mighty HWRCC for some time. There was something missing. The famous combination of Jagermeister and ciggie fumes emanating from the doors of HQ telling a grim tale of the night previous were absent. I was somewhat baffled but buoyed by this. Was this a sign of things to come? It was clear that the 11 warriors going into battle today were focused on one thing, and that was doing a number on S&M. The rain was slowly fading, the wind picking up, but a delay was still inevitable. The game time would only be reduced by a little more than an hour, and it would be a 40-over shootout.
The delay gave time to get through a very professional warm-up. Unfortunately, it was the opposition who had taken this approach, with your Wick warriors taking a slightly different path, deciding to stand around and talk utter shyte until the latest possible moment. Newcomer Henry Wright was the first to shock us with the revelation that he owns a phone older than Ian Collier (46 years young for those playing at home, not 609), to which several members of the squad said resembled a “burner phone”, which I believe is young-person speak for a phone which one conducts black-market activity with, I learnt that from Ted Hastings. Anyway, standing around in the freezing cold was not up Henry’s street, so he decided to disappear by himself for 30 mins and came back nice and warm and with a fresh batch of £50 notes in his wallet. I can only assume he went to the bank.
With start time looming large, the toss was done and won by S&M and it was the Wick who were sent in, rather unsurprisingly. One can only put this down to the fact that the almighty leader of the 2nd XI, Phil Linter, was absent from the team, as he declared pre-game that in season 2019 he won every toss. I’ve crunched the numbers on that, and the probability of that actually being legit is 0.0003%. I will let you make up your mind on that one. Anyway, I digress.
The pitch itself was in incredibly good shape all things considered, but it was S&M who took the early ascendancy. The first to go was Keerat, given out leg before wicket despite hawkeye showing the only thing the ball was cannoning into was the 4th carriage of the 13:34 London bound service arriving into Hampton Wick Station. Pretty quickly, Collier was knocked over by one of the rare decent balls sent down by the oppo, and when Blobs was run out, we were in all kinds of trouble at not many for 3. Clemmo and newcomer Higgo steadied the ship somewhat, as you’d expect from two premier sportsmen (both have played premier hockey in multiple countries for those wondering, something seldom mentioned), getting the scoreboard ticking over and looking comfortable against an opposition that seemed reluctant to change things. In particular it was Higgo who was quickly into his groove, pouncing on the 2 bad balls an over they were giving, and pretty quickly the score was north of 50. But as soon as things were looking back on our terms, Clemmo was early to one and sent a leading-edge straight up for the simplest of keeper catches. Clemmo was dismissed for one of the best 11-run innings you will see, and SM had their 4th.
Nugget Mitchell was sent in at 6 by captain Charlton, which seemed somewhat of a surprise given the runs Charlton has scored at this position over several decades, but you never question a Match Winner in his decision making, and it came as no shock to learn that it paid off handsomely, with Nugget and Higgo combining for a 70-run 5th wicket partnership, to hand the control back to the good guys. It was all sensible batting, getting the eye in early, and then pouncing on the bad ones, simple game cricket. When Higgo departed for a delightful 74 on Wick debut, Captain Boom-Boom joined Nugget at the crease. Unfortunately, whilst his batting was sensible, Kieran’s calling and running between the wickets was far from it. A couple of close calls with Higgo were warning signs of things to come, and before Charlton even had the chance to take guard, he was marching back to the pavilion, having been deep-fried by Nugget. Nugg had to dig-in, mainly because if he got out, Charlton was ready to rip him a fresh one. Thankfully, dig-in he did. The old wise head of G Tong joined Nugg at the crease and the pair put on a clinic of late-innings batting, working every single available and collecting the occasional four. Despite a couple of late poles for the oppo, the Wick warriors had amassed an imposing 182 off their 40 overs, something that looked unlikely when the scoreboard read 19 for 3.
The twenty-minute lunch break was seen as a bit short by some of the hungrier members of your all-conquering Wick 2nd XI outfit, but what it lacked in time it made up for in quality, which will come as no surprise to you all. With the spread devoured, it was time to turn the focus to the task at hand. 182 was an excellent score, and the lads were confident that with consistent bowling supported by quality in the field, our S&M opposition would have a tough time chasing this one down.
A strong start with the ball was key, and it was Browning and Henners that delivered that for us. Put it in the right areas, consistently, and the batsman will struggle with them, simple game cricket. Soon enough, just as Clemmodamus called for Browning to find the edge and send one to Charlton at second slip, Nick delivered, the first breakthrough snaffled by Boom-Boom at 2nd slip. Before long, Browning had 2 more and S&M found themselves 17 for 3. Browning was sending them down with some nastiness, and sending their batsmen off with similar nastiness, it was lovely to see. Henners provided excellent support from the Northern end, bowling with speed (lolz) and finding the cracks (more lolz), and was unlucky not to have 2 or 3 himself, finishing his 8 over spell with the excellent figures of 1-24 on Wick debut.
However, the strong start from the two openers was merely the entrée for what was an outstanding main course. If you thought having the oppo 38 for 4 after 12 overs was good, then what G Tong dished up next was 3 Michelin stars. Taking the rock in the 13th over, by the time G Tong had finished his 8 overs, the scoreboard read 68 runs for 9 wickets. Yes, you read that correctly. Four wickets were cleaned bowled, and the 5th a low-down grab from Nugget behind the stumps, it was vintage Graeme Tong. By now, the game was all-but won. The 3rd Wick debutant in Dale Wakefield held down the other end with some quality left-arm tweak, but this was the Tong show, who finished with the outstanding figures of 8 overs, 4 maidens, 7 runs, 5 wickets. Browning was then handed the pill to clean up the last wicket, and S&M were all out for 72, concluding an outstanding all-round performance and delivering a 110-run victory.
Man of the match honours go to Graeme Tong for his stupendous spell, narrowly ahead of Higgo who held the batting innings together, and single-handedly scoring more runs than the entire S&M batting line-up. As always, there was no shortage of contenders of DoD. We had an early contender in Captain Linter, putting his name in the ring for his Tuesday training mishap when he tried catching a high-ball in Arctic conditions, and ending up with a broken hand. New lad Dale also a worthy nomination for similar injury-related reasons, pinging his quad when walking out to warm-up. But there can only be one winner, and despite a seriously good knock of 51 with the bat, Nugget Mitchell is the first recipient of 2021, after absolutely torching the skipper.
There were plenty of highlights, plenty of excellent cricket played, and despite a few things to work on moving forward, it was the perfect start to the 2021 campaign. We pass our first test with flying colours, and we look forward to an away journey to Epsom next Saturday. To top things off, a Wick wash for round one, what more could you ask for.
Jeez it is good to be back.
Up the Wick