Bloody hell, it’s good to be back!

Date: 08/05/2021
Opposition: Streatham & Marlborough CC
Venue: Streatham & Marlborough CC
Man of the match: Rory Kennedy
Prat of the match: Chris Rowe (for STILL not having any wick kit after well over a season!)

With the words of the Met office still ringing in our ears I suspect much of South West London’s cricket playing population, your scribe included, went to bed on Friday night crestfallen at the imminent prospect of the season’s opener falling victim to a day of relentless showers. Many more slept soundly hoping that a summer filled with the crushing disappointment at one’s lack of sporting ability, trigger fingered umpires, dismissals at the hands of pie chucking OAPs and wasted Saturday afternoons spent chasing a leather ball around the Kingsfield in vain would be put off for another week. However, Saturday morning rolled around and despite a sky laden with ominous looking clouds the rain had been kept at bay.

Our match was to take place in the leafy green South London enclave of Dulwich, a bastion of middle-class sourdough suburbia crowbarred between Peckham and Penge. Despite this, your scribe was approached by two separate ne’er-do-wells wondering if I could make use of some marijuana on the short walk from the bus stop to the ground. Past experience has taught me never to indulge in the devil’s lettuce before taking to the cricket pitch and so I responded to their enquiry with “I’m quite alright thank you gentlemen, the sound of leather on willow is the only drug I need.” I didn’t hang around to hear their reply, but I can only assume it was something to do with what an upstanding young man I was and how dashing I looked with my faded Wick cap and cricket bag slung over my shoulder.

An unusually strong Wick 3rd XI had been mustered together and it was whilst captain Suggitt revised the number of overs we were set to play with the opposing captain that introductions and last minute trips to Sainsburys in search of sustenance were made. A slightly damp wicket resulted in the game being filed down to 40 overs per side rather than 50 (an unreasonable number to be playing in mid-May regardless of the weather if you ask me). Suggitt started his first official season in charge of the 3rd XI by losing the toss and we, unsurprisingly, were put into bat. Our captain donned his batting gear and went in search of an opening partner and found one in the form of Matthew Rudolph. When one considers the fact that Matt would face his first cricket ball in two years on a damp green wicket in the kind of conditions that would make Jimmy Anderson weak at the knees one would be inclined to call his bravado foolhardy. However, here at the wick we value this reckless kind of decision making and with the support of the rest of us behind them, Suggitt and Rudolph walked out to the middle to begin the season. As conditions suggested they would, run scoring chances were few and far between during the first few overs but it wasn’t long before Rudolph expertly flashed consecutive balls through the gully/slip region. ‘Textbook, it’s like he’s never been away’ I thought. Shortly, afterwards he was bowled. Suggitt did his best to soak up the pressure from the openers but somehow managed to top edge one into the clouds only for it to be gratefully accepted into the hands of the wicket-keeper waiting at ground level. Whilst I am certain that Belfast’s loss is the Wick’s gain in the long run, debutant Chris Webb was caught plumb in front for not many and the Wick looked flustered at 28-3.

That was until another debutant, one Rory Kennedy, walked out to the crease. Within a few balls, all of us foresaw that this would probably be the last we saw of Rory before he was snapped up by the 2nd XI never to be seen with among our ramshackle ranks again. All too often, those that turn up wearing gear denoting past cricketing success (in Rory’s case this was his Bath University Cricket Club tracksuit paired with a Cranleigh School 1st XI shirt and cap) are doomed to fail, the Surrey Championship 3rd XI Division One takes no prisoners and laughs in the face of such cricketing institutions. On this occasion, however, Rory was more than up to the task and he immediately set about building a stylish, confident innings. His first batting partner was not quite so lucky, Chris Webb perished, leg before, for just 3 runs.

The Wick found themselves 57-4 and, although Rory had started well, were in desperate need of a partnership to develop. Niraj Jindal, with all the makings of a Wick cult hero, stepped out to join Rory in the middle. By this stage Rory had started to strike the ball to all corners of the ground and was making it all look rather easy and Niraj too had come to terms with the pitch and was delivering the occasional lusty blow to the boundary. Rory passed 50 but looked undeterred by the milestone and continued going about his run scoring, demurely swatting balls away to the fence with ease. Sadly, it wasn’t to go on for much longer after a ball from the returning opening bowler stuck in the pitch and was meekly prodded back into his hands by Rory. He returned to the hutch with 76 runs to his name, the first of many, many more we hope. The partnership had been worth 90 runs and saw the Wick with very respectable 157-5 on the board with 7 overs remaining. It was at this stage that Niraj decided to go up a gear and treat us all to some exquisite ball striking. Untroubled by the return of S&M’s strike bowlers Niraj set about dispatching balls all around the fence and raced past 50. Your scribe had the pleasure of standing at the non-strikers end for much of this and was treated to Niraj doing his best MS Dhoni impression when he fetched a half-volley well wide of off stump and flicked it for six over cow corner with a helicopter flourish to cap it all off. Niraj fell on the last ball of the innings but the damage had been done, his 76 had pushed the Wick to a very defendable score of 209-6 off their 40 overs.

The confidence bestowed by such a batting performance was soon to be undermined by a fairly rank first 5 overs courtesy of opening bowlers Kemp and Povah. Kemp’s first few overs in particular, teeming with no balls and a mixture of half-trackers and full tosses, set Streatham and Marlborough off to a comfortable start going well above the required rate. However, the Wick’s moustachio’d maestro behind the stumps had other ideas. A thick edge to a short and wide ball from Povah sent Wilmot flying to his right where he somehow managed to keep hold of what will surely be a contender for catch of the season already. The following over saw Kemp, clearly inspired by Wilmot’s action behind the stumps, bowling their other opener with a yorker. S&M were two down and it was game on. A flurry of wickets followed, Wilmot took another fine grab diving low to his right off Kemp, their number three played on to a fiery Povah ball and captain Suggitt held on to a thick edge at slip to grant Jacob Gillis his first wicket of the season. Suddenly S&M were 50-5 and the Wick smelt blood.

Niraj took the ball and delivered a short but destructive three over spell going for just two runs and taking a wicket. Another debutant, a South African by the name of Mitch Lockwood followed up with a shrewd six over spell of off-spin at the other end but was made to wait for his first wicket for the Wick as it was the beard to be feared, Jacob Gillis, who tidied up the tail and secured Hampton Wick 3rd XI an emphatic 80 run victory, and for himself very tidy figures of 4-18.

It was at this point that the sun, clearly having heard news that the rarest of occurrences had taken a place in the form of a WICK WASH, decided to make an appearance. Sated by the days play we basked in the sun’s rays and enjoyed several beers on the boundary toasting to our success, long may it continue. If there was one thing all players could agree in that moment it was: bloody hell, it’s good to be back!