Teddington

As your correspondent sits to tell the tale of Teddington, the rain has just begun to patter on the roof above his head, the start of a front which threatens this year’s blue riband at Dunsfold.

A 1pm start in the glorious Bushy Park, a site of Special Scientific (and Sporting) Interest, against Pecker friends Teddington was a far brighter prospect and by 1230 a declaration of Woodpeckers descended on the delightful ground and its soon to be demolished pavilion. A youthful group of Teddington players looked up expectantly from their smartphones. A miscommunication somewhere meant that the bar was not well stocked with traditional English ales, and indeed the London Pride was exhausted before the game began, lacking as we did Cousin and a keg of his majestic Alepine (5.5%ABV).After a pitchside consultation between skippers, the new ale was taken and play began, the Peckers fielding newcomers Jamie “Lionel” Philip, Jamie “Lav” Lavers and Westy “Westy” West. In addition to the debutante duo of Jamies, we also fielded 3 Alexs.

 Alex 'old horse' Gowar, 'Big Al' Cumming and Alex' El Collleen' Collier

Alex 'old horse' Gowar, 'Big Al' Cumming and Alex' El Collleen' Collier

Teddington had only rounded up 9 players, so we generously offered SP’s dad GG Paterson aka Horse, not appreciating they evidently felt 9 was plenty with the quality they had at their disposal. We had beaten Teddington for the last 4 years, so they wheeled in the big guns to stop the rot

Hurricane Motty started down the hill, a tremendous gusting wind in his wake, one that would remain for the rest of the afternoon. Keen to show off his wonderful variety of deliveries, he was ably propped up at the other end by Tiddles who bowled an authoritarian line and length that would prove pick of the bowlers on a difficult day for taking wickets. (1-38 today and now 7-140 on the season)

Teddington CC produces wonderful club and county cricketers, more were on show today: their top order, from their first and second teams, were decidedly resistant to giving away their wickets. Kottler would make a fine 43, all from the middle of the bat, before scooping to a swooping POB off (old) Horse. A unique sentence in the canon of English prose. Horse bowled with control and lively pace, surprising everyone, mainly Coatesy who was imperious behind the sticks. He bowled in combination with excellent newcomer and delightful bloke Jamie Lavers, who switched from off spin to smart seam on an unhelpful wicket.

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Euan Munday (son of veteran Teddington run-machine Steve, brother of promising opener Amelie) plays for the first Teddington XI, frightening the deer, came in at three and drove ferociously, proving impossible to dislodge from an unorthodox position at the crease. With a name reminiscent of Horse’s chat-up alter ego from his youth, “Euan MeBabe”, he scored freely around the wicket and would end their innings 103 not out, ably assisted by a less-than-fluent Pecker fielding performance. He was partnered by good-looking left hander Gardiner, who struck well but would hole out to a  fine catch from a prostrate Motty at mid-wicket for 30. Jemotty was impressed.

 Rules of this fixture dictate that every member of the team must bowl, so injured Peckers POB and SP had to do their duty and a few non-specialists were exposed to excellent batsmen. A looming crisis was narrowly averted: man mountain Westy charged in for his third delivery, only for the ball to set off behind him up the hill, and we feared a record over. He was encouraged to walk in and bowled neatly thereafter. A breathless Colin was thrown the nut and charged to the crease, an excitable 5-0.As it was, Teddington’s top order had bested us, and some calamitous fielding, as the team tired, allowed them to post 283, a potent score, but achievable with the right attitude.

Tea is a serious affair at Teddington and a strong variety of excellent savouries at the top of the order shields a more workmanlike approach to cake further down, with fruit bringing up the rear. Few visiting sides make it that far though, and a fine spread, spent watching a traditional English batting collapse at Trent Bridge, also meant finishing the remaining Doombar, leaving the bar now ale-less and the Peckers in a precarious position emotionally.

Demonstrating our intent, we sent out SP and Colin. SP barely repaid the faith shown, returning after just one ball and was replaced by three-times-a-batsman Jamie 'Lionel' Philip. A fine player who apparently once played for Lecictershire he battled and scrapped against county standard bowling for a thrusting 27. He would hand the baton over to the other Jamie Lavers, who brought some class to the occasion with cuts and drives abounding.

 El Colleen smashes another one to the delight of the stag

El Colleen smashes another one to the delight of the stag

But Colleen was the man for this moment. His ginger locks flowing like his hero Mick Hucknall, he scampered and hustled tirelessly, struck the ball with ferocity, wild eyes staring as he weathered the perilous situation in the match, and the violent internal battle as his organs began to shut down after the previous day’s excesses. As partners came and went, he maintained the run rate required, bringing the Peckers to within sight of a glorious triumph at 133-2. All we had to do was maintain the run rate.

 Showing his full range under a sweaty lid

Showing his full range under a sweaty lid

Calamity. Colin played all round a straight one and they were into our bushy tail.  Smart new boy Lavers was joined at the crease briefly by Coatesy and then more permanently by Big Al Cumming. Big Al, as the name suggests, is a giant in all but stature, with an iron competitive streak. Skip Pobby was in an enthusiastic mood having been buoyed by Immers' arrival, and he encouraged Big Al to attack the run rate when his moment came. We were somewhat surprised then to see Al take a more defensive approach to his first few overs, Al stating “Skip told me to play myself in”

 This was one of Big Al's more attacking shots

This was one of Big Al's more attacking shots

The run rate began to stall. Players and spectators alike were surprised to see POB grab a pint and dash out with unscheduled refreshments for his batters, even more so when the elastic on his trousers gave and they fell south as he rushed the field. The required rate had steepled from 8 to 12, and we had plenty of good willow wielders ready in the hutch

Message duly relayed, runs began to flow again, much like the cider the bruised and ale-less Peckers had cautiously begun to make friends with. Big Al threw his all into his innings, with cannons through the off side, diving to make his ground, immune to the risks to body and spirit. These dives surprised many watching as the ball wasn’t in play at the time, one in fact with the bowler polishing on the way back to his mark. They didn’t surprise the watching Peckers though who cheered him on.

 Big Al's Downward Facing Dog

Big Al's Downward Facing Dog

Lavers got to his 50 but was caught going for broke, and Big Al showed his trenchant side when triggered by LP at square leg, glowering at LP and briefly refusing to depart. He eventually left the field, his wickets broken but not his spirit. A memorable display.Motty could only add a handful. POB’s stay was brief too, bowled by (young) Horse through his legs. If only the trousers had chosen to deflect at the right moment.

(Old) Horse would add a swashbuckling 22 with more missed than hit, predictably coming up lame. Westy and Tiddles swung lustily but in vain. The game was up, but a wonderful game it was. Teddington 287-5 beat Woodpeckers 247-9 by 40 runs

Into the evening, Skip continued to build the relationships that hold the Woodpeckers in such fine stead. His rousing performance of “Donald, where’s your troosers?” with full actions and dance entertained and alarmed in equal measure, and a wonderful reminder that our actions off the field are even more important than those on it. A delightful evening with our hosts, with Horse hosting the curry at his new stable in Barnes.

As ever we were cheered by a fine supporting cast – Jemotty, Horse and Caps (Carts surely?)..Pecker Legends LP, Ducky and John Campbell-Watson, and the once spritely Immers resplendent in knee brace. The Peckers, as ever, held their end up with a fine side, and a memorable game of cricket played in the very best spirit.

To Dunsfold.

 A Brace of Horses celebrate their fine performances

A Brace of Horses celebrate their fine performances

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HAC

The Honourable Artillery Company is the oldest regiment in the British Army and the second most senior unit of the Army Reserve.  The Company traditionally dates its origins to 1537 when Henry VIII granted a charter to the Fraternity or Guild of Artillery of Longbows, Crossbows and Handguns for ‘the better increase of the defence of this our realm’ and ‘the maintenance of the science of artillery’.

Cricket has been played on the Artillery Garden at least since 1725.  In the 18th Century the game fell into disrepute on account of the substantial wagers it attracted, and was eventually banned (ridiculous in my book). The Court finally was persuaded to allow cricket to be played, subject to rules and restrictions, in 1846, and the game has been seen as a useful recruiting attraction ever since.

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The Beearon Von Runkle is a regular player for the HAC and the Hon Fixtures Secretary. On arrival I was told he hadn’t been selected having played on the Saturday for the 'A Eleven'. Apparently he prefers to play for the A team and I was already suspecting a stitch up as the 1st 11 looked like a serious bunch of cricketers. We looked fairly young and fit too as Charlie ‘Cyoungy’ Young had recruited two mates through the New Mrs Lucy Young, James ‘Kenny’ Kenyon and Nick ‘Pidgeon’ Priggen. I  was concerned that I seemed to be the only Pecker without a raging hangover, completed as  Kippers meandered towards us looking very green around the gills after his leaving do 4am finish. Pidgeon added to the delicious Peckers Smorgasbord of Fish, Kipper, Spinach, Taters and Doner –Spud, Maris (Piper) and Horse were supporting their young chargers too and we'd have made a fine Masterchef Larder challenge. One of the HAC umpires later complained it had made him very hungry listening to our banter. 

BBC had raised alarm bells by forecasting heavy rain all day –their forecasts are really useless , so I had been fielding ‘is the game on?’ messages all morning. Anyway, It was drizzling lightly, but we lost the toss and HAC predictably  decided to bat. I pushed for an overs game on what’s normally a batters paradise, but HAC skipper Liam Casey (perhaps under instruction from the Beearon) was immovable from a timed game.

Cyoungy and Spinach opened the bowling well, but it was tough on a decent batting track against quality players and we needed to take half-chances. Kipper perhaps understandably was laborious to move to an easy chance at gully and got his hand to another fizzer. SP seemed to leap up for two low chances at slip, Doner missed a sharp one at Mid On, and Pidgeon who kept well generally also missed a half chance,  and a few fell in gaps that may have closed

60 for 0 off about 11 and the ball starting to thud off the walls behind the short boundary,  I was very worried and then Youngy produced an absolute pearler pitching middle and hitting top of off to remove the hard hitting Ulster-man  Spinach who produced an excellent spell of lively medium pace also produced a beauty to remove the Sri Lankan Harry, and then Taters who bowled beautifully also hit off-stump to snaffle skipper Casey and we were in the game. Still at the crease however was an old Durham University pal of Kenny’s Sean Perry. He had a few lives, one from the immovable HAC Umpire Misha who turned down too plumb lbws off Taters much to his chagrin…..

Kenners himself started well before losing his length and Fishy was suffering from blisters, so the score rose to 245 at which point HAC sportingly declared.  Tea coincided with a splattering of rain that had also delayed the start, but is was supplemented with an assortment of Chockies and Wine Gums from over the road as several peckers indulged in watching the earlier highlights from Lords.

 Cyoungy holding the broken bail from his 'unplayable' delivery

Cyoungy holding the broken bail from his 'unplayable' delivery

I stuck with the successful opening Kiwi combo of SP and Kipper and they did very well to see off a lively opening attack. The run-rate stayed steadfastly on 4 an over though and the required rate rose from 6 to 9, so we felt with 10 wickets in hand we should give some encouragement to get a move on so to speak.   The Kiwi jug avoidance conspiracy continued with Kipper making 38 and Sp 47, but their departure coincided with the arrival of the same Exeter game-changer from the HAC Innings. Sean Parry bowled medium pace off-breaks that leapt off a length and made batting almost impossible. I had been warned that it was a well worn pitch (9 matches according to the groundsmen) that may misbehave, and Sean’s combination of pace and rip was just right. Botty claimed that during his (early) shower he heard at least three sets of panicked studs enter and leave the changing rooms.

Much like the Indians at Lords, wickets fell like ninepins leaving our two opening bowlers Cyoungy and Spinach to see out the last six overs of the tricky Perry and lively left arm opener who returned and secure the glorious draw. Cyoungy batted superbly, counselling his partners(normally deaf ears) and keeping the strike sensibly. Spinach's concentration may have been somewhat been heightened by the fact he had forgotten to source a box before walking out to the crease. They saw out the remaining overs and secured us the draw. A great performance by the two to top and tail the match. Sean Parry ended the match with the incredible stats of 136 not out and 8-28, but didn't win the match. Also he's a great lad and a big fan of the Runk-Meister.  Although we got a draw, we were out played in every facet of the the game by a very good team....Kindly

 Our glorious opening bowlers and closing batsmen...Cyoungy and Spinach

Our glorious opening bowlers and closing batsmen...Cyoungy and Spinach

Marlow Park

Another scorching day – reaching 32C by midday – was interrupted at 10.6 pm when Simon Lampard (no relation) the Marlow Park fixture secretary emailed to say the 300ms stretch from the High Street to Pound Lane leading to the ground has been closed for repairs to the gas main. He advised tackling the Lane from the east instead of the west. Not easy to do with the river Thames on one side.

Whether the confusion in trying to find the right detour – most of the roads were unmarked cul de sacs – could be blamed but our opening bowler Chris “Spinach” Wilton started by conceding ten runs in his first over,.  In our lineup was a club record of four Kiwis, three from the North Island and one from the South. Chris, a 25 year old Bournemouth supporter, comes from Poole and works in the same company as SP.

Another Kiwi, Grant “Lumber” Clark on debut, bowled two wayward overs and seized up. He is from his words Tokoroa (shitty little hick farm town with a timber mill) in NZ, and when I asked about all four of the kiwis sporting beards, he said it was Lumber-Sexual! He was feeling a 'bit stiff' after a sexy Blonde Essex lass narrowly slipped past his outside edge in a cab at 3am .Shaun Paterson soon took over and found a good length of a shortened run. Runky fulminated against yet another declaration game and said “We’ve just seen one of the greatest Test matches of all time and it showed people that its proper cricket, not mickey mouse cricket.”

 Marlow ruminates to an interested El Colleen, Kipper and Fish

Marlow ruminates to an interested El Colleen, Kipper and Fish

Michael “Fishy” Fischer arrived with a new set of kit and spun the ball appreciably on a low bounce pitch and had presentable figures of 7-6-58-2. Anything hit off the square shot over the rockhard straw – you can’t call it grass – to the boundary, boosted by a number of fielding indiscretions. The variable bounce hampered Alex Collier’s wicket keeping. There were 49 extras – 22 wides, 9 no balls, 14 byes and 4 leg byes. But well  short of our all time record.Don Pennant, a longtime friend of POB from Dulwich College Prep School  bowled beautifully for his 8-1-31-2  but we were unable to curb their number four Pete Stevens, a 26 year old talented tennis player who hit out ferociously with his 120 not out, his fourth century so far since they promoted him from the tail end. Don’s 14 year old son Leo had his turn with the ball as well, unsuccesfully.  Runky, 7-0-56-1, found it hard work after playing in another declaration exercise at the HAC twenty four hour earlier. 256-7 off 40 overs

We had one of our largest attendance of relatives and friends, all sheltering under trees – Shaun’s parents “Horse” and “Caps” and supporters, Mel and family friends of five from Norwich helping to celebrate Isabella’s 11th birthday

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There was a first appearance of the season for Gill and the Pennant family.  Don’s wife Allie recently finished the 14 miles Thames swim in five hours and the star was fifteen month old Emmy -Shaun’s wife’s niece. Luckily there were enough pots of tea and leftovers for those who showed up towards the end of the interval. Marlow’s total was attainable in the conditions but we needed a Kane Williamson or a Kohli.

Kieran Preston, now christened “Kipper” after  Colin Cowdrey when they realized KP wasn’t one of ours, was troubled by the Yips otherwise he could have stemmed the flow of runs.  He represented Central Districts in NZ in his younger days (mainly as a spinner) and played for Wanneroo in Australia.  “Kipper” and Shaun put on 93 for the first wicket and there was hope of an upset. Tight bowling, tighter than ours, kept the scoring rate behind the target  and “Kipper” was bowled for 49. “Fishy” was bowled by Jez `Barlow with his fastish off cutters and  Shaun was adjudged lbw by Guy, the home side’s veteran umpire, also dismissed by Barlow for 49.How's that for double-Kiwi Jug avoidance!

Our last star batsman Alex Collier was hitting out cleanly until he went down the pitch and lifted his head and was bowled the persistent Barlow. An interesting aspect of the game was the introduction of their 12 year old leg-spin bowler Joe Hoggen – quite a prospect. He turned the ball two or more feet and flighted and ball and troubled all of our batsmen.  After he was asked to bowl he came up to hand his cap to our umpire (LP) and said “I’m sorry, it’s all wet. I tried to cool myself.” A sensible young man. After going for two sixes he almost burst into tears and one of the seniors gave him a consuling hug.Leo, 2, didn’t stay long and it was down to POB to go for a big one but after whacking a six towards the packed pavilion, he was another of Barlow’s victims, bowled for 21

 POB misses a straight one caught by our grim reaper cameraman SP

POB misses a straight one caught by our grim reaper cameraman SP

Alex Cumming, a newcomer introduced by Louise Scovell, came out at eight to carve an elegant two to third man and followed up by one of the best dives ever seen at Higginson Park, full length a la Jurgen Klinsmann.  And he got to his feet unmarked. Bowled for 2 by Barlow whose 8-0-53-5 sent Peckers  to a  36 run defeat.

 Grant 'Lumber' Clark tries to sweep up some wood chippings on debut

Grant 'Lumber' Clark tries to sweep up some wood chippings on debut

 

When “Spinach” was bowled there was only one ball remaining from the 40th over and no new batsmen appearing LP yanked out the stumps. Guy was confused and after a delay he intimated the two minutes were about to elapse, curtailing the innings.  Suddenly Don Tennant, helped by Leo  by putting his pads on, emerged and ran out to the wicket. Their last bowler hurled down a short delivery and Don cracked it to the cover boundary, the shot of the day.  The batsmen came in at 220-9, an honourable defeat by 36, or, as Runky claims, a “draw.”

Marlow Park is 127 years going strong and they are nice people to play and we’ll be back next year, welcome guests. Our run of five victories came to an end, but another cracking day at Marlow.

 

Malden Wanderers

 Fish, Greggles, Pob, Sp, Beearon, Spinach, Kipper, Tiddles, Steve, Woody, Henners

Fish, Greggles, Pob, Sp, Beearon, Spinach, Kipper, Tiddles, Steve, Woody, Henners

When George Orwell wrote ‘All animals are equal but some are more equal than others’ he surely had this fixture in mind as the Stags took on the Woodpeckers, replete with Fish and Kipper, in a 35 over bash at Cambridge Avenue. A decent track and a gloriously hot day meant that batting first was a must. The two excellent Skippers, POB and Dave Bateman, first tried to negotiate the toss then, realising both wanted to bowl first (are they mad?) tossed the coin. Stags won and the Woodies batted first. Steve Morgan, a Stags player making his debut for the Woodies, opened with the Kipper. ‘Any advice Skipper?’ asked the Kipper. ‘Yes’ came the reply, ‘Watch for rippers and the odd flipper’. The Kipper solemnly took his place.

Steve started the early scoring with some aggressive pulls only to drag on for 5. Henners played two glorious shots for 4 before hitting one straight to cover leaving the Woodies at 17-2. Henners was disappointed with his dismissal slapping his pad with bat. Fortunately he didn’t realise the bowler, Sam Hopkins, had arrived from Costa Rica that morning after an 10 hour flight with no sleep.

 An excellent Boules contest ends with Bugsy showing her bowling as accurate as her husband's

An excellent Boules contest ends with Bugsy showing her bowling as accurate as her husband's

This brought the Fish and Kipper together and the latter, who’d been living up to his nickname, began to awake from his slumber. The Fish and Kips partnership flourished just as you would expect from, well, you know the rest. 69 was added in fine style with the Kipper, with a passing resemblance to, and playing like, Kane Williamson unfurling a gorgeous off drive for 4. The Fish departed for 29 and the Kipper for 47 which brought to together Greggles and Woody, the latter making his annual appearance against his club side

 Lucky Snapper Sp catches the moment of Kipper's jug avoidance

Lucky Snapper Sp catches the moment of Kipper's jug avoidance

. A partnership of 32, to which the veteran contributed 6, was ended when the old boy hit a fabulous cover drive straight into the hands of mid-wicket.

 Sp caught that moment as well! 

Sp caught that moment as well! 

(Note: Please read the following sentence in the voice of Richie Benaud) Greg soon followed for an excellent 61 with two sixes one of which went into the Wendy house and out again

 This may have been Greggles Wendy House Special

This may have been Greggles Wendy House Special

The inevitable Peckers collapse ensued as 5 wickets fell for 17 runs... Spinach with 9, SP with 1 and Tiddles failing to trouble the scorers brought the final pair together. The 10th wicket partnership of 21 between POB (19*) and the Baron (4*) added gloss to a good performance against a spirited attack and the innings closed at 202-9.

A word about our opponents. They were a very young side with 9 players 17 or under. They play the game in the correct way with great spirit and determination and this was all part of their learning curve. Hear Hear -The young lads played with a professionalism and courtesy one could only admire. The skipper’s sons Matt with 3-34 and Nick 3-16 took the honours but 8 bowlers were given their chance. Liz’s teas were as usual, very good,( fish finger sandwiches, scones with cream, home made choc chip cookies and an ice lolly to finish the highlights of the best tea of the season)and a leisurely interval ensued.

 Marvellous Crowd -include the SP family -Horse, Caps and Bugsy. Spinach's -Wilts, Curly Kale and GF Avocado + a full complement of Palmettas and Palmerinos 

Marvellous Crowd -include the SP family -Horse, Caps and Bugsy. Spinach's -Wilts, Curly Kale and GF Avocado + a full complement of Palmettas and Palmerinos 

Time to bowl. Tiddles and Spinach took the new ball but found Sam Gerrard and Dan Shepherd, the young openers in fine form. The score began to mount but POB, with some judicious bowling changes, began to slow the scoring. Sam miscued a pull sending it spiralling to deep gully. Greggles and Kipper both move towards it. Each could easily catch it. Woody shouts ‘Greg’s’. Kipper dutifully stops; the ground holds its breath. Greg stood beneath the easy catch and easily dropped it 'The second sitter he's dropped off his twin Tiddles in as many seasons.... Spin at both ends now with the Baron and Henners in charge. Henners is given a break and Greg bowls a few mean overs. I had to whip of a spinner prematurely and thought Henners would be the easier one to manage, but no he threw a fit the Beearon himself would have been proud of, bleating 'Four overs good, two overs bad at a horrified skipper'   Still the score mounts until POB produces a masterstroke, he invites LP to umpire. 5 balls later and Sam is plumb lbw to the Baron for a well made 46. (96-1). With LP umpiring at one end, Jim Baker at the other and Woody keeping wicket it’s fair to observe that between them they have about 1000 Woodies games and the total of their ages far exceed the total of the whole Malden side put together. Woody manages to stump Nick Bateman off Henners and Dan is run out by a Greggles underarm trying to increase the scoring rate for a classy 78. (170-3). POB takes a well judged catch in the deep, Steve fields well and Spinach is outstanding on the boundary as the pressure is applied as the scoring rate increases.  We are presented with two or three excellent opportunities for run outs but, with a commendable lack of skill, we fail to take any of them. Last over 10 to win. Greg is given the task. 5 yorkers, 2 wickets and 1 good length ball later and we’re home by 4 runs. Tiddles with 1-44, Henners 1-32, Baron 1-30, Greg 2-25 and SP 2-25 shared the wickets. A fantastic game of cricket, a glorious day and a super venue. Beer was drunk and the teams made plans for next year. Two equal sides but one just a little more equal than the other. George would have been pleased. Thanks Woody for a great report, excellent keeping and arranging a marvellous fixture that seems to always produce a nail-biter. Thanks lads for a great team performance and 5 wins in a row for the Woodpeckers!

Woodpeckers 202-9 beat Malden Wanderers 198-8 by 4 runs

Blackheath

 “Summer afternoon” – wrote Henry James – “to me, those have always been the most beautiful words in the English language.” And it was a shimmering heat haze greeting those headed south this past Sunday, this glorious spell supplying another day ideal for smooth ale, village cricket and sunburn.

Nestled in the Surrey Hills south of Guildford, Blackheath is a timeless example of the sleepy English village on the road to somewhere else, which – until the area was beset by panting sales executives with carbon-forked road bikes – could have happily hosted a grizzly Midsomer Murder. A strong playing community, the ground is a delight to encounter off the beaten track, nestled in heathland, encased in oak. An excellent clubhouse, with Hogsback TEA in the bar and a prominent television, offered an impromptu “Fan-zone” for soccer enthusiasts.

In his call to arms, Skip POB evidently decided he wanted a sighter of three debutants and had – alarmingly – called for a net before play. This had the startling effect of producing a strong and early arrival, with some showing up more than an hour before play, even Runky a generous 20 minutes before 2pm.

 Roger's faithful terrier Ernie arrives early for a net, and checks out the arid outfield

Roger's faithful terrier Ernie arrives early for a net, and checks out the arid outfield

Taters nonetheless still managed to be 30 minutes late, arriving with the fair Jane and a lavish and artfully constructed excuse. Colin, with a 6am finish on his belt, was physically present but notably absent as we took the field at 2:15. 

A coinless toss negotiated, the Peckers were field-bound. MD of the Sports-Sphere James “Roger” Harper, his colleague Nick “Melon” Hopcroft, and Chris “Spinach” Wilton had all been co-opted into a debut for the Peckers. Melon is a top 10 in the world Rackets player and had impressed with bat and ball in the nets, and (formerly a hockey goalie of repute) a hesitant Roger was persuaded to take the gloves. Hopcroft was thrown the new nut and bowled like a top 10 rackets player for several fruitless overs, in combination with Horse, whose rich variety of deliveries kept everyone guessing.

 Debutantes -Roger'n' Ernie, Melon, Spinach and Jane

Debutantes -Roger'n' Ernie, Melon, Spinach and Jane

Hopcroft was thrown the new nut and bowled like a top 10 rackets player for several fruitless overs, in combination with Horse, whose rich variety of deliveries kept everyone guessing.The youngsters of Blackheath were fearless, smashing the generous number of bad balls across the fast running outfield. Horse managed to bowl their pinch hitter with his surprise straight one and a couple of catches added to his tally. Spinach entered the fray with a slingy bowling action reminiscent of Lasith Malinga - had the Sri Lankan been a bushy blond Chartered Surveyor – and kept the hard-working Roger up to his task behind the stumps. Bereft of inners, Roger was suffering a severe case of Hurty Finger Syndrome, and after 18 overs surrendered the gloves to a reluctant Colin, still seeing in triplicate, for whom keeping wicket was a bruising experience, particularly standing up.

On a hard and bouncy outfield, it would be fair to say that the Peckers’ fielding was moderate… if we are being generous. Blackheath, for all its beauty, is an unforgiving mistress to the fielding gentleman, and – like any good mistress – has a number of humps, bumps, and slopes to navigate. That said, the number of dropped catches. missed stops and wayward throws told of a side unused to applying the basic principles of fielding, preferring those of the Muay Thai gracefully demonstrated by Cannon. Certainly ducks, kicks and punches were more common than long barriers and soft hands. I managed to headbutt one to extra cover going for a catch

The bowlers toiled in the hot weather and wickets fell only with hard work. Runky and SP both bowled well for no reward, the Baaron’s guile and flight wonderful as ever, and SP unlucky with an LBW shout turned down by Horse’s sire, which left him short on gruntle and long on chunter. Taters’ artful pause in the delivery stride won him many admirers, though it was hard to imagine it wasn’t more for effect for his watching belle. He snaffled a wicket to spare Colleen’s blushes, who wore more than he caught behind the sticks.

Several bats made good starts, particularly McMullan, who struck the ball fiercely and confidently with traditional Aussie technique. He finally fell LBW to Melon for 70, who celebrated with an impromptu Gala. This dangerous player out of the way, Blackheath lost their momentum towards tea. They lost the tidy and technical Harrison for 49 to a real Honeydew soon after and their next man soon hoisted a full tossed Spinach high to midwicket where the camp bellow of “HORS-EEES” prefaced a safe pouch by the equine, grazing in the meadow. The old beast cantered across and it nestled in his girth, much to the delight of the watching Gowar stable.

And, with this, the Blackheath innings fizzled, leaving them 255-7, bizarrely the same score and chase that Withyham had set us just seven days previously. That had ended in a tense final over finale. To Tea. Delicious it was with Hot sausage rolls and coronation chicken sanis the highlight...oh and Spain going out on penalties

“A gun is no more dangerous than a cricket bat in the hands of a madman”, Prince Philip once said, and those words must have echoed in the minds of Blackheath at the sight of Ade Potter manfully striding towards the crease for a brief stay in an opening role. Surprisingly, he was partnered by Tris Sheehan, a wonderful batsman and Pecker of lore. It was mainly surprising as he had been nothing to do with the first innings of the match but somehow Skip had negotiated a change of personnel.

 The unlikely opening combo of Tris and Potty

The unlikely opening combo of Tris and Potty

 

Tris scored quickly and dramatically for 18, before making way to Taters and Colleen who took the match to Blackheath. It was powerful stuff from this combination, and one would imagine the young bowlers of Blackheath will have nightmares about the combination of speed and ferocity with which these two went about their business; Colleen wide-eyed and staring, Taters oozing class and bravado for the watching J They would add 93 for the 3rd wicket before Colleen’s dismissal to a full bunger for an enigmatic 59.

Momentum has become a sporting cliché in modern times but Colleen’s wicket, a brief…. purposeful display from Cannon, and Taters’ lovelorn capitulation (also 59) brought what looked like a rapid-fire victory chase to an emergency stop. Roger and Melon found themselves at the crease, and with a combined 15 years absence from the middle, resembled archaeologists painstakingly trying to identify the middle of the bat.

Overs ticked by, time slowed. They scratched around. They pilfered a single. An edge for four. A chance. Four Byes. POB became more vocal. The scoreboard showing 255, modest for so long, began to take on a more ominous presence.

Bit by bit, they began to find their feet, and fluency began to re-assert itself in these two fine sportsmen in a glacial partnership of 73. There was plenty of time for Melon’s annual performance review in the middle. Blackheath helped the cause, with some mis-fields and the fast boundary offering a healthy contribution in Extras. With 30 required and 5 in hand, the match seemed settled.

Now a Blackheath breakthrough, Harper clean bowled. They sensed their chance. The excellent McMullen quickly took a marvellous C&B to dismiss Hopcroft. From nowhere the Peckers were 7 down and 20 short. A limping SP and POB were at the crease, trying to eek out a 4th consecutive win. They nudged and nurdled to within a hairs breath of victory until a swing and a feather edge from POB (trigger finger from Cannon, irked by his batting position) brought Horse to the non-striker end. SP was man enough to see off a few hair-raising balls and carefully waited for the bad ball. He was inspired by his 'olds' Horse and Caps arrived from New Zealand for a two month stay of following their favourite cricket team

The Peckers would win this one in a late finish, against the fine young men of Blackheath, a real treat of a fixture in the calendar. As ever, an enormous thanks to our gracious hosts for their hospitality, a good game, excellent tea and excellent TEA - a delicious taster of a glorious slice of English country life. 

HORSE

Glorious report horse, and incredibly the second match in a row that the Peckers have chased exactly 255-7, the joint 3rd highest run chase in Pecker history to make it 4 wins in a row-Great effort lads, particularly the same equine for his 3 wickets and Taters, Collleeen, Roger and Melon for their splendid knocks

Jane had appeared in the Teddington report last year ...with references to Taters giving advice on which university she might attend on account of receiving her A-levels results only that Friday...and other glorious innuendo which i won't repeat

We now got to meet the lovely Jane, now a fully fledged 'Tater' so it seemed appropriate to find a nickname -Pa Taters is known as Spud and Ma T as Mavis(Piper). On googling young potatoes I came across this...

Italians do the same—as I learned years ago when I saw a young man passionately embrace una bella ragazza (a pretty girl) whom he called “la mia patatina.” 

“Did he just call her his little potato?” I asked. A Facebook friend has since explained why: La patata cotta bene diventa morbida e gustosa (The potato, cooked well, becomes soft and tasty). So It's Patatina ...or possibly Tina for short

blackheath team.jpg

Withyham

Having suffered defeat in their two previous encounters with Withyham CC, the Woodpeckers were chomping at the bit to exact revenge.

Our Scribe Freddie 'fingers' Russell-Flint on debut supplied an excellent Pecker Packer, a glorious Volvo to ferry the South-East londoners. Swampy over from Singapore and Mike 'Fishy' Fischer on debut, who when we approached him for a Penge Pick-up , Merv was heard to exclaim 'Yes!' as he appeared to be Merv's long-lost Kiwi Brother . Fingers was already living up to his Rugby Captain Cyoungy/Shylock's synopsis 'FRF good Athelete, great team man. Stick him at Cover. Give him a bowl - Seam up / wicket to wicket'

 The Fingers-Mobile

The Fingers-Mobile

So pumped for the occasion were the ‘Peckers that they treated themselves to a three course Fathers Day lunch and several pints of Harveys an hour before play. With their bellies full of Sussex’ finest ale and Sunday roast beef, this eclectic mix of Aussies, Kiwis, Swingaporians, Yorkshiremen and Sticky Bandits took to the field with a tangible air of lethargy.The excitement from an hour ago had drastically subsided; what they really needed was a siesta but having lost the toss they had little choice but to take up their positions in the field. And what a field it was; set within the stunning grounds of Buckhurst Park, backing onto the idyllic Dorset Arms pub and with a handful of Shetland ponies as spectators, this is what village cricket dreams are made of. Not even Henry Walpole’s purple Nissan Micra could ruin the view.

Olly Mott opened the bowling against the combo of Bellamy and Whitehead for Withyham. Motty’s first run in to bowl was abruptly stopped by what was presumably an unexpected bowel movement after his roast beef, but once it had settled he went again with more confidence. The Withyham openers were on form and started to score relatively freely, perhaps capitalising on the Peckers lacklustre start. Motty was going well but, by his own admission, wasn’t firing on all cylinders; his second spell proving he had plenty more gears to climb. Nevertheless, he stuck to the task, his speed and accuracy increasing with every ball, until he was in the groove. At the other end, Tom ‘Merv’ Walker was sending his medium-fast bullets into the opposition, but it was proving tricky to crack this opening pair.

Henry Walpole and Jack ‘Cannon’ Dacombe took on the bowling duties next in an attempt to break up the Withyham openers. Cannon’s new, lean and muscular physique was proving handy; Bellamy was clearly regretting his decision to head out sans-helmet and it was only a matter of time before the Cannon finally got one on target to capitalise on Bellamy’s unprotected stumps. To the Peckers’ delight, they’d taken their first wicket with Dacombe sending the bails flying towards the pavilion, only narrowly missing Northern Rob’s eye. Next in for Withyham was the formidable Hancock, fresh off the back of a solid 140 the previous week. With a reclaimed bat from a local bin, Hancock got off to a quick start. He scored 24 quick runs, but ultimately his eagerness lead to his downfall. Henry Walpole’s wizzardry left Hancock bamboozled and way out of his crease, giving the experienced Swingaporian Woodpecker from Western Australia, Ross Marsh, the opportunity to react quickly and stump the dangerous batsman. The Peckers had a massive wicket and a new spring in their step. However, the spring soon turned back into a limp with the arrival of Freddie ‘Fingers’ Russell Flint bowling towards the Pavilion. Bowling is not like riding a bike, and it doesn’t naturally come flooding back after years without playing. The combination of Fingers’ ineptness and the technical ability of new batsman, Brunsdon, meant an expensive couple of overs for the Peckers. To add further humiliation, the Woodpeckers captain, POB, wasted no time in pulling Fingers off very prematurely in front of everyone.  Sorry Fingers, The scoreboard was whirring and was regretting the lunch decision and call of heads...Fortunately at the other end, Northern Rob Johnston of the ECB was causing all sorts of problems for the batsmen with his lethal leg spin. So deadly was it, he even caught ‘Swampy’ Marsh, at wicket keeper, in the chin. With two wickets and a maiden for just 35 runs off eight overs, this low-cost spell was exactly what the Peckers needed and Rob’s daughter, Connie, and Wife, Zoe, were there to witness his debut performance. He’d later go on to score a 50, so they can be immensely proud.

 Runky sadly absent at least supplied the stumps (loaded with THC)

Runky sadly absent at least supplied the stumps (loaded with THC)

At the other end Mike ‘Fishy’ Fischer came on to replace the disgraced Fingers, and he proved to be a real handful with his lofty leg spin. One of two Kiwis in the side, Fishy’s athleticism was clear to see and he duly picked up his first wicket by way of a very nonchalant catch out near the boundary by his Yorkshire doppelganger, Merv Walker. The combination of Northern Rob, Fishy and Walpole kept Withyham at bay over the next few overs, taking a couple of wickets along the way, despite the hosts maintaining a steady run rate of around seven. The fielders were doing a good job in damage limitation given the small boundary and the energy levels had clearly increased towards the end of the innings, with Chris Doneley finally sobering up enough to join the party. Withyham can be proud of the strength in depth that they have in their batting order; with every wicket the Peckers took there was fresh hope of a weaker batsman taking the field, but this was rarely the case and it kept the Peckers bowlers and fielders having to work hard for an entire 40 overs. Jack Dacombe’s new athletic build allowed him to make some tremendous – and uncharacteristic – stops at mid-on and Fishy is surely made of rubber as there’s no other way of explaining some of his fielding. Fingers also is a tremendous fielder

For the final spell, POB brought back on Motty and Cannon to add some pace and fear into the attack. Cannon’s power continued to impress, whilst Motty had gone up a gear or two. Every ball spelled danger and he eventually finished up with an impressively economic one wicket and one maiden for just 27 off eight overs. After forty overs, Withyham finished on 255 for seven which would make for an incredibly exciting chase.

After a well-deserved (and delicious) tea, the Woodpeckers openers headed out to the crease. Northern Rob on debut and Kipper Preston (Fishy’s best man) on his second outing were off to a flying start and the standard of cricket being played all round was mightily impressive. The quality of batting was testament to the calibre of bowling on display and it was a pleasure to watch. Rob didn’t take long to reach his 50, but seven runs later, when the drizzle arrived, he conveniently lofted a nice gentle catch to mid-on and gladly made his way back to the pavilion to give his wife and daughter a sweaty hug.

 Connie congratulates Daddy who politely fell on his sword after scoring 50

Connie congratulates Daddy who politely fell on his sword after scoring 50

Fishy went out to join his best mate, Kipper, having not batted for eight years. He scored a quick four runs but sadly his time at the crease was cut short by Whitehead who bowled him cleanly. Next in was Henry Walpole, raring to go after last week’s century. A quality batsman, Henners dispatched his first ball for a beautiful boundary straight out of the middle of the bat. Textbook would be an understatement. After a spell of quick singles between the wickets, Henners, perhaps tiring a little, decided that boundaries were the most pragmatic way forward. And so, after a couple of fours, he hooked a delightful six down at square leg. In his own words, he was ‘seeing it like a football’. Unfortunately, what he hadn’t seen was the Withyham fielder who had moved to deep square leg, and without further ado he was caught by playing the exact same shot the very next ball. You live and learn.

Fortunately for the Woodpeckers, the Swamp Dog, Ross Marsh, came in to keep the run rate at a constant seven, with the ever-impressive Kipper from Nelson, New Zealand, showing no signs of slowing down his relentless pursuit of 255. The Swamp-Kipper partnership proved to be vital to the Peckers’ chase with 120 between them and Kipper celebrating his first century for the Woodpeckers (in just two games) without any hint of relinquishing his wicket. It was a batting masterclass and the jugs of Harveys post-match were thoroughly deserved.

However, as the drizzle became heavier and the outfield slower, the run-rate simply would not get above seven and therefore it was still neck and neck. In the dying moments of a nail-biting match, with the Woodpeckers requiring nine runs from eight balls, the heroic Kipper finally lost his wicket to Whitehead and it was all to play for. Whilst Kips was welcomed into the pavilion to mighty applause, Patrick Owen-Browne nervously John-Wayned out to the middle. Noticing the depleted energy levels of Swampy, who, by his own admission, couldn’t have managed any more quick runs between wickets, POB wasted no time whatsoever running out his team mate on 46. Ruthless, but both men knew it had to be done! I think the weight of a week of partying in London and Australia losing at Cricket, Football and Rugby Union the day before were finally taking their toll'

It was do or die. POB’s destiny was in his own hands as he faced the impressive Withyham captain, Henry Smith, for the final five balls of the match. You could almost touch the electricity in the air. Even the wives and girlfriends were watching now and the Shetland ponies had stopped munching on grass, eagerly awaiting what was about to unfold. Could POB really pull this off? Could he see properly without his specs in this drizzle? What they saw was a cricketing miracle. POB caught the ball right in the sweet spot, sending it off for four runs at backward point, expertly placed between the fielders. The Peckers could smell triumph. Two runs required from three balls and still POB on strike. Poor old Chris Doneley at the other end wouldn’t have much say in the outcome, or perhaps he would with his lingering alcoholic fumes putting the bowler off his stride. Either way, after an uncharacteristic swing and miss, POB then caught it cleanly again and as the ball rolled over the boundary the Woodpeckers finally had the taste of sweet victory, tainted only by the fact that they’d have to endure Patrick Owen-Browne reminiscing about this day for years to come: the day when he single-handedly pulled his team from the jaws of defeat to deliver a sucker punch to Withyham CC and make amends for two previous encounters with the hosts!

. Kipper, Northern Rob and Swampy must receive particular mentions for their monumental individual performances whilst Jack Dacombe’s new dynamism will surely be a welcome bonus this season. 'hear hear ,a great team effort and everyone played a part...sorry for the run-out Swampy'

Withyham were excellent hosts and made the whole day hugely enjoyable from start to finish. Hopefully future matches can continue in similar vein.

 KP/Kipper gets the Harveys in

KP/Kipper gets the Harveys in

 A brace of Pecker Marshies

A brace of Pecker Marshies

 Something to ponder

Something to ponder

Tilford

In 1992, a London lawyer on a fact-finding mission to Ukraine found himself in the office of the British Commercial Attaché, Phylidda Charlton-Fitzpaine, being introduced to the commercial opportunities that could be unlocked by the British Embassy. The attaché noted how the lawyer seemed transfixed by the picture over her shoulder – a British Airways poster of as immutably English a scene as one might imagine – of cricket being played on a chocolate box pitch, a pub nestled alongside. “Do you like my poster?” She asked.“Not only can I tell you that is Tilford Green”, the lawyer replied, “but the bowler is Nigel Martyn, their opening quick”.

Last Sunday, you would have found that same lawyer enjoying the Woodpeckers annual match against Tilford, on that very ground amongst the rolling Surrey Hills, inexplicably sporting a screaming Hawaiian shirt and a pint of TEA. Could it be the sire of the old horse?

 Is that Potter batting at 3??

Is that Potter batting at 3??

And there was much to enjoy: delightful local ales in the Barley Mow, a fine match tea, balmy summer heat, runs scored, wickets taken. Most importantly, a declaration cricket match played in the village spirit with a charming mix of modern and traditional, local and imported, young and old.

Skip POB shrewdly lost the toss and the Peckers were inserted onto a decent strip. Whilst the wicket itself is relatively flat, visitors to Tilford will have been struck by the pitch itself being actually one of the rolling Surrey hills, a chaotic and dangerous place to field or, indeed, park. The short boundaries and dry undulating outfield offer copious runs, but an equal number of dings, dents and bruises to the players, spectators and vehicles watching on.

Botty came and went early, the PoY curse in full early season form, leaving Cousin in his flailing Tyrwhitt to make the early running with a swift 37 including two 6s, one of which clattered into Horse’s oldest foal Freddie, who seemed none the worse or wiser for the incident. Potter briefly held an end up before bringing one of two debutants for the Peckers to the crease.

A splendid English chap with a splendid English name, Henry Walpole stole the show at this splendid English village. With his bristly beard and ability to catch the eye of the ladies, it was though Henry VIII had marched to the wicket. His hitting was precise and powerful, clattering into Bentleys or Beemers without fear or favour.

henry V111.png
 Henners cuts another 4

Henners cuts another 4

With Cousin’s dismissal, our next debutant, KP arrived at the crease. A crafty Kiwi with a heavy bat and a wonderful air of relaxed exuberance, he lent the side a look of professionalism – a lovely technique, full of high elbows and effortless flourishes he set about the role of Thomas Cromwell, a steadying and guiding hand on the shoulder of the wild and reckless monarch.

This was a partnership for the ages. The third highest tally for the 4th wicket in Peckers history, 157 runs were scored between the two, taking us from 55-3 to 212-4, Henners raising his bat on his ton, with 13 4s and 2 6s to his name. 109 wonderful runs all told, with only a brief Mankad runout from C Thomas (more later) nearly ruining his beaming enthusiasm for the game. KP was unlucky not to reach 50 having scored an immaculate 48, without a chance offered, until he was clean bowled by Austin. The arrival of KP meant our names were more confusing than ever with KP, SP and LP joined by Motty, Botty and Potty

 A Sweaty celebration

A Sweaty celebration

In truth, we had scored our runs a little too quickly if such a thing is possible, giving POB a difficult declaration to judge from the middle. He worked impishly for his 27 – now in his very late 40s – POB has become something of a Moeen Ali figure in the Peckers set up, a difficult to dislodge middle order bat with a penchant for scampering between the wickets. A contribution from Meekers took the Peckers to a declaration just after 4:30 at 265-6.

Tea was taken in the charming Tilford clubhouse, served up by the delightful ladies of the village. Henners roving eye was tamed by the sandwiches and fine brownies before any beheadings could be served up. Many will remember much of the Russell Crowe vehicle Robin Hood was filmed locally; in part because of the quality of the oak trees are rather more like Sherwood Forest than anything that Nottingham now has to offer. The charming Tilfordians retired to their shade whilst their batsman crafted a reply.

But there, they had little joy. A blistering spell of opening swing from Puggy from one end and an electric SP from the other had them ducking and weaving like the French under longbow fire. SP bagged two quick wickets before a third coming through a catch of epic proportions. Gloveman Botty was his usual cantankerous self behind the sticks, by turns astonishing us with his cricketing prowess and grizzly chuntering. A solid nick from Lyon saw our Pecker of the Year take off to his right in a manner not often seen by people of his bone density. SP finally got reward for his excellent bowling with 3-25

A stunning take and a wonderful wicket that brought young Wellingtonian and +1 golfer Chris Thomas to the crease. Horse’s foursomes partner the previous day at Woking, their day suggested that we could clear all the straight fieldsmen out. However, he batted with great aggression and verve, offering ball striking that would have been more than welcome the day before.

With Tilford in trouble, Skip threw the ball to Horse to see if could snaffle his partner in crime. Horse served up an exciting array of balls, many of which astonished those watching with the speed of their dispatch to the boundary.

 Horse perhaps confused to not be the only horse on the course

Horse perhaps confused to not be the only horse on the course

Tilford however were up against it despite this buffet of filth, with Walpole now turning his arm to some of the most spectacular spin the green has ever seen. By this time mopping a saturated brow, Henners still managed to pick his spot and took three magnificent wickets, full of guile, flight and spin. (3-22)

The ghost of Motty – oddly silent throughout the day – appeared at one end and took two breezy wickets before disappearing as magically as he had appeared. The only remaining challenge was Thomas, who had doggedly and determinedly reached his 50.

Unleashed with only pride to save for the villagers, he played some wonderful strokes off Meekers who was unfairly punished by his eye for the ball, and very unfortunate not to have the stumping he deserved to his name. The final ball was delivered by Cousin, with Thomas closer to the non-striker’s end, who hit when he missed, all out for 161, a brave 91 of those runs scored by Thomas.

The players retired with their wonderful hosts to the Barley Mow, where Man of the Match Walpole on debut regaled his court, with jugs of mead and Traditional English Ale, bringing the curtain down on a very traditional English day.

 Henners Sports his MCC Espodrils

Henners Sports his MCC Espodrils

 

 

Headley

As per usual it was in dribs and drabs that the Woodpeckers arrived at the picturesque Headley ground, on a glorious June summer’s day. Memories of last years fixture; the record breaking 10th wicket partnership, unveiling of the Owen-Browne bench, and lashings of ale were recalled in the Lancer on the way from CJ.

 Rumours abound that both teams had tardy players, led to the agreement of a 15-minute delayed start. After losing the toss, the peckers were put into field. The green looking wicket manged to convince our diligent treasurer that today would be the day for the newly purchased Duke’s to make an appearance.

pob bench.jpg

The opening bowling fell to the responsible shoulders of Pug who made things happen with that duke. Two dropped catches in the first over – a tough one to Ali in the slips, but then new pecker Donner should really have held onto the second chance at mid-wicket. (To be fair he is coming out of the 6-year semi-retirement home that we seem to recruit most peckers from) Doner also got redemption as he took a nice catch later on Behind the stumps it seemed like Pug had it on a string, and it could only be a matter of time before his first scalp? In normal sports writing this is where one might pose the question would the Woodpeckers go onto rue these gilt-edged chances? Alas, avid readers of the match report and even casual observers, may not be surprised to read that opener Paul went onto to top score for Headley with a decent 42 runs. Tiddles opened from the other end and ran in beautifully for his 7 overs. Finishing with figures of 2-28, that could have been bettered had it not been for a couple of wayward deliveries in his 4th. The short boundaries at Headley meant all the bowlers had to be on their game.

After the swooping 1st over, the duke stopped doing things and the green wicket was our only ally. Despite tight bowling after 5 overs Pug was given a breather and on came an actually fresh-faced Motty. He started slowly but improved against thr left/right batting combo that we seemed to face all innings, keeping his discipline whilst running in over and around the wicket. Motty’s bowling was rewarded by a double wicket maiden in his sixth, with double catches at 2nd/3rd/gully hybrid position by Ali. The second low and at his feet was an excellent catch. Perhaps the finest slip catch in my 3 years with the peckers. At the other end the now heavily worn duke had been tossed to the baron.

After words were had between The Baron and No.7 Barton Snr. (whom was dealing in boundaries and ended up with a quickfire 28) came the first controversial moment in the game. In the previous over Barton Snr. had hit one achingly just over the head of POBs at Long off. Now firmly entrenched on the boundary rope Barton Snr. looped another one straight at him but this time it was falling 10 yards short. A diving attempt from POBs resulted in the longest catch I have seen taken in my three years as a pecker. After spilling the initial attempt, the ball was juggled on thigh, elbow, chest, a couple of palms and then eventually was cleanly taken. Given out by the watching spectators close by Barton was not a happy man to be walking off the field. The Baron finished with 3-58 and it was left to Ali and Gav to clean up the tail enders with a wicket apiece. Headley had set us a total of 169.

Tea was a casual affair with simple sandwiches and cakes. This was my first appearance this season without experiencing the delightful baking of Peckerette Tamsin. Oh, how I longed for a piece of your asparagus tart.

tilford 2018.jpg

The left/right combination that had served Headley well had already been a plan of action for POBS. With openers Ali and Gav, we had a fluid 3 and 4 depending on whether the left or the right hander got out. After two overs, we had our answer, with a very contentious LBW from LP that Ali may have middled. We only had to wait a further 4 overs for the next contentious decision. Cuddy whilst looking solid was given out LBW once again with valid shouts he had hit it. Woodpeckers 15-2, with both scalps coming from Barton Jnr.

Coleen came in at 4 and ably supported Gav in taking full advantage of the short boundaries. A quick and extremely powerful 31 was achieved before Barton Snr took a good catch to break the biggest partnership of our innings; 68 runs. This was my first time playing with the much-fabled Gav Scovell. Not only had I heard how accomplished a batsmen he is from Peckers past and present. On more than one occasion, when out covering square leg umpire, the oppo have enquired after Gavin and told tales of a demolition he had dealt out. It was a pleasure to watch. The remainder of the peckers batting performance was not a pleasure. With the score at 165-5 and Motty looking settled, I should not have made the observation that Myself, Pug and Tiddles were still padded up. Out went Mott, then the three of us all returned to the pavilion having not troubled the scorers. Within the space of nine balls the peckers had fallen to 165-9.

Out strode the Baron to the scene of his stunning innings to draw the match last year. Headley CC smelt blood and closed the field. We needn’t have worried as his huge stride and forward defence was impeccable. An edge to third man saw him off strike. Gav suitably carried his bat through to score 90 N.O. to see the Woodpeckers through to our first victory of the summer.

The result would have been so much worse had a correct no ball not been called by LP. With Gav hovering just below 50 a full toss was ducked and then died clipping the top of the bails on it’s way through. Headley CC were convinced LP had raised a finger when in fact it was only to his side to indicate a No Ball.

Mainly played in great spirit, it was fantastic to get our first victory on the board for the season. Up next is Tilford with their lovely short boundaries.

 LBW Score - LP 3- Jim 2 (against Peckers) no-one could accuse our umpires of being partisan

LBW Score - LP 3- Jim 2 (against Peckers) no-one could accuse our umpires of being partisan

Hampshire Hogs

Hampshire Hogs is a unique fixture for the Woodpeckers, as it is our only all-day game,  and they are a proper cricket team,founded in 1887,  they play against a variety of opposition, including MCC, I Zingari, Free Foresters and international touring sides ...and the Woodpeckers. It is a stunning ground in the heart of the Meon Valley, with a fabulous wicket and outfield  surrounded by beautiful rolling fields full of the most beautiful beasts in the world.  

 Highland Cattle

Highland Cattle

It was an absolutely glorious day at Warnford and we had a wonderful crowd supporting us. Betty and Billy the retriever pup, Jemmoty on full Debut as was Stef-Doner supporting Chris ‘Doner’ Donely . Tamsin and her God Father, Poppy Holme and Ed (who very kindly rescued Sebbie’s kite from a tree) Scovells and O-Bs made up a really great support team which was much appreciated.

Hampshire Hogs are easily our biggest cricketing challenge of the year as most village oppositions are made up of a mixture of good cricketers, kids, seniors and 'fun' players. Hampshire Hogs are all good cricketers and we've had to take strong sides over the years, had some great games and a few memorable wins. Over the years, their team has got stronger  and ours hasn't. It was also the first game of the season for many of our players, whereas the Hogs would have all played and netted.

As it's our only all-day game with lunch many of our bon-vivants led previously by Windy discussed endlessly on the whats-app groups about what combination of Port, Rose and Rjoja would create the perfect day, I tried not to react but did try to stress the sternness of the challenge and my 'Clear Eyes, Full Hearts...can't lose' speech largely fell on deaf ears. 

I put them into bat, wanting to avoid an embarrassingly low target and so we could at least field and bowl for a few hours before the Port took it's toll. SP continued his luckless spell for Peckers whilst bowling well, whilst Motty after confidently requesting the new cherry lacked the consistency we saw at Brook. He did induce Bert to leading edge one to mid on where Doby took a great catch running back.

fielding hogs.jpg

Cousin Le Davide came on and bowled decently down the hill though we worry that his Charles Tyrwhitt shirt may be restricting his pace.Cuddles and Doner were rusty turning their arms for the first time in 7 months, and we didn't really get the breaks either. Runs flowed and at lunch Hogs were 160-1, where Ale and Port duly flowed in certain directions, washing down the Pork Pies, Jersey Royals and excellent cheese board. Toby after deliberating endlessly about bringing the 1966 or 1986 Warres eventually plumped for quantity.

port.jpg

Interestingly...Methuselah is  the "Man of the dart/spear", or alternatively "his death shall bring judgment"[1]) is a biblical patriarch and a figure in Judaism and Christianity.  ..He is reported to have lived the longest of all characters mentioned in the Hebrew Bible at the age of 969. .. Methuselah was the son of Enoch, the father of Lamech, and the grandfather of Noah

Well the port was well received and I hope I can keep playing til at least the age of 969.One excellent plus point from this game was the debut of Henry Walpole, a keen cricketer, jolly fellow and former housemate of Doby and landlord Charlie Young aka Cyoungy or Shylock who coincidentally got married today to the lovely Lucy -Congrats to them both.

Henners bowled off-spin with excellent control both sides of lunch.  Eventually he bowled Olly Kelly for 83, and Botty trapped Henry lbw. Our Henners snaffled two more wickets and it could have been a five for on debut, but for some missed chances. Doby (normally our star fielder)’s fielding for some reason wasn’t quite as sharp after lunch..He missed 2 chances off his former housemate Henners, one apparently due to an over-hanging tree, and fluffed a regulation run out in comedy fashion as Merv did well to collect the throw but missed his shy at the stumps from two yards .Henners ended up bowling 17 overs, 3 for 65 a truly excellent spell in difficult circumstances  Cuddy fielded brilliantly and Big Merv produced an excellent display behind the stumps, but Hogs batted on and eventually declared on 297-5. 

 We really needed our big guns to fire, but the Hogs bowling was quick and accurate and the wickets fell with alarming regularity. Openers Immers (0) and Cous (7) only lurked briefly, and Botty still worrying about the Pecker of the year Curse was stumped for 13.  Doby provided brief respite, making a typically breezy 24, but then Henners (1) and Doner (8) were also quick to return to the safety of the pavilion.

As I walked out to join Cuddles, I noticed the the Scoreboard had been eerily possessed by the devil showing 66-6.  In the Textus Receptus manuscripts of the New Testament, the Book of Revelation (13:17–18) cryptically asserts 666 to be "man's number"   associated with the Beast, an antagonistic creature that appears briefly about two-thirds into the apocalyptic vision.In modern popular culture, 666 has become one of the most widely recognized symbols for the Antichrist or, alternatively, the devil. The number 666 is purportedly used to invoke Satan

We certainly needed an apocalyptic vision or possibly Satan padded up and ready to come in at 9. We were nowhere near two-thirds of the way there, and had a lot of time and overs left. We decided our only option was to try and bat sensibly, and  avoid a record loss for the Woodpeckers..The record is a loss by 165 runs at Withyham in 2004. and we needed to double the total to avoid an ugly re-write. We both defended the good balls, and I was lucky to have a few edges go in gaps as we gradually used up some overs and scored a few runs. Cuddles hit two glorious straight sixes after drinks at 20 overs and we got to 143-6 and within about 15 overs of a glorious victory...I mean draw.  But then we were both  dismissed in quick succession both edging to keeper Henry Wakefield, Cuddles for 35 and POB for 45.  Motty made a breezy 25 before he got carried away and became the 2nd Mott of the day to leave the crease and be stumped by the same Henry.

This gave Hog's Henry a day of 88 runs(unluckily dismissed), 4 catches and 2 stumpings in the match, a brilliant performance and a lovely lad. SP was given out as the 1st lbw of the day from the fastidious pro umpire and we were all out 174, a loss by 123 runs but at least not a complete massacre. 

It was a fabulous day and we stayed to enjoy some drinks, sunshine and chats with the opposition Henry Wakefield was given his man of the match drink and I awarded the Gette Cup to Charlie Browne. Sadly Chris Bazalgette who introduced us  to Hogs is unwell and couldn't make it, but we all wish the Gette well and look forward to seeing him next year.

We repaired to the Palace Spice in Battersea where a dozen peckers were joined by Hogs skipper Charlie Browne who didn't gloat too much and promised to bring back some seniors for next year. Another cracking Peckers occasion, but we may need an inspirational strategy to try and get our hands on the Gette Cup in 2019.

 Hogs and Peckers

Hogs and Peckers

 Gette Cup

Gette Cup

 After-Party

After-Party

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Ripley

As a new season begins following a long winter it was with great pleasure that the Peckers reconvened for their first match of the season at the wonderful Ripley Cricket Club, the picturesque Surrey village just outside Woking. The Pecker Packer & Botty arrived early having escaped the melee of the London marathon and with the nets open and available it was decided that some practice wasn’t a bad idea. However, this only resulted in pulled muscles and people playing themselves seemingly out of form. Big Merv being the exception working up a head of steam with his new wrist action and really impressing the onlooking skipper

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The team was soon joined by Mutley, the Palmer brothers, Immers and finally just before we took the field, The Baron. Skip, as befitting the first game of the season, lost the first toss and we were sent into the field.  The pitch was green as could expected with the earliness of the season and with the recent rain (they forgot to put covers on). Ripley moved to 27 before first teamer Hussain skied oned to the safe midriff of Tiddles.  Edges were then dropped - Some good bowling by Cousin resulted in an edge heading straight into Botty’s hands and straight out again.  Was this the beginning of the Pecker of the year curse?The very next over SP, who had the benefit of prodigious outswing, got one to nip away and Mutley dropped what all the Peckers thought was a sitter.  

Another 6 overs passed before the next chance and this was taken superbly by Cousin off his own bowling 51-2  By this point the Brothers Palmer had been brought into the attack. Tiddles with his superb line and inswing to complement the speed and accuracy of Greggles at the other end meant that the runs were kept to an absolute minimum and wickets started to fall at regular intervals, with the pair's ability to target the stumps. Panting was finally removed by Greggles skying one to cover where skip showed us how it is done. Tiddles carried the Pecker of the Year Curse last year, resulting in 0-111 with the ball and a batting average of 2.7. He threw off the curse with abandon....3-22 off his 8 , all clean bowled and a tremendous spell.

The skip decided that once Greggles had had enough that we needed to keep some pace on with the Baron at the other end and the ball was chucked to Merv. He certainly lived up to his moniker with a wide range of deliveries which saw his first over going for 10 with the Ripley number 8 charging at everyone (including Greggles) and then securing 3 wickets in his next, interspersed with a couple of wides. He finished with 4 for 14 of 2.3 overs with redemption coming for the Mutley taking an easy one and Botty closing the innings with a stunning catch to his right-hand side. Going into tea after only 32 overs having been set a target of 116 peckers were definitely up. Some glorious deliveries from Big Merv!

Tea, as usual for this wonderful club was a superb affair with a great selection of sandwiches, scones and cake. However, Tamsin out did herself with home made sausage rolls (and the best Dijon mustard) which really was a superb addition.

The Peckers innings saw Immers and Botty make their way to the crease and, having just hit a ball to the boundary, Immers was clean bowled the very next ball. Greasy made his way in and although his resemblance to Stuart Broad is uncanny he was unable to build an innings and was also bowled by the unwavering Cliff. Mutley joined Botty at the crease and the next over Botty was given out LBW by LP having hit the ball squarely into his pad. Botty didn’t move for a moment and even the Ripley field were slightly bemused by the decision (albeit they appealed) and Botty eventually trudged off, muttering under his breath.

SP, who had been having a net wondered out to the middle and with plenty of time available the bats agreed they could take their time. However, some chaotic early season calling from Mutley led to both of them standing in the middle as the bails were whipped off. Mutley bit the bullet but was joined back in the pavilion by SP shortly afterwards following a great catch at slip following a diversion off the keeper’s gloves. 25

25-5 and in some trouble but some stability was brought to proceedings by Cousin and Greggles who got the measure of the bowlers and got the scoreboard ticking along nicely, before Cous holed out for 15 playing an 8 iron where driver was required and Greggles unluckily played on for 23...56-7. Skip wondered out to the wicket and he played a captain’s innings top scoring for with 27. The partnership with Big Merv (10) took us well on the way to the target and those on the boundary thought these 2 had the measure of the wicket. Merv was bowled through his legs for 10 bringing Tid to the wicket who hit one glorious 6.. Ripley seemed to have left their best bowler till 4th change and he was quick and tight, but they managed to keep him out whilst scoring at the other end.  He skittled the Skip with the scores tied at 115 with only The Baron left to win the match for us. First ball he was hit on the pad, having in his own words ‘not being able to get any further forward’ ...Jim Baker's finger was raised and he was given out for a golden duck LBW. 

And so, with the scores tied we repaired to the club bar for some light refreshments with the opposition and reminisce of what might have been. At least an unbeaten season is still on. A great game to start the season with great all-round performances from Tiddles and Big Merv

Ripley 115 tied with Woodpeckers 115.

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Runky discusses the potential of the adjoining South Facing garden with it's owner

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Runky on his way to the crease

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Our two umpires with their two unlucky victims

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The last guard

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Greasy full of admiration for the Beeearon

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Botty reflecting on the POY curse and wondering why he forgot to bring the trophy

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Where is SP? Oh there he is!!” Stood next to him the whole time