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.
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.
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.
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.
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”
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.
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.