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'
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.
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.
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.