Marlow Park

The well-heeled, Michelin star adorned town of Marlow, home to the Paralympics and for one Sunday afternoon a year, home to the Woodpeckers annual fixture on Higginson Park. The Paralympics motto is “Spirit in Motion”, an accurate description of Woodpeckers at any point in the cricket season but without question it epitomised this performance.

No call for an 11th player the day before, despite the challenges of Ride London shutting down major routes out of the city, despite 2 days at the Edgbaston test with the Barmy Army, despite an awkward 7:30am moment that morning of a pecker being caught in flagrante and the expected plethora of hangovers, all were present and correct, ready to roll, ready to shine. Take note Paralympic committee, this is overcoming adversity, this is spirit in motion.  

Le Daviiide, shaking off the effects of a long drive from Dorset, which was punctuated with a bed purchase now expertly strapped to the top of his Land Rover, led out the peckers on a “nibbling” track. In the modern era of the game, it shouldn’t surprise us to see spin open from one end, it didn’t surprise Le Daviiide, dispatching the first two balls for well hit leg side pulls. What did come as a surprise to David was the spin on the 3rd ball, what came as a surprise to the umpire (Henners) was his decision to not offer a shot, out, lbw for 11. This would be something of a theme throughout the day, the nearby finish line of the Thames half marathon with professional PA system, was regularly outshouted by this cricket match.

Batting at 2 - SP with his wife Bugsy, and fresh after his birthday where he had been surprised by the arrival of his parents Horse and Caps over from NZ for a 2 month jaunt. Bugsy’s family were also on hand and the strong support for the peckers rewarded by a fine opening batting performance from SP, doing the openers job, seeing off the new pill.

Now joined at the crease by Botty, the pitch was starting to nibble more and more. Not a problem for Ben as he joined SP in crashing short balls to the boundary and grabbing invaluable singles. The previous night’s escapades and that mornings event which had lead him to know his brother “just that little bit more”, bore no obvious, negative effects.  After reaching 11 a ball that kept low produced another loud shout for lbw, not before Botty had set for a single and SP had reciprocated, decision given (for lbw) not before Marlow also made sure with a run out at the strikers’ end. The ensuing chaos meant both batsmen were now walking back to the pavilion, a “double out” something never seen before in the game and Botty lbw for 11.

Next Karl with a K at 4 batting in front of parents (drove down from Koventry with a K) also on debut and family flattered to deceive with just 6 runs before a skied off drive to deep mid-off, back in the pavilion to make way for Henners at 5, thank god he did.

SP was eventually out for 37 before another lbw decision given to Marlow despite a strong stride out of his crease. SP holding his almost yoga like pose for several seconds before having to trudge back, fine work. Henners continued in typical fashion, fierce driving and hellish pulling of the ball meant dog walkers, ice cream enthusiasts and canoodling couples around the boundary were at times in grave danger. For those fielding inside the ropes, one shoulder injury, a firm strike in the pills and a dislocated finger, much like writing this report, the experience of fielding that day was harrowing. In total Henners would hit 110 with 10 6’s and 7 4’s, this wasn’t just bludgeoning, this was full face of the bat, well timed and well executed shot-making… when I grow up I want to bat just like Henners.

Henners 110

Henners 110

Whilst our number 5 remained at the crease for much of the Peckers innings, the team provided ample support, Milky Milky (15- talented hockey player and son of Don) rotating the strike effectively keeping the field on their toes with his lithe youth and intimidating display of bare ankles to the opposition. Making a stylish 3 before making way for skips at 7.

This change of batsman also necessitated a change in umpire, step forward Cousin David to the middle leaving only his lovely girlfriend tic tac and the dachshund in the stroking arms of Motty back in the pavilion. Tobacco, papers, filters, beer and appropriate redneck shirt all went with him to perform his duties. 

Le Daviiide in adapted umpire shirt and supporting materials

Le Daviiide in adapted umpire shirt and supporting materials

What happened next is common in many village cricket grounds around the country: team mate (Le Daviiide) umpires, captain gets caught on pad -well forward, team mate (Le Daviiide) triggers captain, stand off…. moments pass, skipper walks back. POB’s lbw for 4. We are now up to 4 lbw’s in the 1st 6 wickets, this wasn’t normal.

Motty having shaken off his hangover(still drunk) with his early work out that morning had already attempted to sneak up the order at 7, now in at 8 approached his innings with two attempted reverse sweeps before a chip to the inner ring, “total cricket” out for 0.

Phil OOOO on debut, Marlow local refused to surrender his wicket at 9 for 4 runs, would see off the innings and see off several jugs of the clubhouse beer. Donny ( Marlow local and oldest prep school chum of POB’s) after a well hit 4 applied a head down strategy to ensure we used all 40 overs, clearly counter to his instincts, out playing a defensive shot bowled for 4. 

Spinach, fresh from 2 solid days with the barmy army in Edgbaston and 2 nights’ sound sleep in a £16 a night Airbnb had been steadily working his way through a 6 pack of all butter brioche during the peckers innings. Now rounding things off at 11 with a well struck 4 and single, bowled for 5, off just 32 overs peckers had a total of 214 all out.

 So, to the Woodpeckers bowling, Spinach opening it all up from the top end, aside from a loosening opening over Spinach gave nothing away, extracting movement off the pitch, bowling with genuine wheels and taking proper wickets. The all butter brioche had clearly worked to deliver the best bowling spell many had witnessed from Spinach, these were proper wickets: beaten for pace, beaten for movement, leaving nothing out there, spent and exasperated Spinach had 3 - 25 from 7 overs, Chapeux!

From the other end an equally destructive spell was provided by Motty, his 1st over delivering a 2-wicket maiden from catches at cover.  This was the catalyst to the woodpeckers destructive bowling spell which would see their 1st 6 batsmen back in the pavilion for just 24 runs. Motty’s juices were clearly flowing clearly recovered from his groin strain) whatever his pre-match warm up was it was enabling blood flow to all reaches of his body to deliver a bowling performance that delivered 3 wickets for just 2 runs off 5 overs, tremendous.

The support in the field was strong with catches from Milky Milky, Phil OOOOO and Karl with a K, field placement was key, expertly executed by POB’s aside from one discussion with Motty to “stand wherever he liked”, the very next ball went directly into Motty’s out stretched hands above his head, and then directly out.

The father son combination of Donny and Milky Milky, delivered impressive figures of 1 for 2 from 4 overs (Donny) and 1 for 4 from 1 over (Milky), clearly in the genes, woodpeckers were now clearing up the Marlow tail with tight wicket to wicket bowling.

Phil OOOOOO on debut contained some tail end hitting to bowl out the final resistance from Marlow, 1 for 22 from 2 over before Karl with a K was given the pleasure of 2 balls to wrap up the Marlow innings, all out 57. 

marlow team.jpg

 So, a victory for the Woodpeckers by 157 runs, leaving sufficient time to enjoy the clubhouse beer on a warm Sunday evening, just how it should be.  

Copy of Peckers Pick your Perfect England Eleven -Pobby's thoughts and England 11

The First test witnessed a horrific collapse by England, but perhaps we saw some ‘roll- reversal’. In 2005 Mcgrath rolled his ankle at Edgbaston , before the worst captaincy call to bowl first by Ricky Ponting, and the rest is glorious history. This time Jimmy was cutting corners and so we had to play with ten men. On top of that we had to bat last, whilst trying to shake off the hangover from England’s first World Cup Victory, so had several things stacked against us. I felt some trepidation that we were now having to go to Lord’s where I had it in mind that we had a poor record against Australia. I decided I should trawl through to be sure …

LORD’S

I quickly understood why a man of my vintage felt trepidation. Incredibly. we didn’t win an Ashes Test match at Lord’s for most of my (and all of my father’s ) lives from pre-war 1934 for 75 years until 2009!!

In 2009 we won by 115 runs (Strauss 161)and then by 347 runs in 2013(Root 180) both times England batting first. In 2015 Australia recorded a 405 run victory(batting first) with Steve Smith ominously 215.  I think now we’ve thrown off the 75 year hoodoo twice since 2009. and the magic of our 1st ever World Cup Victory at Lords only a few weeks ago in our minds and in the rafters , we have every chance of levelling up with eleven fit men.

It’s vital we pick the right team, as the Aussies are cock-a-hoop and have Starc and Hazelwood waiting in the wings

IN DANGER

As a Kentish Man, I feel regret every time I have expressed from his first England Match that Joe Denly is a great county all-rounder but to me doesn't look international class, except as a fielder. In his last four internationals he averages 14 with the bat and has 0-116 bowling .

Moeen Ali, has admitted he doesn't enjoy high intensity cricket culturally. The intense mental and social challenge presented by a marathon World Cup at home sandwiched by two Ashes series has been tough and he's lost his confidence. His Batting stats are horrific, averaging under 10 in his last seven inning, 53 with the ball over this period. He may benefit from a rest

Jonny Bairstow has been in terrible batting form since Chester le Street, scoring 84 in 6 innings averaging 14 also. His keeping was also poor at Edgbaston, missing a crucial easy stumping and let plenty through his legs, He should be given a final warning shot across the bows or be rested. Jimmy is not fit so….

 Pobby’s Twelve

1 Dom.Sibley(rh)

2.Rory Burns  (lh)

3. Joe Root (rh)

4/5. Ben Stokes (LH)

4/5. Jason Roy (rh)

6. Jos Buttler(rh)

7.Sam Curran (lh)

9 Jonny Bairstow (rh)*

8 Chris Woakes(rh)

10. Stuart Broad (rh)

11. Jofra Archer(rh)

12. Jack Leach(lh)*

 24 year old Dom Sibley is the leading run scorer in County Div One averaging 62, opening the batting for Warwickshire. He got 74 and 30 vs Aus A, and remains in excellent form.  Dom scored 64 off 43 balls against Yorkshire at Headingly on Sunday in his only T20 outing . He is a right-hander so makes a RH/LH with Burns who was lucky to play and miss/edge 40 times at Edgbaston but showed much needed grit.

Should Roy want to move, he can be given a chance at 4 or 5, where the ball should be moving less and he can play his more natural game. To that end I would consider Stokes to bat four if not too fatigued, as he has shown more grit and determination in times of danger. You could also consider keeping a RH-LH combination and using that to help decide who bats 4 and 5 for a change -(bowlers hate L-R combos)

 I would back 21-year old Sam Curran to outscore the other batting/all-rounder options at 7, from what I’ve seen and also statistically. He Test Averages an impressive 31 with the bat and 30 with ball and so he has those stats just the right way round, and is surely improving in leaps and bounds aged 21. I remember his father the Zimbabwean Kevin Curran(sadly deceased) as a fantastic and entertaining all-rounder and farmer, who was forced out by Mugabe. His three sons sons Sam,Tom and Ben have grown up here and went to Wellington School like Peckers Alex ‘Old Horse’ Gowar and Immers Arbee.  Sam posted his credentials more than anyone v Australia A a few weeks ago taking 6-95 in the 1st innings and then making 50 and 56 not out. Interesting Sam Curran's best test innings came last summer, when we were in deep trouble-in the crucial 4th test. India had won at Trent Bridge to bring it back to 2-1,  and on Day One we were reduced on a tough wicket to 86-6. Under the ultimate pressure Sam top-scored 78 out of 246 easily top-scorer and turned the match and the series - We needed that kind of grit yesterday!. Sam gives you a left arm bowling option, and is useful if it’s swinging , averaging 30, Sam’s god-father Allan Lamb will be delighted if he gets picked, and can tell him a few things about Ashes battles.

For the trio of players who played well in that England Lions v Australia A Jack Leach took 5-109 in the second innings when the Aussie spinners were wicket-less. He will be best known for his gritty 92 against Ireland as night-watchman though his other batting stats look awful. Lewis Gregory is the other candidate if you want a specialist spinner with better batting/

However, I don’t think we should prepare a wicket to take spin though as Lyon is one of the best Spin Bowlers in the world, and we are not over-blessed. Our best chance to win at Lord’s is to prepare a raging green top of a seaming wicket to suit our bowlers. Dry Suits the Aussie Attack whereas slightly damp and green is more our flavour. There’s a bit of rain forecast on Monday/Tuesday so I’d give the pitch some much needed moisture…. I would then strengthen with an extra batsman, and play Root as the spinner, as he may not be needed. Root’s useful anyway, bowled well in the World Cup and at times looked the most dangerous of the three in Edgbaston.

If it’s not damp then I would bring in Leach for Bairstow, giving Buttler a chance to keep and Bairstow a chance to regroup in the Nets. Foakes as a proper keeper and solid 7/8 also comes into consideration , particularly if there are any injuries . In a dry scenario batting first looks quite vital.

I think England will probably not make as many changes and give some another chance to shake off the hangover, but we will see…Please add your suggested teams at the end in a comments box-–NB not who you think they England pick, but who you would select!–The Woodpecker England selector who’s players do best in the rest of the series will win the Peckers Pick your Perfect England Eleven

Find another winning 11

Find another winning 11

 

 

World Cup Final

This Cricket World Cup Final was the greatest of all time, and we’ll all remember where we were that day - but for the Woodpeckers Cricket Club, and from some of our players’ perspective, it was particularly poignant.

Gavin Scovell holds numerous Woodpecker batting records including Most Hundreds (28) and Highest Score (184*). Gav was the TV director for the pictures going out to the entire world at Lord’s, his country’s HQ and his MCC club. England being in the final turned his lifetime experience into a dream and the subsequent drama into a fantasy of which he could have only dreamed. It was all the more poignant that our surprise opponents were New Zealand where Gav had lived and worked: setting up a business with Martin Crowe, the legendary Kiwi bat and inventor of Twenty20’s ancestor “Cricket Max”. Many of his best friends come from New Zealand too. His international crew made few mistakes, and in the semi and final, Gav and his team nailed the coverage, with no missed-cuts, and a brilliant programme going out to the world of cricket lovers. They gave a fantastic shot-by-shot 360 degree depiction of the drama unfolding to viewers all over the world.

Gav the Director

Gav the Director

Gav is a product of two amazing and dedicated people from very disparate industries. His father, Brian is the only man to be chairman of both the Football and Cricket Writers’ association and a dedicated journalist and writer for sixty years. Gav’s mother Audrey was a passionate and successful artist and Art Teacher, her work exhibited by the Royal Academy of Art for 11 years. She also loving looking after a large family, including her lovely mother-of-nine, Lucy. Gav has broken the mould of Cricket Directing as he is a blend of his parents’ expertise in great sports journalism and wonderful artistic interpretation.

His production partner is Jo Lewis, daughter of England great Tony, and they make a perfect team, working with Sunset + Vine, who won two Baftas for cricket coverage including the greatest series, Ashes 2005. Congratulations Gav on living your dream and to you and the crew for the amazing TV coverage we all enjoyed. In the breathless climax, third umpire Rod Tucker (who had received replays through six sensational weeks) called the booth after the fantastic diving forward catch of Lockie Ferguson, for the final crucial replay: Rather than asking angle by angle, he knew Gav and his team would again deliver, so said..“Just gimme everything you’ve got Gav”.

Gav and my dad worked together at Associated sharing a passion for sports, and Audrey and my mum, Barbara were best friends as their uproarious and hilarious laughter could be heard wherever they went.My greatest memory of my father is a summer’s day in our living room in College Road, Dulwich, when Colin had constructed a tower of televisions. The 28” Sony Trinitron had the Open Golf, the 23 inch from his bedroom had the Ashes Test, and balancing precariously on top of the tower, his 14 inch B&W showing the King George VIII from Ascot. At any point, he would cry ‘Patrick - Volume Racing!!’ and I was required to leap up and adjust the controls accordingly.

So my life and a lot of my family life is partly defined by a shared obsession with sport. England only winning one World Cup in the major team sports of cricket, football and rugby union in my entire lifetime has always been a massive personal regret, and I find it particularly galling that the only time we won a football world cup I was a 6 month foetus…I imagine myself jumping up and down in the womb as Hurst surged forward. My generation and I have endured a lifetime of near-misses for fifty years with only the Rugby World Cup of 2003 occupying the trophy cabinet.

Gav was in the Director’s chair facing a massive bank of Television, and huge team of Cameramen, Commentators, Producers and VT Ops. Treas ( Pecker Treasurer - aka Meddy/Chips) and I were together in the Upper Tier of the Tavern Stand, with a fantastic view of the action and cousin Doby (Pecker multiple centurion and reliable Mid-Off) a few rows in front. As Treas sat down, he reminded me we had watched the glorious 2003 RWC Final triumph together, and on that occasion, only two men scored points for England: ‘Jonny’ Wilkinson and ‘Jason’ Robinson… and who was opening the batting for us today? ‘Jonny’ Bairstow and ‘Jason’ Roy…the omens seemed strong. though a ten wicket victory seemed unlikely.

Sadiq Khan was very excited just behind us, and in his party was Seb Salter, useful leg-spinner and old school-mate of Doby’s, who had also worked with me. England bowled and fielded well to restrict the Kiwis to 241, Woakes opening well again with Archer, north-eastern legend and team mascot Liam ‘Plunky’ Plunkett chipping in again with three wickets. It was nice that two 27 year old batters who’d struggled through the tournament Henry Nichols and Tom Latham stood up with solid scores for the Kiwis

Motty, Gemotty and Veuve

Motty, Gemotty and Veuve

At lunch our group of Peckers met on the Nursery Lawn and there was an air of optimism. Charlie ’Shylock’ Young, and Motty and Gemotty, Jeffers and Shazadi were also there and we watched on the big screen as the first ball of our inning thudded into Roy’s pads, what looked to me plumb in front. Umpire’s call saved us and we hurried back to the seats. As I’d stayed sober for the semi-final due to my impending MC duties for Treas’ wedding the next day - literally Sober in a Blazer in the noisiest part of the Hollies stand with Horse hammered next to me and the crowd going more berserk than any crowd I’d ever experienced. So at Lords I was rather thirsty for some Ale, Viognier and Pimms. The crowd around us were mainly Indian with some English and a few other internationals, and it became eerily quiet as wickets fell and runs dried up, though some groups of Kiwis were making a lot of noise, cheering dot ball after dot ball as England struggled to get back in the game. Myself and another chap tried to get the support going (some Hindi phrases helping) and Ben Stokes rewarded us by playing a fantastic and disciplined innings to get us back in the game, much like he had when we’d been in trouble against Sri Lanka and Australia

Treas, Pob,Dobby, Mayor

Treas, Pob,Dobby, Mayor

The last few overs and super overs were spent in a dreamlike state, knowing you are in the middle of one of the greatest sporting occasions of all-time . We needed 15 off four balls…and chances looked bleakn and then a massive six, a deflection for six .. That over, and both super overs went for exactly 15 runs, and the game was tied twice,…as that final throw came in we surged forward and I found myself at the front of the stand going crazy in celebration, embracing the London Mayor. (There’s a paragraph I never imagined writing)

Gav, Morgs and the Trophy

Gav, Morgs and the Trophy

One tinge of regret was that I would have loved it to not be New Zealand: they are a great bunch of people, who have (like us) suffered gallant World Cup failures over the years. On Sunday they bowled and fielded in Herculean fashion with two courageous diving-forward catches, and suffered bad luck through random tie-break rules, lbws, deflections, overthrow interpretations and man of the match being a Kiwi. They bore it with the humility you would expect from the Kiwis and got a nice consolation winning the Netball World Cup in Liverpool this weekend. England were rewarded for the hard work and investment over the last four years, and for being the best and most exciting England one-day team in living history. For that and our long-suffering World Cup past, we all really deserve this magnificent achievement.



Malden Wanderers

The Woodpeckers' last outing to New Malden saw the controversial conclusion of the 2018 season for the infamous Peckers v's Peckers. the Peckers' 2019 return to KT3 was a considerably heartier 35 over affair under blue skies and with a determination to repeat the strong win against Blackheath the previous weekend. 

On the Friday morning, POB sent out the obligatory Whatsapp clarion call for an 11th player and, to add to what was already a talented ten on paper, Meakers saved the day to introduce gloveman Jim "Gilly" Gillions to the Peckers fold for a glorious debut. An Old Harrovian, who only confessed en route to the ground that he last played cricket ten years previously, he arrived in pristine whites with a £25 bat he'd bought the day before. Cousin David wasn't on the team sheet for this fixture but, in place of his Alepine, Meakers fortuitously arrived with a keg of delicious Signal lager left over from his school parents party the night before which served to keep the team well hydrated throughout the day. There was also delicious Wimbledon Pale Ale on tap in the pavilion for the non lager-louts

L-R, T-B -Gilly, SP, Dutch, POB, Cat, Colleen, Pug, Greasy, Samsterdam, Chug, Peaches, Lav, Henners

L-R, T-B -Gilly, SP, Dutch, POB, Cat, Colleen, Pug, Greasy, Samsterdam, Chug, Peaches, Lav, Henners

 Having lost the toss, the Peckers were put into bat on a wicket which had evidently acted like a sponge during the previous night's storm as it produced equal measures of plugged deliveries and steepling snorters from the Wanderers endless line of teenage quicks. Although he had claimed he "felt ill" and asked if someone could take his place only hours before game began, Shaun Patterson (SP) curiously volunteered to open the batting alongside Henry "Greasy" Glaister. In truth, both were nursing nothing more than hangovers, SP from a Pimms infused day a Wimbledon and Greasy having celebrated his birthday in that Fulham haunt, Pagliaccio's, which was slightly marred by throwing up his entire carbonara back onto his plate whilst sitting at the table. Smooth. However, despite heavy eyes, slow reactions and a combined lack of sleep, Greasy and SP laid a foundation, stuck to the task and stoically weathered the stodgy wicket and uneven bounce admirably, Greasy eventually being caught for 16. He headed back to the pavilion at 40 for 1 to join his chums from the night before to help them consume the pimms, rose and beers they'd brought in order to take the edge off the hangover. El Colleen only briefly joined SP in the middle and, after a few characteristically muscular swings and misses, he misjudged the fourth in succession to be clean bowled for 7 (56 for 2). The Woodpecker of the year Curse continues… Out strode Henners, hotfoot from a commanding, quickfire and unbeaten 70 at Blackheath, only to uncharacteristically miscue a short delivery for 7 and then quickly blamed his brief innings on his mother; "I blame my mother, I told her not to watch me", he chuntered. It was great to see the Walpole Parents on debut

At 62 for 3, out stepped Gilly on debut and confidently blew away 10 years of cricketing cobwebs with a selection of the most orthodox of forward defensive strokes ever employed by any Pecker before him, before innocuously "gloving" a close catch which so surprised the opposition that Gilly sportingly walked off, without troubling the scorer (or christening the new bat!), despite the Wanderers failing to utter a single appeal. 64 for 4

POB joined SP at the crease to stem the fall of wickets and quickly raised our run rate in an assured partnership of 62 before looping a catch to mid wicket. A steadying innings of 24 and we were 126 for 5. All the while, soporific SP was gradually coming to terms with the turgid wicket and gradually accumulated runs as Surrey's finest A&E Consultant Edwin "Duchy" Behn joined him at the crease. Despite formerly opening the batting with Radley school chum Andrew Strauss, Duchy also had initial difficulty finding his rhythm on the moist Malden track but, all was not lost, despite SP eventually capitulating at the other end for an outstanding top score of 75 from 81 deliveries. At this point, the Peckers were 138 for 6 and those of us watching were thinking it was unlikely we would reach 190 at this rate.

Gilly the Gloves

Gilly the Gloves

However, POB had one more ace in the pack, as Old Tonbridgian, Jamie "Lav" Lavers ambled to the crease sporting a fetching stripey cap, a certain swagger and a cricket bat which he wielded like a loaded basooka. What he subsequently unleashed on the Malden bowling attack who, hitherto, had shown guile and accuracy, soon withered on the vine. Lav took both teams by surprise and quickly demonstrated hand/eye coordination rarely seen in a Sunday "friendly". "He's seeing it like a beachball" came the cries. In a display of fierce hitting, quick hands and top class Jason Roy-esque shot selection worthy of a top order batsmen ("I'm very happy batting at 7 Patrick", said Lav earlier in the day), Jamie proceeded to play a succession of big hits to all parts of Malden and the home side was broken from hereon in. As Geoff Boycott said "To stay in, you've got to not get out" and Jamie was not out at our innings close, scoring 62 from just 26 deliveries (ten 4's and two 6's), ably supported by Duchy who also bludgeoned 35 not out from just 20 deliveries. We ended our innings at 236 for 6 and POB was confident we could defend that total.

 

After an award winning match tea and much Jamie and Duchy back slapping, the Peckers took to the field, Pugh Snr with cherry in hand, even though he'd been asked by Pugh Jnr if he could bowl dozens of time already. At this point in the proceedings, however, the balance of power shifted on its axis as every Pecker suddenly forgot the Prep School mantra that "catches win matches".Honestly, I could divert the match report at this point to focus almost exclusively on the succession of dropped Pecker catches, which we think was up to 9 or 10 by the end of the day. In fairness, we could have delivered a village green drubbing on the Wanderers had we held on to so many chances but, we were clearly bedazzled by the glaring sun (by now, the wicket was sun baked, flatter and distinctly more batsmen friendly by the way!) and revelling in our inadequacies.

 

Their opening bat, young rake Dan Shepherd, played a stubborn role, riding the wave of uppish drives and stuck like a limpet, Meakers dropping a tough fizzer at point, copping a bruised peach in the process and a low skidder at slip. At 51 for 0 from their first ten over, Malden were behind the run rate required but we couldn't break though the Wanderers' youth. Pug and Duchy bowled well for their opening spell but, first change Felix "The Cat" Wood had other ideas and took the scalp of the first of their three Bateman batsmen, this time caught by Pug at mid off, who having dropped a sitter earlier simply allowed the ball to plant itself in his midriff more by luck than judgement. He shouted "YES" and held the ball aloft as proof. We'd caught one and we were euphoric. caught Pug bowled Cat was one for the domestic pet lovers

 

Second change was for the flighty off spin of Jamie Lavers, following his batting fireworks with similar bowling effervescence. 5 overs, 1 maiden, 1 wicket for 6 runs and it was his tight spell that pegged back any lingering Malden excpectations for achieving their initial required run rate of 6.77/over. At close of play, Jamie not only revealed he broke his back in three places at school, forshortening a promising rugby career but played Tonbridge 1st XI cricket, then a "few years of Kent Premier League". He certainly was in a completely different league to the rest of us. 

POB then turned to trusty Henry Walpole, upon whom the wicket taking gods were smiling, which more than made up for his brief innings with the willow. He constantly found biting turn in the hardening wicket, narrowly avoiding the jug for the second week in a row with a superb 4 for 33 from 7 overs. The wicket spoils were shared around but, dropped catches excruciatingly defined our fielding display although Gilly took a sharp catch behind the stumps, POB - one a juggler in the deep and Pug both bagged a brace.  

At the point at which the required run rate had spiralled beyond 13 an over and any chance of a Malden recovery was mathematically impossible, the home side very kindly relaxed their rules concerning junior players joining in. Having spent much of the day playing in the nets, looking for golf balls in the stream or asking his father for a new cricket bat, young Chuggy Pugh (who'd briefly fielded alongside his pal and Duchy's son Sam) was, at last given the chance to bowl. He proceeded to demonstrate line and length in an accurate two over spell and claimed his first ever Pecker wicket, much to his delight and our collective admiration. Bateman Snr was plum lbw, Chuggy's day was complete (especially if Dad would by him a new bat on the way home!!) and victory was ours by 55 runs. It was an incredibly fun day, played in great Pecker spirit. It was punctuated by some atrocious Pecker fielding but a win crafted by some exceptional solo contributions and Charlie Pugh being arguably the youngest ever Pecker wicket taker.

Lovely Pugs and Dutchies

Lovely Pugs and Dutchies

Blackheath

It always surprises me that you would not find Blackheath CC on any list comprising top village cricket grounds in the UK. Whereas local rivals Tilford regularly draw deserved nods for their picture postcard ground, with the Barley Mow on one boundary and the River Wey on another, Blackheath never features. This, despite its stunning heathland setting, permanently-open bar (with offerings from the local Hogs Back Brewery) and a superbly-run and supported cricket section for all ages. The main reason for this must be the fact it is up a single lane track in the arse-end of nowhere, despite being a mere 15 minutes from Guildford town centre, and has no passing traffic other than the occasional dog walker. The wider world’s loss is very much our gain.

blackheath.jpg

The ‘Peckers fielded a blend of experienced hands and first timers for this prestigious fixture. Dr Ed Behn (aka Edwin, or the Dutchman, and one-time teammate of Andrew Strauss at Radley) came into the side for his full debut (having featured at last year’s Peckers v Peckers debacle and almost being put off for life in the process) as did fellow local lad and friend of the Gowars, Jack Riddy (aka the Riddler), fresh from winning the club championship at Hankley Common earlier in the week. Riddler manfully took the gloves for the first time in countless years. Horse brought his foals along for a local outing, and Meakers made a welcome return after back problems (we’re all falling to pieces, its OK). In fact Spinach was the only one of us being sub-30. We had a strong group of supporters with Pugs, Behns, Riddlers and Foals aplenty. 

Meanwhile, in their must-win game versus India at Edgbaston, England were tucking into India’s bowlers just as eagerly as POB was tucking into other people’s picnics at our pre-match gathering. Having big-screen Sky coverage in the bar just adds to the allure of this tucked-away clubhouse, and updates were fed onto the outfield on a regular basis. 

POB won the toss and we chose to bowl on a dry wicket with Chug filling in for Henners who had erroneously made his way to Blackheath, Kent (muppet, there’s always one) Actually Ella Pugh -The Princess Pugletta now 12 who is now playing a lot of cricket fielded for the 1st 4 balls and proved a lucky charm for her daddy -She becomes the 2nd Puglet to make debut at Blackheath, and we look forward to Sampy making it a hat-trick and maybe all four on the pitch one day. Blackheath were perhaps not as strong as in previous years (they had permitted their Kiwi off-spinner a weekend away from ripping through local league opposition) but still had a good smattering of 1st teamers and strong youngsters. Pug took the new nut alongside Horse and claimed the first wicket with only the second delivery, a horrid ball that would have otherwise been a wide if the young opener hadn’t kindly nicked off to Riddler for his debut take. Horse also quickly accounted for the other opener with a scuttler. Thereafter, Pug (trying to be modest here) kept up an unusually consistent line and length for his 7 over spell, taking 4-19 in the process, including the ominous-looking Ronny Harrison with a leg-cutter. Botty eventually held one at first slip having shelled others (as did the freshly-arrived Henners – again, muppet) and Riddler took a second nick. Horse bowled well without further reward, although was gleefully deposited over the pavilion at one point by Ronny. 

Coming in at 6 for Blackheath was Stephen Holden, head coach of the Blackheath U10 team who include in their ranks Chug, Behn Jnr and his own son. He batted very solidly for a patient and well-earned 55, almost exclusively with a straight bat, and I think his young watching charges were quietly impressed (as they were by Pug and Edwin by all accounts). He batted without a lid, even when Edwin, replacing Pug downhill, was generating some notable pace and bounce. Ed is a consultant in the A&E dept at Frimley Park, so at least Stephen would have been in good hands had he caught one on the beak. Ed claimed 3-27 off his 6, including Stephen pinned lbw to reclaim local bragging rights. Ed, like Horse, expressed surprise at being given guidance as to how to bowl by POB from mid-on, something he will unfortunately need to get used to, as well all have, if he fancies an extended Peckers career.

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Henners flighted the ball beautifully while taking a bit of tap from Danny Harrison before trapping him in front for an entertaining 40 (courtesy of a LP trigger that went up so quickly he almost knocked himself off balance), whilst Spinach bowled energetically uphill without taking a deserved wicket. Big Merve enjoyed a rare couple of overs, allowing the home team to give their total a much-needed boost, whilst Fish only got an over of twirl. POB showed good judgment in giving each Harrison brother the benefit of the doubt when each could have been potentially caught early in their respective innings (including an otherwise super take by POB himself).

Meakers finished off matters with a full straight one to the 14-year old No.11. Not that you would know it from the way Meakers peeled off towards the covers, both arms pumping above his head à la Imran Tahir. Anyone who saw him celebrate the wicket of a 13-year old tailender at Headley a few years ago with a full Brett Lee-chainsaw would have been equally embarrassed this time. Naturally we asked Meakers to lead us off the field for this match-defining contribution. Blackheath were 175 all out off 35 overs.

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Tea was a generous medley of hot and cold offerings, including some onion bhajis, perhaps in a nod to events unfolding up at Edgbaston. Much of the food was hoovered up by our younger supporters. By now India were well behind in their run chase and Woakes had taken a stunner on the boundary to remove Pant. One feared that Blackheath would also need to be on their mettle in the field to prevent a decent ‘Peckers batting line up from chasing down their sub-par total. 

Meakers and Fish opened the order, very much an alternative opening combo, with others busy tucking into the Hazy Hog organic cider (mmm) and/or glued to India’s faltering run chase. Meakers flattered to deceive with a well-timed cut but was soon bowled by Blackheath’s pacey opener (it was a surprise that Meakers didn’t raise his bat to all sides of the ground after his 4, given his fondness for exuberant celebrations). Botty, in at 3, also quickly fell in similar fashion. Fish, meanwhile, enjoyed the challenge presented by the opening attack and the Harrisons’ liquorice allsorts. He ran well on a hot day, with less than half his runs coming in boundaries. He was eventually out for an excellent 48 to another LP trigger.

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Riddler brushed off the cobwebs and entertained his fan club with a patient 18, displaying a high elbow that his watching son would do well to replicate. Patient is not the word I would use to describe Henner’s knock. Coming in at 5, suffice to say he hit a rapid 70*, with exactly 50 coming in boundaries including some of the longest 6s seen at the ground for some time. It was a brutal, chanceless knock that entertained the late-afternoon spectators and helped soon bring the ‘Peckers towards their 4th win of the season. Ably supported by Horse, who also played fluidly for his 21*, we wrapped up the win with plenty of time to devote to the bar and all things glorious in the post-match sunshine (including an admiration of Big Merve’s heel tats).  Beers and cider were taken with supporters and the oppo (those of drinking age anyway) to conclude another Pecker outing to this finest of village grounds. 

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Peckers 178-4 beat Blackheath 175 by 6 wickets.

Headley

Big Merv was making a long overdue return to the Peckers fold , and was coming over to watch the champions league final the night before with Cousin le Daviiiide,who called to say that a buxom girl working with  him at Epsom had split up with her boyfriend and needed somewhere to crash…I agreed and went into a ‘spruce the hoose like a juiced up moose’ frenzy, watering plants, washing bedding, cleaning the kitchen and changing my underpants.

 The lovely Cornish lass Victoria arrived and we had some curry and tucked into the vino, whilst le Davide told her tales of Pobsy’s over-zealous field settings.There was one moment between us when the lads had a smoke on the balcony but after that we just ploughed through my entire wine cellar and I left them at 4 am still in fine voice.

Cousine le Davide was so excited he awoke at 7am and stomped around like Boris Johnson on the campaign trail, making Tea and watching to chat. I had to give him short shrift but then emerged at 8.30 feeling more than a little peaky, and Big Merv awoke in the same bed as Victoria but denied any impropriety –apparently he went there 1st…. Pobsy sorted breakfast ,with Merv supplying the digestif to Cousin Le Davide on the balcony after, who then berated me to drive his car for him. I opted for Merv’s old smokey and we arrived in good time on beautiful Headley Heath.

Headley is a place dear to my heart where we have the memorial bench for my folks and it was wonderful to see so many lovely supporters -a lot of O-Bs- Kim/Boss, Doby, Maz and Winnies, Ru/Floopert , Jamie/JOB, Queen Kindly  plus Horse and Foals Freddie Boom-Boom and Happy Jack, Coatesy/Muttley, Caz the Razz and Hazza Twaites came along too, with the Fingers.. Jim and LP/Cakey umpiring.

Headley are a strong village side and came in on the back of four wins in a row, the toss came down Heads for me for the 1st time this season, and with all the supporters I elected to bat first. I reinstated the SP/Cousin opening combo after their fantastic century on Tooer at Bures the Saturday before, and they didn’t let us down with 51 today, SP edging behind for a solid 21.

The digestif may have started wearing off…

The digestif may have started wearing off…

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Botty came in and the Cavalier Cousin blended well with the Busy Botty and they accumulated a 122 run partnership. Botty lofted one six into the lower tier of the pavilion and Horse had to hastily take evasive action to avoid Happy Jack being sconned. Botty was again narrowly denied a fifty, floored for fourty four by Headley Chairman and stalwart medium pacer Andy Pickering.

Cous really was in full flow now with a dozen 4s and a 6, and Headley had an injury, so I went out to sub field….. He struck one to me at mid on, which I thought I had but when I hit the ground I didn’t…I was most ashamed as the bowler was my old adversary and friend Andy Pickering .

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I felt better when the Mid off put down a similar chance ten runs later, and then Cous went on to strike the crucial boundary to take him to his first ever Pecker century. This is always a beautiful moment and so amazing that it was the week after SP had scored his first ton in any form of cricket the week before. He was caught the very next ball for a magnificent 101. Apparently his only other ton came against much inferior bowling and indolent youths, so Le Davide is most proud of his Pecker ton at Headley.

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A series of other Peckers struggled to add much to the score – 1 Will Collier (Bro de El Collleen) , 8 shots of Cannon , 10 Mervs a Milking, and a not so sweet 16 for Pobsy after his spilt milk earlier. When Motty was caught for a quick handful (5) , we tucked into a delicious tea of which he hoovered more than a handful of some very decent sandwiches. They were accompanied by a marvellous melange of melon and a chunk of chockie cake so colossal the chomping captain choked on it….really not my day. 239 – 7 off our 35 overs looked about par with a brace of wickets for Colonel Pickering, Tunnel and Winslett, an up and coming Bobby Barton unlucky to only get one.

The pitch still had some life in it and Tiddles and Motty bowled some good stuff, but loose balls were often punished and many flew through and over the decorative slips cordon or evaded the stumps whilst the score climbed steadily at 6s to 96-0 . The Beearon took the first breakthrough removing Dickinson lbw for 38, and then Paul ‘Baz’ Aitken kept up his knack of taking wickets with his assortments of mixed toffees, caramels and the occasional snorter yielding 2-45 from his 5.

At this point Motty’s groin gave way completely having troubled him for a bit, and he became completely immobile plus the Beearon was really struggling with his kidney stones. The fielding malaise spread through the ranks as the scoreboard climbed. Botty lacked his usual control and was also dispatched 4 overs for 37, whilst getting involved in a couple of feisty exchanges and then as things turned from bad to horrific, SPs 2nd over went for 27 and the game was really up. It’s the sort of ground where you have to bowl with discipline to avoid being clubbed to the short boundaries, and we just struggled to find a consistently good length.

Headley ultimately cruised to the target with almost 7 overs to spare and 7 wickets in hand, and it was a shame that we didn’t celebrate Cousin le Davide’s 1st Pecker ton with a victory, but we celebrated with plenty of ale instead, and it was another fun Peckers day at Headley.

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North Essex Tour vs Bures

The Tooooer had kicked off with a marvellous 9-holes at the delightful Braxted Park golf course, Runky particularly impressing with his play. There was some excellent revelry on the Friday night, and a delicious Vegetable Chilli back at the Old Rectory before the feature game of the tour against a gastronomical Bures CC.

Bures is a beautiful ground, nestled in behind the charming high street, the medieval steeple of St Mary's Church and the River Stour. The river is, in fact, the border between Essex and Suffolk, so this must be one of the only grounds in the country where you can literally hit (or be hit) into the next county. The clubhouse itself is thatched (that must also be incredibly rare) and rather delicious, with all the mod cons - wine glasses, room in the fridge for magnums of rose and a good spot to place a firkin of local ale. 

I was most impressed however with how seriously they were taking the pre-match barbeque. Local hero Rupert Tozer had half an oil drum of white-hot coals ready on arrival and awaiting the well-marinaded meat - two butterflied legs of local lamb and three spatchcocked chickens!! These were clearly OUR SORT OF PEOPLE. And they really were, we're lucky enough to play over a dozen teams who all share our ethos, but to find another who saw cricket the same way we do was a delight. We should have known, they're Cousin David's home club of course. The rest of the day followed a similar format, although they weren't as strong cricket-wise they were great company and the day flowed beautifully as a result.

Bures Chef Rupert Tozer getting a round of applause.

Bures Chef Rupert Tozer getting a round of applause.

We batted 1st, and SP and Cous made a solid start. Le Davide seemed unusually focused for this contest between his two teams . They raced to the 100 partnership, Cous getting to 50 1st but the message for the Tooer rule of retire at 50 got lost in translation and was replaced by hit out and get out -Cous struck 2 large 6s and was dismissed playing the Dil-scoop. SP was hitting out but no intention of getting out, but as I realised he was searching for his 1st Pecker ton, we agreed to let him continue. He eventually retired for a magnificent 103, which turned out to be his 1st in any form of cricket!.

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Centurian Kiwi SP

Centurian Kiwi SP

After his countryman Fish’s 50 at hogs, it’s been a great fortnight for the Pecker-Kiwis. This triggered a Pecker collapse with POB, Botty, Greasy and the Cat scoring 21 between us. we collapsed to 167-4 but luckily Cous’s neighbour the Stig (19) and Snax (15) chipped in with useful contributions and the Beearon was left 8 not out in our 238-8 off 35 overs.

Greasy Snax

Greasy Snax

Following on from SP's magnificent hundred, I wanted to add a note about Peckers who have scored their first (and perhaps only) ton whilst playing for the Woodpeckers. We counted five of us in the current set up but I could be short there - Patrick and Coatesy (did it together at Tilford), Cuddy, Motty and now SP. We all joined the Peckers after years of other / league cricket in perhaps what could be called the twilight of our careers. I didn't think I'd ever score a 100 after years of trying and getting close-ish. To finally get one feels bloody brilliant and to get it for the Peckers is an extra joy. So welcome to the club SP!!

 To chase 268 on any surface in a 35 over game is a serious task,- Bures started the chase positively with Chairman Chris Crace (heavily responsible for saving Bures CC from folding a few years ago) and part time Pecker Archie Wilkinson's father Chris (Old Spice). 

An early breakthrough from a well oiled and rhythmic Motty from the Stour End saw Old Spice hesitating slightly as he headed back to the thatched pavilion, following a low and probably DRS worthy snatch from bowler brother botty, but the consensus was (from Cracey also) was that it was clean and Old Spice headed in to roar through some more Rose. 

Cracey and Shenners, two Old Etonians disguised as rough Essex Village cricketers started opening up the chokes vs Motty and Greasy. It wasn't too hard for them vs Greasy having arrived from teaching children how to play 'good sports', following a night out on the WD40 and then driving up with Snax and Felix crammed in the car... 

Shenners hit several 4's & 6's and like our innings, we were starting to find that we were spending more time thwacking nettles finding the ball and altering the field than actually playing cricket. Chairman Cracey loosely top edged a cut shot which found C'Le'D at point, taken with appalling technique supposedly... gone for 22. 

Runky also had replaced Greasy at the Rolls Royce end, which proved painful to watch at times as the surely >£100,000 1930's car had been parked slap bang on cow corner, and the owner old Bures player Chris Chambers sat watching the wicket (not the ball) as it missed the barrage of grenades smacked away by Shenners off the Bearon... 

Soon enough Shenners had one straight, which beat his evasive and agressive action, and Runky had his first pinless grenade causing perhaps terminal damage to the Bures top order...

Snax (Buddha in the Bures Scorebook... ) had Captain Carl found wanting at the River end as he also tried to muller one off the peaceful preacher... (who later on had some good tales, advice amoung mostly jibberish in the conservatory).

Runky asked if we were through the danger, to which I confirmed as long as he bowled straight... which he did, claiming BBQ chef extraordinaire Rupert Tozer and DI Paul like he was on a driven duck drive... quack quack, back to the pavilion to get some more bangers going... 

A couple of Bures players had to leave early so Peckers drew cards for who would get to make a guest batting appearance for Bures -Pobsy drew the King. He went into the pavilion in search of squash and ale, throwing the heavy armband of captaincy (the armband of shame was doubled up on Cousin D following some drops (tricky I might add)) to Botty, with the word 'give potter a bowl at some point' as he prepared to play for Bures at the death... I'm not entirely sure what was said, but a few of us were lobbying the new skip for a bowl, and Potty and myself were instructed to warm up. Potty was especially keen as he had driven 2.5 hrs as had his family, and had batted at 11, and for some reason had been retired through a declaration with 2 overs to go (interesting in limited overs cricket) whilst batting at 11... by keen I mean fuming, and looking rather like he (and his black hand) were about to explode...Runky continued by zapping Jock Gordon with another straight one.
Around this time, Pobsy appeared at the crease for Bures and Potter had his chance at revenge. He could now show Pobsy what he thought of his captaincy, and send him straight back to the pavilion... after 4,6,4,6,4,4 or something similar... but was removed trying to farm the strike from a 12 year by an electric piece of fielding, a direct hit run-out by Snax aka the Guru Tugginmypuddah.
This ended the Bures innings on 162... over 100 runs off our total.

A few hugs and appreciative speeches were made to thank the oppo and reiterate how lovely it had all been before jugs on SP the centurion and singing from Elvis Owen Browne were enjoyed (and endured) in the 3 Horseshoes. 

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The rest of the weekend was glorious, as we enjoyed Tennis, Croquet, Boules, Pool, Swimming, Dog Walk to the Pub and the wonderful hospitality of Cous and the wonderful organisation of Tamsin(Tic Tac) working magnificently to ensure we were all well fed, ‘watered’ and entertained. A massive thanks to them for a glorious and memorable toooer.






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Hampshire Hogs

The Peckers travelled down to the beautiful home of the Hampshire Hogs hoping to lift The Gette Cup for the first time since the two clubs started playing for the prestigious piece of silverware 3 years ago. (Is this right?)

The day got off to a slightly delayed start due to Archie “Austin Powers” Wilko questionable time keeping, Cous’ latest eBay exploits, purchasing a malfunctioning lawnmower as well as Jamie managing to end up at the wrong ground despite countless messages and the WhatsApp group chat’s name.

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Eventually the game got under way with the Peckers fielding first. Jamie and Spinach’s economical opening spell forcing the Hogs into a slow and run shy start. Jamie(Potty’s neighbour and former 2020 team mate of POB/SP) bowled some lively in-swing and claimed the first victim of the day after just 13 runs, forcing the batsmen into lofting the ball into the grateful clutches of Austin Wilko.

The Hogs pushed on to 59 before losing their second wicket to the exceptional bowling of Greasy Glaister, dismissing the veteran opener Gunyon for 12 off 76 balls. The next wicket fell shortly as a risky call for a run was duly punished as Felix The Cat on debut pounced on the ball before throwing down the stumps, a lightning throw and from side on. Cousin Le Davide bowled a one-over cameo but couldn’t keep his footing in his golf shoues so was more,like Bambi on ice. Motty’s 2 over cameo proved fruitful, taking 2 wickets, the first a longhop, which the dangerous looking Gabb spliced to Spinach.. The second was a Bogota off-Cutter that caused the 12 year old batsman Foster to shoulder arms. This brought the 9 man Hogs into Lunch at a disappointing 75-5. Peckers were delighted by the late flurry and duly the Wine and port came out.

Motty picked this one up in Douro …needed decanting really but delicious

Motty picked this one up in Douro …needed decanting really but delicious

The Hog’s had put on a fantastic spread, a coronation chicken affair and tasty cheeseboard which in hindsight the Peckers may have overindulged in as the Hogs came out back out and moved without incident to 132-5. Pobsy decided to turn to Felix The Cat having seen his incredible run out.. a few expected good things.. and they were right as the Cat was on the money straight away with some decent pace. Botty wanted to get involved in the bowling so off came his keeping gloves and he started to prove his worth going at a very economical rate and to everyone’s surprise picking up 3 wickets. Hogs eventually finished on 178 all out - some impressive Pecker Figures included Grease Lightening who was unfortunate to only pick up 1 wicket, 11 overs 1-26 for Greasy.

Motty and Cous went out to the middle to open, with Motty showing some lovely strokes. Cous was instructed to play himself in so on his first ball he tried to loft one to cow corner, the end result was the bails flying in the air. Out came Botty and he immediately showed some delicious timing with the bat (whilst reprimanding his brother for loose play), hitting the Hogs youthful side to all parts of the ground,. Motty was unfortunate to go early on after hitting a few boundaries but in came the determined Fish to make amends of his duck the week before - thankfully Spinach wasn’t umpiring so he may stand a chance... He and Botty made a brilliant partnership punishing the  bad balls and blocking the odd decent one. Botty was eventually bowled but made an impressive 45 off 46 balls. Next in was Archie “Austin Powers” Wilko, AKA Paul Collingwood the handy man - indeed he turned out to be very handy making a crafty 46 not out, with an impressive 6 over the sight screen to win the game for the Peckers. Fish also not out with an incredible innings ending up on 65 not out. Fish and Archie walked towards the glorious Hogs club house grinning from ear to ear.

A special mention to the WAGS that came and supported, as well as Spinach’ parents Savoy & Florentina, Tic Tacs mother and God father, and even Potty made an appearance! A truly fabulous and memorable day of cricket in Hampshire, surrounded by delightful people. Hadleigh Graves completed the trio of delightful debutantes.

Peckers bring home the bacon as a run thirsty Fish knocks an undefeated maiden half century. A fantastic team effort lads -well played all round

The Teams and Supporters

The Teams and Supporters

Potty pops down and gets involved in the handshakes

Potty pops down and gets involved in the handshakes

Man of the Match Fish gets to drink from the Gette Cup

Man of the Match Fish gets to drink from the Gette Cup

Chertsey

We arrived at Chertsey to be welcomed by a packed clubhouse due to a training session being held for various ages of the club. It was good to see the club thriving, especially as it is one of the oldest clubs in the land (founded in 1737) and even boasts inventing the middle stump 39 years after its inception .

After the season opener at Sanderstead, where our abject batting performance being put down to 11 Peckers arriving without hangovers, this week, we decided to revert back to default hoping we could match Jos Buttler’s exploits from the day before.

We had Pugs of two generations, el Colleens younger brother Alex (and fiancee) supporting, Swampy Marsh over from Singapore who was to keep the stumps and Spinach’s mate Macca. Macca and Alex were on debut .

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The pitch was unlike many had seen before, extremely green, fairly soft, and looked like it would cause all sorts of issues for the batsmen. In fact, some on closer inspection we were confused as to which strip was to be played on, save for the stumps (all 6) which had been drilled in.

On to the match, the Woodpeckers fielded first and faced a youthful side which included two brothers who squabbled throughout (more on that later) and one of which was the captain. We opened up with yours truly (Spinach) and SP. Unfortunately, I failed to hold up my end and went to all parts of the ground, with a fielding change after only the 3rd ball of the innings by POBsy to remove the 2nd slip and provide damage limitation on the leg side.( I should have stuck a couple in the Wendy House) Safe to say, I was more than happy that this was not being filmed like at Sanderstead CC. After the batsmen lapped up the plethora of full tosses, I was removed after 4 overs with Chertsey on 73-0 off 8 overs. Pugsy and SP made the breakthrough in the 10th and 11th over to stem the onslaught. However, the worst was to come with their in-form batsman coming to the crease, and he was unfortunate not to score a century, before being caught, bowled by Fish.

Other notable highlights included PUG junior’s bowling. Despite only turning into double figures of age very recently, his tight lines restricted the batsmen who struggled to get anything but singles. Fantastic spell by Chuggy . POBsy took an excellent one-handed catch on the boundary despite Henner’s best efforts to also catch it. Fish and Henners both took excellent catches too.

Spinach ended up being involved in one of the more controversial events of the match whilst returning with his second spell. Latham, one of the more senior members of the Chertsey team, turned down a single whilst at the non-strikers end. However, unfortunately for him hadn’t quite realised he hadn’t returned to his crease and Spinach took this opportunity to run him out. There were parallels of the infamous ‘Mankad’ incident, especially as after a brief discussion about calling him back, we awaited the new batsman.

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After the 40 overs Chertsey ended on a decent 230, considering the outfield was incredibly slow this was quite impressive.Bowling stats –PUGsy 24-2, SP 36- 2, Henners 48-1 and Fish 7-1.

Even with 230 the target, we thought with a good start, we could give ourselves a very good chance. We opened up with el Colleen and his younger brother Alex who started well with a couple of nicely timed boundaries. However, a classic Woodpecker collapse left the team 5 down with only 50 runs on the board. Both openers were caught, El Collleen not shaking off the Woodpecker of the year Curse in game one and Fish suffered a golden duck after being given lbw, plum in front, triggered by Spinach. Henners got off to a nice start with a maximum and another boundary but was also caught and Marsh scored 2 runs and suffered the same fate. Their opening pair had all 5 wickets with Mukund achieving impressive figures of 3-15 at the end of his spell

An all too familiar sight for Pecker Middle order batsmen

An all too familiar sight for Pecker Middle order batsmen

Worryingly, a score below the season opener at Sanderstead (89) looked a real possibility and we needed to stop the rot fast. With bated breath, PUGsy joined POBsy out in the middle, and the two managed to survive a few overs. With this, confidence grew and with some good stroke play and some large 6s from PUGsy both batsmen reached their half century’s with little trouble (51 and 72 respectively). It was Pug’s 1st ever 50 for the Peckers and indeed as an adult, and contained 5 6s mixed with sensible defence. It was a new Pug with his son on debut and he coached me between overs on how we could achieve a victory. This partnership did nothing for the relationship between the two brothers who seemed to enjoy it when each other got hit for boundaries but it was all positive for the Peckers! 

Pug lashes another 6

Pug lashes another 6

However, once both were caught, the run rate started to rise dramatically with 8 an over needed off the last 10. SP needed a runner, so Spinach provided this after being caught out. Safe to say SP has never before recorded so many 3s playing for the Peckers!

With just under two overs remaining and over 40 needed, PUGsy Jnr came out at 11 to join Macca and got his first run for the Peckers with a lovely on-drive for a single. The innings came to a close with the Peckers reaching 188 off 40 overs.

Batting stats – PUGsy 72, POBsy 51, Macca 12*, Henners 11

Chertsey CC 230-7 beat Woodpeckers 188-9 by 42 runs

Chip off the old Pug Block (Block not being the operative word)

Chip off the old Pug Block (Block not being the operative word)

Sanderstead


Subtext - Sanderstead have embraced digital and are doing it brilliantly. They now film all of their matches and publish a 20-25 minute highlights reel on their YouTube channel (1.5m views and counting) within 24 hours. At the time of writing our reel had clocked 13,500+ views. They also cut the best bits into shorter 10-15 second clips for social media. It goes without saying that we served up a bounty of hilarity, and at the time of writing the clips produced and shared by the cricketing fraternity on social media have clocked well over 200,000 views. We’ve gone viral. The video is embedded below and this match report fills in the gaps.

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The first game of the new season is a challenge for cricketers at all levels of the game. It’s a test of how you’ve wintered, how nets and fitness training have gone and how mentally prepared you are for the season ahead.

Our now traditional season opener at Sanderstead is usually a bit of a rude awakening - we’ve wintered by adding a stone each, we don’t do nets and our mental preparation is usually marred by turning up with an enormous hangover.

Which is why it was such a surprise to find myself at the Saw Mill Ground on a brisk Sunday morning amongst 10 other Woodpeckers without hangovers, over an hour before play was due to start, deciding who should pad up first for our net session. Most unusual.

Amongst us were four debutants - all a product of match manager Motty and some old university connections. First things first were the traditional nickname giving, like getting your first cap for England, we couldn’t possibly use real names so nicknames had to be found without delay, here they are

Stuart Aitken aka StuPoo. Hadn’t played cricket for 23 years. Right arm leg-spin, RHB. StuPoo sat in the wrong place at his first lecture at the University of Brighton and with Motty as one of his oldest mates, is still living to regret it.

Paul Aitken aka Baz. Hadn’t played cricket for 11 years. Right arm fast medium, RHB. As an embryo Baz sat in the wrong place in at his first stage of zygotic fertilisation in his mother’s womb and with Stu as his twin brother, is still living to regret it.

Owain Walcroft aka Steamtrain. Hadn’t played cricket for 23 years. Unknown, RHB. ST is an old friend of all of the above and an occasional cricketer who should have been running the London marathon today, but he got injured and as a local will now play for the Woodpeckers here every season until his knees give in (probably his only game).

Miles McCulloch aka Mowgli. Hadn’t played since last summer. Wicketkeeper, RHB. Mowgli joined the wrong team at work and with Baz as his boss and being the owner of his own wicketkeeping gloves, is now our official wicketkeeper.

On to the actual game then.

~

It wasn’t an overly warm day, barely breaking into 10 degrees and rain expected at 3ish, so a 35 over match was agreed before the toss, which pleased everybody. These days when he does win the toss, Patrick quite sensibly looks not at the overhead conditions or the pitch, but the state of his Peckers, when deciding what to do.

Sanderstead looked strong, with 4 or 5 1st teamers and some callow youth who looked to be spritely in the field.

The Peckers, on the other hand, were celebrating the lack of hangovers by tucking into the delicious Surrey Ales on offer in the bar.

So although there wasn’t a single hangover and we felt strong in both batting and bowling, we’d been warming up in the nets for 45 minutes and were as supple and ready to go as we’re likely to be all season. So we inserted and got out there.

Spinach and Motty opened the bowling. Spinach began, tearing down the hill with the wind slinging it down like Malinga and immediately giving the batsmen problems on what looked an uneven and lively surface. Motty on the other hand, heading up the hill into the biting wind, quickly found a rhythm and consistency that surprised everybody, including the batsmen.

The first breakthrough was Motty’s, with a technically sound opener leaving one too late and playing on to his stumps. This brought Chris ‘Aesch’ Aeschlimann to the wicket, pumped up the order for a bit of the old long handle. Chris is a great friend of the Woodpeckers having toured with a few of the older members - including our dear Old Sea Dog Chris Rossi - to Sri Lanka a few years back. Aesch isn’t going to die wondering that’s for sure and looking back over our previous encounters he’s consistent with this approach. One lusty blow over mid off and a couple of miscues quickly followed by missing what was an excellent yorker from Spinach .

Spinach (5-1-24-1) gave way to Phil ‘Polly’ Horton, a mate of Botty’s whose debut was the ‘Battle of New Malden’ last season. Polly quickly accounted for the other opener with a sharp catch for debutant Mowgli behind the sticks. By the time Motty (7-3-9-1) had completed his set we had them at 40-3 after 15 overs and we were looking in control.

Cue Henners - POTY elect and looking to start the season off with a bang. He did, but just at the wrong end. The batsmen had clearly been waiting for some twirlymen and they tucked in immediately. Polly took advantage and dispatched the dangerous looking Hassan, caught well by Botty for 15.

Lemon, looking well set on 29, went for another maximum in Henners’ third over and what looked like a lost ball hung in the wind and POB at long off was in the game. The ball hung in the air for what seemed a lifetime and we all had time to lay a bet on red or white, with red coming up the long favourite. POB defied the odds and took the catch cleanly and calmly, a shape of things to come? At 78-5 it was time to changes things up again and POB elected to bring the twins - Poo and Baz - on from each end.

Poo has a very natural leg spinners action, all wrist and shape. Initially he struggled to find his line but eventually a few absolute gems started coming down which would have troubled much better batsmen than were at the crease. Unfortunately we weren’t playing better cricket and so Poo quickly learned that bad bowling gets the wickets in the village. Deadman was his first wicket this century, falling to a great catch from Polly, who had a ball magnet in his pocket, at short fine leg.

With his twin brother Baz steaming in from the other end, we had 20 minutes of uninterrupted Aitken bowling. And it was joyous. Baz was generating some decent pace and odd unplayable from the top end and was rewarded with the wickets of Ward and Rushforth - with 13,000 runs between them for SCC these were good scalps to get.

The twins bowled brilliantly given their lack of cricket for so many years. With some nets and a bit of work both can become great additions to our bowling attack. Poo finished with (5-0-19-1) and Baz (5-0-33-2).

Save for a sleeping umpire, we would have had them all out for under 120, alas he was asleep and an obvious stumping wasn’t given. The last pair then added 20 odd to post a flattering 144, bowled out in 30.3 overs.

Incredibly, the Peckers of Sanderstead 2019 took all seven of their catches, with not a single drop. Some of these were half-chances. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that.

We left the field with our heads high, delighted to have all bowled and fielded well. A dozen ales were ordered and a long-ish tea was enjoyed.

~

Tea

Basic but well-filled sandwiches were complimented by a plethora of pakoras, pasties and mini-pies. A platter of cakes and pastries that would have kept The Baron in battenbergs for a week was hoovered with more ales and well stewed tea.Spinach really wanted me to mention the Bacon bits -Spinach and Bacon do go well together

~

Where our bowling and fielding was a professional, efficient and impressive - our batting was the complete opposite.

I won’t dwell too much on this but a strong upper order of Fischy, Botty (fingered tbf), Henners and Mowgli all fell before we could agree the rest of the order. At 20-3 after just a few overs chaos enveloped the napping middle and lower order.

By the time Owain returned from his innings on a stretcher we were 60-6 and the game was nearly over. A clip of his retired hurt has gone properly viral, being seen over 50,000 times - here it is:

https://twitter.com/i/status/1122889867522916352

The tail unfortunately didn’t wag and we capitulated for just 89.

Full scorecard: https://sanderstead.play-cricket.com/website/results/4039306

Well done reading this drivel, here’s the video: