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
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.
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.