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.
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.
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:
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: