Malden Wanderers



‘THERE'S a breathless hush in the Close to-night –
Ten to make and the match to win –
But his Captain's hand on his shoulder smote "Play up! Play up! and play the game!"
‘15 to win and one over to bowl
‘Come on, Windy, help us reach our goal.’

‘Be there at 1.15 was the Skipper’s instruction but we were still thin on the ground when I rolled up about 1.30 at the Malden Wanderers pleasant little ground buried in the South London suburbs. A sunny, easeful afternoon little dreaming of the drama to come. Gradually the Peckers arrived. Imraan had already delivered a bed to Winsor, ran a sister to Camberley and another to Fulham and now turned up chewing what looked like a chicken lolly that he’d bought at a newsagents. 

A fine collection of Wags also appeared –   Glenda and Chloe Palmer with the littlest peckers, Emile and Piper London. Also Caitlin Miller and Mrs. Pukey Joe Adrienne and I have to report that the first bottle of white wine was opened at 1.45, and as it flowed so did some really excellent gossip that I managed to earhole. Wonderful ‘made-in Chelsea’ accusations of infidelity had been flung about apparently the previous night. ‘Pukey Joe’ was the first hint of the Appalachians. A name that conjured up images of a manic banjo player with a weak stomach for Bourbon. Images that were reinforced by the arrival of a member of the Knightsbridge Hillbillies – ‘Cousin Dave’. I’d like to say he was dishevelled but that implies that at some stage in his life he had ever been shevelled. Meticulously un-ironed cricket whites with just that touch of chicken salad sandwich down the front that marks the true Mountain man. The whole picture completed by the production of his Moonshine – some excellent Alepine lager that Cousin opened for us bottle cap to bottle cap – a trick he’d obviously been taught at his Granpappy’s rocker chair.

In fact, by the time that Cousin Dave arrived we’d won the toss and Pat had grabbed the chance to bat. Cuddles and Imran went out and at the end of one over only one remained, Cuddles having eventually fallen LBW, he himself pretty sure he’d already been out to a previous ball. The umpire was an Aussie Gnome whose son was the Malden overseas player who we’d hear more of later. Tobes went in and the score zoomed up merrily. Not so easy at one end where a refugee from the Beano called Bosher was sending down some good quick stuff. However at 109-1 after 12 overs, their skipper called for Will Riley, the 18 year old Aussie overseas player, who came on to bowl. He was quick but playable and the damage was done by the introduction of demon spin. I say ‘spin’ but we’ll never know if Tobes wicket ball would have spun because he clipped it off his eyebrows to short square leg. Those very eyebrows that were raised umpire wards as he walked off. The unsaid question ‘no ball?’ hovering in the air.
The umpire in question was Girdle who, like Jimmy Anderson, had decided to rest a side strain, earned I believe in compiling his first fifty for his mid-week side, The Corseteers. Girdle had brought along a Wagette (or a Girdlette as Pat writes) – Chloe, who was not, as I thought when I arrived, enthusiastically marking the score book, but dashing off a few sketches. Girdle featured quite heavily in a sub-plot to the day – ‘Girdle and the Machine’.  

Back in the game Imran was beautifully caught for a classy 32. AJ took up the running with a nifty 44, there followed a quintet of teenagers Pat was LBW for 15 and I scored all my runs (17)exclusively in the 5 degree arc between square and fine leg before my belief that a 5 iron swing wold connect with a well-flighted leg break proved mistaken. Greg (15) threatened to get us over the 250 mark until he also fell to a cunning full-toss. Pukey Joe made 13 including two lovely boundaries and Windy struck three beauties in his own baker’s dozen and we closed on 240.

A very good tea with Sausage Sandwiches and excellent scones accompanied a story from Chloe the Girdletta about the accident prone Girdle falling off a cliff. We opened the bowling with the Twin Brothers Palmer. (I should point out here that Malden had rather trumped us here with the 3 Marks Brothers). Malden opened with Will Riley, the Aussie and a left hander, Barford, the cunning full-tosser. They batted well, rarely in trouble against some tight bowling, Greg bowling his 8 overs for 38 runs. Windy replaced Tiddles uphill and AJ came on for Greg and he also bowled his 8 overs straight through, a hostile  model of economy and length, bowling 2 maidens and only giving up 29 runs. 

I came on for Windy and by now the asking rate had crept up to 7 an over. Barely a shot had gone in the air. In fact, my first 2 balls went higher than any of their shots. Surely they had to take a few chances and I offered plenty.
But they seemed set on batting out the overs and both scoring tons to go with it. The trouble was as all our emails have said this week, the fielding was committed, keen and often inspirational. I have to point out Pukey Joe, who already having got his Peckers best of 13 with the bat, now risked his valuable banjo-plucking fingers in some acrobatic fielding. But we were all at it and, if some runs got through, it wasn’t for lack of effort on what was not a billiard-table outfield.

7 runs an over became 8, became 9, became 10. Tiddles came back on for me and Will, on 93, finally realised they had to push. He had already struck Tiddles for 10 off his last allotted over and swung the game back towards Malden but then came rashly down the wicket and was bowled by a Tiddles beauty. Will slumped to the pitch, distraught, missing out on his ton with his Dad umpiring.

Now the pressure was on the new batsman, Groucho Marks... Cousin Dave had replaced AJ and was getting up good speed and bowled the first Marks Brother. Tiddles was bowled out; on came Windy and bowled batsman 4. It was looking good for us until Chico Marks came in, finally used the long handle and hit an enormous 6 over the makeshift pavilion at extra cover reminiscent of Inzamam Ul Haq in the 92 World Cup. Another swing to Malden and this game would have been a professional trader’s delight as the advantage swung between the two teams many times during the Malden Innings
Last over. 15 needed. Windy to bowl.  A great running stop by Greg at long Off, A diving special by Ducky at fine leg and 11 required off 3. Then Chico hits a big six over mid wicker and the tided turns to Malden with 5 required off two. ..A hush descended over the ground- a beautiful yorker from Windy and Chico is castled! The Peckers go mad and mob Windy. 4 off the last to tie …we manned the boundary and restricted it to two and. ensued the biggest Pecker bundle I have ever seen at a Match as there was total elation for …a marvellous, dramatic and bloody well-deserved win. The best TEAM effort I’ve ever been involved in. I was so happy I bought a case of Cousin Dave’s beer.

Peckers 239 all out defeat Malden Wanderers 237 for 5 by two runs!

The thing that made it so special was it was the best peckers fielding performance I’ve ever seen and a total team performance from 1-11.

Cuddy –faultless fielding including some great diving stops at backward point
Imraan -set platform with quick-fire 32, and a brilliant keeping performance, only 4 byes –Malden let through 12
Toby -61 off maybe 30 balls set us a great platform and he also fielded brilliantly
A Jay 44 runs and 8 of the most controlled overs you will ever see for 29 runs turned the game
Ducky 17 runs, and they never took to his leg spin, plus a great diving stop at fine leg in the death overs
Pukey Joe – a peckers top score of 13 and successfully dived for every ball in the field. I actually think it was Pukey’s total commitment to fielding that may have sparked us all
Greggles – solid spell that got better, conceding under 5 and a crucial running stop in the last over. In six years I have never seen Greg run so fast or so emotional after a game of cricket
Cousin –Battled traffic to be there and bowled very well - to bring on a bowler of his calibre 4th change for death overs is a great luxury
Windy – 13 runs and a Magnificent 2nd spell, taking 2 wickets and the Yorker he delivered for the penultimate ball was something Lasith Malinga would have been proud
Tiddles -Turning point – Aussie Will Riley hits him for 10 off an over and he comes back with a full, straight delivery to castle the Aussie and leave him distraught

Magnificent and a wonderful way to bring up win number 11 of the season