Detail: 13-09-2020 - South Bank

Result: L by 7 wkts
The Blues vs Southbank CC (at Dulwich)

The Blues assembled onto the green pastures of Dulwich to see what kind of team we would be facing. This weeks' Blues contingent had more youth than experience on their side and we were being pitted against what felt like quite a serious outfit. Time would tell whether wizened experience or youthful vigour would prevail. Before kick-off the heavy roller was brought on, much to our amazement. Skipper Jenkins won the toss and because it was a glorious day plus he was feeling quite hungover, decided to bat first so we could all put our feet up.

Jack Ward and Alistair were asked to open and soon found out that the heavy roller had had no effect whatsoever. From one end the balls were popping up around shoulder high and from the other the balls were getting stuck in the pitch. Demons everywhere. The opening 2 bowlers were also a little faster and more accurate than you would hope to face, offering up no bad balls and terrorising the 5th/6th stump channel. After 2 overs of ball beating bat, Jack and Alistair had a conference 'just see these blokes off and the yuck bowlers will come on'. I must mention at the outset that the oppo skipper told me in no uncertain terms that we would be playing 40 overs, and would not budge on that matter. This meant that each bowler had 8 overs each and the opening pair bowled for what seemed like hours, tormenting Jack and Alistair ceaselessly.

After 9 overs the boys were still there wicket intact, a solid foundation had been set, and 23 runs had been scored. 9 overs was too many for the opening pair's concentration on such a hot day. Jack top edged a cherry that did plenty off the surface, to send the ball looping skyward. Believing his fate to be sealed Jack duly trotted through for 1 with his head downcast. Remarkably, the only Southbank drop of the day followed and Jack was reprieved. Or so he thought Alistair, in his infinite wisdom, decided to do a 180 turn faster than a slalom skier and race back for an improbable second. Jack, brain still scrambled from the loose shot, obediently followed the more seasoned campaigner's orders and tried his best to come back for a second. Sadly before Jack was even halfway down the wicket the ball was thrown to the keeper and the bails neatly taken off and he had to go for 9. Needless to say, Jack took it well

A change of umpires and a change of fortune for the Blues. Alex Pike, disgruntled at batting 10, then exacted a little revenge on Alistair by triggering him out of the blue with barely an oppo appeal to a ball that was beating the keeper leg side and probably fine leg too. A fuming Alistair (13 runs) joined a fuming Jack and the two shared an exchange of views.

Harry Tawney having been dropped down to 3 was keen to show his worth and quickly hit his obligatory leg side boundary. Harry was joined by younger Tawney Archie and the two brothers faced 3 overs together before Harry T was too quick on a defensive and popped it right back to the bowler departing for 6. 43-3. I mentioned the two paced pitch earlier and this was not to be the first dismissal off a defensive that popped up to grateful hands. The Blues were clearly bamboozled by the sheer length of 40 overs and the natural attacking flair that we all know and love seemed stifled by being told 'there was plenty of time'. As we all know from tennis, football and essentially any sport, too much time to think is never a good idea.

Archie having outlasted his brother got out 2 overs later for 2 runs. Archie normally so adept at feathering it between the cordon for 4 got his timing slightly off and instead it popped up to second slip. Blaming the hungover state rather than the pitch he slumped off to go and find a consolatory Guinness. 44-4 of 15 overs.

Harry Jenkins and Luke were the two Blues facing up and saw out the 16th over which meant the two opening quicks were finally removed from the attack after 16 overs of heat taking 4 wickets and going for about 50. 2 new bowlers entered one of whom was reassuringly average, throwing down the gentle dibbly dopplers that we all cherish. Jenkins dispatched a few to the boundary to hit double figures and then Luke eager to get in on the action absolutely middled one to mid-off. To immense surprise the fielder caught the ball and the third umpire was called into action to see if the fingers were under the ball before contact. Sadly the catch was upheld and Luke trundled off for 3.

Sam Robinson joined Jenks at the crease and was quickly off the mark for a gorgeous one. A bit of scurried running and the two boys ran a few wides and byes to get the scorecard ticking over. Sadly the other end bowler was a left arm off-spinner who offered no loose balls at all. Zero-ing in on a good length, he took advantage of a turning pitch to either turn it away from the batter, fire it off the pitch with topspin, or let it stick into the pitch to throw the batsmen's timing off. This bowler is getting a write up as in no time at all he took 3 wickets and went for about 3 runs. Jenkins was the first to fall, playing a defensive shot too hard handed that fell easily into silly mid-on's outstretched hands, leaving the field of battle for 14. Sam fell the first ball after drinks (yes we made it to 20 overs) caught athletically for one run. Our last recognised batsmen was out and we were down to the bowlers.

This being the Blues, we weren't particularly worried as our bowlers regularly outscore the batters most weeks. Plus their confidence was buoyed as we had Mo off a 50 in Scarbados and Glenn setting his sights on Youcef as leading Blues runs scorer, despite batting 11 all year. Robin, after impressing for the Blues development squad with a ton, demonstrated that cricket doesn't care how skilled you are, she is a cruel mistress. Tentatively pushing at that slow left arm spin, he nicked off, was caught behind and had to leave the field for a golden duck. Thanks for coming.

Alex Pike almost got in, getting to 7 runs before missing a ball that clipped the outside of the leg-side stump to send a solitary bail slowly teetering to the ground. As Alex ran a single his fate had to be pointed out by the fielders. The Blues standing umpire wasn't sure, Alex was absolutely not convinced, but the bail was on the floor and the keeper hadn't touched the stumps. The evidence was irrefutable. Pikey had to go.

Then it was down to the last 2 batters, Mo and Glenn. Coming together on over 23 (who says they don't get a bat!) at 67-9, our single biggest partnership then blossomed. Combining for 31 runs (including extras) the boys batted valiantly, threatening to hit triple figures in a vain effort to give themselves something to bowl against. Glenn, in what is becoming a habit, hit the only 6 for the Blues and utilised the sweep shot against their slow spin bowlers. Mo batted sensibly, showing his trademark agility at the crease and running the 1s and 2s nicely. Sadly, it had to end at one point and one slog too many saw Glenn caught and the Blues dismissed for 98.

Only 3 people hit double figures and Glenn top-scored on 23 coming in at 11. That probably says it all. No-one got in and I'm sure this demonstrates that experience, shot selection, decision making, lack of hangover, all prevail over impetuous youth.

We then were treated to our first tea of the Covid season. I would give a score of about 6/10, certainly room for improvement, but undoubtedly better than our batting performance. However, a good amount of sugar was provided, donuts, chocolate bars etc. which helped fuel our verbal onslaught when back out in the field. Disappointingly there were no home baked cakes, carefully prepared pasta or freshly cooked jerk chicken - Streatham and Marlborough was the jerk chicken tea last year, which will long live in my memory.

Well onto the bowling. Despite proclaiming we were a batting side, after our first batting blip of the year - probably long overdue - we had to change the narrative, as all good politicians do weekly. To be honest as a unit we bowled beautifully and threatened the outside edge, took wickets and offered up chances consistently. However, bowling defending 98 runs for 40 overs was certainly a daunting task.

With rather a few wickets needed for not many runs Alex Pike and Glenn were today's opening bowlers. Alex, off the back of his wicket in York, showed there is no North/South divide and started off where he left off last week. Despite hobbling around the field he sprinted in and showed great pace to tail it into the right hander, offering up some late swing which challenged both batsmen. After a few overs The Blues had their first wicket. A zinger of a delivery from Pike screamed off the surface of the pitch to take the outside edge. The ball was too good for the batsmen and indeed for the wicket keeper, as Jenkins got a hand to it but couldn't hold onto it. However, after completing the Last Dance in 2 sittings, Harry J seems to have learnt basketball by osmosis, and managed to push the ball up with the right hand, setting up an 'ally-oop' for the slip cordon. Jack Ward at first slip reacted beautifully, and shuffled to his left to dive with far more athleticism that he displayed in his disastrous run-out, to take a spectacular one-handed grab in his bucket hands.

A few overs later Alex Pike threw down a good one and the batsmen chipped it back to Alex who took a tidy caught and bowled. 2 down for not very many and suddenly the Blues were right back in the game.

Like death and taxes, you can guarantee 2 things from a Blues fielding performance: a very noisy fielding unit & dropped catches. After early fielding catching practise at half time tea revealed who was the most hungover of the 12, the chance inevitably came to a confidence-shaken Archie Tawney. After more good bowling from Alex Pike the batsmen chipped up a ball to fly loftily to cover. Silence descended as the ball travelled through the clear blues sky and zeroed in on a visibility trembling Archie Tawney. Throwing his hands at it, the ball was predictably dropped. What followed next was even better. Archie's body then physically manifested his inner despair as Archie crumpled to the ground in a heap, head in hands. Whilst Archie lay prostrate wondering what could have been, regretting the extra gin and tonics from the night before, the batsmen were happily running between the wickets. After a cacophony of shouting penetrated his gloom, Arch came to his senses, collected his limbs and gathered the ball to throw it back to the bowler.

Archie then substituted himself of muttering the mantra 'I hate cricket' repeatedly and went seeking solace at the bar. On came Luke who, powered by half time pints, felt revitalised and added a good deal of volume to the fielding side.

Special mention to the next bowler into the attack, Ollie Mckinner who was playing 12th man and played it admirably. Ollie on his debut for the Blues, managed to bring a crowd along to support him, somehow convincing 3 ladies to come and watch him bowl 3 overs and not bat. Remarkable performance all round before he had even bowled a ball in anger. Utilising height and long limbs Ollie ran it somewhat nervily, not having bowled since school. However, then first ball was a line and length dot ball, and from that moment the confidence all round grew. So much so, that it wasn't long before Ollie sent down a fiery ball just short of a length to find the outside edge. A tidy one-handed catch by the keeper and Ollie had taken his first wicket in his second over. Jubilant scenes all round. Alex Pike was seen quickly taking Ollie to one side in order to tell him that bowling for the Blues is not normally that easy and don't get used to catches being taken. 45-3

Enter Mo. Mo bowled with the usual combo of guile and shoulder busting pace and had the batsmen troubled. Sadly by this time the oppo were over the half way mark and had plenty of time. Showing Mo respect they settled into a block policy with the occasional sweep. As if to prove Alex Pike right, their batter found a thin top edge which came quickly leg side. Keeper Jenkins, standing up to the stumps, did his best to deflect it upwards and then on the second attempt tried to leap far enough leg-side to grab it safely. Sadly Jenkins had neither the reach nor the skill to get to the ball and pouch the catch. Normality restored.

Glenn bowled a usual miserly line, although the oppo with such a small total were happy to play a patient game with Glenn and were in no rush to play a false shot.

As the oppo were almost at their total, some great fielding was displayed by various Blues members, keen to make the most of the last of the summer sun. Special mention to Robin, who has the biggest throw I have ever seen in cricket, absolutely javelining the ball from the boundary to any corner of the ground. Indeed, one massive throw from the boundary had so much venom in that it nearly flew skyward across the entire field to go for a 4 the other side. Mo, created an amazingly close run out by a similar herculean effort. At deep point he collected the ball and hurled it towards the keeper, who took it tidily and re-arranged the furniture. Bizarrely it wasn't given, clearly the standing umpires didn't fancy batting today. Luke in a similar fashion collected a ball that had squirted through the gulley region, turned sharply and rifled it to score a direct hit. This one was much less close and the batter was probably in, but a bloody good throw nonetheless.

Robin, had the ignoble 'honour' of bowling what turned out to be the last over and to have the winning runs hit off him.

All in all, a great venue, reminiscent of school days with about 4 cricket pitches next to each other all covered by men in whites. A glorious sight. A bar that was cheap and stayed open all day. And the Dulwich venue proved a hit for the Blues travelling fans, pulling in double figures in watching spectators (double figures being a total 8 Blues did not reach). Despite not necessarily giving the oppo a great game, the early finish gave us a real chance to do what we do best - spending money at the bar. So much so that H Tawney had to be forcedly restrained from challenging the oppo to a boat race to glean a silver lining from the day out. With all that in mind, hopefully we will get an invite back next season and seek our revenge.

On next week to New Malden!

Go well

Harry Jenkins

[updated 16 09 2020]