“Are you the philosophy group?” asked the elderly lady, who had driven her friend down to Spring Lane in the mistaken impression that the motley crew erecting a marquee at 9am last Saturday must have been serious thinkers rather than – well, that other pursuit so beloved of habitues of the Blue Ball Inn, namely: cricket.
Perhaps they were misled by the venerable demeanour of one D Foster, whose characteristic look of one who is wrestling with Hegelian dialectic tends to belie the fact that he is in fact struggling to remember where he left his cigars.
In any case, for the more observant a major clue would have been in the sight of Captain Emeritus (and head groundsman) S Wilson, as he went about his business preparing what is fast becoming known as the finest village cricket ground in the northern hemisphere for this season’s clash against the travelling gents from the taverns of Highgate.
It would be nice to say that Spring Lane was the star turn with her snooker-table flat outfield and a wicket that offered some pace and spin but played as true as a Labour Party manifesto very evenly indeed. With something there for the bowlers and plenty for the batsmen, the scene was set for an entertaining afternoon.
And a memorable fixture it was. It was a game of firsts – a first game for O Lawes, removing HT opener A Browning as he threatened to turn his 53 into a substantial knock. Lawes went on to take 3-36 in eight overs of more than handy off-spin, marking him out as the youngest of three cricketing brothers of whose exploits I imagine we will read regularly in match reports to come.
HT eventually made 183 in 39 of their 40 overs, T Kennedy taking 2-25 despite a knackered arm (too much real tennis TK) and J Este taking 2-14 (including the most spectacularly egregious hit wicket – nay, demolished wicket, in the history of the summer game.*)
Two outstanding performances with the bat decided the contest. Really, it was one outstanding performance with the bat, a thrilling captain’s knock by AP Stafford, ably partnered by P Myers who put on 85 together for the 5th wicket. A perfectly paced innings from Stafford saw GCC needing 15 to win with the captain needing 9 for his hundred.
A runner was duly dispatched with the nearest thing Spring Lane could find to water (half a Black Bar) to apprise the pair that if Phil Myers kept hitting fours, AP wouldn’t get his ton. “We know that, silly,” said AP, or words to that effect.
In the event the partisan home crowd needn’t have worried. With 6 needed for the victory and 3 for his ton, AP – by now clearly channelling Andrew Flintoff (this may have been due to the Black Bar) – stepped down the wicket and smote a good length delivery back over the bowlers head for six, a maiden century for Spring Lane and a convincing six-wicket victory for GCC.
It may not have been St Crispin’s Day, but even so “there will be many in England now a-bed**, Shall think themselves accursed they were not here. And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks, that fought with us upon Spring Lane.”
*It was all about using the flight to move the batsman back in his crease. Ed
** In the Blue Ball.