Kew Guard-and-swing

Kew Gardens. A civilised place for civilised people. Even the local clientele of the pub opposite (enjoying a few botanicals of their own) were impressed by the punctuality of the Captain Scott XI on this fine occasion – yes, including the skipper. As if to dazzle the assembled punters, the skipper even saw fit to add to his ‘streak’ of winning tosses (one so far, last week against Englefield Green). Naturally, he chose to bat. Once more into the breach dear friends, rode Dan ‘Jockey’ Vale. Riding high of the Tsunami of high-quality champagne consumed the night before in honour of his birthday, he was accompanied by the most welcome sight of a Mr J. Slatter, both knees positively glowing in their newfound functionality. The harem of Brazilian ladies accompanying Jockey got the fireworks, cheerleading outfits and pom-poms prepared…or rather, buttoned up their jackets against the chill wind ripping across the ground and wondered if the English were truly mad.

What followed looked, well just like…Cricket. Actual, sensible cricket. Shock. The opening pair blocked, shouldered arms and executed their shots with more judicious decision-making than the Scotties have shown in some while (and one or two of the members actually are judges). There was barely a shaolin slice or false shot played. To the extent that when Jimmy Slatts fell, we had a more than solid start of 88 runs for the first wicket (58 from his bat). Heads were scratching off the field (Scotties wondering if we could all play like this) and on it (how they were going to get the other batsmen out). 

Following a delicious liquid lunch of finest ales in The Cricketers (across the road), the day had all started rather well for Mr Prateek Shah of King’s Hill, Kent. So well in fact, that he decided to try out his new bat. Sauntering in to the crease, he too waited for the bad ball, and sent it scuttling over the boundary for 4. And again. And again. 50 runs appeared in barely an hour in the middle, keeping a fine head on him (must have been the ale) Mr Shah peppered the boundary with 4s, not going aerial much unless lofting outside the circle. Through the 70s and 80s he strode, some beautifully timed shots absolutely rocketing across the field, almost as beautiful as some of his replies to the grumbling bowlers. The nervous 90s descended a little for half an hour, but ultimately he raised his bat with the grace that the occasion demanded as 100 runs were clocked up. Desperately thirsty by this point, (and keen to give everyone else a go) Prateek allowed the opposition to clean bowl him with a massive attempted drive, and returned to the bar. Chapeau sir.

Did I mention that a nice little Scotties collapse was going on at the other end whilst Prateek cut, drove and pulled his way to a century? Messrs Campbell-Smith, Sandhu and (rather unusually) Watson, David were bowled LBW, playing through the shot to a bowler who turned one delivery every ten. So naturally he took three wickets. No matter though, high on the nectar of last week’s performance, in strolled the Skipper to continue his return to form. Civilised might not be the word, but the windows of the Greenhouses nearby were under threat with some almightily powerful hitting and well chosen balls to notch up 33 from 38 balls to finish the innings off in the time remaining, and allow Prateek to reach his 100. Rather unbelievably though, no one on the team scored a 6 through the whole innings. Restraint was the order of the day and we were in a good position of 254-8. Prateek himself said this was “definitely a par score”. How true this would prove.

Tea – Delicious. (Particularly as Kew have a bar). Extra marks for the falafel wraps here. The prospect of 40 overs in the wind? Not quite so delicious. Luckily for us, we had some sunshine arrive. Some of the Brazilian ladies had even taken off their skiing jackets, jumpers, woolly hats and scarves, and taken the hot water bottles and handwarmers out too. Or they’d gone home, bored and slightly bewildered. The first thirty overs were cat-and mouse. The opening pair for Kew had a solid start as despite the fine efforts of Ant and Kyle opening up, they either could not penetrate some obviously decent batsmen, or got unlucky with dropped catches. Scotties recovered and the pressure was back on towards over thirty as Jockey, Kyle, Ant, Ben A and David W all chipped in. Particular note for Kyle here, taking a beauty in from the boundary on the run. Particular black marks to the author, shouting for a catch and the dropping it, when it turned out to be falling down the throat of the skipper. Lesson – always look where you’re going…

With five overs left it was really starting to get interesting. Creeping through the 230 mark, the field was set defensive and the team were made to work for their post-match pints, and admirable efforts were made to stop the single or save the boundary by everyone involved.  The final over…adrenaline really starting to get going with the opposition in need of 10 from six and… A no-ball is called in error by our stalwart Umpire and swiftly pointed out (every ball counts at this stage). Fair enough, decision reversed. Get on with the game. In the end, a tie!! Who would have thought it?! Well in the end, cricket was the winner as both teams shook hands and agreed it had been a jolly occasion – in fact, quite fun to be involved in a tie! Prateek’s ‘par-score’ prediction had never been truer. 

No hard feelings on the Umpire from either side either, lots of people can’t do it anyway. Except, tiresomely, there is often one who has to take exception. Quite literally foaming at the mouth with fury that the decision was reversed, one would have thought someone had just ripped up his winning lottery-ticket by mistake. One or two spicy exchanges were had but luckily this attitude amongst his team did not proliferate. A reminder dear reader, that perspective is a highly important element to an enjoyable life. If one is to get this wound-up over a reversed decision, in a game of friendly cricket on a Sunday (non-league), where you didn’t even lose, I shudder to think of the reaction to something as terribly serious as spilt milk. The box with fewer stones in it always rattles the loudest. Nonetheless, Gentlemen and Ladies of Kew – most of you – we salute you. What a fine part of the world you occupy, and excellent hospitality you offer. We hope that our long-running friendship will continue, for it’s a pleasure to play against you.

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