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Sat 12th May – 7th XI v Catford & Cyphers

DULWICH 105 beat Catford & Cyphers 63 by 42 runs


It has long been recognised by the intelligentsia and the literati that Cricket has much in common with the game of Chess: the shrewd use of finite resources, the deployment of key pieces at the appropriate moments and the ability to administer the coup de grace in the endgame. Today’s game, at the Rubens Street ground in SE23, was a classic example of the extraordinary similarities between the two games. Gibson, Dulwich’s captain today, has many of the qualities of the American Grand Master: Bobby Fischer. Both are keen cyclists (Ed’s note: what has that got to do with the price of fish?) and both possess a comprehensive understanding of strategy in their respective disciplines. What is even more remarkable is the self-effacing modesty and humility they both display in the milieux in which they move.
Fischer/Gibson having lost the toss, found himself “playing with the black pieces” and was “inserted” by the Catford & C skipper. Fischer/Gibson opened with a classic Morphy/Staunton combination of simultaneously moving two central pawns forward with a view to gaining control of the centre of the board. The combination of a jazz saxophonist and a solicitor as an opening pair (in the shape of O’Higgins and Griffiths) would surely see Dulwich controlling the game within a matter of a few overs. Sadly, this was not to be the case, the Catford skipper assiduously manipulated his knights, bishops and rooks with such effectiveness, on a sluggish and unresponsive pitch and removed Dulwich’s early batting with consummate ease. An element of bathos was introduced when Branch hoicked the ball to the Square leg boundary, only to discover he had, unfortunately, tripped over himself and fallen on his own wicket. Nevertheless, the shot should serve notice on Dulwich’s forthcoming opponents in 2012: Branch is not a batsman to be trifled with! Having played several game-changing, swash- buckling innings last season, great things are expected from this unorthodox but effective willow wielder.
It was left to Storey, coming in at number 6, to play an innings of great responsibility (36) with support from Gibson, Rehan Malik, Lindsay Morton and Sam Hulcoop. David Hawes also batted. Dulwich limped to a total of 101(?) all out. Had this been a chess match, the aficionados would have averred that the teams were level on material at tea and the game would be won by the player who now utilised his pieces with the greatest effectiveness. The “middle game” is where Chess matches are often won or lost.
Fischer/Gibson used the prosaic but persistent medium pace of merchant banker Hawes as his opening gambit, while, at the other end, the fiery Malik attempted to extract some life from a moist pitch. He was not unrewarded: removing the off-stump of the opening bat. Fischer continued to make inroads into Catford’s material, by skilfully moving his Queen (Lindsay Morton) into the attack. With a series of Coneyesque dibbly-dobblies, Morton contrived to take no less than four wickets. Malik dazzlingly ran out the opposing skipper with a direct hit on the stumps, Gibson using flight and guile, lured a greenhorn batsman from his crease and Hulcoop executed an efficient stumping, Aditya Verma bowled the penultimate batsman and it was left to the saxophonist O’Higgins to literally expose Catford’s Achilles heel by striking the number 11 on this part of his anatomy for an unlikely lbw from a full toss. Fischer/Gibson had used no less than seven bowlers, in spells of varying length, in reducing Catford to a total of 63 all out and many spectators went home marvelling at the depth of his tactical acuity and perspicacious cricketing acumen. Dulwich 7th’s start the season with a 100% record! Played 1, Won 1, Lost 0, Drawn 0.

Sat 23rd July – 7th XI v Unavoidables

In 1964 Cy Endfield made the film “Zulu”. In this film, a tiny garrison of brave-hearted Welsh soldiers defeat thousands of Zulu warriors at the Battle of Rorke’s Drift. This game had many similarities to that story.  The Dulwich 7th’s arrived at Wandsworth Common bruised and battered after a number of defeats at the hands of the likes of Burgh Heath, Kingstonian and the Bank of England. President and captain Smith withdrew from the game through injury and it was left to vice-captain Gibson to metaphorically lead his team into a chorus of “Men of Harlech” at the start of the match.

Readers may wonder at some of the more tenuous connections between this match and the film. The Unavoidables arrived with nine players: the Zulus had considerably more than this number batting for them. However, the heroic nature of Dulwich’s victory, is worth noting. Gibson (alias Michael “Don’t throw bloody spears at me” Caine) won the toss and departed from normal practice by electing to bat first. Dulwich’s early batsmen were mediocre. The litany of failure extended down to number five in the batting order: Blench 1, Griffiths 8, Rochford 0, Branch 2 does not suggest a winning total was on the cards. But the Unavoidables had not reckoned with the estimable skills of newcomer Nikhil Lalwani, who proceeded to play an innings of match turning significance. This young man was quick to make his mark on the game with a series of well-timed boundaries, including a six. The fours were especially significant as the outfield was large and had not been recently cut. In fact, it resembled more the savannah lands of Natal (see the above allusion) than a public park in South West London.

The Zulus returned with another wave of attacks and dismissed Rob Webster for four. Dulwich were left apparently bleeding and dying behind leaky sandbags at 54 for 6. Michael Caine entered the fray intent on defying the native hordes. The vice-captain has always prided himself on his ability to bat in a crisis and he and Lalwani wasted no time in wresting the initiative from the Unavoidable warriors. Nevertheless, when Gibson foolishly and unnecessarily ran himself out on 23 with the total still only 115 there was much to be done by the Dulwich tail. They proved more than up to the task: Lalwani continued to flay the Zulus to all parts of the valley and ended with what turned out to be an invaluable 52. A great start from a clearly very talented cricketer. Pylas (James Booth) made four singles and then Lalwani was joined by yet another name for the future: William Spencer. This lithe and willowy framed 18 year old essayed some excellent strokes for a classy 10 not out and Dulwich’s innings finished on the not unsatisfactory total of 139 off 34 overs.

An al fresco tea was taken of mini scotch eggs, baby bels and doughnuts, and the Zulus started their counter attack. Webster and Lalwani were both frugal in their opening spells and Webster ultimately dismissed Thornton: lbw for 6. Gilbert arrived at the crease and it was clear that he was a cut above the other warriors. Could M. Caine marshall his slender resources with sufficient acumen to withstand Gilbert’s assault. With each bowler only allowed 7 overs the Captain took a gamble by introducing newcomers Wilson and Spencer to the attack. This proved to be a very effective ploy. Spencer bowled a flawless 7 overs of well-flighted leg spinners and undetectable googlies and returned the excellent figures of 7 overs, 4 maidens, 12 runs and 1 wicket. 16 year old Frank Wilson, at the other end, turned out to be another revelation.

Bowling a brisk medium pace he tied down Gilbert and Webb with equal aplomb. Wilson finally reaped his just deserts by taking 3 wickets in one over including 2 in 2 balls and finishing with figures of 3 for 33 off 6 overs. Pan Pylas caught a very easy catch behind the wicket off Lalwali. The 35 over restriction left Caine/Gibson with something of a problem, however. To whom could he entrust a further 7 overs? The choice was unenviable: should he enlist the aid of the tattooed insurance broker Owen, with his sub-Coneyesque “dibbly-dobblies”? Owen had wasted no time in informing Gibson/Caine that he had taken 4 wickets against the same opposition last year.

To improve the credibility of his case he had even gone to the lengths of carrying in his pocket, his personal plastic bowling marker. This latter ploy had no effect on Gibson: a captain with no susceptibility to such thinly veiled ruses. The other alternative was Gibson himself: a bowler never known for his frugality. “Pie-chucking crap”, is just one of the more printable phrases that have been used to describe Gibson’s unique brand of flighted off-breaks. If Gibson should find himself bowling “a load of ordure” all may be lost. Gilbert was still at the crease and batting with increasing authority. At such times, men of steel grasp the nettle, stiffen the sinews and summon up the blood. Gibson measured out his run and bowled. To everyone’s astonishment his first over turned out to be a maiden and his second conceded only 1 run. At which point, a loud and audible wail was heard from the watching teammates of Gilbert and Webb: “We have to score 140 to win chaps” was the refrain. But all was lost for the Unavoidables: increasingly desperate and improbable singles were run and it was from one of these that Gilbert was run out thanks to a brilliant throw by Branch at deep mid-on, which hit the wicket direct and left the hapless Gilbert stranded.

The troops of Dulwich closed in for the coup de grace, which was not long in coming as Wilson and Webster did their work in dismissing the last four batsmen for 1 run. Dulwich triumphant. The Unavoidables were left to bury the dead amidst the carnage of Wandsworth Common as empty mini egg cartons were blown away by the four winds. Both teams repaired to the adjacent County Arms where pints of Young’s Waggle Dance were quaffed with great relish in the pub garden.

Sat 25th June – 7th XI v Burgh Heath

The manner in which Dulwich’s side arrived at this match provided a metaphor for their performance, a number hurriedly pulling on their flannels as the umpires inspected the pitch for play, several new players who would have an impact on Dulwich’s game among them.

Put into bat on a slow and wet wicket, Dulwich got off to a slow start. Muhammad Afzal was unable to capitalise on his form away at Bank of England, giving up his leading edge to a tempting delivery and no doubt kicking himself all the way back to the boundary.  But like a Londoner in the Blitz Trevor Griffiths showed his stalwart spirit to deny the Burgh Heath bowlers with a mixture of cuts and deft touches leaving him on 11 before he was given controversially caught behind off Hoy.

Richard Blench’s positive strides down the wicket barely troubled the scorers before the 7th team’s batting discovery Rob Branch set about the Burgh Heath bowling like vagrant at a buffet. However, hungry as he was, he unable to prevent his dismissal on 18 from Smith caught at the hands of Moin Khan. A man the Dulwich team were soon to hear more of.

It may strike the reader as strange to note that skipper Jimmy Gibson – that alleged talisman of the Dulwich 7’s – was dismissed for only 9, caught at deep mid on from the less than threatening bowling of Mears. Such is the fickle game we play.  At this point the Dulwich innings was in crisis. Only 50 runs on the board with several wickets down. Enter Nick Rochford.

After an initial period of scratching and waiting before Gibson holed out, Rochford found a kindred spirit in Dulwich’s new found player Robert Webster. Bringing some of his Manhattan attitude, Webster’s insistence on running added more to Rochford’s score than it did to his own. Their partnership of 28 was a lifeline to Dulwich’s struggling innings before Webster was stumped, his eyes lighting up from a temptingly flighted delivery from Duke for 7.  Indeed such was the bond between these two batsmen their innings ended in exactly the same way, Rochford succumbing stumped to Duke on 31, so ending Dulwich’s innings following a cameo 19 not out from Michael Owen.

With 120 on the board, and in high spirits, Dulwich took the field with Webster taking the first over, and Captain Gibson choosing the bait of David Ward’s mixture of leg spin and slow medium pace at the other end.  Webster’s pace proved a handful for batsmen and fielders, with his first ball tapped tamely to cover and misfielded for four. Meanwhile Ward outthought the Burgh Heath No 2 Wood with a well flighted leg break. The weight of wood’s beard throwing him off balance, missing the ball, and leaving him stumped for 7 by Choney.  Unfortunately Ward’s moment of triumph proved a Pyrrhic victory once Moin Khan returned to the field. Striking his first ball from Ward for an effortless six, Khan set about Dulwich’s bowling with glee.

Ward. Webster. Gibson. Afzal.  Dear reader I must tell you none of these proved enough to meet Khan’s match as he smite Dulwich’s bowling to the four corners of Tattenham before Mike Owen dismissed him bowled for 65 with his quicker ball striking the top of leg stump.  Sadly by this point the game was all but gone. But Webster would have none of this and backed up his cries from the boundary of “one last push” by despatching Khan’s Burgh Heath 1st team colleague Maserd for 3 with an off cutter taking the top of his middle stump.

Only at this point did players familiar to Dulwich in their contests with Burgh Heath in days of yore begin to grace the pitch. Duke’s 5 not out providing a scratchy end to the match, and Alan Swift with respectable figures of eight runs conceded from only two and half overs.  But by this moment Burgh Heath had won this contest by nine wickets, and Dulwich sent packing. They can only reflect on heroics of Khan, the economical bowling of Basil and Smith, and a number of dropped catches from the bowling Webster as they lick their wounds before next year.

Sat 18th June – 7th XI v B of E


The banking industry has endured something of a bad press recently. Thanks to their mismanagement and reckless gambling with other people’s money, the world is now staring into the abyss. It is something of a surprise, therefore, to discover that the Bank of England Club continues to offer superb facilities for the playing of Cricket, Tennis and Squash. Even banks seem to be able to get something right. There is a sting in the tail, however: Young’s Ordinary was priced at £3.45 a pint. Your correspondent has it on reliable authority, that no-one has ever charged £3.45 a pint for this excellent, but usually reasonably priced beverage. Could it be that the private caterers who now run the Bank of England bar, not unlike Messers (sic!) Cameron and Osborne see the way to economic salvation in the following way: “Screw the bastards till the pips squeak and then screw them some more?”

After driving through heavy rainfall for most of the journey, suddenly, over the leafy suburb of Southfields a thin sliver of azure sky appeared: just enough to keep one naval seamstress in gainful employment for a couple of days. As a result the game started on time with Griffiths and Afzal opening the batting for Dulwich. The wicket turned out to be something of a two-faced untrustworthy Nick Clegg of a pitch. It was wet one end but dry and unyielding at the other. Griffiths succumbed quickly to a ball that climbed steeply from back of a length and the game became very attritional for some time as Afzal and the talisman Gibson tried to establish some sort of platform for the innings against some accurate bowling from the precociously talented Ramesh and the more mature Eddows.

Some more critical observers were quick to point out that Gibson and Afzal should have done more to get the score moving. Gibson, in particular, seemed to find himself in the firing line of this vituperation. As a neutral observer, with the benefit of hindsight, your correspondent would like to go on record as saying these criticisms are not entirely without foundation. He persistently missed quick singles that were there for the taking and his mind only seemed half on the problem of nudging, nurdling and rotating the strike. All one can surmise, is that the prospect of becoming a grandfather may have been “getting” to him. Happily, the birth of a 6lbs., 6 ozs. boy on 20th June may have resolved some of Gibson’s off-field concerns and we can look forward to some more fluent innings from this cricketing yeoman in the future. At length, Gibson succumbed to a full toss which may have had some late reverse swing on it. He was swiftly followed by what on paper should have been the Howitzers of the Dulwich batting order: Rochford, Pylas and Owen all failed to make significant contributions and at 55 for 5 it would be fair to say that the 7th’s found themselves deeply embedded in a particularly noxious and copious amount of foul-smelling excrement.

It was at this point, that things took a dramatic and unexpected turn for the better. Drafted in at the eleventh hour by his tenant, Rochford, Rob “Landlord” Branch arrived at the crease and without too much ceremony proceeded to cow shot both J and R Kendall to most parts of SW17 with some uncompromising and effective biffs. Branch finally succumbed with a debut score of 22. Meanwhile, at the other end, Afzal, who had survived all the innings’ vicissitudes, was steadily acquiring a shrewdly compiled 43. The pair added 39 to the score. Branch was replaced by the saxophonist O’Higgins, who had eschewed a “gig” at a Swanley nudist camp to play here today. We can only conjecturalise as to why O’Higgins made this surprising decision. Did O’Higgins have some inside information that the female residents of this establishment were not a particularly attractive bunch? Did O’Higgins worry about his own “equipment” being uninsured and therefore vulnerable to misuse? Your correspondent has never attempted to play the saxophone in the nude, but one does wonder if certain parts of the anatomy may impede a musician of O’Higgins undoubted stature while attempting to play a particularly intricate solo number. Whatever, O’Higgins batted very creditably for undefeated 8 and John Smith was run out on 3. Dulwich finished with a total of 120.

Opener Gallimore was dropped by wicket keeper Griffiths off the fully clothed O’Higgins on the first ball of the Bank’s innings. This was unfortunate as Gallimore proceeded to make a further 16 before succumbing to a viciously turning off break, delivered from round the wicket by Gibson. Could the old Merlin of spin weave his magic web yet again and destroy the bank’s batting through cunning flight and guile? Unfortunately, we will never know: Gibson was removed from the attack after a couple of his deliveries slightly strayed from “the corridor of uncertainty” and were smacked for four by the unforgiving Lewis. He was replaced by the ex-government apparatchik David Ward who deftly dismissed Broughton who did not offer a stroke to a well-flighted googly which thudded into the top of the stumps. Ward was to make further inroads by dismissing Campbell, but bowlers Owen and Umesh could make no further impact and the Bank passed Dulwich’s total comfortably with 3 overs to spare and losing only 5 wickets.

Sat 4th June – 7th XI v Abinger

This game was not unlike watching one of the more prosaic episodes of the once popular TV Series “Baywatch”. At the start of the programme we are asked to gaze in wonder at what the programme makers obviously believe to be the epitome of female perfection. Wearing only bright orange swimsuits these women run along the beach. Each quivering movement of the female form is lovingly caught by the voyeuristic camera in slow motion and the average heterosexual male viewer is rapidly brought to the conclusion that the next 30 minutes of TV will be a bit “special.” All too often, as in Cricket, what promises well, rapidly declines into an almost unwatchable piece of television dross which serves merely as a clothes line on which the advertising agencies can hang their over blown messages of hyperbole: otherwise known as “commercials”.

The Abinger Hammer Cricket ground is a picture of perfection. Had Gainsborough been alive, he would have leapt on this rural idyll and replicated it in the finest materials Windsor & Newton has to offer. There is a swift flowing and clear bottomed stream at one end in which small children paddle and try and catch scaly members of the piscatorial species with large nets on the end of bamboo canes. [Ed's note: I think we are talking about fish here. Can we please try and cut down on the unnecessary verbosity? We are now halfway through the second para. And I have yet to read anything about the game itself!] Their parents set out their picnic tables in anticipation of witnessing a cricketing “battle royale”.

The highly tuned athletes of the Dulwich 7th XI take the field and flex their muscles in the early summer sun, having much the same effect on any female bystanders that Pamela Anderson has on the male section of the TV audience. Skipper John Smith (who bears more than a passing resemblance to David Hasselhoff – the male lead of “Baywatch”) gathers his fine specimens of manhood around him and urges them into battle. Fast bowler David Hawes paces out his run and prepares to bowl full pelt downhill at the unsuspecting Abinger batters. He bowls 11 overs, 0 maidens and takes 1 wicket while conceding 62 runs.

In fact, the game, like many episodes of Baywatch, takes on a faintly humdrum aspect: bowlers are brought on and taken off, catches are offered and dropped, some wickets are taken but there is a feeling that Abinger are moving inexorably towards a satisfactory total. Even when the svelte and athletic Rochford leaps, salmon-like, to take a splendid and unexpected catch on the deep square leg boundary (off yet another of Gibson’s long hops) there is a feeling that Abinger are in control of the situation. They eventually declare on 203 for 6.

At tea, the vast multitude of spectators departed from the ground and did not return. Even the young anglers (who had hitherto shown only a passing interest in the activities on the playing area) left their watery playground and headed off for, presumably, a well-earned supper of Fish Fingers and Chips.

For the Dulwich 7th XI, it must be said that 203 is a large number of runs to chase down, especially in what amounted to 37 overs. Although talisman Gibson (5) departed early, Cook (48) and Blench (40) batted in spirited fashion to add 104 runs to the score before being separated. Cook, in particular, played some fine leg sweeps and pulls but showed a marked lack of tactical “nous” by hitting the ball into some very long undergrowth on several occasions before the final 20 overs had been called. A swiftly run 3 can have more advantages than a mightily hit 4 in these circumstances.

Rochford jnr and Peters attempted to revive the run chase, but it was clear that the target was well beyond Dulwich’s reach and the game (like episode 534 of Baywatch) petered out into an uneventful draw. The ground remained bathed in an evening sun and a very pleasant time was had on the patio of Abinger Hammer’s well appointed pavilion, quaffing Surrey Hills Ale from the local Ranmore brewery.

Dulwich 7th’s move off to the frozen wastes of Totteridge and Whetstone next week where the mighty Whittington (by their own admission: North London’s worst cricket team) lie in wait.