Damp Dog Destroys Doggies
For weeks this writer has been hoping for a game that was completed comprehensively; a game that didn’t twist and turn every five overs, suggesting a degree of schadenfreude on the part of his ten team mates who expect him to pick through – and fairly describe – the narratives of the titanic tussles the 2nd XI seem to delight in.
Unfortunately, this wish has manifested itself in a comprehensive battering at the hands on Normandy on Saturday.
The bare facts of the situation pre-game did not bode well for the recently-struggling 2nd XI. Coming up against last year’s champions Normandy, currently riding high again in second place this season, an incredible dearth of Dulwich players – through injury and unavailability – significantly weakened the side. This was particularly true of the batting line-up, missing 2nd XI luminaries Ferguson, Cornick (A) and Hale. And on a heavily saturated pitch, Dulwich were required to send their fragile order into bat first after poor captain Richard Reid lost his ninth toss in ten games – a record now so incomprehensively desperate it would seem particularly pitiless to even attempt any loose tosser/tossing-based quip. Overall, it wouldn’t have been unfair to surmise early on that it was going to be something of a struggle.
Openers James Siddle and Oliver Steward were first into the firing line. An over from each end was enough to confirm suspicions about the damp pitch; a particularly squidgy area, just short of a length at one end, was being vandalised with inch-deep divots that sent the ball scatter-gunning both vertically and horizontally.
The Dulwich innings was a procession of wickets interspersed by 0-15 run partnerships as the home team somewhat flakily accepted their own plight and subsequent limp demise. Steward (2) was first to depart in the fifth over, nicking one that lifted to second slip, and Zak Rostami (5) left one that cut back in and struck him in front. Siddle (13) looked like he might be set to tough it out, but was unfortunate in cutting back onto his sticks, and skipper Reid (4) tickled through to the keeper.
Gareth Cornick and Stephen Heath, warmly welcomed back for his first game of the season, then showed that robust positivity might be the best way in dealing with the oppressive pitch as they rattled up a pair of 19s. Cornick hit one beautiful blow over square-leg for 6 but next over played forward, was greeted by some conspicuous pop and the ball brushed his glove on the way through to the keeper. Heath followed a couple of overs later, launching vertically to square-leg and, next ball, Abu Arabi became the fourth of the first seven wickets to be snaffled behind the wicket as he tried to defend.
The Dulwich tail, like a weary wife, has often had to clean up the top order’s mess this season. But at 70-odd for seven, and on a damp Dog, it was a task too great. Jamie Pettigrew has managed it on a couple of occasions this season and looked like carrying on that, and his previous nights’, accurate shot-playing but he was the last man out for 13. Before him, Anthony Dalton (2) had swiped and missed and James Bridgland (3) had planted Larry left-foot straight down the line of one. Dulwich were, sadly unlike the pitch, mopped up for 91; former Middlesex player Peter Wellings the chief destroyer with 5-22.
In response, Normandy chose to give their youngsters a go up the order. An amount of sunshine over the course of the day meant the pitch was a little more docile in the second innings and they managed to wrap up victory by seven wickets in 29 overs. Bridgland (2-21, including one that sponged into the track halfway down, comically looped to the batsman and was absurdly chopped straight to cover) and Dalton (1-10) the only men to pick anything up.
Dulwich should now be aware of their standing in the league – third-bottom and 14 points off the drop zone. A response is required, starting next week away at second-bottom Ashtead, else spending the back-end of the season in a relegation battle will become a very real eventuality.