Sat 21st May – 7th XI v NatWest Amblers



by Jimmy Gibson

The sporting history of these islands is a long and rich tapestry of success and failure. The 1950’s were a particularly significant time in that both Football and Cricket produced outstanding teams. The Hungarians arrived at Wembley Stadium in 1953, with the novel idea of passing the ball with the side of the foot accurately and at the right velocity to a fellow team mate and then moving into an empty space to receive the return pass. Unsurprisingly, the England team found themselves unable to deal with such an underhand tactic and lost 6-3. At the same time, across London, one of the finest cricket teams to ever exist were in the process of winning one of their seven consecutive County Championships. The success of Surrey, at this time, was, in no small way, due to the skill and dexterity of their “spin twins”: Lock and Laker. Jim Laker was a fine exponent of the art of off-spin, using flight, guile, and prodigious turn. The more cynical observer might be tempted to say that the only resemblance the Dulwich 7th XI off-spinner has to Jim Laker is the fact that they share the same christian name. On the other hand, the more attuned and observant spectator might reflect on the surprising similarities between the two. Although Jim Gibson did not take 19 wickets in a Test Match against Australia it cannot be forgotten that he did once take 7 for 39 for the Dulwich Sunday 3rd XI in 1973 against Grindlay’s Bank using the same techniques that Laker employed so successfully against the baggy greencaps.

Today’s game at the DSG was the first one played with the new “Scorehut”. It must be said that this new facility does not compare favourably with the scoreboard found at the Sydney Cricket Ground. This monument to comprehensiveness supplies the names and individual scores of all participants. It will even tell you on which day of the week is late night shopping in Sydney and where the nearest urinal may be found. The scorehuts at the DSG will simply tell you the score and the number of overs bowled. However, your correspondent overheard a conversation yesterday which suggests these new score huts have the benefit of a versatility of use that the Sydney scoreboard lacks. 2 members of the Dulwich 7th’s (who, for obvious reasons, must remain anonymous) were heard discussing the possibility of using these structures to further the carnal dimensions of a clandestine relationship they may be having with a member of the opposite sex. The word “Shagbox” was coined on more than one occasion during this conversation. It is to be hoped that the new scorehuts are not subjected too frequently to this secondary use and that the participants will remove all traces of their visit(s). Your correspondent is aware that a certain exasperation may be creeping in to the reader’s mind at this point, and so he will move on to actually reporting today’s match.

Dulwich took the field for the first time this season under elected Captain Smith. The current fad for pre-match on-field “huddles” was exercised and the team gathered round to hear Smith’s words of insight and inspiration, especially as the team had lost so ignominiously last week to the same opposition. The situation was not entirely dissimilar to the disciples attending the Last Supper. The team crowded round Captain Smith to hear what pearls of wisdom, inspiration and insight he may be offering:

“The bar will be open tonight and will be selling Meantime Pale Ale in small green bottles”. Unsurprisingly, a note of incongruity chimed at this moment. A look of puzzlement spread across the other members of the team. Are these the words that Jardine or Brearley used when preparing their teams to do battle with our ancient antipodean foes? I think not. One can only surmise that in this day of rampant and incessant commercial exploitation, Smith has entered into some shady sponsorship deal with the Meantime Brewery. The reader (if he has actually got this far?) may draw his own conclusions.

And so, to the game itself: it will come as no surprise to regular readers of Dulwich 7th Match Reports that the team quickly found itself in the toils. Osborne and O’Higgins found themselves dispatched to various parts of the DSG by openers Gibbons and Pett. O’Higgins is a saxophone player of prodigious talent and skill and leaves one speculating on why such skill has not translated itself to the Cricket field. But then again, one has to ask whether Courtney Pine or Coleman Hawkins ever learnt to bowl with reverse swing? I suspect not. O’Higgins was eventually replaced by Peters but this change made little impression on the serene progress of Gibbons and Pett. It was becoming clear to all, that Gibson would have to be brought into to the attack, despite the still shiny appearance of the ball. With his usual self-effacing reluctance, Gibson duly stepped up to the plate. An air of expectancy hung over the crowd. (Ed’s note: what bloody crowd? Reporter’s reply: if there was a crowd, there would have been an air of expectancy.) The crowd (imaginary or otherwise) were not to be disappointed. Gibson measured out his seven pace run, turned and bowled. His first ball floated innocently into the air, dipped, and bit into the pitch approximately 18 inches outside Pett’s off-stump. The ball continued on its way but changed direction by 45 degrees. Pett was suitably flummoxed and could only offer a half hearted flail at the ball. Gibson leapt in the air with glee only to find the ball missing Pett’s off-stump by a space as thin as the husk of an insect after it has been eaten by a spider. The reader will, no doubt, be pleased to hear that it is not your correspondent’s intention to describe every ball bowled by Gibson with quite the same attention to detail with which his first ball was described. In fact, the only other ball worthy of mention was that which finally made the breakthrough: Gibson lured Pett into a rash slash and it looked as if Griffiths was about to make a hash until he made a late dash and scooped the ball up one-handed, inches before it would have plummeted to the ground with a crash. The solicitor does not always display such gazelle-like athleticism on the field, but on this occasion he surpassed all expectations and received the well-deserved plaudits of the rest of the team. Dulwich’s elation was short-lived, however, as this only brought to the crease the redoubtable Lynch who then batted with consummate skill and scored 113.

Dulwich’s reply started optimistically enough with Griffiths and Solanki setting about the Amblers target of 268 like two small boys in a beach pedalo setting out for an oil tanker on the far horizon. The pedalo began to ship water, however, when Griffiths was caught and bowled by Dolby with only 20 runs on the board. Gibson and Solanki then showed no little skill in getting the pedalo moving through the gears with a series of well-essayed cuts and “nurdles” into the unguarded third man area. Unfortunately, their progress was halted by an unidentified injury to Solanki who retired hurt. Osborne then came and went, having been dismissed by a straight ball by the accurate Dolby. This brought the 7th’s own Mike Hussey to the crease. Nick Rochford (alias “Mr. Cricket”), in partnership with the resourceful all-rounder Gibson, stopped up the holes in the pedalo and the two of them found themselves in open water heading for the still distant target. Drinks were served with the score 105 for two. 20 overs were left. A “big ask” but not entirely unreasonable, given a fair wind and a favourable current. But then alas! the innings hit a submerged wreck when Davey penetrated Gibson’s hitherto reliable defence with an inswinging and late dipping yorker and the Dulwich innings foundered. Gibson had made 25 and Rochford a valiant 45 with a series of lusty drives and heaves but the last 6 Dulwich batsmen contributed 12 runs between them and the Dulwich innings folded with an ignominious 135 all out. Both sides retired to the bar to drink.  Meantime Pale Ale.

It is to be hoped that better form will be found by Dulwich on their forthcoming Somerset tour.

[Enough – ed.]

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