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.

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