Sunday 7th May 2006
The Whalers converged on the South Bank University Sports Ground in Dulwich, on a day when, thankfully, the meteorologists had got it wrong. The 1pm meet found glorious sunshine, and a whole 10 Whalers that arrived on time, or little more than five minutes late. Fortunately, Stu Terrell brought some normality back to procedings by arriving a good half hour late. Notably present was Gibbo, making his first Whalers appearance for about two years – the hiking boots had gone, replaced by a fleece – but the enthusiasm was still there. Notably absent was Ad – captain for the season – electing to miss the domestic curtain-raiser in favour of some QT with the missus – probably spent doing some gardening or visiting B&Q. An “under the thumb” fine was duly conferred.
After some vague fielding practice (the “directors of cricket” elected in Sri Lanka failed to fulfil their promise of some more telling routines), Al happily won the toss and elected to bat on what appeared to be a slightly spongy wicket. A whole two spectators arrived in eager anticipation of the battle ahead. One of the spectators was Stu’s wife, the other – we think – was Dan’s German girlfriend. We think it was her, but no-one was really sure as Dan elected not to introduce her to anyone, preferring to disappear off to the far side of the ground for some canoodling. Lovely.
And so Gibbo and Oz strode purposefully out into the middle to make their stand. The opening bowlers of the Rams were solid, bowling a good line and length, and the start was slow. This all became too much for Gibbo when, having become settled, he elected to steer a rare loose delivery straight down the throat of cover having scored 2. The cover fielder, looking not dissimilar to Jason Gillespie, proved to be a stern adversary in all areas of the game. This brought Stu Terrell to the crease, and he set about building a solid innings, with the wife admiring from the sidelines.
Stu and Oz then settled in and started to build a good partnership. It was not without some early scares. Oz survived a good shout for caught behind, and also benefitted from some hard chances being put down in the field. But the two perservered well, and started punishing any loose deliveries. Stu was first man to reach his 50 – but this quickly spurred Oz on, who started to loosen his arms as we were used to seeing in seasons past, and swiftly reached his milestone too. And all this was accomplished while Clippy was making a mockery of his umpiring duties – losing count of the balls bowled for three consecutive overs – yes he’s an accountant.
The scoreboard ticked on, and some lovely shots were applauded by all. Stu eventually fell for 68, catching a leading edge and sending the ball skywards. But the score was now 136 – and a tremendous 132 partnership had put Whalers in a strong position. This was the second highest stand in Whalers history, and a record for the 2nd wicket. Al Dickenson was next out and looked solid in support of Oz, until receiving an unplayable delivery whilst on 18, which reared visciously off a good length, and was nicked through to the keeper. Meanwhile Oz was still there, smashing boundary after boundary. He was now joined by Ed, with 6 overs left. Moving into the final over, Oz, at the non-strikers’ end was on 99. Ed did his best to stop Oz from reaching his ton, but a run off a bye on the 4th ball gave Oz the strike, and a quick single saw the century. Whalers had made a solid 209 for 3 off 35 overs.
We were happy with the total, but some spy-work on the Rams’ scorebook told us that they had a couple of regular century makers in their ranks – and this was most of the conversation over one of the better cricket teas. We knew we would have to bowl bell.
More fielding drills followed, and then the Rams entered the filed to make their assault on our total. Both openers looked very solid, but Dan and James bowled well and kept things very tight. Dan benefitted from some of the No. 1 batsman’s poor luck, when he played agonisingly on with the score on just 2, but this was no less than Dan’s bowling deserved. The No. 2 batsmen (Mr Gillespie) however, was looking extremely solid and increasingly comfortable at the crease. His was going to be a key wicket, and sensing such a key battle ahead, it was nice to see Rich turn up to offer his support from teh boundary rope. Loose deliveries were punished, and James took a bit of a beating off his fourth over, whereby Andy and Piers were called upon to bowl. There was some mixed stuff from these two – the odd good delivery mixed up nicely with some beamers and some wides, but the next 11 overs went for just 45 runs, moving the run rate up to 10 an over, and the Whalers started feeling more comfortable Piers had also eked out two wickets, to finish with credible figures of 2-17. The first of these was a superb catch by Oz, left-handed and full stretch high to his left to pluck a fierce drive out of the air in the most nonchelant manner possible!
But then Mr Gillespie started to open up. Ed’s bowling was being dispatched around the ground. Ed decided to counter this by bowling the “Oh My God!” ball a clear three feet above the batsman’s head, and also loudly and off-puttingly apologising while sending a fast beamer head-bound. The Rams were beginning to make a good fist of it, keeping up with the 10 an over rate required. But to help our cause, the clouds were rolling in and the light fading. Cue Jeff to bowl consecutive beamers at Mr Gillespie’s head. A small incident followed between the two kiwi compatriots, where there was a lot of apologising, but things quickly calmed down, to the credit of both parties involved. Jeff though, keen not to bowl any more full stuff, completed his over bowling a little too short, and was punished with a number of boundaries, as Mr Gillespie approached his 100.
And so it looked as if Mr Gillespie may deny the Whalers their victory. He survived a dropped catch by Dan, and a further lucky escape when chipping the ball directly into a space where Al had just moved a fielder from, but he marched on. Al also tried his captain’s best to bore the man out, taking a good five minutes to set field placings for each delivery in the ever-worsening gloom. Al then brought Dan and James back on for the final few overs, and it proved a master-stroke. James finally got the key wicket, bringing Gillespie’s excellent innings to an end on 117, well caught behind by Ol (who let out that fearsome primal scream which is now becoming a feature…). An audible sigh of relief went around the now gloomy ground. James picked up another wicket, as did Dan, to end with excellent figures of 2-19. The Ram’s ended after 35 overs on 187 for 7 – the Whalers winning by 22 runs.
So it was off to the bar for the fines session (even the absent Ad didn’t escape) and to reflect on the first Whalers victory of the season. Credit should be given to the London Ram’s – a great bunch of lads who played the game in the correct spirit, and put up with our penchant for bowling the odd accidental beamer!
Man of the Match – Paul Osborne: 100 not out, and that nonchelant catch!
Champage Moment – James’ key wicket so well cuaght by Ollie, effectively sealing the game.
Muppet Moment – Jeff for arguing with a fellow Kiwi.