Father's Day comes early for the Gale Family
Comprehensive victory for the Stags in only their second outing of the season.
It’s been a long time since I last put finger to keyboard in the name of 4th Cricket XI but there again a long wet winter, a few cancelled games and a disappointing loss to Banstead a couple of weeks ago hardly provides the ammunition one needs to launch (positively) into one’s older teammates' mostly declining cricketing abilities. Yet, yesterday’s activities at Boxhill School have once again encouraged your scribe to record events for posterity.
The background to the day was typical for a 4th XI captain. 10 or 11 players at Tuesday evening selection had morphed into about 5 or 6 by Thursday which led to a club wide appeal for players. Extraordinarily, by Friday night I had a squad of 13 to select from as players emerged from hibernation like hedgehogs in spring. Unfortunately this led to a couple of people being disappointed at not being able to play but their willingness to play this week will not be forgotten in future weeks.
A violent thunderstorm early Saturday morning was of no concern to the skipper but nonetheless he didn’t dare phone the Boxhill groundsmen for a pitch update. We were going to play whatever happened. So with eleven players and agility throughout the team, particularly with our usual match pundit, John Gale, as wicket-keeper for the day, the toss was duly lost and surprisingly the Stags were invited to bowl first as the opposition skipper fancied a bat on the superb Boxhill strip – a decision which surprised most of his teammates given the earlier rain and forbidding clouds overhead. Clearly he knew little of our opening attack of Gyan and Sachin (no not that one!) Jindal.
The Sanderstead opening bat took guard wearing his Surrey seniors jumper and this appeared to faze out Sachin in his first over. Sachin had clearly sussed out John Gale’s wicket keeping abilities from a peremptory visual analysis from long leg during the first over and hence decided that it would be safer to bowl his first few balls directly towards second slip. On his second attempt doing this, Gale stumbled, sorry, moved athletically to his right and managed to deflect the ball wider beyond the extensive slip cordon of one and apparently down towards third man. Unbeknown to the batsmen, however, the gazelle like reactions of the skipper enabled him to swoop athletically downwards (unusually without falling over in the process) and snaffle the ball on the way past. The batsman by this stage was on his journey to the non-strikers end thinking of a comfortable single and perhaps a two. His partner was not of the same opinion. Having watched events transpire, he had not moved and surprisingly had remained silent enabling the Stag’s skipper to meander towards the stumps at the striker’s end and almost apologetically remove the bails. 6-1 and perhaps the seeds of destruction had already been sown.
Gyan at the other end had his radar in good working order and made short work of the Sanderstead top order, dismissing nos 3, 4 and 5 all for ducks as the opposition were quickly reduced to 25-4. The pitch was bouncier than is usual at Boxhill and this, together with some excellent catching, notably from Sam Gale in the covers, had put Sanderstead very much on the back foot with only Phillips, the remaining opener, offering significant resistance as he punished anything short.
Will Bishop by this stage had replaced Sachin at the top end for his first bowl of the season. Although initially he also seemed to be confused as to the difference between first slip and wicket-keeper, he soon had locked on to a better line. 10 overs and 0 for 33 was not a fair reflection of how he bowled but today luck was not on his side having beaten the bat regularly and with a number of close LBW appeals. Meanwhile, Gyan (3-21 off 7) had been replaced by debutant Steven Scott who soon removed the dangerous Phillips for 37.
Clearly, in the selfish interests of the 4 XI, I am unable to report openly and honestly about Steven's subsequent successes as this might draw his talents to the attention of the 3 XI in particular. So all I can say is that his 6-20 off 10.5 was clearly undeserved and only the result of an extraordinary display of catching rarely seen in 4 XI cricket. Indeed S J Mahadevan batting at no 6 must have been the unluckiest cricketer in Surrey on Saturday. He had clearly done his homework prior to the game and carefully identified that if you are going to hit the ball in the air, then Gyan is usually a good person to aim at. Normally, this is a dead cert scenario but SJ will be ruing his luck as Gyan, to both his and his teammates surprise, took a superb running catch moving some 10 yards to the left in the process.
Wickets continued to fall, most to catches close to the wicket and we only managed to drop one out of nine chances all afternoon with the Gale family excelling with five between the three of them and John taking two, one of which involved sprinting almost two yards.
With the final wicket falling with the score on 106 (18 of which were wides), a relatively early tea was taken, a prelude to one of the most curious passages of cricket I have witnessed.
It was certainly a good toss to lose as the pitch was certainly drier and truer as our turn came round to bat. Now with John Gale in the side, it was always a key decision for the skipper as to how to get some peace and quiet as John is not one to hold back giving advice to whomsoever may be in close proximity. So clearly the best option was to have John open with his son Sam. This plan had potentially a couple of flaws. Firstly, the expectation that John might shortly be back with us on the boundary and secondly I had not allowed for the fact that even though John might not be able to offer his pearls of wisdom from the middle, Pat, his mother, was still with us and provided us a running commentary as to what John was likely to do next!
So the game progressed. 10-0 after 7 showed some circumspection from both openers, however a few fours in the next couple of overs got the scoreboard moving freely. There were, however, other things which were not moving so freely by this stage. A new cricketing concept was clearly being trialled by the Gale boys – one which involved walks rather runs. Never have I seen an easy three being converted into a tight single as John began to run out of puff. It was soon evident that only a single or boundary would suffice, with two's simply not feasible. As the score progressed towards the required total, John simply stopped running. A well placed shot would be followed by a gentle amble towards the non-strikers end. The concept of a quick single now required a sixty yard chase for a Sanderstead fielder towards a distant boundary. At the drinks interval, John was observed taking on bananas for extra energy rather than the traditional orange squash.
Meanwhile, Sam had passed fifty a long time earlier and was into the 80’s when John finally succumbed and was out for a majestic 18 with the score on 105 with two required for victory. Simon Fielder was required to finish the game off as the Stags won by nine wickets in the 29th over. A comprehensive victory by any analysis.
Father’s Day had arrived a day early - I don’t think we have heard the last of it either!