Report by Daniel Mortlock:
Arriving at the squelchy Fitz ground today we were greeted with the sight of a St Giles eleven - or, actually, twelve - which looked like it contained some worryingly good cricketers, even if their (and sometimes our) captain Chris Badger insisted "It's not a gun side." But, the fact that we had their (and sometimes our) star bat Seb Hammerlsey as our not-so-secret weapon notwithstanding, the general sense was that we were out-gunned, particularly in the batting department. Upon winning the toss, we thus opted to field first, partly in the hope conditions would actually improve as the evening went on (which they largely did), and partly in the hope St Giles's top order would struggle in tricky conditions (which they didn't).
That said, there was a brief moment of ascendancy in the first over when Joe White (0/14) induced a genuine nick that went straight to first slip . . . but the "0" in Joe's figures tells you what happened next. This was the start of weird sequence of a player dropping a catch, being brought onto bowl, having a catch dropped off their bowling, by someone who then came onto bowl, and so on. In the end we dropped seven catches - none was easy, what with the wet ball and all, but none was that difficult, either - and with these chances went any hope of keeping St Giles to a manageable target. While for every drop there's inevitably there's a grumpy bowler cursing their bad luck, spare a particular thought today for John Moore, whose final figures of 1/40 could easily have been a five-for: he had both openers dropped off consecutive balls after inducing ugly mis-hits from batsmen more used to 75 mph seam-up; and then was denied a pretty clear stumping that was agreed to be out by all the St Giles team - except, critically, their square-leg umpire. Neil Grover (1/21) then picked up where John left off with his offies, but with the crucial difference that the top edge he induced - off St Giles's first team opener no less - went to the right person, John Young solid as a rock despite the gestalt team memory of the previous drops. And, while it's hard not to focus on our (non-)catching, our ground fielding was actually pretty decent, with the star being James Robinson, who exhausted himself sweeping the square boundary, but not before sending in a calm throw to effect a good run out. Credit too goes to Andy Owen (0/22) and Naveen Chouksey (0/30), who took on the muggins job of bowling from the Windsor Road end, which meant dealing with both a waterlogged run up and a short leg-side boundary (over which the new ball was lost in the second over). So there was silver lining at the edge of the dark grey cloud in the form of St Giles's eventual total of 156/3.
Faced with such a high early-season target, it was pretty clear that we'd need at least one big partnership if we were to go close . . . but we were, unfortunately, already on our third partnership by the end of the first over, delivered by an laconic Antipodean by the name of Cummins (no, not that one). Both wickets were bowled, which established an unwelcome pattern, as seven of our batsmen ended up missing (or inside-edging) fairly straight deliveries - which could be seen as the batting mirror flip of the dropped catches from earlier on in the day. Not that there was any suggestion that the St Giles fielders would have returned our generosity: our third highest scorer, Cam Petrie (7 off 6 balls), perished when their mid-off fielder held onto exactly the sort of chance he himself had fluffed earlier in the day; and our second highest scorer, Daniel Mortlock (16 off 20 balls), absolutely smashed an essentially perfect cut shot that was racing to the boundary . . . only for the aforementioned Antipodean to take an astonishing goalie-style grab at shortish point.
Needless to say that nine single-figure scores - well, eight plus Naveen's undefeated 3* off 5 balls - don't a winning total make, but an innings in which ten players contributed just just 36 runs between them suggests the even greater horror of lowest total territory that always used to make Geoff appear particularly nervous. Whereas we in fact made it to triple figures, thanks almost entirely to Seb Hammersley, who superbly executed his pre-match desire to "give St Giles a run around", to the tune of 52* (off 55 balls). He was particularly imperious early on, when he stuck to proper cricket shots, and would have kept us in the hunt if he'd had any serious support. Two overs from the end of the innings he reached the retirement score of 50, and confidently took his pads off when we began the final over 7-down as he noted Neil Grover was "looking solid" . . . only for him and then John Moore to be bowled in the space of six balls, meaning Seb had to rush back into the middle to at least ensure we didn't end up all out, perhaps the one task for the day in which we were unambiguously successful.