West Sussex would naturally be thought of as a Wanderers playing haven, but by quirk of logistics, and the endless sub conscious antipathy of fixture secretaries, the compass rarely turns left. Ambereley today was an exception, as is Angmering next week.
There seemed to be confusion over player availability this week, and in an unusual twist of events, after an energy sapping tour, the opposition appeared to have the shortages for this pairing. Thus a blanket call, taking advantage of a Brunswick Village match cancellation, meant that every Cricketer with a free Sunday, or an excuse for exclusion from domestic duties, descended upon this sleepy western enclave. Even Teflon Noakes came to lend his support despite not having officially ended his tour. Such is the power of the Manvell finger click. Now we know why some blokes have issues with females in men’s teams- Gemma’s instruction makes Bob Geldof’s call to a Live Aid concert look like a take it or leave it suggestion.
Thus both teams had eleven, in fact Wanderers had twelve. DJ Dave opting for bowling duties, and young Wadey crease occupation. I could easily get with this job share thing.
Amberley Cricket Ground combines beautiful scenery and bland location in similar quantity. To the south and west lay the rolling hills, but the wicket and general pitch condition have an air of Hove Rec about them. In defence, the pitch had been holding a lot of water, and was set to play like an angry Plumpton had met the old Steyning Grammar School track. A grand test of batting technique, and bowling intuition, was to follow. Both sides were found wanting, but mainly Wanderers.
Lord Sponge lost the toss and was asked to bat. A decision perhaps more suited to a drying pitch at Arundel rather than a potential mud fest just a few miles North. The expected slow and unpredictable mood of the wicket soon took centre stage.
Master Wilson and our new overseas player, Lee Snelling, started proceedings. Lee, who had previously been unfortunate victim of a string of rotten ducks, found habit had become addiction, and soon became the first victim of premature stroke play, falling to a simple caught and bowled for Arosh Fernandopulle. Yes, the Brunswick player. Princess Gemma and young Travers also fell to his wily droppers, Gemma forgetting to watch the turning ball. This was after The Big Saffer Bear had fallen cheaply to Lock, the opening bowler. Wanderers were 40-4, 37 of which had come from the clubbing blade of Master Wilson, who was chancing his arm in the process.
At 44, the fifth wicket fell. Jordan sending Keith Barrs snow topped donkey dropper down to cow corner. With a score of 41, it may well have been a percentage record for a Wanderers opener falling at the fifth wicket, and one of those was extras….
However, aided by Sunday spirited changes in the bowling attack, the lower order found itself in a position to rally. 89 runs were added, with Luke Smith ever looking the all-rounder with a composed 22 Not Out that mocked the conditions of the wicket at times. A watchful and timed front foot defence and a designer cut stroke in plentiful array. With DG indulging in an agricultural rave of 28 runs in no time in particular, and a careful 16 & 13 from Messrs Higgs and Fennell respectively, the innings closed on 133. Everyone then decided to call tea and run for it, but as usual Jordan got there first.
Tea: Southwick Wanderers 133 All Out (Wilson 41, Salerno 28, Smith L 22*, Fernandopulle 4-20)
A Plentiful banquet of traditional sandwich fair was soon devoured with grateful mouths and burgeoning stomachs, and Wanderers wobbled to the wicket.
So as quick as Wanderers had lost their top hat, so did Amberley. Opening batsman Wright was bowled by a ball just short of a full length that came back on to the pegs. Mr Salerno’s medium pace appeared to be the perfect tonic to the gin, as the wicket was the best bowling asset, hope was on our side. Alas this was to be short lived.
Amberley appeared to have a group of capable and experienced batsman, but not for the conditions. Short deliveries were despatched with sometimes confused timing, but full deliveries were met with forceful and confident front footed drives. Anything just short of a length produced uncertainty as the wicket continued to sweat. Gwyllim picked up a couple of batsman caught in the field, and Lukey bowled the dangerous looking Strudwick with a low full toss.
But Amberley never looked to have lost control of the match at any point. Number 3 McCarthy was the lynchpin with 75 Not Out, yet at times the pitch would offer assistance forcing miss-timed drives into vacant fielding areas. One senses the result could have been a lot different. Ironically, Dave Field’s bowling figures of 3 overs for 31 were that of a person who made appropriate use of the track, pensive and lofted drives again running a line through vacant chunks of green. Much frustration.
The match was won in good time, but of most concern, despite the pending defeat, was the ongoing struggle of Sponge v Sponge’s back. Another over went uncompleted as perennial crock fell to his eternal thorn. It looked rather painful. The previous ball had flown to a maximum, but this wasn’t a strop. Lord Sponge has bowled his last ball of the season, but with the ever-increasing batting prowess that each visit to the crease brings still has a role to play. Perhaps a restful winter will render his ailments a thing of the past. We hope so anyway.
Close: Amberley 138-5 (J Wright 75*, M Lock 27, G Jones 2-31) win by 5 wickets
In the usual Wanderers spirit, defeat was taken well. And soon forgotten with a sojourn to the nearby George & Dragon with its picturesque setting and splendid country views.
Today tales of more Cricket clubs folding were told and the worry of the Sunday game’s demise still lingers in the background. I pontificated with our Dave how Wanderers came so close to this miss-fortune back in 1989 yet still holds strong. Long may it continue.
Thank you to Jess for stepping at the last minute to fulfil the pivotal role as Club Mascot.