?Upon entering the drive-way like entrance and round the corner of Turney Road, some white clouds against blue sky sit expectantly above the array of greens and browns. The fortress that is Dulwich Sports Ground Pavillion imposes itself up ahead, strong and beautiful. Benches are carried out across the grounds as cigarette smoke and excited chatter fill the air. Our unconscious minds have drifted and we have found ourselves daydreaming about this approach during the long, dark winter months. As the birds sing loud and the sun peaks through the clouds, friends and foes are re-united. Since last time here, many have undergone meticulous preparation amongst the memories of the all time greats of the game (Lords/Oval).? The planning and the anticipation are finally over as the cricket season descends upon us. Shouts of ?F***ing hurry up, Grayboy? can be heard as someone scurries late into the changing room to throw on kit.?
The skipper, Scooper, boasting a solid looking and fairly well balanced Ploughman?s side wins the toss and confidently puts us into bat on what appears to be a surprisingly good wicket, for this stage of the season. Top 5 ready and set and we?re underway. The openers stroll out and a possible score of 200+ crosses my mind for a fleeting moment. Four overs in and the umpire is asking to be replaced, the field is in a jubilant mood and a look at the scoreboard shows us to be 13 for 3. We?ve already seen a couple bounce high, a couple bounce low an excellent delivery and excellent catch. The captain looks at the number 6 and they both scratch their heads.
Enter Lockhart and Conway, a little before they?d hoped. Conway times the ball well and hits the ball hard, it?s strong and decisive (20). Lockhart hits round the ground, it?s free flowing, it?s in the air and it?s elegant (25). The field calms.
Good bowling from the Oppo?s skipper, Rahul, sees the ball bounce and swing. Wickets fall. Jones chips in with his first (10) runs for the Plough. 93 for 7.
The skipper at one end and Uncle at the other have walked uneasily to the middle. Roll over now, the game is over. We shrug it off. First game back, rust, cobwebs, nerves. No. Not today. Skipper and Uncle, a combined age of over 100 out in the middle, find it difficult early on. Ball beats bat, the two dig in. Scooper displays some hard boundary hitting of the bad ball (23).? Uncle backs him up, sweeps seamers from middle and off to behind square (12). Partnership 41. All out for 134 off 27. Game on.
The match is finely poised. (Some) catches will need to be caught, fielding will need to be (relatively) sharp and bowling will have to be tight. And tight it was. Carson (0/12 off 8) and DC (1/9 off 5) run in, as tight as a nat?s chuff, overs pass by and the pressure builds. DC, looks to mid on, ?Yorker? is the response. DC, an obliging fellow, nails the yorker and the opener is gone. The required run rate rises. Batsmen look to force shots.
Grayzer, full and straight, with a beautiful action that demonstrates years of plight and persistence, skilfully moves the ball away late (2/11 off 8). Uncle is in the mood after claiming 3 scalps in last year?s fixture. The batsmen toil. Uncle, with flight and guile, shows no mercy (3/23 off 6).
The game is far from over. Big hitting from Harrod and Rahul (32 not out) remind us of our moderate total. Leather once again finds willow, leather once again finds the fence. Players on both sides call for the scoreboard to be updated.
Scoops looks around. Matt Jones is relatively unknown. He has netted through the winter.? The ball is tossed in his direction. He runs in attacking the top of off stump from the off, asking questions of the batsmen, who struggle to answer them. Two wicket maiden, end in sight.
The small matter of what to do with Rahul is appropriately avoided as Harry spins the ball and the ball turns. It is too much for the tail. One turns sharply and crashes into middle stump whilst the final is chipped to square.
Catches win matches. Matt Jones (1), Harry Davies (1), DC (1), MC Hamer, (1 – absolute stunner) and Buckley (2 ? one of which Collingwood would have been proud of).
An unorthodox stumping from Lockhart who chose not to bother using his hands (citing that it was too much admin) and a decent showing in the field carried the Plough over the line. There were some moments of brilliance, but the match was won in the moments where Ploughmen dug in, put the team first and did what was needed. Overall it?s hats off to a great team effort, topping off what was a fantastic opening weekend of the season for the mighty, mighty Plough.