Played 13 Won 10 Drawn/Tied 2 Lost 1

Sunday 7 September 2008
SCCC 159-9 dec
The Water Hog enabling play at Woking & Horsell
Woking & Horsell 123-8
Match drawn
SCCC won the toss

Peter Andrew writes:

Last match of the season, and against a real cricket team, too. We started late, for a number of reasons. No, Scotty wasn’t back early from honeymoon to play. But there were debates to be had as to which track we would use, the wet one, the wetter one or the very wet one. After much use of an ineffective whale [I can’t believe you’re setting yourself up like that – Ed], the opposition inadvertently pitched a set of Colts stumps, and invited Goss to toss. His decision, on calling correctly, was influenced by Puppy’s car. Mainly because it hadn’t started, and he and Pippa were still en route. Thus the unexpected partnership of McDougall and Grindrod got us under way. A couple of runs later Luke was back in the hutch, and skipper was calling for No.3 Seeckts. He, however, was scatalogically distracted, so the lately-arrived Pippa took his spot. Equally scatological was Pippa’s response on shouldering arms to a straight one four balls later. There was a certain symmetry in 2 for 2 from 2.

Grindrod and Seeckts then added 50, during which David brought up his Cryptic 1,000 in Cryptic style, smearing a big six over backward point before falling for 29. Unlike many Cryptics, however, he put it there on purpose. Seeckts (26) and Gazzola (rather fewer) both perished within four runs of each other, both stumped – in Seeckts’s case without the use of ‘keeper’s hands – and we were 78 for 5. Rumour had it that Woking were miffed at going down by 8 wickets last year, and were determined to make amends. Woking’s answer to Jimmy was picking up wickets all over the place on his way to a Michelle [five-fer – geddit? Ed], and at 81 for 6 we looked doomed. Then a couple of young(ish) public schoolboys stiffened the upper lip and took the battle to the foe. Ware and Goss put on 41 before Ware perished for 19 and Goss declared, having given Rod a rare batting opportunity, with the score on 154. On his way back to the pavilion he discovered that he was on 46. With a thrifty Caledonian view that opening your wallet for an avoidance jug is like buying dinner and not being asked in for coffee, he withdrew the declaration (sportingly accepted by our opponents), and returned to the fray long enough to thrash the necessary four through extra cover. Those with longer memories, who remember Rod stealing Greg’s glory by thumping a winning four, knowing that his former school-mate was at the other end on 97, were surprised that he didn’t sacrifice his wicket to strand his skipper on 46. How the chunky Kiwi has mellowed.

As Woking set off in pursuit of 160 for victory, Goss rotated a strong bowling line-up. That’s rotated, as a propeller rotates. Anyone in danger of a fourth consecutive over was subjected to the ‘have a blow’ theory of captaincy. Luke McDougall’s eight overs came in at least three spells, although he won’t be complaining with 3 for 16 to show for it. Nick Mière’s two overs – one more than his runs – may have made for a more miserable afternoon. Rod was merely miserly, yielding 8 runs from six overs.

The balance of power swung back and forth through the Woking innings. Opening maidens from Rod and Paul Bridges set a tone, but the score was 20 when the first wicket fell in the sixth over. At 52 from 10 it looked as if Woking’s Saffa import Hodgkiss was well capable of taking the game away from us, before he succumbed to a fortuitous (don’t you mean daft? -Ed) run out. The next 20 overs produced a mere 35 runs, and yielded three more wickets. An acceleration followed as Woking still went looking for the win when they could have shut up shop, until the belligerent Hall was smartly stumped by the Puppy off Grindrod. The shutters came down for the last five overs (of 41), as Woking, eight down, settled for the draw. As usual, we dropped as many catches as we caught, mostly difficult ones, and the still-wet outfield made fielding entertaining, not least when Gazzola was on the move.

Thus the curtain comes down on our season. 10 wins, two draws (Blackheath and Woking & Horsell), and a solitary defeat to Leatherhead gives club captain Goss an even better win ratio than last year. Club records were set for 3rd and 5th wicket partnerships, and various people reached various milestones. More and copious statistics will be produced shortly, to entertain the anoraks and bore the rest of you.

Sunday 17 August 2008
SCCC 226-8 dec
Claygate 183
Won by 43 runs
Claygate won the toss

Peter Andrew writes:

So, a real game of cricket at Claygate last Sunday – 18 wickets, over 400 runs, 89 overs, finish at 7:35 with three overs remaining. We were inserted for the second week running, and after six overs had 9 on the board for the loss of Hogben (who had scored 8 – guess who he opened with?). Claygate were fairly whizzing through the overs, although 5 maidens in the first 10 helped. Harley and Wright (25) took us to 64, Harley and Hope-Dunbar (9) took us to 80. A fine stand between Harley and Seeckts (31) then took us 98 further forward. Harls was motoring now, despite top-edging a quick one into his nose. Hope-Dunbar, having nicked some ice from the bucket that was chilling the WAGs’ Chardonnay, went to minister first aid, but returned to the pavilion disappointed at the lack of blood. Harley, realising that ‘retired hurt’ doesn’t constitute a dismissal, remained at the crease (this reference needs to be taken in conjunction with the Crondall report). He also still doesn’t do hundreds – in 12 innings for us, he’s had 98, 93, 92* and 88. But at least he bought two jugs (note, CH-D). After his (probably) final dismissal for the club, for 93, there was the usual brief brutality from Grindrod (16), and the entertaining sight of the skipper failing to regain his ground while attempting a back crawl in full cricket gear. You had to be there. He wasn’t. We declared on 226 for 8, leaving Scott (19*) and Espejo (8*) to boost their averages, having received a remarkable 48 overs before 4:40.

Tea was, as ever, well up to standard. This was regretted by several fielders as Claygate went for it from the off, and the Bakewell slices bounced around unnervingly. We started with the teachers in tandem, who put down a bunch of mostly B+, the occasional A, and one or two ‘see me after the lesson’. The vista was enhanced by the brooding H-for-Heavyweight menace of Hope-Dunbar, Hogben and Harley in the cordon (to paraphrase the Bard’s Henry V, ‘I see you stand like Sopranos in the slips,…’). Grinders had an early breakthrough, Nick Mière (2 for 36) put in a tidy collection of spin to hack away at the middle order. Claygate were clearly still interested as the final 20 approached, with opener Burt and the powerful young Watkins (already having taken 1 for 16 from 8) keeping pace with the asking rate. The skipper delayed introducing the left-armers (mostly because it’s a right bugger to move the metal Claygate sightscreens – the compensating factor is that they don’t burn as easily). But it had to come eventually, and Goss’s claymore was paired with PAJA’s rapier. It was like the old days before proportional representation, these two being allowed 23 overs between them. Reliable catching all around the park (and, eventually, Watkins being too young to think about shutting up shop) resulted in 3-37 for the claymore, 4-47 for the rapier. We only dropped two catches all day, both of them Exocets. Claygate finally perished for 183, with three overs left. The jingle machine needs re-charging, the batteries are running down this season.

Stataddendum: Seeckts reaches 200 caps, Dan moves into the top 50 in the appearance list. And Tommy finally moves into sole occupancy of the ‘most sixes’ slot with 37, achieved with his first scoring shot.

Enjoying the weather at Claygate...
Enjoying the weather – WAGs at Claygate…

Sunday 10 August 2008
SCCC 195
Blackheath 137-8
Match drawn
Blackheath won the toss

Something for the purists; a draw at last! Proper cricket with tail-enders battling to save a match in the Sunday evening gloom, surrounded by close fielders, most of whom would have been hoping the decisive catch would not come their way. It didn’t. Blackheath’s bunnies adeptly seeing off everything the Cryptics threw at them, much as the Cryptics had gleefully consumed a splendid Blackheath tea earlier. Jam doughnuts, pork pies and all.

Jupiter Pluvius obviously forgot 2008 is a leap year and sent forth his traditional Blackheath torrents a day early, thus allowing the fixture to be played for the first time. By the end, the pitch was dusty and trusty, a vast improvement on the moist trampoline that greeted the Cryptic top five. Insertion upon losing the toss was a given.

A run out involving James Hogben barely raises eyebrows these days, but this time he was the victim of work-mate Nick Benham, whose quest for a run threatened to become a quest for a job. The big man hobbled back with grass stains in improbable places, 14 runs and a damaged shoulder. Further run outs were avoided by Benham pulling something and requiring a runner. By then Seeckts and Hope-Dunbar had perished, flirting with the idea of getting the run rate above 2.5 per over. Not a great choice of runners among those already dismissed, but the lofty Scot eagerly took the chance to get off the mark, if only by proxy. A gritty 43 may yet spare Benham from his P45.

Peter Kurtz’ first knock in 19 years showed promise and contributed 11, and the pitch was getting easier when Chetwode (37), Dyson (17) and Grindrod (38) slogged, stroked and smeared their way respectively to a total far higher than had seemed possible. Peter Andrew got a first baller, and promptly announced that he would not be reporting on the game. Skipper Goss reached the crease for only the third time this year, and then left it while the ‘keeper removed the bails. Espejo was left to wonder what might have been.

Dyson aside, this was not a Cryptic XI indicating starvation or sharp fielding. However, only two chances were decked, one by a snoozing Chetwode at slip, the other a rocket that PAJA could neither avoid nor catch. The rest were pouched, notably one leaping effort by Hogben in the gully, followed by a more spectacular one handed diving catch. The absent Pippa might have caught them too, but not without great drama and, probably, injury. H-D took three with the gloves on, one particularly sharp, and another with a ground shaking tumble somewhere towards extra cover.

There was a lively buzz about the whole fielding display, and Goss rotated his bowlers with aplomb (and a little crystal ball). Grindrod conceded runs slightly slower than he had scored them while Espejo, who passed his driving test during the week, allowed the batsmen to pass theirs too. Goss and Chetwode provided the control and necessary wickets before the last hour, by which time defeat was almost impossible.

Under fashionable pyjama rules the contest would have withered, but they’ve been doing this sort of thing at Blackheath since 1873, and rightly see no need to follow the modernists. The challenge of taking all 10 wickets is better than watching a required run rate spiral hopelessly up with only one result possible. Five bowlers were used in the final 20 overs but Blackheath bravely resisted everything. Goss was reduced to calling up his predecessor for the final over, an ace he played too late, so the metaphorical fat lady could not raise her voice above a hum.

Blackheath - 10 August  2008

This fixture has much to commend it. A beautiful, peaceful ground, history, tradition, competitive cricket and the afore mentioned tea, of course. Of equal importance though, were the warm hospitality and a fine pint of London Pride after stumps. Close examination of the many photographs revealed Blackheath’s long association with our Maltese nemesis. Expect Dwight and Pippa to play next year.

Sunday 3 August 2008
Maori Oxshott 156
SCCC 157-4
Won by 6 wickets
Maori Oxshott won the toss

Dan Espejo writes:

“A most un-Cryptic like performance” were the words chosen by former captain Atkinson to describe an athletic fielding display on an overcast Sunday afternoon in Oxshott. A stand-in captain and four new caps showed what the national team could aspire to with Rod Edwardssome fresh blood.

A familiar looking seam attack opened proceedings for the Cryptics; stand in captain Rod Edwards’ reliable medium pace complimented by a left arm seamer with roots in the southern hemisphere. New boy Iain Williams removed one opener’s middle stump and drew further similarities with the absent captain when he was more than happy to accept the wicket of a teenager chopping a bouncer (or long hop) onto his stumps.

Maori Oxshott made steady progress behind opener Davis’s robust 71, a score which would have been higher had it not been for some exemplary fielding, Atkinson in particular distinguishing himself with a diving stop and debutant Ray Pletts’ impressive arm preventing the flood gates from opening. Change bowler Espejo, sent down an unusually accurate spell and having been given the dreaded extra over to, “make something happen” duly informed the skipper that he fancied removing the “haddock on strike”. A full toss meant that the drinks were taken early as a search party was sent into the bushes at cow corner to unsuccessfully try and retrieve the ball before a Monty-esque appeal for LBW removed said fish from the sea.

Although the seamers had restricted the Oxshott top order, it was left to the flight and guile of Jimmy to make real inroads. While he may not have been the slowest bowler on show, his attempts to defy gravity gave the batsman ample time to mull over several possible destinations for the ball before two contrived to be caught at short cover. Third new boy Tim Russell then came on to bowl a vicious spell with the only runs against his name coming from a beamer which both batsman and Puppy (standing back!) took evasive action to avoid. He duly mopped up a sufficiently frightened tail to ice the cake of an excellent Cryptic performance in the field.

Emerging from the pavilion after tea to chase 156, Cryptic hopes of a swift finish were soon dashed as the score read 5-2 after four overs. Harley, stumped on 98 last time at Oxshott, this time contributed only as a chuntering slip fielder and umpire. Pletts likewise, but without the Kalgoorlie chunter. The dark clouds overhead surely reflected their moods, although they proved to be invaluable as umpires with an obdurate and unmovable partnership (shame about the batting!) as rain fell steadily throughout the innings.

Richard AtkinsonHogben (59) and the fearsome straight hitting of Gary McConnell (39) guided the Cryptics toward the light with some panache; interspersing two drops and several attempts to run each other out with shots of considerable class. (You are not a proper Cryptic until you’ve been involved in a Hoggers run out, Ed.) The chase was completed with aplomb by the owner of a now wet and dishevelled looking Cocker-Poodle; a muddy Atkinson along with Ware.

A comfortable Cryptics win was made possible only by the generous spirit of the Oxshott fielders who persevered energetically in dreadful conditions.

Sunday 27 July 2008
Crondall 108
SCCC 109-6
Won by 4 wickets
Crondall won the toss

Conversation in the pub before the game noted how new blood has so improved our batting that the notorious Cryptic middle-order collapse is consigned to history. At 81 for one chasing 109, with powerhouses Harley and Scott still to come, that wasn’t about to change. At 103 for 6, no9 David Grindrod was shedding his civvies and clambering back into his whites. But fear not, gentle reader, our unblemished record against Crondall (won 3, tied 1) survives.

Having lost the toss and been sent out into the heat, Goss revealed that he would have batted [what kind of Cryptic captain is this? Ed]. Headley renegade Paul Bridges put in seven challenging overs with the new ball up the hill (as befits the new boy), conceding a mere 14 and castling one of the openers. Goss was barely more generous, but luckless except for a fine, blind run out, at the other end. Change bowlers Grindrod and Greenhough were predictably parsimonious and entertaining, respectively. Jimmy managed to have Crondall’s Rook dropped three times, by fielders with a combined total of 455 Cryptic caps. He eventually fell to a fine low take by Grindrod from some PAJ dross. In a bizarre ‘parallel universe’ conversation, Goss told Jimmy to have a rest because ‘he wanted the opposition to score a bit faster’ [what kind of Cryptic captain is this? Ed]. In the end, though, it was a country for old men, with 108 years of experience taking 2 for 37 (Jimmy) and 3 for 17 (PAJ).

After a thoroughly good tea, notable for the homemade flapjack, Wright and Cupit set off in search of 109 runs. Dwight found one of them, and then edged to the keeper in the third over. Five for one. So, Seeckts joins Wright. The crowd settles, an impatient hush on the boundary benches. For another 32 overs these two veterans, with over 400 caps and almost 7,000 Cryptic runs between them, hold us spellbound. It was Golden Age cricket, Arlott at the microphone, James in the Press Box. No-one moves, although padded-up James Hogben occasionally snores. Bowlers toil, and are replaced. Seven maidens are bowled, more than any opposition since Claygate last year. Drinks come, and go. The local church chimes for Evensong. The last 20 overs arrive, settle down and put their collective feet up. But then, tragedy! With the score on 81 and some 13 overs remaining, Seeckts perishes for 38. The two maestros had amassed 76 precious runs from a mere 186 deliveries, clocking up no fewer than six boundaries. Partner Wright, loath to be long parted from his enduring companion, contrived a run out, only one run later, for 35.

Hogben, stirred from slumber, can only manage seven. Harley, seeking to lose his wicket in the interests of enough completed innings to top the batting statistics before being repatriated later this year, launches the returning opener into the churchyard. But Scotty perishes, triggered by a remorseful Cupit. 99 for 5. Goss edges to the keeper. 103 for 6. [Ah, that kind of Cryptic captain. Ed] But in the face of Jimmy’s sangfroid (‘I can’t be arsed to put me clothes back on, these buggers’ll have to do it’), Paul Bridges – yet to be infected with the Cryptic self-destruct gene – calmly off-drives for four, leaving Harls still seeking his elusive 10th dismissal.

It was a glorious day, enjoyed to the full by a burgeoning contingent of WAGs and Cryptic progeny collected in the shade. Skipper is under instruction that this fixture is a keeper. And his wife wants a go on the bowling green.

Crondall 27 July 2008
After the match

Sunday 20 July
Badshot Lea 200 all out
SCCC 206-6
Won by 4 wickets
Badshot Lea won the toss

David Gazzola writes:

“Every dog has its day”

A chilly summer’s day, the national team chasing leather at Headingley, a shark desperate to avoid a familiar choking feeling at Birkdale and the Farnborough Airshow all provided pleasant distraction for the Cryptics on Sunday. Watched by the regular wags, a man and a greyhound, the Cryptics took the new ball. The pitch was playing tricks but neither Espejo nor Goss could really exploit it and the long on boundary was seeing plenty of action. At one stage, both Goss parents were being plundered simultaneously by youths a fraction of their age both inside and outside the boundary. Badshot Lea raced to 118-2 from 19 overs just as Grindrod and Nick Miere were applying the brakes. Nick’s performance was aided by spirited appealing (even when victims were bowled) and anguished cries that would have made Frankie Howerd proud. He picked up 3-33 from an excellent 6 overs, his last one an anomaly yielding 16. Grinders got two fer.

Badshot Lea July 2008

The Badshot Lea tail was the product of their Youth Academy – youngsters with an abundance of talent, but vertically challenged. The skipper resembled a miniature version of Luke Skywalker, whilst one 11 year old proved to be better than many of his seniors. The game lost its intensity momentarily – chances were grassed and the Red Arrows, who last saw the Cryptics in Malta, blamed. Alas, the young lads played correctly and stubbornly, even smacking Cupit to the fence once or twice. Goss, whose earlier two wickets had seen him pass 100 for the Cryptics, sensed the opportunity to add more, but suffered the same fate. Seeckts applied experience and child psychology to help wipe up the tail, Badshot Lea all out for 200 in the 39th over.

A glorious, deep fried tea restored the colour to Nick Benham’s cheeks, whilst Greg Norman bogeyed the 10th and 11th. Hogben and Pippa exploited the short tennis court boundary as their counterparts had – stroking 13 boundaries in the first 50 runs. Pippa fell for 28, caught and bowled by the deceptive and diminutive youngster, but Hoggers went on to post an elegant 56, including a rarely seen 3. Ware steeled himself for a match-winning knock and played beautifully to record his first half century for the club after 12 seasons of mediocrity. Despite the ball swinging and seaming, the Puppy was exhibiting technique from the MCC cricket coaching manual, and had no hesitation in quoting verbatim from it to batting partners, bowlers, fielders and umpires throughout his knock of 59. Benham, Gazzola and Seeckts all fell too quickly, but Cupit and Grindrod steered the team comfortably home – Grinders sealing it in the 36th over with a KP-style switch hit high over the tennis courts which had the remaining fans dancing and dog barking. Bells were jingling on both sides of the Irish Sea. Tea rating: 9.5

Puppy and Hoggers at Badshot Lea
Half centuries from Puppy and Hoggers

Editor’s note: Ware’s first half century came 4074 days and 83 games after his debut. He has played more innings than any other Cryptic (66) before reaching this milestone and 2008 will be the first season in which he has scored 100 runs.

Goss is by far the youngest to reach 100 wickets, achieving it in 64 games. He stands second quickest, among Jimmy Greenhough 56 matches, Mark McLoughlin 69 and Peter Andrew 79. (All stats since 1990.)

Team at Badshot Lea

Sunday 29 June 2008
SCCC: 155 all out
Saracen Riffs: 78 all out
SCCC won by 77 runs
SCCC won the toss
35 over match

Peter Andrew writes:

Saracen Riffs were definitely of the blues variety after coming off second best in their inaugural fixture against the Cryptics at Barn Elms, SW13 on Sunday. Maybe they were jaded, having arrived for a 1:00 start – did Goss forget to explain about British Summer Time? Or maybe we were the hungrier team, after the fixture sec failed to advise us that we’d be changing pitchside and that there were no arrangements for tea. Never mind, the opposition wanted to make sure the match finished in good time for the football, and we obliged them, even though Seeckts negotiated 5 more overs per side (35) than originally proposed.

The strip was good (not for cricket, Ed) and bouncy, the outfield lush. Like, jungle-lush. We marvelled that Pippa hit 4 boundaries in 27 runs. Mind you, at 3 for 2 with Grindrod continuing his meagre trot (10 from 3 innings in this country now since his ton at Woking) and Hogben following him next ball, we weren’t sure how the day would go. Debutant Paul Bridges, a 14-year veteran of Headley’s Saturday sides, joined Philip to steady the ship, finishing with a respectable 29. The highlights of the rest of our innings were pretty medium-wattage, consisting of Seeckts’s 2-an-over undefeated 31, and Puppy’s brief flare of 16 achieved rather more quickly. We were all out for 155, something far better sides have failed to do to us this year, having used almost 32 overs, and received a donation of 2½ more in wides.

Without the benefit of inter-innings sustenance, we opened with the teachers, Modern History vying with Geography for the first breakthrough. But it was nine overs before Dan Espejo gave up trying to do it properly and sent back his first victim with a full-bunger a third of the way up the stumps. Clearly an effective teacher, his example was followed later by both Nick Mière and Medieval Historian Kelvin Meek. At the other end, chalk was bouncing off the blackboard as David Grindrod tried to avoid three successive wicketless matches for the first time in his Cryptic career. And did, thanks to a smear to James Hogben, himself seeking something to justify this use of a Sunday afternoon.

Riffs were unlucky, in that a couple of their obviously competent batsmen perished in unfortunate ways, one to a comedy run-out that was nearly a baseball double-play, and one receiving a ball so staggeringly rank that he had a complete Harrods moment, got under it and chipped it to Nick Mière at long leg. But their tail crumbled, Kelvin Meek leading the way with 2 for 6 from his three overs, and they succumbed for 78 in exactly 24 overs. So, an unusual game in many ways, against a decent bunch of people. If they could just divert the Heathrow flightpath, it could be a good day out.

Sunday 22 June 2008
Kingstonian 208-8 dec
SCCC 211-2
Won by 8 wickets
SCC won the toss

Peter Andrew writes:

Cryptic wickets, huh? Just like buses. None for ages, then two come at once. Let’s hope that Daley, Kingstonians’ no3 batsman, pulled on Saturday. Because on Sunday he sat around for an hour and a half watching his openers compile 128 in 25 overs, before one of them lapped Jimmy to Harley at mid-wicket. Daley then lapped Jimmy’s next to Goss at extra cover. And he didn’t get a bowl. Some Sunday. Better than Cryptic debutant Peter Kurtz, though – more of that later.

It started as an extremely windy day when Goss won the toss at a sunny Windsor Avenue, and it didn’t change. Several of us turned up at the pitch where we’ve played for several years, only to find a 7-a-side pyjama game going on. The only Cryptic likely to be wearing pyjamas at 13:30 is Scotty, given his time-keeping standards, but he wasn’t playing so we found the right game, on the ‘old’ pitch next door.

Of the early bowlers, only Grindrod ignored the lateral gale to put the ball in the right place consistently, as 21 from 8 overs testifies. He was unlucky to be wicketless. But once Jimmy had made the breakthrough, he poured through the gap. The rest of us, by contrast, could only stand and applaud. And catch. Well, sometimes. We’d have had a bit more language from Jimmy’s Northern Leagues heritage if he hadn’t dropped two of them himself, and Gossy had already held two before he decked the third. Still, 16-0-80-6 isn’t a bad return. The only Cryptic with 3 six-fers moved onto a career haul of 230. Skipper moved within one of his century. They declared on 208 for 8, from 48 overs.

In our reply, the Haslemere boys tried to make a game of it. Philip went for 7, cutting late but not low. Puppy raced to his highest score in this country, but was triggered by umpire McDougall on 36. Don’t expect any caught behind for a couple of seasons, Luke. After that it was just a question of how many overs would be left when Harley (92*) and Gazzola (61* with a massive 6 just over Mrs Greenhough) jingled our bells. Given that Harley strolls between wickets, and Gizz ambles, it was looking close, but then they ran a three and we knew they were aware of the urgency. In the end it was four overs, and two balls.

So five bowlers bowled, and four batsmen batted. Peter Kurtz ran around in the field, as did Dwight who pouched one from Jimmy, and was generally unbeatable on the ground too. This was uncharitably attributed by one of his several compatriots to his being closer to the ground than anyone else to start with. So, a three-jug game. Must be a while since one of those, and the statistician isn’t going to work out when (or indeed whether) it was.

An indulgent moment for the old-timers. The days when we washed down our cheap scampi with ale from the silver jugs rescued from the big ships of the Peninsular and Orient Company in Maori’s glorious clubhouse – and I mean house – are gone. With them went the nervous exhilaration of seeking balls lost in the woods at the Bethlem and Maudsley psychiatric hospital, with the chance of a close encounter of the patient kind – and I mean patient. Also gone are more prosaic challenges, like trying to drop down the order to avoid facing Lloyd of the Register. However, there are other things we won’t miss – turning up with seven players, and corralling a couple of passing youngsters – for cricket purposes, naturally. Pitches like Ewell Court, that made Putney look like Claygate.

As an observation from one who has more matches behind him than in front, what we’ve become is an authentic cricket team. A team that does what proper teams do. Batsmen bat – we’ve scored three centuries, and it’s still June. Yes, I know we did it in 1992 in May, but two of them were against the Fine Young Zionists, which is a game clinging desperately to its first-class status. It’s only really there for the humour value of Atkinson sitting back in the pavilion watching Greg and Pippa accumulating all his runs. And the bowlers hunt in packs these days, rather than hoping Ross or Bubba or Bubba Junior (or Dickson or Elliott or Maxwell) will pull it off this week. We maybe lack a little of our former abrasiveness – not enough Saffas, probably. Puppy tries, but Peart he’s not. Thank God. And these days, no-one huffs off for a couple of pints of Guinness and a mass after an unlucky run out.

But at the end of the day, it’s still about choosing to spend time in the fresh air with a bunch of decent blokes, talking some sense and a lot of bollocks, and trying to win without seeming to try too hard, when there’s a lot of other things we could be doing. Like mowing the lawn, or going to Waitrose. The fact that we’re having to leave out four on Friday, rather than find four on Saturday, suggests it’s all pretty healthy. Jingle.

(Some of these words are kindly donated by other veterans, even though they may not remember.)

Sunday 15 June 2008
Follies Farm Old Spots 233-9 (40 overs)
SCCC 235-2 (34.1 overs)
Won by 8 wickets
Follies Farm won the toss
40 over match

Hymns and Arias wafted over the farm after James Scott and Dwight Cupit, both with worryingly strong Welsh connections, led the Cryptics romping home to a second win over the Old Spots with 35 balls to spare. Both men notched their 1000th Cryptic run in the process, Scotty winning the race by about 20 minutes while the third contender, Tommy Hope-Dunbar, paced the boundary in his pads, cursing his brother-in-law for getting the batting order wrong. He is left on 962.

The day had started just like any other in the history of this fixture. The hosts made a flying start, unhindered by Rod Edwards winning an optimistic LBW appeal against Spiers, who justifiably looked daggers at his umpire. Saxel and the middle order made hay on an easy pitch with a fast outfield. David Grindrod started the match on a hat trick but achieved a personal worst of 0-57 from his 8 overs. Goss rotated his other bowlers cleverly, or in blind panic, depending on your view. Fielders were so scattered around the fence it was hard to titter loudly enough to be heard by another. New boy Nick Miere (with a tell-tale French grave accent on the first ‘e’) looked every bit the part with his twirly mysteries, Greenhough and Hope-Dunbar bowled the cannon fodder overs, picking up a wicket each.

From 206-3, the Farm boys might have reached 300. Instead they capitulated to a series of straight balls from Goss (3-28) and Edwards (4-42), once they realised that sending skied catches the way of Wright and Scott was not going to get them out. Edwards attributes this year’s return to form to walking the dog. Apparently the dog likes chasing a ball, and now the old man can’t throw he exercises the mutt by bowling his way around the woodlands of Dulwich any time from 5.30 a.m. Not just for Christmas, you see.

Six an over required. Never been done against this lot. Send in the experience. Wright and Seeckts, together having previously found over 330 ways of getting out for the Cryptics, used some old ones again. He lazily scooped one to mid off; she chopped a bad ball on to the stumps.

At 42-2 Cupit joined Scott for an unbroken record stand of 193, in 22 overs. They showed all the tricks. Cupit late cut, drove and nudged along to great admiration from Dad Tony who had travelled from Melbourne to watch the game. New wife Lex cheered every good shot she saw, her enthusiasm never waning upon realising her man was the non-striker. A career best 67* nevertheless.

It was Scotty, however, who led the way in front of his taffy chanteuse, Becca. His second successive century was a knock of rare authority. Employing a straight bat when required, he carved, pulled and drove imperiously to end on 112*. Already the best Englishman to bat for the Cryptics, Messrs Andrell and McDonald may not be looking over their retired shoulders for long at this fellow. Asked for a quote after the game, Scotty modestly pointed out, “I’ve scored over 300 runs here since they last got me out.”

Scottie's first centure
Showing off to the crowd: Dopey and Happy

The end came rapidly, our hosts looking shell-shocked and glad it was all over. Their bowling had perhaps missed the nagging accuracy of lumberjack Leng (rumoured to be at a Neil Diamond gig), but on this form the little masters would not have been stopped.

Follies Farm hospitality was at its usual high standard, a fact reflected by a crowd to match any County Championship game for numbers. They don’t serve jugs of ale from the bar, though. Lucky really, as once again our centurion was embarrassed for cash.

Sunday 1 June 2008
Cobham & Leatherhead 249 all (9) out (33.3 overs)
SCCC 244-8 (40 overs)
Lost by 5 runs
Cobham & Leatherhead won the toss
40 over pyjama match

Another helter skelter day at Leatherhead ended with a respectably narrow defeat after a thorough trouncing had looked likely for much of the day.

The merged outfit of Cobham and Leatherhead offer sufficient Saturday league talent to walk any Sunday game they choose. But a softer under belly is the reward for a visiting team that can hold their catches and get through the top five. Not the Cryptics, then. 9-1 after four balls. Some poor bloke called Perry nicked his first ball to Harley the day his team scored at 7.5 per over. Shades of Atkinson at the Fine Young Zionists.

Gazzola and CupitIt started in identical fashion to last year’s game. Crash, bang, wallop, 113-2 after 12 overs. Dan Espejo retreated to the boundary, Grinders followed with a plan to return for some death overs, and the remaining Cryptic ‘attack’ of Greenhough, Gazzola, Scott, Cupit and Seeckts soaked up the rest of the punishment. Out of form batsmen dream of facing that lot, but these chaps were in form and repeatedly launched the ball over the hedge. Only Scott was relatively miserly, but once centurion Haynes was fourth to fall, order was restored. Cupit was on at the right time to grab 3-34, Grinders wiped out the last two in no time, and the home team were guilty of not using 6.3 overs. Had Haynes not survived chances to Harley on 17, Greenhough on 30, Gazzola on 80 and a fluffed stumping (Harls again) somewhere among that lot, someone else would probably have scored the runs instead. We were relieved to be chasing only 250.

The three law boys, Benham, Harley and Hogben made a steady start against friendly bowling that proved too good for Tommy H-D. Gazzola joined Scottie after 16 overs at 67-4 with the match seemingly buried. What followed was a master class in scoring at 8 an over. Without fuss the pair took complete control. There were fine strokes all round the wicket; none better than Gazzola’s on drive, of which Mark Waugh would have been proud. They took singles aplenty to rotate the strike, Scottie showing a talent for counting to six.

Scottie's first centure
Scottie buys a jug to celebrate 1st Cryptic Century

We knew the diminutive lefty could bat and he thoroughly deserved his first Cryptic hundred (106) to add to several 90s. If it was his impending nuptials that focussed Scott’s mind, Gazzola’s 58 can be attributed to his intensive pre-season training on a Twister mat. A record fifth wicket partnership of 175 had the fat lady warming up until…

Eight runs were needed from the final eight balls. Giz holed out, dot. Last over: dot, Scott bowled, one, Grindrod stumped, Seeckts bowled, one. Four wickets had fallen for two runs and the game was lost by one scoring shot. Our heroes deserved better. They will know to finish the job themselves next time.

Sunday 11 May 2008
SCCC 243-5 dec (45.5 overs)
Stoke d’Abernon 115 (37.5 overs)
Won by 128 runs
Stoke d’Abernon won the toss

This game had draw written all over it with 20 overs remaining and Stoke on 90-3. Skipper Goss, running out of bowling options, tossed the ball to his predecessor more in sympathy than expectation (ex skipper had earlier declined a bat due to the beautiful weather) and within seven overs the bells were jingling again.

Stoke d'Abernon

The win was set up by an opening stand of 123 by Wright and Benham, the latter moving to a fine 104 in front of an admiring father, who preferred this game to his younger son’s (briefer) outing at New Road, Worcester. Wright survived a stumping chance and three drops in the first half hour before settling in for 62. Benham would not have opened but for Streeter’s late arrival, the tall bloke eventually getting in after 38 overs. Missed opportunity? With bells on.

Benham at Stoke d'Abernon

Benham became the twelfth Cryptic to score a ton since records began, the third from Ashurst’s. For a full list of centurions, click here.

Stoke’s over rate of more than 20 per hour was exemplary, aided by their collective lack of pace and their positive approach to the game. Belting heat was tempered by a gentle breeze and two drinks breaks, but still the declaration came early at 4.15. Grindrod and Ware had a go, Streeter and debutant Luke McDougall bashed 39 in the last 5 overs. McDougall, of Italian descent allegedly, is the latest Australian lawyer off the Ashurst’s conveyor belt. Each seems younger and fitter than the last, bringing increasingly un-Cryptic physiques to the dressing room and, in this case, a throwing arm to shame most others. He can bat and bowl too. Needless to say, he hadn’t played for 10 years.

Streeter and McDougall

Tea and cakes done, Stoke would have about 50 overs to score the runs. Much depended on their top three, who batted like they knew it. Edwards (8-3-9-0) and Goss (6-2-7-0) were tight and tidy again, earning respect but no wickets in 12 overs. It took the first bad ball of the innings to get a wicket, PAJ Andrew’s loosening full toss passing the bat of a salivating youth called Cooke, who is coached by ….er……. PAJA. Get a new coach, sonny.

The Stoke innings meandered until almost 6.30pm, time for the last 20 overs. Dan Espejo bowled with huff and puff but little luck. McDougall’s Cryptic credentials were enhanced by a drop and then a catch. Streeter put down a sitter at second slip and Benham, by now doing a passable impression of a war memorial after earlier travails, spilt two dollies. Bizarrely, the ball followed Edwards in the field (not that any skipper would try to hide him), forcing him to show that devilish underarm return several times.

Finally, Goss pulled out his ace. Seeckts twirled away from the railway end sensing success. At drinks he promised Goss four wickets by ten past seven. A lethal combination of flight, loop, dip, rip, nip, zip and fizz, not to mention total absence of pace, yielded five wickets in 15 dazzling deliveries. The breakthrough was getting opener McMillan LBW after 110 minutes for 44. Two stumpings and a catch for the ever-alert Ware, and one that pitched outside off and hit the top of leg saw Stoke in ruins. McDougall’s leggies accounted for the other two and the game was over with 13 overs to spare.

The former skipper modestly took his cap and bought the third bowling jug of his Cryptic career. That’s three more than Goss, Edwards and Grindrod. Funny old game.

Sunday 4 May 2008
SCCC 194-9 dec
Avorians 138
SCCC won by 56 runs
Avorians won the toss

Cruel game, crikkit. Rod bowls seven fine overs, getting closer to the edge than Rick Wakeman, and ends up with 1 for 28. At t’other end, Goss bowls at the weaker elements of the partnership and takes himself off after five, safe on 2 for 2 for the second week running. But we run ahead of ourselves.

We’re now played three, won three against Avorians, this probably the easiest of them. Although looking at the batting in our team, you wouldn’t have bet on it – Pippa, Benham, and…er… Anyway, it was probably a blessing that Gossy lost the toss, and we found ourselves batting at 2.15, for the first time in this country since Putney, almost a year ago. Pippa and Dan Espejo moved carefully along against a juvenile attack until Dan was run out for 13. Wright and Benham then put on almost 50 in 12 overs, Benham falling for 22 (substantially fewer than his brother was later to make moving Hampshire past Gloucestershire).

The remainder of the innings was notable for the 35-run cameo that was Mike Chetwode’s third – and substantially his largest – Cryptic innings across 12 seasons, and Pippa’s 24th Cryptic half-century, taking his tally level with Richard Atkinson’s, in only 111 more innings. Skipper declared on 194 for 9, undefeated on 12 and showing he can play for his batting average as well.

Avorians’ reply featured 13 runs shared between seven batsmen, and we always managed to take wickets at the right time. Only a potentially dangerous stand of 56 between hard-hitting skipper Bailey and assured Colt Palmer ever put doubts in our minds, until Bailey was well caught by a leaping Wright in the gully. Dan held a screamer off Goss at the third attempt, and debutant Kelvin Meek picked up 2-34. Chetwode cleaned up the tail, his 2 for 6 being a Cryptic personal best to match his batting.

Final score was 138, giving Goss his sixth win on the reel. But we’ll need to be better against Stoke d’Abernon next week to make it seven.

Sunday 27 April 2008
Sutton Lea Teachers XI 130-8 (36 overs)
SCCC 131-3 (29.3 overs)
SCCC won by 7 wickets

Ah, the first game of a new season; always something to look forward to. Clean whites, freshly cut grass, banter from all angles and, in the UK, rain and thunder to make 15 people move quicker than they had all day. We had three new Cryptics and a cunning plan to bat first so Messrs Wright, Goss and Gazzola could recover from late nights.

However, winning the toss can be cruel, and bowling was the only option on a wet pitch and with the high probability of rain. Then it dawned on us that we lacked a wicketkeeper, and with only Gazzola claiming any previous experience, the gloves were duly handed to him. He kept very tidily throughout and took a great catch, but later claimed to have ‘worn’ too many to make a habit of standing behind the stumps. The experienced pair of Grindrod (whom we had nicked back from the teachers) and Edwards got things uder way. Edwards bowled well and was unlucky to be our only wicketless bowler. He may have heard that before. Grindrod, following his loosener, put the ball on the spot as he had done all last year, but ended with a mixed bag, his wicket followed up with being
hit out of the park twice in the same over.

Goss came on at 57-1 from 11 overs and immediately got Jones, on 49, to smack a long hop to a surprised Dyson at square leg. Jones gone, normal service resumed. Tidy bowling from Dyson (1-11) and Goss (2-2) regained Cryptic control. Cryptic traitor for the day, Espejo, came to the crease to find insider knowledge had helped Goss set the field, nine men scattered around the cow corner region.

Dyson teased him wonderfully – Espejo resisted until debutant Miere(1-26) snaffled him. With rain interruptions, wandering fielders and Scott taking 2-17, it felt just like last year. The skipper even moved another step closer to filling the Ex’s boots with a fielding display Seeckts would have been proud of; by the end of the innings he had failed to get a finger on one ball hit in his direction.

Wright, eager as ever, started the chase with Streeter. Rain had made conditions increasingly difficult and the hazards were perfectly illustrated when Wright was half way down the track for a quick single and Streeter, standing his ground, called no. What followed was an impression of a dog changing direction on ice. Wright was down and sliding in the wrong direction. Panic stricken, he fought bravely to regain his ground and, but for a direct hit, would have made it.

Streeter then set about the attack with Gamble (30), another new cryptic, and raced to 45 before he was bowled off his legs. He later explained – all 6’11” of him – how unnerved he was by one that had popped in the previous over. Fitzmaurice did not trouble the scorers, Gazzola (40) joined Gamble and they engineered the perfect finish, seeing us home with 9 balls to spare. In tough conditions the bowlers did their job and the batsmen theirs, everyone got some sort of a game, and the first jingle bells was sung.