25 May 2014 Marauders
The arrival of season three of the Green Sox project generates the sort of questions one would expect of any marginally-successful venture bordering on out-staying its welcome. Do the players still want it? Have they brought in new ideas? Who has the wicket-keeping pads? Like washed-up bandsmen adamant that the third album could still break new ground, the Sox ventured in mild trepidation to quasi-home ground West Dulwich for the season opener v Marauders, a largely unknown quantity skittled out in the 2013 fixture courtesy of a biblical deluge. With the team’s heartbeat Nick Piercey recovering from gout and club founders Ben Formela and Rob Wilkinson smashed off their tits on peyote, it was a largely new look Sox bashing rapid slip catches at each other’s ankles in the pre-game warm up. With all debutantes arriving more or less on time it was left to old hand George Clarkson to accept the first fine of the season: pretending his job was important enough to stay beyond five.
Newman-Taylor and Ormerod-Cloke opened the bowling, a double double-barrelling symptomatic of the creeping gentrification that is turning Sox fans away in droves. Tidy line and length initially kept the Marauders openers honest, before their overseas player started meeting out brutal and stylish punishment, taking 19 of one TNT over. TNT always responds with the bat, the Green Sox reflected. Andy OC’s figures of 4-1-10-1 were fine reward for a quick, hostile spell, all performed whilst wearing a threadbare child’s t-shirt that accentuated his rippling torso.
Next up were Bason and Cashmore, the latter in only his second ever bowling performance, which he embarked upon with a run-up shorter than a Green Sox winning streak. J.P. Bason is proven quality with genuine movement that always gives you a chance at this level, and as the spin-doctor started to turn it both ways Marauders’ batsmen disintegrated, looping catch upon catch up to Andy OC who – yet to understand the Green Sox philosophy on catching – caught them. And the catching was catching: in the tenth over third double-barrelled surname De Glossop’s charger was flicked apace to mid-wicket where who but Andrew Ashton, he of the dancing two-step-groin-collapse, ‘caught under the high ball like a fish tangled in a spider’s web’, pouched a sharp chance to his right, a wonderful moment. Sox were rampant and two time Bowler of the Year Clarkson was still to come, warming up the metronome to induce a Marauder bunny into a loopy return catch, the perfect opportunity to stake an early-season claim for ‘Best Faller Overer 2014’ – the ineffectual slap at the ball with the trailing hand a nice touch, still not a mark on his whites.
All in all 8 wickets fell, the bowlers performed and De Glossop moved it like a banana. The target of 124 seemed imminently gettable, and a short sharp rain shower lessened the evening sky’s intensity, leading to ninety minutes of beautiful spring sunset playing out above the Sox’s response.
So then. Three overs in and the Sox were four wickets down with two runs on the board. Established batsmen De Glossop and Newman-Taylor both losing the top of off-stump; trusty middle-order run merchants Clarkson and Grocott failing to trouble the scorers. ‘We’re fucked now’, said Grocott, as Newman-Taylor’s bail bloomed into the twilight. And there’s no doubt that the Sox’s middle-order inspired more questions than reassurance: Andrew Ashton at five, previous top score of 4; Dominic Roberts at six, wearing football shorts; Luke Stroman at seven, first ever game of cricket.
What happened next will live long in the memory of all present. Rarely can Belair have seen a fight-back so spirited, so unlikely and so dramatic. It was led by Ashton, the DfT’s much loved job-mover and Bollinger-quaffer eschewing the protection of both sunscreen and a box to anchor the Green Sox fight back with 19 dogged runs off 73 overs, more French cuts than a Jean Luc Goddard epic. Joining Ashton at the crease was Dominic Roberts, there to ‘take the momentum out of the attack’ by pacing around the crease like a confused beefeater, tying and untying his shoelaces, making loud remarks about light monitors and ostentatiously stretching his groin. Having seen off the Marauders’ openers Roberts and Ashton changed gear with a satisfying click, a smooth and effortless straight six from Roberts signalling the change and sending a shiver of excitement through this correspondent’s heart. Roberts retired on 29 and it was game on.
The momentum was now with the Sox. Luke Stroman made a mockery of his debut status, crashing a four off ball number one, and Andy OC followed suit by murdering his first ball for an eight-run six into cow corner. Suddenly Sox were within 20 of victory with three overs to play. Joe Bason crashed a four, Steve Howe square–cut another over the slips, and Rob Cashmore was the key man come the final over. A fast beamer, he took it on the chest(!) and ran three, bent-double, carrying the wrong end of his bat. Edges, chaos. No one, neither umpires nor scorer, knew how many balls remained. But with retiree Roberts back at the crease Sox needed two off the final ball. A wide! So that’s a tie? And Roberts running? A run-out! And a tie? Or a loss?
The deliberations all hinged on how many runs one should award for a wide in the final over. The remonstrations all centred on how Stroman and Ashton only managed to chalk up one run, that time the ball trickled thirty yards to the boundary rope and three fielders collapsed like performance artists trying to pick it up. But none of it mattered. The Sox had gritted something out; they had competed. Andrew Ashton had bagged a MOM performance, and the summer season stretched ahead for two more glorious months.
12 June 2014, Green Sox vs The National Archives, Highgate, Balcony
For Baden Baden 2006, read Highgate 2014.
It was a blazing summer. There were reddening Englishmen in ill fitting caps, the lager flowed and the world’s best footballers gathered for the greatest show on earth. The pre match speculation centred on a group of players dubbed a ‘golden generation’ by an increasingly adulatory and fawning press. Captain Goldenballs himself led the line. And then there were the WAGs. Leggy, lecherous and loud, they represented all that had gone wrong with the game in the preceding years of big salaries and bigger egos.
It was a mistake to take them in Germany and it was a mistake again in Highgate. The inebriated antics of the Wives and Girlfriends on the sidelines drew the ire of locals and visitors alike; a constant distraction for the brave, but overhyped and ultimately cowed into weakness by the realisation of their own inadequacies, group of men.
A fickle media turned on the WAGs, branding them ‘ladettes’ and blaming them for any deviation on the part of the team from the serious business of ending the hurt of a generation without a significant competitive victory to their name.
The WAGs’ high spirits quickly spread to the players. One particular talisman of the squad, an old timer who should have known better, fell off the wagon early. A pint in his one good hand before the first ball was struck in anger.
For the team, it was a familiar story. Away from the muddy parks of home, playing in hot, humid and wholly un-English conditions. An opposition technically superior with the ball and without. The pressure of expectant friends, family and countrymen waiting, finally, for news of victory to float back over the water and cheer their aching hearts.
And it was a familiar ending. The team started well, throwing themselves with gusto and no little effort into their task. There were standout performances in the field from Joe ‘Peter Crouch’ Bason, Chris ‘Frank Lampard’ Jones, George ‘Stevie G’ Clarkson and Tom ‘Becks’ Newman-Taylor. Dave ‘Joe Cole’ Grocott played with characteristic flair after the break.
But in the final reckoning, it was a step too far for the Green Sox. For Portugal, read The National Archives. For Ronaldo, read Karthik. For the Green Sox, as for England, watching Brazil in the bar afterwards was a time to reflect on the fallacy of the Golden Generation and whether, just maybe, now was the time for blooding new talent, young whipper snappers with fire in their bellies. On they went to Isleworth to do just that…
17 June 2014 National Archives – an impressionist/revisionist write up.
This was an unusual game of cricket for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was a return leg from a previous game in Highgate; secondly, it involved a level crossing on the approach (didn’t realise we had those in London) and thirdly, the opposition started batting at the 12th over and at that point, a good looking man from DCLG arrived.
Luckily this game isn’t a story of the higher pleasure aspects of the beautiful game, crisp seaming, lofted, ripping spinning or wildly swinging expressions of bowling-desire for the win. Instead, it covers that dirtier side, that more base and physical, lumpen and crude other half of the game. And this is a story with a protagonist, a side kick and their collective work with the bat.
Runs were scored at a mediocre pace after tea – Jamie Graves notched up a brace, Captain Howe added a few to the board and OC and Ben Murphy arrived sooner than they should have done to initiate the tail; lots of chat was provided on their technique improvement and little in the way of results were demonstrated. The time between them wandering out with braveness and optimism in their hearts, and meandering back with virgin bats and lovelorn faces was as short as it was painful to witness. The score was low, the chase was failing – we needed a hero.
One came. Nay, two.
While this man did no initially come across as the hero-type (no cape, no mask, very average running speed), he had the self belief of a hero – and he had been physically preparing for it. Back and shoulders, heavy weights, “I can really keep my elbow up now” came the chat; “I think I might actually be too strong” it continued. So when we were 43-8 (chasing 122-ish) the strong man arrived.
Soon joining Fowler in the middle was a young man named Luke Stroman. During the brief bowling spell before tea he had stumbled over some daisies and wounded his ankle – but he ventured forth nonetheless. As they both set out their stall in that sacred middle, the best of National Archives bowling began their ferocious attack, with perhaps the quickest bowler the Sox have ever faced chucking them down with vengeant fury.
Fowler ‘I’m too strong’ Fowler and Luke ‘calcium deficiency’ Stroman settled in. The runs came, a single here, a dashing double there. Stroman delivered his hockey skills excellently, not flinching in the face of the 90mph-ers and gaining the odd boundary. Soon it was 50-8, and then 60-8. Fowler plunged his bat into the way of the determined bowling like a true swordsman. 70 came and then 80. The running was phenomenal. Fowler found pace like he had never bragged about. Stro played the shots and OC ran the yards. Steve Howe at Umpire, began to let himself believe.
As the runs kept totting up, there were nerves in the National Archives, we had weathered their best and were still standing. Like two phallic warriors, Stro and Fowler had formed a partnership in the heats of hell and played a duet of Mozart whilst excelling in each other’s embrace. It was beautiful to behold and the crowd were roaring for the finish line, willing on these two exemplary fighters, Joe Root and Jimmy Anderson putting it in for the team.
Alas, the hope had to fade and when Stro was plucked from the air off a loose cover drive (short corner?) we realised it was over. Fowler had more to give and would have carried the team on his shoulders if the rules of the game allowed. We had fallen short but we had done it the most magnificent way. Fowler had smashed records and broken National Archive hearts with his consistency, shot selection and run rate. Stroman had been fearless, and he later informed us had batted something like 10 overs on a broken ankle. On. A. Broken. Ankle. Another loss for the Green Sox but not the kind of loss that brings shame.
Two heroes then. Indistinguishable and unrankable. A pair of winners alone. Let us remember their commitment and hold them high in Green Sox lore as we pursue our first win of 2014.
Greensox v Homerton, Sunday 6 July
The Sox, I think it’s fair to say, haven’t quite proven themselves yet this season in the shorter form of the game. Would our long and gritty batting line-up favour us in this 35-over contest? Would history repeat itself on this hot, dry, crumbling wicket in East London?
After a flurry of excitement about the pitch being double-booked (Sox get a draw by default…?) and some concern about whether our star players would make it back from Copacabana in time, we finally resolved to start – and the Sox went in to bat.
TNT and Piercey opened up, and looked untroubled by the Homerton attack. There was no shortage of good calling from both ends, the batsmen recognising the fundamental maxim that “no means no”. Alas, it was not to last: a ball spun in at Piercey keeping low, leaving umpire Howe with little option but to LBW his teammate. (Not Howe’s only correct, but potentially match-losing, LBW decision that innings).
Other batsmen came and went. TNT preached caution: “watch this guy, he swings it away”. Needless to say, most ignored this advice favouring the slog-sweep – with mixed success. There were flashes of the old TNT, including one rather delightful on-drive [ed. really?!] but unfortunately he chased one outside off that deserved leaving and was caught at point on 31 – the worst kind of total in Boycott’s eyes. D Murphy, Grocott, Wilko, Ashton and Bason all hinted at runs but quickly succumbed to the Homerton attack, which varied in pace but with a golden thread of line, length and movement running throughout. Wilko may have been LBW, bowled and caught from the same ball: one of his bails, after loitering for what felt like a minute or two, finally gave up the ghost and sent him back to the pavilion. Bason deserves a special mention here for facing down some quickies from the man described by his teammates as “the silver fox”. Bason even had the hungover chutzpah to leg glance a perilous in-swinger – for this writer, shot of the day.
Then came LDG and skipper Howe to steady the ship. Their batting styles complimented each other – the big-hitter and the nippy runner. Howe’s general approach – call “yes” then look to see where the ball is – certainly put pressure on a fielding side. Despite looking like his mind was 5672 miles west, LDG managed to destroy the new bowler, dispatching several consecutive balls to the legside boundary in his first over. Some unSoxlike sledging from behind the wicket was quickly stamped out by the indomitable LDG (“just not cricket”). He raced to 43 but in a momentary lapse of concentration gave away his wicket cheaply, caught in the covers. This left Howe to prop up the tail. B Murphy didn’t last long, despite his intensive net training this season.
It was around this point that the game was briefly interrupted as a kestrel flew across the wicket with a tiny bird writhing in its claws – a metaphor of Homeric proportions presaging the cruel demise of the Sox? Finally came in the man known to many as “the other double-barrelled one”, AOC. Wearing TNT’s kit from head to foot, he played with uncharacteristic reticence: two forward defensives, the third one seeing him LBW’d. Howe was left last man standing – a short but impressive 15 n/o which surely calls for him to bat higher up the order. The Sox had amassed a respectable 160 but would later rue the waste of 5 run-scoring overs.
A brief tea break taken and the Sox skipped out to field – short of Wilko, LDG and Grocott who had decided instead to take a Sunday stroll through the park, arriving back midway through the first over (nota bene on Thursday evening, a rollover week for fines). AOC and TNT opened the bowling, each holding a decent line and length but failing ever to quite get under the skin of the Homerton openers. Credit to AOC for generating some bounce from the pitch. Howe started with an ambitious field, hoping no doubt for some corridor magic with the new ball.
When, after 8 overs, the magic break still hadn’t come, the skip decided it was time to drop the G-bomb (Grocott had lobbied for an early bowl so that he could leave by 4pm to cook dinner for his ailing dog). Even this didn’t prove enough to bring a wicket. The break finally came when captain Howe floated one in, tempting a mistimed drive into the hands of TNT. Bason at the other end bowled the spin of his life (at least from this writer’s perspective standing at cow corner). LDG insisted on Bason putting three men on the leg boundary – a good call. The batsman, looking dangerous up till that point, skied one just short of cow corner, underestimating the fielder’s preternatural ability to chase it down (TNT). A glimmer of light. Unfortunately, Homerton’s no 4 looked no fool with the bat as he slammed one bowler after another to all four corners of the pitch. B Murphy took the brunt of the punishment – with figures that certainly don’t reflect his sensible line and intelligent variation of pace. LDG came on in the dying minutes and too late to turn it around. Homerton passed our score comfortably with 6 overs and 8 wickets to spare.
In the field the Sox were near exemplary: jogging efficiently between overs, holding catches, stopping boundaries and most importantly, keeping the banter alive in the face of the inevitable. Piercey was trusty as ever behind the stumps. Wilko will be remembered for consoling a deck-chaired granny on the boundary who took a ball to the ankle (was he rubbing it better or expounding the merits of a good long boundary? Hard to tell from my angle). And a special mention to Olly, a random bypasser (in cricket whites) who agreed to field for us in Grocott’s absence – and did it rather well.
Naturally, there was some disappointment as the Sox left the field. One ginger-haired member of the team was spotted weeping into his hands, reportedly saying that this was “the most boring day of my life, and one I’ll never forget”. It begs the counterfactual: what if Fowler hadn’t sustained a fractured vertebra in the previous match? But there is surely lots to build in from this performance. With Fowler match fit again, can the Sox remind themselves what victory tastes like?
GreenSox vs Slazengers Burgess Park, 30 July 2014 GreenSox win by about 70 runs
The penultimate match of the GreenSox’s third season; The oppo were called ‘Slazengers’ for a familiar reason.
The Sox were on high after their first win of 2014;
A proper forty-over thrashing of a genuine cricket team.
Having conquered fellow DfTers with runs and wickets abound; They were hungry for the same against drivers of the underground.
The pitch was in the middle of nowhere; lots of Sox turned up late; That they would later be fined for this, there was no debate.
They trickled in like small children forced on a hike; And Rob turned up on a cream ladies’ bike.
A quick re-arrange of the order to shuffle up the big hitters;
Give the lower-order boys a chance to slog hard at some sitters.
Niall and Piercey strode out ready to drive, pull, and hook; And in a very rare sight, Wilkinson took his place at the book.
‘You liar, you deceiver, you utter cheat!’
Cried Fowler, who’s always told he’s the only man for the sheet.
Niall played great shots, it was all lovely stuff;
He blasted the bowlers as it pitched out of the sandy rough.
After only a few overs, maybe two or three; The Sox cheered Niall, their first retiree.
Quickly following in his footsteps were Piercey, Graves, and Clarky; Demonstrating their batting prowess most starkly.
We need to have a word about Tom Newman-Taylor;
Who by no means could be described as a craze-driven flailer.
We had four batters retired, each now deserving some fame;
And Howe had assured that merely two retirees would win us the game.
It was time to start slogging; we were pretty much home and dry; But TNT insisted he needed to get in his eye.
He left balls and he defended, he prodded and poked; The other Sox began to wonder if he was having a joke.
‘We’ve got men left to come, start swinging at stuff!’ But Miss Dynamite couldn’t give a chuff.
On the very last ball and with what felt like the setting sun; He managed to noodle out his twenty fifth run.
Wilkinson batted well, slapping their bowlers about; Scored a fair few runs, and stayed not out.
Special mention should go to Murphy and Jones; GreenSox through and through, right down to their bones.
Given their brief to go at it like rutting bucks; Both flashed hard and got out for ducks.
The score was set, the job half done; The Sox had scored just over 1411.
Andy O-C opened up the bowling attack;
For his bright purple shorts he’d taken some flack.
He got three wickets, but his fourth was denied;
When declaring ‘one ball left’ the umpire had blatantly lied.
OC, TNT, Jones, Graves and Fowler made the balls tell; Wilkinson and TNT managed to hold some catches as well.
Now whilst some players bowl lots of overs, others have just a few; And then there’s the odd one that bowls under two.
Unfortunately this is a fact of the game;
And a lesson that was learned by the Sock with a ridiculous nickname.
‘Bowler’s name please, is it TNT?’ ‘Unfortunately not’ replied Dynamitee.
The Sox kept up the attack, there was no sign of stalling; Slazengers wickets just kept on falling.
The oppo started to get a bit sad;
They didn’t think that they should have been playing that bad.
But the Sox played on, ruthlessly enjoying the positive vibe; Occasionally throwing out the odd insensitive jibe.
We got them all out, just over seventy was their score;
You could see on their faces they wished it had been more.
Two wins in a row, my goodness what the heck?
It seemed appropriate to celebrate in the local discotheque.
The Thomas A Becket’s name got the history pedants riled; Not the sort of place to serve a pint of mild.
With hard core DnB playing, the dance floor empty;
The Sox retired to the beer garden to dish out fines a-plenty.
There were fines for lateness, mid-air stops, and self third-person references; Even for one Sox’ purple short wearing preferences.
For his beautiful shots the MoM was named Niall; Two wins in a row, to the Sox it didn’t feel real.
But much like the hips of the South American singer most fly; The honourable Green Sox scorebook don’t lie.