Allstars dig for victory over Gardeners

Greenwich Park, Sunday 25 September 2022.

St Anne’s Allstars 143-3 (22.5 overs: Sam Perera 41* ret, Rohan Vodapalli 38, Stuart Bruce 3-17) beat Salmagundi Gardeners 142 all out (32.4 overs: Stuart Bruce 30, Vidhu Singh 2-17, Gren Thompson 2-22, Vivek Radhakrishnan 2-31, Samer Hafiz 2-38) by 7 wickets.

Allstars Debuts: Vidhu Singh, Rohan Vodapalli, Conor Aspel.

Report by Garreth Duncan – Photos by Pete Cresswell

Although it’s only our second season playing the Salmagundi Gardeners, we’ve made such good friends with them, and so many of our players have made guest appearances for each other’s teams, they’re already firmly well bedded down in our fixture list. In our inaugural fixture last year, we mowed them down for 75 to win easily. This year, on an equally difficult Greenwich Park pitch, they dug in for a much greater fight – but we ultimately coasted to victory once again, with more than 12 overs to spare, to finish our regular 2022 season in fine style.

With an ever-growing list of injuries, we only had 8 Allstars available, and we were grateful that the Gardeners had grown a surplus and lent us Rohan Vodapalli and Conor Aspel to become Allstars for the day. On a cool September afternoon, and a pitch as green as the opposition’s fingers, Allstars skipper Pete Cresswell had little hesitation in asking the Gardeners to bat first on winning the toss. Gren Thompson quickly settled into a superb line, so fine that our friend Stuart Bruce could only watch in frustration as he couldn’t lay a bat on many of them. But it was Sheahan Arnott who struck first, as he drew an edge from Dave Hollingsworth for our third debutant, Vidhu Singh, to take a stunning, and most un-Allstars-like, catch at slip. Mayank Kalbande looked dangerous as he crashed his first ball for a boundary, but Gren then justly got his reward as Kalbande edged to Sam Perera behind the stumps. After 10 overs Gardeners were 17-2 and stuck in a ditch.

Stuart and Tim Richards upped the ante, dispatching Samer Hafiz’s first over for 10 – but Samer quickly found his rhythm and bowled Richards as he attempted another big mow. Stuart continued to mix swishes with shots of real authority, and planted the roots of a good innings together with their skipper Richard Higginbottom. Gardeners had taken the score to 82 – but it was one of their own who dug Stuart out, as he shovelled a full toss from Conor into the leg side, and Vivek Radhakrishnan took a stupendous, running catch at mid-wicket. A moment of that old Allstars controversy threatened, as the square leg umpire initially thought it a no-ball for height – but the bowler’s end umpire was unmoved and Stuart was on his way for a well made 30.

Brother Graham was next in – and the Australians amongst us would have been disappointed that we didn’t get the chance to see Bruce batting with Bruce – but Vidhu’s fine debut continued as he bowled Graham with a ripper. Higginbottom still looked handy, but Vivek ended his resistance with a peach that moved in and hit the top of middle stump, before Vidhu grabbed a second as Bob Hillman was caught by Rohan at cover. Nick Duckett was aptly named indeed, as he put up little resistance as he missed a straight one from Samer, and Vivek quickly dispatched David Guy. Shubham Kasar provided some late fireworks, bravely supported by Jason Amesbury – but it was Gren who returned to deservedly finish the innings as Kasar skied to Vivek at cover.

After a splendid tea – including some delicious home-grown grapes, we faced a target of 143 – but even with a decent Allstars batting line-up, it looked far from straightforward on a pitch that still had a lot of variable bounce in it. But Rohan, delighting in batting against his own team mates, gave us a rocket of a start, blasting Kasar’s more than useful left-arm seam back over his head for two fours in the opening over. Pete was content to nudge singles and feed him the strike, and the fifty came up in the 8th over. Stuart Bruce was not going to die wondering, and he bowled both openers in his first over to leave us 59-2, but with plenty overs and batting in hand we were still in control.

Vidhu plays for the same Paddington Rabbits CC as Sam, but far from digging a warren, they both continued to attack in a stand of 49. Stuart got his third wicket of the afternoon as Vidhu charged at him and was stumped – but it was still a very polished all-round debut for Vidhu, and we hope to see more of him next season. Stuart still had more Allstars in his sights, but I kept him out as Sam made the final push for victory. He gracefully retired to give Conor a go, and it was the Irishman who struck the final boundary.

It’s great to have found such a friendly opposition as the Gardeners, and they will no doubt have their day against us. We both celebrated a great season in the Plume of Feathers pub, and we look forward to seeing them again in 2023 – but for us, a 3 year wait is nearly over as the Allstars head to France. Can we emulate the heroes of our last Gallic tour in 2010 with another overseas victory?

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