After seven months, two national lockdowns, three weeks of nets sessions, 45,678,912 messages on the Ploughmans’ WhatsApp group and countless hours spent mulling over who to put in your fantasy team for the first game of the season – it was time, cricket is back, and with it so are Ploughmans CC, the greatest cricket club in the world.
Any concerns about how many early-season woolly jumpers to pack were quickly put to rest as the sun, very much on cue, decided to beam down on the DSG for the entirety of the day. This could be a historic season for the Plough, with the club having more members than ever and chasing a third consecutive league title. It was important they started the season off right against opponents Battersea Ironsides CC.
The toss was won by stand-in skipper Matt Bolshaw, who opted to field and opened the bowling with his long term opening partner and fellow founder of the ‘Thanks for Coming’ podcast (available to listen to on most streaming services), Liam Gray. The pair showed that- despite being fairly long in the tooth these days compared to the injection of young blood that has joined the club over the past two seasons- they’ve well and truly still got what it takes. The pair conjured up a timeless display of partnership bowling as they finished with an average economy of 2.45, with Bush eventually taking two wickets and Grayzer unlucky not to pick up a couple himself.
This was then beautifully backed up by the rest of our frankly frightening bowling attack. The pacey duo of Lewis Wilby and new boy Isaac Rolph took three apiece, the ever-reliable Niraj Tailor kept it extremely tight and Tom Lonnen rewarded those smart enough to captain him in their Ploughmans fantasy team as he took two wickets and three catches before even picking up his bat.
The jubilant atmosphere of the day and the sheer relief that we were back playing cricket was perfectly captured within one tender moment between a couple of Ploughmen in the field, as one Ploughman fielding at mid-off turned to his compatriot at mid-on and observed, “I think I’m in heaven”. The second Ploughman then looked around the Dulwich Sports Ground at white shirts, beers and blue skies as far as the eye could see and replied, “you’re right, I think this is what heaven looks like”.
The boys were simply relentless with the ball, and despite a stoppage for the funeral of a certain Duke providing a welcome break from the barrage for the batting side, there was no rest bite for Battersea as they stumbled to 100 all out, with Ben Hamilton stumping their number 11 in the final over after a quicker delivery from Bush. 101 to win for the plough.
After brother Max romped home with three club awards for the 2020 season, the pressure was really on Fred to stake his claim this year as the better Gumpert. This would be anything but straight forward on an April wicket against an Ironsides bowling attack that proved far stronger than their batting. Fred and opening partner Iskandar Eaton had to battle hard to try and see off the openers, before Iskandar was eventually given out LBW for eight, subsequently letting down the 65% of Ploughmen that had selected him in their fantasy teams.
With Trent Catanzariti and Tom Lane falling shortly after for just seven runs between them, there was a hint of nervous energy before Tom Lonnen strode out to the crease and finished the job at a canter alongside Fred. Fred finished on a well-negotiated 46 not out (look out Maxxy) and Lonnen added a quickfire 25 not out to his exploits in the field, quickly giving birth to a phrase that I feel will gain legs as the season progresses, “always captain Lonnen”.
A resounding seven-wicket victory to kick off the season as players and supporters alike revelled in the joy of cricket’s return until the early hours at a social distance. It was fantastic to see such vital contributions throughout the team, from Ploughmen with 100s of appearances for the club to others making their debut. If the opening weekend of cricket is anything to go by, then this is going to be a stunning season for the Plough both on and off the pitch.
God it’s good to be back. And the best news? We have 5 months of cricket ahead of us…