Garden Fields Cricket Club - history

Tiny Tim

The Fish settles into position to receive the next ball. His mind wanders to Manchester United’s performance in the Premiership. Meanwhile, prowling cat-like at mid-on is the Jonty Rhodes of Garden Fields CC, while fellow Scouser and Liverpool FC fanatic, Tiny Tim (TT) is bowling. TT’s mind drifts to how many times in his GFCC fielding career the lofted shot has found him circling under the ball like a demented monkey, only to find the ball spinning like a gyroscope and inexplicably popping out of his hands onto terra firma.

This is the pre-season practice match 2009, when the Old Dads take on the Young Pups. Fish strikes the ball into the air; to his relief it is heading straight for TT. He happily sets off for a run comfortable in the knowledge that he’s picked the one fielder with ‘Teflon’ hands. In horror, TT sees the gyroscope looming inexorably towards him. He closes his eyes. He sticks out his Teflons. The ball makes contact. His hands implode. His fingers close ..... and ..... fold over the cherry. A massive cheer goes up. He claims his prize. TT’s first and only catch for GFCC, even if it is against his fellow club members.

The Club

GFCC is a collection of gentlemen, players and useful chaps whose children attend, or used to attend, Garden Fields Primary School in St Albans, Hertfordshire, UK. The club plays friendly evening matches of 20 overs a side against similar teams from St Albans and Harpenden. Occasionally, the club ventures further afield for 40 over matches, especially when on tour. Recently, the club celebrated its 25th anniversary.

The Jumper

One of the many traditions that has grown up during the life of the club is the ‘Jumper Moment’.  A relatively new member put it like this:

“One of the first things that struck me on joining GFCC was the Jumper Moment, which I stupidly assumed was awarded for some achievement of cricketing prowess. The mottled grey, heavy garment proved to be the ‘reward’ for anything absurd/funny/embarrassing that happened during the game.”

“The greatest sin was to wash The Jumper despite the fact that it had been lost in dog baskets, walked on, splashed with beer and other noxious substances and had adorned numerous sweaty torsos. One night, it transpired that The Messiah, our resident police and crime prevention officer, had forgotten to convey this simple fact to his wife. Upon seeing and smelling the state of The Jumper, she had washed it, not once, but twice!”

“Having committed the ultimate sin, The Messiah was put on trial at the Club Awards Dinner and subjected to public humiliation.”

“The awarding of The Jumper continues to be one of the great traditions of the Club.”


Another recent recruit summed up the philosophy of GFCC like this:

“This is less memory, but more about the principles. Since joining the Club in recent times, what has impressed me most is the commitment and camaraderie of the players. The longevity of association of some of the older players is quite staggering! This is a club that is non-judgemental, extremely welcoming and, above all, fun!! Anyway, enough of the sentiment.”

“My best memory is announcing at a School Governors’ Meeting that The Young Pups had beaten The Old Dads and getting a whoop of delight from headmistress, Terrie Clifft!”

Home Ground

Verulamium Park provides the venue for the Club’s home ground. Here, the two cricket pitches occupy what is surely one of the most stunning locations in the whole of England. Nestling in a bowl surrounded by an extraordinary variety of mature trees, the summer evening sun casts long shadows as it highlights the cathedral backdrop to this amphitheatre that is just made for cricket. Nearby is the Club’s ‘home’, The Six Bells, no less than 600 years old and serving a bevy of real ales and lagers, accompanied by after the match platters of sausages and chips.

Memorable events

The many memorable events include:

·         Annual tours to Highcliffe, Thetford (the most boring, yet violent – thanks to a ‘local’ by the name of Big Dave – town in England), and Menorca.

·         Annual golf days.

·         Golf tours to La Manga, Provence and Le Touquet.

·         London-Brighton Charity Bike Ride.

·         Murder mystery tour of London.

·         Annual Awards Nights, including full multimedia coverage of the past seasons high and low lights, and awards for everyone.

·         Days out at Lords Test Matches.

·         The pre-match Huddle, led by Big Al, most notably with the burning of the jos stick and passing of the ball.

·         Regular match reports covering every aspect of the game.

Particular events, worthy of fuller account include:

·         Westy, the umpire.

·         Dexter’s first ball dismissal of TC.

·         Stuntman’s aggressive bowling.

·         Bunty’s self-inflicted injuries.

·         International recognition.

Westy, the umpire

The scene is the 2007 away fixture vs. The Bittermen at Nomansland Common, Fields chasing. Westy arrives in a taxi, half-cut after a day of Test Match at Lords. He proceeds to roll around in the grass before the opportunity to umpire presents itself. He dons the white coat and gives a magnificent display of gymnastics, pirouetting on one leg to signal leg byes. MoF are seen home by the mighty trio of Wilks, Turps and Shep.

Dexter’s first ball dismissal of TC

Bomber settles into his deck-chair for the start of the match. He glances up and utters the unforgettable cry: “He’s starting his run-up from the boundary!” We all redirect our eyes towards the dreadlocked Rastafarian Dexter as he turns to commence his run.

Captain for the day, Bomber immediately announces his demotion from batsmen no. 4 to 8. Jock, due in at 3, frantically searches for our one and only helmet. Undeterred, TC, in at no. 1, looks up to see the menacing Dexter, accelerating towards him with all the loping rhythm of Michael Holding. TC braces himself as the ball pitches short and arrows straight towards his vulnerable head. He swats ‘Bothamesque’, misses the ball, loses his balance and promptly falls on his wicket.

Stuntman’s aggressive bowling against STAGS

It was in a game against STAGS that Stuntman’s aggression ended the days of GFCC’s reputation for gentle cricket by breaking two of an opponent’s fingers, resulting in STAGS refusing fixtures for a couple of years.

Bunty’s self-inflicted injuries

Bunty recounts his early experiences of playing ..... well, nearly playing ..... for GFCC and his off-the-field propensity towards self-inflicted injury:

“My first match for GFCC, having just bought the full kit and gleaming in white as I strode up to the pitch. TC suggested that we have a little catching practice. I stood up and leant forward to catch the ball – ping! Torn calf muscle. Out for 4 weeks.”

“On return, my first match in the field. Ball tonked towards me. Set off after it – ping! Calf muscle gone again, this time good and proper. Carried off the pitch with someone from the outfield shouting: ‘If he was an ‘orse they’d ‘ave ‘im put down by now!’ Out for the rest of the season. Never been quite the same since.”

International recognition

Recognition of the Club’s contribution to national cricketing excellence was achieved by the invitation proffered in to its President, founder and past captain, the legendary TPO, to award the One Day International Trophy ODI. Coached by England left armer, John Lever, and mentored by Trevor Bailey in his formative years, nothing could quite match the aura of this moment. The scene was Edgbaston, venue for England’s second One Day International Match against The West Indies on 26 June, 2009. Upon completion of the match, TPO mounted the podium alongside former England captain, ball-tamperer and Sky commentator, Athers (Michael Atherton). Courtesy of NatWest, TPO had mysteriously won their competition to award Matt Prior with the Man of the Match award, Stuart Broad with the Man of the Series award and finally, narrowly avoiding a shower of champagne, Andrew Strauss with the ODI Trophy.


The Don writes: “I have many good memories of GFCC over its 25 years of existence. During this time, the Club has evolved to become a well-structured and almost (well, not quite) a sophisticated organisation. The culture has not changed significantly thankfully and sometimes the cricket seems to be incidental! The most significant moment amongst the many lows and highs is sadly the death of Westy, following a brave battle with pancreatic cancer. What followed was inspiring and uplifting, and has made the Club even closer-knit and more supportive than ever. Westy will be remembered for many things, not least for being an ambassador for the Club and bringing several of the more recent recruits into the fold.”