Strollers snatch defeat from the jaws of victory over the Archway Ladder in low scoring thriller
posted: July 4
Having committed the cardinal sin of being bowled out in the first innings of a T20, posting only a modest 127, our bowlers put in a magnficent effort last night to bring us within a whisker of pulling off an unlikely win over the Archway Ladder XI.
With Dave delayed in his return from darkest Somerset, Abhik took on tossing duties and, having called correctly, opted to bat first on a hot sunny evening at Ally Pally. Unfortunately our batters found a variety of ways to get themselves out - Matt dismissed early on for just a single, Spencer and Varun both swinging and missing only to find themselves clean bowled.
Strollers newbie Will Morgan batted with more aplomb until he holed out to Walsh for 21 but Hamza – happily making a return appearance for the Strollers for the first time in several seasons – fared less well, bowled by Mashroot for 8. Gav stitched himself up by calling for a single to a bye that was sharply retrieved by the keeper who then hurled down the stumps to run the big guy out.
However with 6 down, our progress began to pick up. Abhik had dropped himself down the order and he helped himself to the slower stuff now served up, clearing the boundary frequently and with ease. Gaurav — also batting lower down than usual — joined him and, for a time, it looked as though we might again be on track for a par score around the 140 mark. However Abhik was halted in his tracks when, on 29, he holed out to oppo skipper Baig who then caused much consternation – both on the sidelines and in the middle – by bowling a steepling bouncer directly at Tom's unhelmeted head ...more on that later. After a polite word of complaint, Tom was then sent packing – caught at gully off Baig – to loud and explosive celebrations, again flaring our collective nostrils.
We were flustered even more by the tardiness of our skipper (of whom there was still no sign at 19.30) having only two wickets remaining. Jack, next in, gamely tried to defend but was soon trapped LBW for a duck although, being a man down, the oppo kindly allowed us to send him back in for another go. Our tenth wicket stand only lasted a few more balls with Jack adding only a single before he was bowled. With that, we trudged off having scrambled to just 127 trying to ignore the ignomony of being dismissed with more than three overs to spare. Hmm...
However, all was not lost. Dave finally arrived in the nick of time to take the field and we got off to almost the perfect start when Spencer – happily able to bowl seam-up again – bowled Brandon for a duck. Spencer again took centre stage when, next over, he lobbed the ball in from mid on to throw down the stumps with Walsh run out well away from making his ground. Was there a sniff of a chance here?
Dave must have thought so when he made the inspired decision to bring on Will for his first spell in over seven years! Like riding a bike, Will clearly had lost none of his touch and, with a gentle off break, bowled Ihsan with his first delivery. By now we were whooping with delight and the celebrations got even louder next ball when Reeve was sent packing for a duck in precisely the same manner. The hat trick was on but Baig, in at six, impassively blocked the next one and the crowd (meaning Dickie and his dogs, observing from the boundary) calmed.
Not that it was calm in the middle by any stretch. The red mist descended upon Spencer when he trapped Patel with one as plumb as plumb can be – only to have his appeal turned down. How costly that would prove to be...
The 'afters' continued when Tom was brought into the attack, promising Baig some feiry stuff in return to which the oppo skipper testily retorted "fine by me mate, I'm wearing a helmet". Justice was served when Tom's first ball – sent down at lightning pace – proved not to be the expected bouncer but rather a perfectly pitched yorker that shattered Baig's stumps... the surroundlng field erupted in the same vocal style in which the oppo had greeted Tom's wicket earlier in the evening.
Harvey followed that up with another fine and full delivery to despatch Desai in the same way for a duck whilst, next over, Will celebrated his third well-deserved wicket of the evening when he bowled Goodman through the gate for just one. The Archway Ladder were now 45-7 and what had seemed like a certain defeat on the cards now looked increasingly like a handsome victory heading our way.
Young Ebrahim, next in, looked unflustered and in better touch until he holed out to Tom at extra cover off Gaurav, now operating from the Crouch End end. With 8 down and more than sixty still required we were confident the spoils were to be ours after all. That was until Dave took the somewhat unexpected decision to remove Will from the attack and bring himself on.
In the days, weeks and possibly years to come, our skipper may rue that decision as Patel – making the most of his earlier reprieve – realised he was rapildy running out of partners and took it upon himself to launch an onslaught to rival anything even the likes of Chris Gayle might mount. Smashing no fewer than three sixes and two fours, coupled by a few extrason the side Patel carted Gorton for 31 from a single over... and, with that, the balance of the game dramatically shifted back in the oppo's favour.
With plenty of overs to spare, Patel calmly hit cruise control and wisely farmed the strike, Walsh at the other end hitting only a solitary boundary whilst otherwise offering nothing other than stoic defence. In the end the Archway Ladder trundled home and – with inverse symmetry to our own innings – with three overs to spare reached the winning line with four byes.
The frustration that we had come so near yet so far from achieving what would have been a remarkable win was palpable but, as we consoled ourselves over a few beers afterwards, we reflected that regardless of Dave's 'mare of an over the damage really had been done much earlier on when we had allowed ourselves to be skittled with overs to spare. Nevertheless it had been a great contest. Cricket remains a cruel mistress at times but, my goodness, how exciting it can still be.