Cricket the winner as Strollers' courageous comeback falls just short at Croxley
posted: September 7, 2020
Having already finished a close second in our last contest at Croxley Guild earlier this summer yesterday's rematch served up another classic as, faced with a mammoth 301 target, we valiantly fought back to end up agonisingly just 8 runs shy of sealing the unlikliest of wins.
Having won the toss, the home side predictably opted to bat first – taking full advantage of their artificial track and hoping to repeat the heavy scoring that they imposed on us some six weeks earlier. Despite some probing pace and a miserly line dealt from Harry in his opening salvo, Croxley's openers were unpreturbed and promptly made hay from anything wide or short of a length. Sailing past fifty without loss the only chink in the oppo's armour appeared when Cassack was put down by George at cover.
From then on it was simply one-way traffic as Croxley's batsmen gorged themselves on a glut of boundaries that took them comfortably past a hundred, our cause not helped by a bumpy outfield that resulted in more than a few misfields. Further opportunities for wickets came few and far between but regrettably, when they did, they were not taken – a sharpish half chance edged behind was put down by Dave and George unfortunately shelled another much more difficult catch at deep square leg. But eventually, with Croxley having piled on a huge opening stand of 151, Rohit made the first breakthrough when he skidded one through Cassack's defences.
However this brought the big-hitting Croxley skipper Danny Dallas to the middle who matched opener Doug Daglish blow-for-blow with one boundary after another. In our previous encounter, Daglish gamely retired upon reaching his century and this time he did so again, although not before belting and absolutely immense six straight back over Viral's head that clattered into the neighbouring houses. With that, and with some relief on our part, Doug tucked his bat under his arm and once again strode off unbeaten on 113.
Croxley's run fest continued nonetheless with Dallas notching up his own half-century and with further misfields adding to our misery the scoreboard alarmingly ticked past the 250 mark. Finally Dallas was dismissed for 64 by a searing yorker frm Viral. Hobden added a few more until he flat-batted a low catch which was well taken at midwicket by Fenil. But, with no further loss, on the last ball of their innings the home side reached the dreaded 300 milestone and we trudged off fearing the game had gone... and, as a passing dog cheekily snaffled one of Gav's scotch eggs, we felt resigned that this was not to be our day.
Sensing almost inevitable capitulation, we lost two wickets immediately after the turnaround – neither Avnish nor Gaurav troubling the scorers. Gav hung around long enough to see off the oppo's opening pair but, having just made it to double figures, his eyes lit up at the sight of Derek (Croxley's off spinner and elder statesman) coming on, took a big heave off his first ball and – not for the first time – was duly castled as the ball skidded under his bat onto the stumps. Three down and only thirty-odd on the scoreboard after the first ten overs... not a good look.
George however was seeing the ball rather better and after swatting away a couple of strong boundaries to midwicket was joined by the master blaster himself as Viral was promoted up the order to kickstart proceedings. Making his intentions clear straightaway, Viral set about the Croxley attack with trademark ferocity. George continued to chip in whilst cleverly farming the strike to Viral who quickly hit fifth gear, launching a string of sixes, at one stage carting Derek for 23 off the over!
Almost by surprise, before we knew it the hundred was up – Viral having bludgeoned his way to a detructive half century and at drinks we had made it to 140-3 off 18 overs... quite some platform and with further batting to come we dared to dream that the unthinkable might just be thinkable!
Our hopes took a hit when, almost immediately after the interval, Viral holed out on 74 to Connor who followed that next ball by bowling George through the gate for 33. Thankfully this didn't deter Abhik – skippering for the day and, with the fine century he scored last time we came to Croxley still fresh in his memory banks, he picked up where Viral had left off with some expansive strokeplay.
Matt 'The Cat' and Dave 'The Kitten' sadly didn't get much cream this time as both were dismissed cheaply but Harry – also fresh from a good knock at Chippenham – joined the skipper in taking the attack to the oppo and eased the score past the 200 mark. The Croxley field was set back and tension built amongst the amassing crowd of locals on the boundary, many of whom were clearly enthralled by our chase.
With the score approaching 250 and just shy of reaching his own well-deserved fifty, Abhik's defiant knock sadly came to an end as young Joe fizzed a seamer through his defences. With what felt like the last throw of the dice Fenil marched out to the middle, windmilling his bat with some Botham-style swagger, indicating that we weren't done for yet as he briskly clipped a couple of fours away.
With Abhik and Viral now gone, Harry took on the mantle of slogger-in-chief and, matching his big hitting with some nifty running between the wickets, notched up his second half ton of the season. With Fenil in toe, this took us to the final over with 18 needed to complete the craziest of comebacks.
In scenes resembling a Rocky movie, with some of the local onlookers now vocally rooting for us, the pressure clearly got to Croxley heads as, with Harry nabbing a quick single off the first ball, Fenil clubbed the next one to midwicket whereupon the fielder panicked, overthrew only to see the return from cover overthrown in turn... resulting in an hilarious all-run four. As your writer remarked later, if someone had been filming for YouTube the clip would have doubtless gone viral by now as amongst the best to be seen of village cricket captured on video.
But for all the fun, we still needed three boundaries to claim the win and much as we felt we could get them, faced as we were with old timer Derek's loopy spin, sadly they weren't forthcoming and we closed the innings, tragically just 7 short of Croxley's immense total.
But what a game. The locals, having been thoroughly entertained, clapped everyone off the field with great gusto and both sides congratulated each other on their outstanding efforts. At the bar afterwards, a Croxley Guild veteran commented that this had certainly been the highest-scoring Sunday game they had ever had, staggeringly with almost 600 runs scored over the course of the afternoon.
So Croxley might have had us two from two this season but undeniably cricket was the winner and, if they'll have us, we'd love to be back for more next year!