Chippers sizzles as Harry turns up the heat
posted: August 10, 2020
Fortunes swung both ways on a scorching day at Chippenham yesterday but ultimately honours were even, despite a magnificent effort from Harry Brown who hit a personal best of 66, well supported by Davie C (29), which brought us within sight of an unlikely win.
With searing temperatures well above 30 degrees and with the outfield singed to a crisp, Captain Dave's decision upon winning the toss to insert the opposition may have initially raised a few bemused eyebrows from his team-mates, but his tactics seemed sound enough as we took full advantage of a dry yet greenish wicket that offered up wildly variable bounce.
Despite a chance going down on the very first ball of Chippenham's innings, from then on we took every opportunity going to make inroads into their top order. Varun and Harry opened with probing pace – impressively quick considering the heat – to keep the oppo batsmen at bay until Gaurav came on first change to trap young Harry Grant LBW for 15 before Collen chipped one up to Dave at mid off.
Dangerman Charlie Rattley, next in, wasted no time in asserting himself – especially when, with a massive hoik for six to the leg side, he cleared the wall with a single bounce and sent the ball over the other side of the road! However, having blasted his way to a quick 26, the chirpy Saffa (averaging over 150 this season!) was sent packing when he scooped up a heavy ball from Dave – on at second change – to cover where Varun was lurking.
With the skipper eyeing up the dry pitch, suspecting it would turn, George was brought on and was duly rewarded with the successive scalps of Saleem and Abdullah, both of whom he bamboozled to trap them leg before. With Abhik then skittling Palmer cheaply, we looked on in wonderment as we had the oppo seven down for just a shade over 100... could we be setting ourselves up for a famous win?
Unfortunately for us, Al Wright – stoically unmoved since the start of the day and weathering the intense heat with greater success than many of his younger team mates – continued to nurdle the ball around and, now joined by Chippenham first teamer Andy Holmes, began a rearguard action that frustrated us. Despite taking frequent breaks to sanitise and rehydrate, the hot conditions took their toll as Al and Andy took advantage of our fading energy to shure up the Chippenham innings with a seventy run stand. Eventually Al, just shy of what would have been a well-desrved half century, offered up a tame return catch to Gaurav at which point the oppo declared on 178-8 – maybe forty runs or so more than they might have hoped for.
Strollers of old will know what a feast to behold the famed Chippenham tea usually is (worth the trip alone in this writer's humble opinion) so you can imagine how deluded we might have felt at the changeover, drained of energy and huddled under what shade we could find beneath the trees on the far side of the ground (where under current Covid-restrictions away teams are currently obliged to congregate), rapidly gorging ourselves on our meagre packed lunches and a melting pack of fondant fancies, kindly shared around by Dickie. Our deflation was compounded by the sight of the full Chippenham side energetically jogging out to field a mere 10 minutes after they had declared – with the Strollers openers unmoved Dave made remonstrations to George and Gav to hurry up and get back out there to which the big man groaned, "but I'm mid-Scotch egg..."
Nonplussed by the unusually hurried turnaround, Gav and George trudged out to the middle and with only forty minutes or so before the clock struck for the final twenty overs, needed to score from the off. This they were unable to do as, one glorious cover drive from Gav aside, both he and George were hemmed in by relentless wicket-to-wicket bowling from Rattley and Holmes - the former peppering George with several nasty deliveries that spat off a length. By the time of the first sanitary break after six overs, we had yet to reach double figures and, just after we eventually did, George's resistance gave out and he chipped one back to Charlie.
Gav managed a few more but, in an attempt to start hitting, mistimed a cross-bat shot to midwicket and was bowled by Holmes. Things went from bad to worse when both Abhik and Dickie had their stumps skittled before Gaurav lobbed an easy catch to mid on without troubling the scorers, meaning we were five down with just 19 on the board... horrific.
With the final twenty overs still to be signalled, our ship was in desperate need of steadying. Mercifully it was with Davie C determinedly digging in and offering nothing. Harry, in at seven, required a quiet word or two from Dave to rein in his attacking instincts, especially when Chippenham – presumably safe in the knowledge that they were well on for the win – brought on their slower stuff. However, after a while, the temptation was too great to resist, Harry opened his shoulders and, before we knew it, we were up past the hundred.
With competitive sensibilities renewed, our cause was helped by some loose stuff from the Chippenham attack who conceded several uncharacteristic extras, including a 'revenge wide' called by Rohit (clearly still sore from having a delivery of his own called wide earlier in the afternoon). What's more, with the required run rate now down to around seven an over, and with Harry notching up a magnificent maiden fifty, suddenly we realised we mght just be able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Unfortunately our progress was halted with the loss of Harry who, going for one hoik too many, was caught at mid on from Collen for 66 and walked off to the loud applause of his team mates. Buoyed by Harry's efforts the Kitten who, until then, had admirably offered nothing but stoic resistance for most of our innings, eventually went for a slog himself only to glove behind for 29.
With all three results still possible, we maintained our push for victory through the nervy final overs. Davie G rode his luck somewhat and brought us close but was eventually beaten by Grant who decided he'd had enough of the slow stuff and switched to pace. With 16 required off the final over, any lingering thoughts of going for glory that Varun may have clung onto were snuffed out when, having seen Rohit narrowly avoid what would have been a tragic run out, he sensibly shut up shop ...meaning that for the second successive season the spoils were to be shared with Chippenham.
After the many breaks throughout the day for drinks and sanitiser (and much mirth in response to Dickie's bewildered post-match plea "has anyone seen my trousers?") it was near darkness by the time we returned once again to The Tharp to sink some beers and reflect on a glorious day's cricket. There might have been no tea this year, but that didn't stop us from turning in yet another Chippenham classic.