Honours even as rain besets run chase against Beamers
posted: September 11, 2017
With the arrival of September, that mournful feeling that accompanies the nearing end of the season usually begins to creep in, particularly when (as in recent years) we have been blessed with a balmy Indian summer that seems only to protract the long goodbye. However, such feelings were somewhat muted yesterday when we faced old frenemies the Beamers at Ferme Park in decidedly autumnal weather – dwindling temperatures, dark skies, strong winds, blustery showers and muddy conditions underfoot all contributing to the pervading feeling that we were now fully in rugby season and questioning the sense in attempting a cricket match.
Still that we did and, upon winning the toss, Viral predictably opted to bowl first to test how well the Beamers batsmen could ‘weather’ (pun intended) the conditions. However, if anything, it was us that fell afoul of the difficult conditions with our bowlers struggling to find any kind of firm footing in their slippery run-ups. With NLCC providing only the most meagre supply of sawdust to shore up the pitch, Spencer and Viral ran in with a little less confidence than usual and, as a result, the Beamers set off like a train – openers Pittman and Gole spanking (and frequently losing) the ball to all parts.
With Spencer unhappy with the decidedly boggy conditions at the lower end, Abhik was brought on first change and thankfully made the first breakthrough before things got too scary when, with the score yet to reach 50, Kyle took an uncharacteristically ugly mow at a straight one and was cleaned up for 23.
Simon was then introduced to the attack from the top end and took another vital scalp when Gole – who had hit everything thus far out of the middle and into the ground – lofted a powerful straight drive over the bowler’s head only to be spectacularly caught at the second attempt by Viral (going some way to absolve himself of any fielding transgressions at Chippenham that we suspect still linger on in SiBo’s recent memory).
This was followed almost immediately by the departure of Howeld who, after attempting an ill-advised hook shot off his first ball, was promptly run out for a duck – thanks again to Viral – when he took the suicidal decision to take on the skipper’s arm. Wright was next to go shortly thereafter when he feathered a nick behind to an away-swinger from Abhik that was well taken behind by Matt – the Cat rolling back the years in fine fashion to claim a textbook dismissal.
However this meant that the Beamers had two of their most prolific batsmen out in the middle – chippy Aussie Al Dixon and the more demure Englishman Richard Verity, the latter having already punished us in the first game of the season with a whopping unbeaten 145. If we were to press home our advantage we had to break this partnership.
But we didn’t. Not for want of trying but somehow we contrived to repeatedly let Richard off the hook in all manner of ways… firstly there was a regulation catch sadly put down by Marco at mid on. Then, with George now operating from the lower end, Spencer (of all people) somehow managed put down a loose swipe from Verity to where he waited at cow corner.
George’s frustrations rose even higher when he had Richard trapped low on the back leg for what looked for all the world like a nailed-on LBW, that was inexplicably not given.
A further – if admittedly much more challenging – chance then went begging when Abhik couldn’t quite get down in time to collect what would have been a very sharp low catch from a short one from Simon at midwicket.
And with every missed opportunity Verity’s confidence seemed only to grow and with it the strength of his strokeplay and, as the tall number six continually carted us to all corners, the older Strollers lamented that this felt a bit like the bad old days. Catches win matches after all and we weren’t taking them.
Whatever the weather, our prospects looked bleaker still when Spencer painfully pulled his hamstring trying to chase down a four to deep long off. And after Matt shelled what in retrospect was probably a bump ball from Dixon, Richard inevitably reached his hundred …albeit with Lady Luck planted squarely on his side. Al, performing his supporting role, expertly hit his fifty and with permanent drizzle by now teeming down it’s fair to say spirits in the field were just as damp.
With Verity and Dixon having shared a mighty 160 run stand for the fifth wicket, the Beamers closed on an imposing 241-4 …a total all the more impressive considering we had already reduced the match to 30 overs per side owing to the threat of rain, due at around 5pm. It was doubtless this very concern that caused the oppo to petition vehemently that we delay tea, turnaround and begin our innings straight away.
However this suggestion was met by our utter indignation and perhaps most fiercely dismissed by Gav – after all, it is a brave soul indeed who attempts to get between the big man and his tea. Aside from the practicalities of imposing upon the lovely new tea lady at NLCC to wait for us, having already prepared her spread, we suspected the ulterior motive in the Beamers’ appeal to keep playing was to attempt to skittle us cheaply before the rains arrived. Stoically we insisted that some traditions are not to be messed with and we pointedly adjourned to the pavilion, happily joined by most of the oppo (although a couple of notable absentees from their number stubbornly remained in the hutch at Ferme Park to make their point).
Satisfied that tradition had been upheld and encouraged by the improvement of the delicacies now served up – Swiss roll making a welcome return to the teatime fayre on offer, suggesting that the dark days of cold jerk chicken may at last be behind us – we returned our attention to the task in hand. With a required run rate in excess of 8 per over from the get go, this was going to be a big ask although with the heavy clouds threatening the much-advertised rain the prospect of getting all 30 overs in was probably an even bigger one.
Nevertheless openers Gav and Matt set off fully intending to meet the challenge. With the pitch sticky from the damp conditions, the ball sat up nicely and was there to be hit. Clearly having enjoyed that most controversial of teas Gav lustily spanked a straight driven four back past Mark Pittman in the first over. In the second, Matt picked up the pace, twice hitting Parker over the midwicket boundary.
But whilst boundaries were forthcoming, the calling between our opening pair wasn’t and after the Cat had creamed another one through the covers, he unfortunately met an abrupt end when Gav carelessly forgot to call no run to a shot Matt had hit directly to backward point. Having already set off Morgan was well out of his crease when the return throw came in and he was cruelly run out.
Gav, kicking himself, loosely threw his bat in frustration at a couple of wide ones from Parker and streakily edged the ball over the slips to the boundary. Having had a little pep talk both from the skipper (umpiring at the lower end) and from Simon (umpiring at the other end) who noted that the Beamers were now getting a bit chippy in the field – enjoying themselves a little too much in the face of our flailing efforts – the big man asserted to apply some more controlled aggression.
This was signalled firstly by an enormous six over cow corner, then a ferocious pull shot through midwicket that threatened to decapitate poor old Ralph Edney. He then followed that with an assault through backward point ensuring that anything pitched just wide of off stump (aka ‘Gav’s office’ according to George) was punished in trademark fashion with full force – and when four fours were smacked through this region from successive balls, the field notably quietened.
However, just when he seemed to be on track for something special, Gav’s inner demons returned to get the better of him. Wily Mark Pittman, familiar with his foe’s achilles heel, knew exactly where to put it – very full and very straight. The red mist having descended, Gav in all-too-familiar fashion took his customary hoik, missed and thus his stumps were shattered – and with a wry smile exchanged between batsman and bowler the big man trudged back to the hutch having hit a quickfire 40.
George, meanwhile, had been ably providing support at the other end and had already struck a couple of fine boundaries himself. Unfortunately his progress was halted in its tracks when Dickie, next in, called for a single to one which he had hit directly to the fielder just behind square and set off immediately – with no opportunity to send him back George had no option but to go for it and alas was sent packing, run out well adrift of his ground, much to the Mad Dog’s chagrin.
This brought Abhik to the crease, replete with brand new bat in hand. The left hander wasted no time making full use of his new weapon, carting his first delivery for six over square leg. Good start. With the Beamers bringing on the slow stuff now seemed to be the time to capitalise and ‘go large’. Our cause was helped when Joe Wood suddenly suffered an attack of the yips and bowled almost an entire over of wides. Ralph, on the other hand, kept it straighter and when Dickie attempted to charge him it was to be his undoing as, having missed the ball, Christan promptly whipped off his bails.
Spencer, next in and batting lower down the order than usual thanks to his sustained injury, manfully did his best to bat on one leg, with Marco gamely running on his behalf. Supporting Abhik’s continued onslaught with some improvised swivel-hitting he made it to 18 before Ralph sent down a low one that he simply couldn’t get down to in time and so was bowled.
By now two things were apparent – firstly the required run rate had risen to around 10 per over and, secondly, the rain had arrived in force and was here to stay. Nonetheless, both teams were reluctant to call it a day – with five Strollers wickets down and plenty still needed the Beamers doubtless felt the game was there for the taking. Likewise, with two of our biggest hitters at the crease, the target – large though it was – felt eminently gettable.
This point was emphatically made by Viral who, in customary fashion, drilled anything remotely short or wide to the boundary. At the other end, Abhik played with typical poise and with exquisite timing flayed the attack all round the park. Anxious glances were exchanged by all – had the Beamers posted enough? Could we thrash it out and get over the line? Would we even finish?
Ultimately the weather gods won the day – with the matches on the neighbouring pitches at Highgate and Calthorpe coming off and the increasing wind pushing the rain evermore horizontal it was agreed that, despite only seven overs remaining, regrettably there could be no more. Abhik, yet again, was unluckily stranded on 47 before he could reach a well-deserved half century and Viral, cut off in full flight, suppressed the inevitable frustration he must have felt that we couldn’t go on to seal an unprecedented tenth win on the trot.
Nevertheless, we returned to the pavilion with our unbeaten run intact and, given the inhospitable conditions that blighted us throughout the day we were glad to reflect on what had, in the end, been an absorbing game that had it lasted the distance could have gone either way. We’ll just have to settle it next year!