Season ends as Kash hundred takes us close at Amersham
posted: September 21, 2020
The sun finally set on this strangest of all seasons yesterday evening in the stunning surroundings of Amersham CC, following our first visit to their picturesque pitch nestled deep in the Chiltern Hills. We finished with a flourish with Kashif hitting a superb century – his second for the Strollers – but, alas, as has been the case on so many occasions this year, we fell just short in our gallant chase to reach an imposing target.
With the prospect of a sun-kissed Indian summer afternoon ahead of us, we arrived agape at the beautiful ground, famously situated as it is within Sir Francis Drake's Shardeloes estate and, less famously, being the home of the first cricket club your humble writer played for, over 30 years ago ...needless to say yours truly felt quite a lump in the throat as we walked out.
With Amersham preferring a 40 over format we made an early start at high noon, the hosts winning the toss and unsurprisingly choosing to bat first on what looked like a belter of a pitch. After some good exchanges between our openers and theirs, we didn't have to wait too long for our first breakthrough when Varun had Groves trapped LBW. This was followed up a couple of overs later when Weston lobbed one up to mid on, where Davie G safely pouched a textbook catch.
Our good start was stilted however by Hussain and Palmer – the latter taking full advantage of a fast outfield as he powerfully hit through the gaps to rack up one boundary after another. With only a couple of half chance catches going begging and several further LBW shouts from Varun refused, the oppo batsmen powered on as Amersham sailed past the hundred before drinks.
However Rohit, replacing Varun, finally won over the neutral umpire who triggered Hussain out LBW just before he managed to get to fifty. Palmer was joined in the middle by Weston who looked to match his partner hit for hit. However the danger was abated when, soon after he had notched up his half century, Palmer took a huge swing at one from young Yash Kohhar (a handy Amersham colt kindly lent to us following Gaurav's late withdrawal) only to be spectacularly caught for 63 by Kash, lurking far away on the long off boundary.
Buoyed by the key breakthrough, we struck again when Davie G successfully yorked Weston before Kash and the Kitten teamed up to run out Rajapaksa. In turn Amersham mounted a rearguard action with Shabbir and Rajasekaran reigniting their innings with some quick scoring, taking them first past two hundred and then beyond 250.
Eventually Amersham's onslaught came to an end when Shabbir misjudged and scooped one from Viral up to Rohit. Then Groves eagerly set off for a single only to be turned back by his partner and was sharply run out by Dave. Amersham finally closed on 278-9 – on the face of it an imposing score but we had applied ourselves well in our last efforts of the year in the field and, with the fast outfield clearly offering plenty of boundaries, we felt there was still a good chance we could chase the total down, especially after our heroics a fortnight ago at Croxley.
Unfortunately our response did not start well. Having waited 30 long years to once again march out to the middle at Shardeloes, Gav was crestfallen as he was sent back to the hutch by a second ball yorker from Partridge that skidded under his bat and skittled his stumps. George sadly didn't last much longer and when he played on without scoring. Abhik looked in decent touch though and managed to get some momentum going with Kash but was stopped in his tracks before we had made it to 50 when Partridge made it three by trapping him LBW.
This brought Viral to the middle who joined Kash, the latter initially dropping anchor whilst the former counter-punched with a series of trademark blows through the onside. Between them, Kash and Viral rediscovered our mojo and kickstarted our innings as we successfully kept up with a run rate in excess of 7 an over. Amersham could only look on as we romped past the hundred mark with Viral pummeling one boundary after another – one huge straight six memorably cleared the hedge behind the bowler and landed at the other side of the second XI pitch!
However, having smashed his way to a well-deserved 50 (off just 27 balls!) the oppo hollered with glee when Viral holed out to Weston at deep midwicket. Sadly Ron, in next, didn't last long when he chipped one up to Groves off spinner Shabbir. At this, Kash noticeably switched gear as he took on the mantle of blaster-in-chief helped by Dave C who offered some resistance – the two of them taking us past the 150 mark soon after drinks until the Kitten was skittled by Weston for 15.
Skipper Davie G added a couple before he was caught off Rajasekaran and gave way to Varun who strode out to the middle, windmilling his bat for what felt like one final throw of the dice. With Varun teaming up with Kash – who was by now frequently marching down the track and carting the ball all around the ground – we felt a flicker of hope as we sailed past 200 in the thirty-fourth over, although the required run rate remained daunting. With no other option than to swing at everything going, Varun bludgeoned his way to 20 until he clipped a leading edge catch to Rajapaksa.
With more than forty still needed off the last three overs, the target now looked somewhat beyond us but thankfully there was still time for Kash to send a cover drive beautifully through the covers (as he had all afternoon) and with that, notch up his hundred ...insodoing becoming only the fourth Stroller, after Toby, Harsh and Spencer, to record multiple centuries. Sadly Kash couldn't quite see us through to the end as, after adding three more, he holed out to a delivery from Groves only to be caught out by his brother. At that, everyone looking on from the pavilion, including the locals, rose to their feet and cheered Kash off to congratulate him on a fantastic effort.
From there the final act was swift and with Rohit bowled first ball by Groves, Amersham celebrated a deserved if close fought win but were magnanimous in their kind words as we licked our wounds, having closed some 35 runs short. And, with that, the Covid-curtailed 2020 season came to an end, if not with the result we wanted at least in glowing sunshine and a glorious setting. As we sunk a few consolatory beers on the steps of the pavilion we reflected how the match had pretty much summed up the story of our season ...close but no cigar. Let's hope that 2021 brings better fortune for us all...