Strollers survive scare to win over the boys of Theydon
posted: June 26, 2017
Yesterday’s second Strollers sojourn to Theydon Bois, on the edge of Epping forest, elicited a full-blown thriller in which we survived a real scare to nab a narrow victory and secure our third win in the space of a week!
Faced with a decidedly youthful opposition side comprised of teenagers and a couple of young twentysomethings we initially thought it would go one of two ways — either they would be too fit, too well coached and therefore too good for us or we, as grizzled men taking on mere boys, would batter and demoralise them into submission. In the event, neither of the scenarios above applied and the contest was far closer than anyone could have anticipated.
With blustery conditions overhead and a greenish pitch beneath us, upon winning the toss Viral made the slightly surprising decision to bat first. With Theydon’s opening bowlers finding jagging lift to accompany their sprightly pace, Gav struggled to find any sense of timing (insert drummer joke here — Ed) and departed early on, spooning up a catch from the splice of his bat straight to mid on. George, in at three, didn’t last long either and was caught behind for just a couple.
However, Davie C and Spencer combined well to consolidate and kick-start our innings playing with measured aggression to work the ball around the ground, especially taking advantage of the short boundary square of the wicket.
Once the Theydon openers were taken out of the attack the run rate noticeably cranked up and the hundred was reached without further incident. Davie’s parents, looking on from the sidelines, would have been as delighted as we were to see the kitten notch up his second fifty of the season. Unfortunately, things didn’t go much further as a silly mix up saw Davie set off for a single that Spencer wasn’t interested in and he promptly ran himself out for a fine 55.
Abhik joined Spencer in the middle who, having easily made it to his own half century, continued to hit some fine shots through the V and looked well set to make it all the way to three figures until, on 71, he misjudged a slower ball from Winch, failed to get to the pitch of the ball and was bowled. Nick, next in, carried on where Spencer had left off with some attractive strokeplay to take us past the 150 mark and made it to 20 before he too was bowled by McCausland.
This brought the Viral to the middle. The skipper had his sights set on a total around the 250 mark and, with still some way to go to get there, came out of the traps like a greyhound. In spite of some quickish straight stuff from the young Theydon attack, Viral lofted the ball to all parts and particularly found a liking for the high netting protecting the adjoining tennis courts.
Abhik took inspiration from the skipper’s lead as he too hit the gas with some powerful batting square of the wicket, and we sailed past 200. Theydon’s affable captain Shutler could only look on in admiration and, as Viral launched another one of his deliveries yet again into the stratosphere over midwicket, he turned with a wry smile to the umpire and asked, “is he always this murderous?”
Our storming progress was only halted when, with just a single required to reach a well-earned half century, Abhik made a rare error of judgement and let one from Shutler through the gate. Harry joined Viral for a brief cameo before holing out to Miller but, by now, it was the skipper’s show all the way and he hoiked a final huge six off the last ball of the innings to also reach 49 and close our innings on a mammoth 270-7.
We returned to the pavilion to savour a relaxed tea and would have been forgiven for thinking that our job had been done. For although we had been told the Theydon youngsters were generally batters than bowlers, we couldn’t possibly foresee what was to come…
In retrospect, what we weren’t aware of was that amongst Theydon’s boys was one Sam Miller, sometime star of Essex U14s, who strode out to open the batting. Eyebrows were raised with the very first ball of their innings which he smoked straight back past Simon for a thumping four.
However, with the required run rate approaching 8 per over from the get-go, we weren’t overly concerned that the oppo seemed to be going after the bowling straightaway and, with Simon dismissing wicketkeeper-batsman Small, caught behind for 13, we actually felt the more the oppo swung at the ball the more chances we’d get.
Indeed chances did present themselves early on, firstly when number three Ewing top-edged behind and was dropped both by Davie and Gav who between them couldn’t hang onto the catch. Secondly Miller survived a good LBW shout from Spencer who looked to have him trapped on his toes. A couple of overs later he survived an even louder LBW appeal that for all the world looked plumb. Upon his reprieve Miller himself admitted he thought he was “probably out to that one”, much to our chagrin.
But those were to be our last chances for at least the next dozen overs, during which time Ewing and more noticeably Miller set about anything slightly short or off line with a display of clean striking rarely seen at this level, fours and sixes raining down upon us like a thunderstorm in full fury.
Matters were made worse when Simon foolishly (if nobly) stuck out a leg to stop a ferocious straight drive off his own bowling which succeeded in stopping the boundary but, with accompanying howls of pain, incapacitated him in the process… his shin bruising instantaneously and angrily.
Boughey was forced to leave the pitch immediately to apply ice and recuperate (gladly he was able to rejoin us later in the innings) and, aided by the extra gaps in the field, Theydon absolutely carted us. By drinks Miller and Ewing had piled on a phenomenal 150 partnership and suddenly the 271 target looked a lot less bulletproof than we had assumed it to be.
The oppo marched on after drinks relentlessly hitting ten runs an over with Miller leading the charge. Inevitably and almost effortlessly he reached his hundred to the strains of the Great Escape theme, lustily sung by his team mates on the boundary.
Things had to change and, mercifully, Viral brought us a glimmer of hope when Ewing — having claimed his own well-deserved half century — sent back a routine return catch from a full toss from the skipper, much to his irritation. Davie, bravely standing up to Abhik, followed this up with a sharp stumping to dismiss Sayers.
But as long as Miller was in the middle there remained a serious threat and, with the 200 now up and the required rate now less than 6 per over, the momentum of the game seemed to be swinging decidedly Theydon’s way.
However, in a game-changing moment, our fortunes dramatically improved when Spencer was brought back on and finally found Miller’s outside edge. The ball fizzed long and low to fly slip where Gav was ready and waiting and joyously took the catch (as if there was ever a doubt… — Ed). Miller left the field to the applause of all having hit 128 phenomenal runs as gloriously as you will ever see in Sunday cricket.
Much as we were hugely relieved to at last see the back of Theydon’s dangerman, there remained plenty for us to do to secure the win. Avvoltoto, in at five, looked like a handy bat and had hit 20 before Spencer thankfully skidded one through the gate. Abhik and Harry did likewise to see off Winch and Makin but with the score now over 250 with less than four overs to go the game remained very much in the balance.
Furthermore, we were a man down again when Sam — in one of the more bizarre episodes of the afternoon — was unluckily taken out of the game, bloodied by a blow to the nose when Viral hurriedly returned the ball to him out of the low sun. Sandeep stepped up to kindly finish Sam’s over.
As the game approached its climax and despite the protestations of some of the onlooking senior Theydon players — who appealed to us to spare their youngsters from the quicker stuff — Viral took the entirely reasonable decision to mercilessly take it upon himself and step up as our demon finisher for the final overs. McCausland responded with a well struck pull shot for four, taking the required runs to just twelve before he returned a catch to another of Viral’s now apparently trademark beamers.
Viral wrapped proceedings up with two quick-fire yorkers to dismiss Davies and the younger of the Makin brothers and, with a roar of relief, celebrated a win that had been all too close for comfort.
But what a game it was. Over 500 runs had been scored in the day and we had been pushed all the way by a bunch of youngsters who are as likeable as they are talented. Skipper Shutler was magnanimous in defeat and the non-playing Theydon seniors sportingly congratulated us from the sidelines as we walked off to bask in completing a hat-trick of back-to-back wins, underlining that we truly are back in business this season.
Both matches we have played thus far against Theydon Bois have gone down to the wire — with the honours firstly heading their way in 2015, now ours in 2017 — and, in recognition of the hospitality of our hosts, as long as they will have us we will very much look forward to more thrilling encounters in seasons to come.