C.E.C.C.| Shepherds Cot | Crouch End | North London | N8 8JJ
Last Saturday was to be a definitive day in the season and one that we have been waiting for - Sanjay purchased a new car. He then drove it straight from the ‘garage’ owned by “a guy my dad knows”. One look at it in the car park made Richard decide he didn’t need to drive his car out to Acton after all, and me switch my choice of vehicle (sorry George). The black BMW convertible from the early 1990s allowed Sanjay to scratch his itch to own a classic car and get something to 'impress the ladies'. It also reminded Richard and myself just how much car technology has moved on – no airbags (unless you count a pillow on the back seat), no seat belts in the back (meh, who needs them?), no cup holder and impressive wipers on the headlights.
After a charming ride around the North Circular, including one dude winding down his blacked out window and shouting “nice car bruv” in Sanjay’s direction as he overtook us, we finally arrived at North Acton Playing Fields. This came via a residential road of speed humps, which seemed to take a fresh layer of rust off the bottom of the BMW each time. This was then where Sanjay discovered that power steering had not been invented in the early 1990s as he tried repeatedly to back it in to a parking space in front of a growing band of intrigued onlookers.
Ricardo, captain for the day, had already lost the toss and we were to bat. The surroundings brought back the memories of our former Church Street home. We all love public park cricket, don’t we? – the endless supply of plastic bags blowing across the field, bumpy green wickets, dogs trying to get the ball, skilful and light-footed avoidance of the dog shit, large numbers of seagulls etc. To be fair, this park was 100% better than Church Street and featured a very nice café that served up good sausage sandwiches and even better coffee.
With Asif, Apu, Khairul and Symon continuing to take ‘cutting it fine’ to expert levels, we benefited from Acton also being short of players to begin with. When we finally did begin, it was not the start that we had hoped for. Asif and Darren, who have done so well in previous weeks, fell with the score under 20 before Khairul and George stabilised things a bit. Acton were getting excited, as they had their own relegation battle to fight and needed a win too. Khairul fell in the 30s after some hefty blows and he was followed by Ross shortly after.
After drinks, things went really wrong and we were soon 87-7. George, who had glued the innings together to that point and played very nicely, was out and was soon joined back on the sidelines by Richard and Sanjay. The latter was particularly unlucky to be bowled by a ball that shot along the ground. This was the first thing that the visiting Peter saw as he ground-hopped around west London to take in our game and that of the 1st XI. Enter Symon Ullah. He joined Apu and they proceeded to make it look much easier.
Apu played superbly but was finally caught when on 32. Even better was to come but at that stage we were still in trouble at 118-8. Skipper Ricardo joined Symon and they proceeded to ultimately take the game away from Acton. Eleven overs later they had added 80+ runs with Symon the main protagonist. However, Ricardo’s impenetrable support cannot be underestimated and the pair saw us up to and over 200. When Symon was finally out for a fantastic 69, the feeling was that we had enough. The partnership was a joy to watch and visibly deflated Acton. Dave was run out shortly after and we were done. 202 all out.
Tea – one of the best of the season. Lots of home made stuff including an epic chocolate cake.
As the players prepared to come back out, it began to rain. It got gradually heavier and thoughts turned to trying to wrap it up quickly, or failing that to be aware of run rates and getting a winning draw. Despite the poor conditions, we made a great start. Ricardo bowled the first before Symon nipped in to continue his superb recent form to take three quick ones – two bowled and one a simple catch by Ross at square leg. When Ricardo also got his batsmen to clip a catch to Ross at square leg, things looked very rosy at 35-5, and both were bowling well.
The game then followed a similar pattern to last week and Acton frustrated us and put up more of a fight. With one eye on the improving weather, the feeling was that we just had to keep plugging away. Symon snaffled another, bowled again, but then two big hitters started pushing Acton dangerously close to the run rate. Dave Cattell, whose name was hilariously misheard and put in the scorebook as Dev Patel, came on to slow things down. Unfortunately, Sanjay at the other end was struggling and speeding things up again.
With drinks approaching and the score increasing, Sanjay and Khairul combined to deal a killer blow. The biggest of the big hitters sent the ball high in to the heavens and Khairul held on gleefully to the wet ball at deep fine leg. The last three wickets seem to take an age to come as the skies blackened again. Thankfully they eventually did – Dave mopping up the stubborn tailenders and claiming all three. The last was bowled and greeted with huge celebration as we knew it was a massive step towards promotion. The sight of everyone congratulating each other and the team spirit throughout was great. Ricardo had captained the side very well, so special praise must go to him.
The victory did not just prove to be a massive step, but a definitive one. As news filtered through that Highgate were struggling in their game, all ears turned to that match. Anything but a win by them would mean we were secure in second place and promoted. They lost. I could write so much about our achievement, the team spirit, my team mates, the match winning individual performances across the season and those that have covered my enforced absence so seamlessly but I will leave that for another day. This report is already way too long.
You do not always get what you deserve in life but on this occasion we do. We have been the second best team this season behind runaway leaders Hampstead, have the second highest number of wins (10) and second least number of losses (3). Let’s enjoy our achievement. There will be a big party after this Saturday's last league match ...
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