C.E.C.C.| Shepherds Cot | Crouch End | North London | N8 8JJ
Saturday was the day that we truly noticed we are in a higher league. After an opening day win against a disorganised Edmonton and a defeat away at Teddington that left those present lamenting a missed opportunity, the focus turned to Alexandra Park. They were relegated last year and playing two divisions higher than us. For the most part, it showed.
An iffy weather forecast and a green damp wicket at our Edmonton home made the decision to put AP in to bat an easy one. We began well with Kam and myself bowling tidily and both picking up an opener. Then as Kam’s sore hamstring began to hurt and I experienced a sudden and inexplicable loss of accuracy, the runs began to flow.
Ricardo and Quayum took over and went on to bowl in tandem for much of the innings. Both were accurate and asked questions of the solid and technically correct AP middle order. Here we noticed the higher level – when one batsmen was out, another equally as solid and correct replaced him. After 13 overs each, both were tiring but had kept the scoring rate down. Quayum ended with two wickets and Ricardo one, the highlight being the removal of AP’s best batsman with a cracking in-swinger.
Unfortunately Peter and myself could not keep up the pressure, although Peter did claim two wickets thanks to good catches from Ali at mid on and Quayum at deep square leg. Kam and Ricardo returned but AP progressed to 206-8 before declaring. Crucially they batted on after 46 overs to ensure their wicketkeeper got his 50, which he duly did. Would they regret it?
Tea – spicy. Everything was spicy. Apart from the wraps, which had nothing in them.
Our innings started in gloomy light drizzle. The aim was to ‘give it a go’ and attempt to keep up with the run rate. However, openers Apu and Rob were faced with tough conditions and an even tougher pair of bowlers – nagging medium pace from one end and fiery accurate pace from the other. Rob was at his gritty best and negotiated the opening spell well. Apu, looking to attack, smashed a big six before falling to an amazing catch at point.
John played a couple of nice shots before falling LBW and Rob was holding firm and progressing nicely. The introduction of some ‘loopy old man spin’ was to prove his downfall, bowled by a ball that went high and extraordinarily slowly through the air. He had made a good 26. Ali again looked promising before falling to more orthodox spin from AP’s skipper at the other end, edging a good ball to first slip.
With the innings in the balance, this brought Quayum to the wicket. After a chat with Richard that went something like this …
Richard – “Have a look at this guy, he’s a bit tricky …”
Quayum – “OK”
... he proceeded to smash his first ball high towards the allotments and we all watched as the fielder fumbled the catch and dropped it over the boundary for six. Quayum then proceeded entertain us with an array of big shots and attempted big shots until he tried it once too often and was caught. In between he had sold Richard very short on a second run to leave him stranded and run out.
With any real chance of victory gone and plenty of overs left, we were looking straight down the barrel at a second defeat. There was no weakness in AP’s bowling attack and we would have to work hard to rescue the match. It was going to be a potentially tense finish.
However, in the end we were never in any true danger. Hassan and Ricardo toughed it out against increasingly frustrated bowlers and moved the score beyond a hundred. More crucially they used up most of the remaining over, before Hassan fell for a stubborn 17. He had batted well in the circumstances.
Kam joined Ricardo and they saw us through the final five or six overs to leave me and Peter relieved on the sidelines. The only moment of danger came when Ricardo slipped whilst running and proceeded to treat us to his best Bafetembi Gomis impression as he tried to make it back to the safety of the crease. He succeeded. 135-7 in 44 overs left us thinking that AP should not have batted on and used the extra overs to try and bowl us out instead.
This was the reality check that I was expecting - a tough match and one that we were second best in for much of. We have had a great run of success over the last two seasons but this showed us the levels required in this league. There will be no easy wickets or runs given by the opposition. The depth of AP’s batting and bowling was different to what we experienced for the majority of last year, bar both games v Hampstead and a couple of other occasions.
The pleasing thing was that we toughed it out and were stubborn. The bowlers stuck to their task when there was little reward on offer, the fielders supported each other well and the batsmen dug in when required. For that we deserved our point and not to lose, much to the frustration of AP. A continuation of this will be required if we are going to make any impact this year.
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