C.E.C.C.| Shepherds Cot | Crouch End | North London | N8 8JJ
So the day finally arrived. The one we had been waiting for since September – our first match ever in Division 2 of The 1987 League, marking the highest level that the 3rd XI have played at. For me, it had been an even longer wait after having to watch the last six weeks of our promotion push from the sidelines as my finger bones tried to fuse themselves back together.
We were set to go. A very late drop out on Saturday morning, combined with the 4th XI having already left for their away fixture in Chiswick, meant we were going with only 10 men. Not ideal. A bit of scrabbling around as I made my way to our Edmonton home came to nothing. Quayum to the rescue – a quick call upon his arrival and the super keen Hasan was drafted in at the 11th hour. Technically it was the 13th hour.
Our opponents were Edmonton, fresh from Division 1 relegation last year. We were the home team for this encounter. How would we get on against opponents who were two divisions above us last year? The toss was claimed as no one from Edmonton was present by the 12.15pm cut off point, even though they normally play there. They were told to bat.
Ricardo and myself started well against a youthful opening pair and bowled tightly. We had no luck and runs were hard to come by. Our lack of luck was compounded by dreadful umpiring - a clear nick behind to Phil and the most obvious LBW we will have all season, both not given. When asked why the LBW was not out, the gentleman standing as umpire replied “I don’t know”. At least he was honest I suppose.
Ricardo took our first wicket of the season as one opener spooned a catch to Peter at mid-off. Progress was slow as we kept bowling good lines and lengths. The next wicket was not to come until debutant Peter, taking over from me, tempted the other opener to nick one behind to Phil. This brought to the wicket Edmonton’s most destructive batsmen, who turned out to have played for Essex four times in the 1990s.
In an extraordinary passage of play, he proceeded to just ‘stand and deliver’, turning down clear and easy singles. The result saw Peter get savage treatment in one over, including a monstrous six that landed with six feet of an oblivious Pimms-sipping person tending their allotment. The decision to persist with Peter, plus a tweak in the field by Ricardo, paid off. Next over, the batsmen attempted another heave and watched as Kevin took a good catch at deep cover.
Mike was now bowling an excellent spell at the other end but the poor luck continued. In the end, he fell victim to seven dropped catches off his bowling. Some were easier than others but the feeling was that our slackness would cost us. Peter capped a good debut thanks to another fine catch by Kevin in the covers, before being replaced by Quayum. He bowled a rapid, if slightly erratic, spell but was rewarded with three wickets. All bowled.
Mike was finally rewarded as he bowled one of the lower order hitters, breaking a bail in the process. Last minute stand-in Hasan bowled a couple of over before Ricardo and myself returned to wrap things up – the final two wickets falling thanks to good work by Hasan and Phil to produce a run out, and Phil taking another caught behind off Ricardo. It had been a frustrating and hot afternoon, with the feeling that Edmonton had got 30-40 runs more than they should have. 192 all out in 47.2 overs.
Tea – late with quality and quantity lacking.
With 44 overs to get the runs, the idea was to keep up with the run rate and chip away at the total. We had a strong batting line up and confidence was high. Apu and Phil set off at pace, punishing a loose opening four overs. The highlight was one huge six from Apu. Sadly he was out shortly afterwards for 17 – a slash to point was somehow taken. I’m not sure who was more surprised, Apu or the fielder.
Rob joined Phil and scoring continued to progress, although not as rapidly as before. Both were out in quick succession with the score in the mid-60s, both bowled by a ball that kept low. Phil went for 20 and Rob for 13. This brought Kevin and our other debutant Alastair together. They both batted very well and looked solid, regularly finding the gaps in the field and the boundary. One highlight was an excellent hook from Alastair that saw a very short delivery smashed for six.
With the score progressing and Edmonton seeming to run out of ideas, they threw on some part-time bowlers. It worked immediately as Kevin and Alastair fell in successive balls after an excellent partnership of just over 60. Kevin slapped one into the covers on 22 and Alastair picking out the man at deep square leg on 18. Edmonton were very excited and sensed a collapse, but this is where our long batting order has helped us in the past. It was to help us again.
Quayum and Mike soon quashed that enthusiasm with double figures coming off each of the next four overs, including 22 in one. Quayum hit a couple of massive sixes, while Mike expertly found the gaps and boundary with regularity. Just as it was looking like they were going to bring us home, Quayum was out for 23. It was left to Ricardo to stay with Mike and work the ball around between the increasingly dispirited fielders. 193-6 off 26.2 overs.
It capped an excellent win and it was pleasing that we had the great team spirit from last year, despite a number of new and returning faces. We have 10 points in the bag and it will send out a message to others in this tough league that we mean business.
Our very good and solid batting display – everyone got into double figures – made the frustrating time in the field worthwhile. The only problem was that everyone got in but then got out, with no one going on to make a truly large score. Our bowling was good and consistent, which was also very pleasing, and not helped by erratic umpiring by an opposition that gave an inexplicable number of wides – the worst being one that actually hit the batsman’s leg before going off at an angle.
If we are to compete consistently in Division 2, then we will have to tidy up our catching and fielding. This was the only negative from the match but it was encouraging that all acknowledged it and determined to work on this area. Next week, we move on to Teddington away, our longest trip of the season. They will be tough opposition but I am now confident that we can challenge them and compete with anyone in the division.
Man of the match – a tough call but it must be Mike for his excellent spell of 11 overs and his 31 not out to see us home at the end.
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