C.E.C.C.| Shepherds Cot | Crouch End | North London | N8 8JJ
Saturday saw us take our good run of form to fourth placed Winchmore Hill. On a day where the weather was described as 'changeable' by Rob, our resident meteorologist, the toss was won yet again. Now you won't find many pitches to play 1987 League cricket on that are better than Winchmore Hill. I heard it described as 'a road' by more than one of our team and the sight of it, plus the lightning quick outfield and slope, suggested a 'batsmen's paradise'. So I chose to bowl.
However, proceedings began with the now annual pre-match 'Winchmore Hill Run Off'. For the uninitiated - the WH ground has a running track and last year upon discovering this, it seemed like a great idea to have a race. Rob, the only survivor of last year's race, suggested another run and was confident of victory. So he lined up alongside James, Ross, Joe, Dhamendra and Simon for the 2014 version. Rob, eager to use his experience in the event, committed a false start with much protesting to the contrary. Joe took the honours with Ross second and Rob in third. Simon seemed to pip James on the line for fourth ( - you be the judge). The camera gave up filming before Dhamendra finished, thinking that everyone had gone home.
Dhamendra started down the hill and he was accompanied by new boy Symon, who has been doing well in the 4ths. The difference between them worked well as both picked up an early wicket - Dhamendra naggingly accurate and inducing a catch to Ross at square leg and Symon rapid and aggressive hitting the stumps. This brought a hard hitting batsmen to the crease for a second week running. He set off by trying to biff most deliveries out of the ground, mostly over long on, and was relatively successful. He was also very loud in his calling and particularly disrespectful to Dhamendra, who despite this produced an exquisite slower ball to bowl the other batsmen.
Symon kept going at the other end and was bowling well. He was rewarded with another wicket and although Winchmore Hill were scoring quickly at over five an over, they were regularly losing wickets. With the big hitting batsmen's one main shot curtailed (to a degree), it was time to try something different. Sanjay, returning after his conjunctivitis induced absence last week, was deployed down the hill and was quickly in the wickets too when a catch was clipped to Ross, again at square leg. He has a knack of getting a wicket (or two on some occasions) in his first over and really seemed to have the bit between his teeth.
The decision was taken to introduce Joe in place of Symon, who was tiring after a good spell. This seemed risky on the face of it, given that the big hitting batsmen was still in and still attempting to hit big. However, barring one massive six he kept him and the other batsmen quiet. Joe's bowling has developed significantly this year and shows real promise. It is great to have a reliable, talented spinner to call on when required. Sanjay was steaming in from the other end and he grabbed the crucial wicket by bowling their dangerous batsmen two balls after he reached his 50.
Sanjay then continued his superb spell by grabbing an LBW and inducing a snick, which fizzed through to Richard who took it well. That ball rivaled Dhamendra's slower one for 'ball of the day'. Winchmore Hill were still attempting their shots and still going at five an over, thanks to some late order hitting. The innings of the main perpetrator of this came to an abrupt end when Sanjay flattened his middle stump to claim a well earned five wicket haul. Joe wrapped things up when a high spinning catch was well taken by James in the covers. 135 all out and all within 28 overs. A job well done.
Tea - cheese and onion sandwiches plus mini pasties. Pear disguised as apple.
With over 60 overs to get to our target, it was safe to say we had plenty of time. The pitch and outfield were still superb. George and Simon were tasked with opening and giving us a good foundation. Bets were placed as to when Simon would score his first run - these ranged from first ball (me) to someone else who mentioned 10 overs! I won as Simon clipped a leg side full toss for four off his first ball. He repeated it a couple of balls later. Some people have such little faith ...
Neither seemed to be in much initial trouble until George got one that turned in sharply from WH's spinner, who had opened the bowling. This brought Ross, fresh from his impressive innings last week, to the crease and he instantly carried on from where he had left off. An array of lovely shots all around the wicket followed and this was complimented by Simon's gritty determination. Simon's knack of dispatching the bad balls and blocking the others, coupled with the pairs excellent running between the wickets, was starting to annoy the opposition. Unfortunately Simon top edged the ball before drinks and was caught.
Rob perished shortly afterwards for a duck and when James was bowled by one that 'turned a mile' by their young spinner, we were suddenly 88-4 and still needing just under 50. Ross was in imperious form however and continued on his way. He was joined by Sanjay, who also looked in good form, and the pair set about finishing the game off. The opposition looked dispirited as both, and in particular Ross, played shots all around the wicket against some loose and inexperienced bowling. It was not long before Ross reached his 50 and not long after that when he stroked a lovely shot through square leg for four to win the match. 139-4 in 32 overs. 10 points with 32 overs to spare.
So our outstanding run continues. This has given us four wins and a winning draw in the last five weeks. 44 points from a possible 50. It has also taken us above our opponents in to fourth place. If other results go our way, we could even be third. It is a great position to be in going in to the last five weeks. Promotion is a serious possibility now. Our current form will face a huge examination next week when we take on runaway leaders Twickenham, but the key game is looking like it could be away at Osterley (who are stuttering in second place) in three weeks time. If we are still in the mix that, then things will be very interesting.
What can I say about my team mates? They seem to be getting better every week. People have really stood up and been counted in these last five weeks. There have been some excellent individual performances, but the team spirit and work ethic of all concerned has been spot on. Today's heroes were Sanjay with the ball, who bowled an excellent and menacing spell, and Ross with the bat, who looked in superb form and did not offer a single chance. But everyone backed them up and supported them.
You will notice one name from the eleven missing from all of the above - mine. This is the true testament to the performance of the team as a unit and my team mates as individuals. I was not required to bowl or bat. 'Skipper not required' so to speak. There was a time when had this happened to me that I would have been selfish and not have been pleased, despite the team winning. As the captain of this increasingly good side, do I care that I didn't bowl? No. Would I care if I didn't have to bowl in the next five matches but we won them all and got promoted? No. Am I enjoying captaincy and learning and improving every week? Yes.
After all someone once said, "Sir Alex never scored a goal for Manchester United and look what he achieved" ....
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