C.E.C.C.| Shepherds Cot | Crouch End | North London | N8 8JJ
After gaining just two points from the previous three games, it was important to get back on track against struggling Birkbeck College on Saturday. The forecast indicated rain later in the afternoon, so there would have to be no mucking around to secure a positive result. Birkbeck's captain showed me both sides of the coin in great detail (- is this a new league directive for 2015 that I have missed?). I liked the look of one side more than the other. It liked me too. Birkbeck were asked to bat.
Birkbeck opened with two youthful looking openers and in-form Symon and Charles, playing his first game back from finishing university, were given the new ball. The openers took a 'no nonsense, high risk' approach that saw much played in the air and with power. The first chance came and went after only four balls - I was the culprit with one of the worst and most inexplicable drops that I can remember doing and one that would have had Geoff Boycott talking about his granny and her pinny. My shame was only compounded by it being witnessed by most of the 2nd XI, who were also playing against Birkbeck on the next pitch.
It proved costly as the openers chanced their young arms and treated two quality bowlers with total disrespect. Other catches went down (four in total I can remember) or went just over fielders and the score was racing along. After seven overs they were on 35-0 - it was time for a change of pace. It worked as Dave got a wicket in his first over as one opener sliced a catch to Ravi at gully. He got rid of the other one in his next over as a full toss was clipped towards Mark at mid wicket, who took a good catch. I came on from the other end and quickly got my first wicket for a while with one that nipped back to hit the stumps.
Birkbeck continued in frantic fashion and tried to smash everything out of the ground. Only their captain played sensibly until he chipped a catch to Symon at mid off for my second wicket. Just before this Dave had claimed an LBW, which their umpire gave instantly and then told him to 'appeal louder next time'. I then took an instinctive caught and bowled to my left (thankfully some of the 2nd XI saw that too), Dave bowled another and there was a comical run out that saw both batsmen standing at the same end with a big hitting tailender adjudged as being the one out. Ravi replaced me and wrapped things up with two quick wickets at the end. Birkbeck 110 all out in 32.3 overs.
As tea was not ready, we turned straight around. Kairul and Apu, who have been scoring plenty of runs in the 4th XI this year, were tasked with getting us to tea. Both looked promising before getting out - Kairul hitting a massive six before trying it again and being well caught by the youngest of Birkbeck youngsters, and Apu being bowled as he heaved across the line. This brought Mark and Shiva together and their mixture of good batting, ruthless dispatching of the bad ball and the right/left hand combination clearly dampened the opposition's initial enthusiasm. The pair were beginning to find the boundary with regularity. At tea we were well on our way at 56-2 off 11 overs.
Tea - very nice. Lots of sandwiches. Scones, jam and cream. A debate about putting jam or cream on first.
With the dark clouds gathering ominously on the horizon, it felt like we needed to get on and secure the win as quickly as we could. Mark and Shiva carried on where they left off and were going along well when Mark was out for a very good 35. Shiva then took on the responsibility and proceeded to win us the match almost single handedly. In one brutal over he smashed 22 (one fifth of the total runs needed) off one poor chap, who still had the nerve to give Shiva a mild sledging. Shiva's response was to hoist him for a huge six off the last ball of the over. Shiva was also to provide a moment of true comedy and give literal meaning to 'throw the bat' - he wound up for one massive shot only to see the ball trickle about two yards and his bat almost take out Dave who was umpiring at square leg.
Ravi and then Symon were both bowled to make the score more flattering to Birkbeck than it should have been, before Charles came in to help us over the line. Shiva secured victory and his 50 with yet another straight four. 111-5 in just 19.5 overs.
We did what we needed and secured the much needed 10 points. We were not at our best but Birkbeck were poor and we did not need to be. Key performances from Dave, Mark and Shiva saw us home, as did some better cohesion in the field after all of the initial dropped catches. More important was that we wrapped up victory before the rain came. This started as Ravi and myself took the grim walk to Greenford tube and resulted in the 2nd XI game being terminated. However, it also meant that the three teams above us also did not finish - Hampstead and Highgate getting four point winning draws and Winchmore Hill a single point losing draw. Therefore, we have made up ground on the top two and leapfrogged Winchmore Hill back in to third. This made the victory, and the timing of it, even better and more vital.
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