C.E.C.C.| Shepherds Cot | Crouch End | North London | N8 8JJ
Last Saturday was a watershed moment. It represented the first time that one of the youngsters from our fledgling Colts system played in a 3rd team League match. Others have played in the 4th team during this year and last, but this shows the progress that we are making in this area as a club. Not only that but the Colt in question, 14 year old Rory Butler, impressed both his team mates and opponents with his performance.
This milestone for the club was set against the backdrop of a massive fixture as our League programme draws to a close. Our impressive eleven match unbeaten run had elevated us to 2nd position in the table and the final promotion spot. Promotion was in our own hands. By the end of an exasperating day, it no longer was and the landscape of the division had changed dramatically.
Indian Gymkana were just behind us in 3rd and play on a ground sandwiched between the Heathrow take-off path, the M4 and the Piccadilly Line. The day was hot, humid and a bit overcast. The toss was won and IG were asked to bat. Things started well as I finally picked up some wickets in what has been a difficult season for me in terms of personal performance – the first saw their talkative opener (more from him later) stumped and another tempted in to a thick nick behind. Both were results of excellent work by wicketkeeper Mike.
Things were to get even better as Quayum saw one rapid delivery dragged on to the stumps, Rory claimed his first wicket in senior cricket thanks to a good catch by Ruaridh at deep-ish point and Hikky saw a full toss slapped straight but picked off by Hassan with a good running catch out in the deep. IG were 67-5. However, this season we have discovered the key difference with teams in this higher league - they bat deep and fight back in this situation, rather than fold.
The 6th wicket partnership doubled the score before their skipper was adjudged LBW as Moh finally found some consistency. By the time Moh took his second wicket, another good catch by Ruaridh, IG had progressed to around 170. Much fiddling around of the bowling options did not create further breakthroughs, coupled with increasingly dreadful fielding and two poor dropped catches. Finally Hassan and myself returned to clear up the stubborn tailenders – I bowled one and Hassan bowling two. IG 219 all out in 47.5 overs.
Tea – a very pleasant homemade chicken curry, vegetable curry and rice. Nice.
Much like the first innings, our batting reply started well. Ruaridh and makeshift opener Moh did superbly in blunting a couple of useful opening bowlers and put on a 54 run partnership. Moh was first out but he had done well for his 22. Ruaridh was looking good, solid and powerful before he 'didn’t quite get hold of one' that picked out the one man in the deep on the leg side. He had scored an impressive 38. Kamlesh and Tom set about stabilising the innings after two quick wickets and did so. At drinks and half way, we were 104-2.
With us seemingly in the ascendency, we began to witness some interesting ‘tactics’ from our opponents. They had been very slow with their over rate since the beginning of our innings, but things went up a level – fielders were moved every ball, the score was questioned, every decision was questioned, the weight/age/talent/parentage of various Crouch End players was questioned. The killer one was a big argument amongst themselves with the aforementioned ‘talkative opener’ the main culprit in all cases.
The tactics worked as we ended up batting in increasingly fading light and finished finally at 7.45pm, having started our innings at 4pm. After a good first half, our innings (and possibly our season) began to unravel. Kamlesh went after another excellent knock (41 this time), Hassan was bowled and Tom was run out. We were still up with the run rate but our last real hope of victory disappeared when Quayum was out thanks to an extraordinary catch by ‘talkative opener’. Despite all of his previous shenanigans, it was a key moment and a very good effort.
Mike and Hikky hung around for a bit and kept things ticking along. The winning draw total of 201 was now the main goal. Both did well before Hikky ran Mike out before being bowled himself. When I followed two balls later, bowled by a spinning delivery, we were looking down the barrel. Enter Chanchal, who has been enjoying a good season in the 4ths, and Rory. Both batted with a maturity beyond their years that was impressive and kept the IG bowlers at bay.
Seven overs ticked by and we entered the last one. Could we grab a losing draw and deny them victory? Sadly not. Poor Rory, who had batted so defiantly with Chanchal, blocked the first three balls. The fourth pitched and shot along the ground to bowl him. He was devastated after such a valiant effort and rightly so. To be defeated by the pitch like that was cruel. 182 all out in 43.4 overs.
At the time, it felt like a devastating and fatal blow to our promotion chances. IG had gone above us with the win and news came through of Osterley winning also. We have worked so hard to get to second place but now find ourselves fourth, albeit with only four points separating the three sides. Now we must beat Hampstead, who have only lost once all season, and hope the other two sides do not win. The good news is that they lost that one game to us and also tied up the title last weekend. They are worthy champions again. The bad news is that they will not want to lose to us again.
Amidst the darkness (both actual and mental) of Saturday evening a light shone brightly. It had been the performance of Rory – he had bowled well before tiring a little, claimed his first wicket, fielded to a good standard and then batted superbly in difficult conditions against feisty opponents. He will be a good player and have better days. If this is the standard of youngster that the club’s Colts system is producing, then we are in good shape for the future. Well done to all concerned at the club and I hope that Rory and his promising performance is the first of many that we see in the coming years.
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