C.E.C.C.| Shepherds Cot | Crouch End | North London | N8 8JJ
Following a selection meeting on Wednesday that made me wish I had stayed in Australia and much subsequent shuffling of an already depleted pack, we finally made it to match day at Edmonton. We had 10 players including three debutants and club legend Peter Jenkins, who had agreed to help in our hour of need. As I went out to the middle with Kenton's skipper he lamented about missing personnel and missed opportunities to win in previous weeks. I put on my best poker face, revealed that we were one short and left it at that. I explained both sides of the coin (see Rob's report last week for reference). The toss was won.
Doug and Dharmendra opened the bowling hoping to keep it tight. The skipper took a particular liking to Doug, who could not quite recreate his consistency of the previous week, and cracked him for three sixes in short time. A change in field saw men pushed back - he could not resist and skied one to Rob at deep mid-on. Dhamendra was steady at the other end and picked up a wicket for himself. However, the score began to accelerate so myself and Ravi (New Boy No.1) came on to try and slow things down.
I grabbed the third wicket thanks to a good catch by Paul (New Boy No.2) in the covers and another couple of wickets then would have made things much better. Instead, the other opener and incoming No.5 put on a partnership of just over 90 as we toiled away in the field. Special mention to Mike (New Boy No.3) here who was lightning quick across the ground and virtually lapped me at one point as I ran after a ball. Shashi was nowhere near his best and struggled, before Dhamendra returned to claim another wicket near the end. Ravi was rewarded for his persistence by getting rid of No.5, quickly followed by another in the same over. He was to finish with a well earned five, as he rattled through the tail. Kenton 202-9 declared off 46 overs.
Tea - retro Orange Club's and red kidney bean sandwiches. Odd.
In reality, 200+ was always going to be too many. To have any chance we needed at least two people to score some serious runs, especially given the fragility of our batting line up. It didn't happen. Emergency opener Rob (9) chipped a catch in to the covers, which the fielder made in to his own personal Kodak moment. Mike (3) and Shashi (3) soon followed, as did Paul for a duck. Ravi held firm from the start and looked very good - solid in defence and picking off the loose balls. When he was bowled off his pads in the 22nd over, he had made a good 32. We were staring down the barrel.
A couple of balls after drinks we lost Ranil too and we were 65-6 with 22 overs and only three wickets remaining. What happened next will go down in Crouch End folklore. Doug came in to join Peter and proceeded to block out 13 overs. Nothing was to beat Peter - solid in defence when forced to play, watchful of the many balls he didn't have to. The score was not important. Occupation of the crease and denying Kenton 10 points was the only goal. Doug was bowled with just over nine overs to go. I joined Peter, who continued in the same vein as before. Despite a good LBW shout each, we negotiated everything the increasingly desperate opposition could throw at us. 86-7 in 46 overs. Dhamendra breathed a sigh of relief.
Kenton were gutted and rightly so. We would be in their position. They have done the same to us in previous seasons. They will never have a better chance of beating us and they knew it. However, the reality is that when bowling second you have to bowl out a team to win the match. They could not do that. The rearguard action after losing so many early wickets was negative and painful to watch, but at least we showed some fight. For that alone, we deserved our point. Who knows how useful that point could be at the end of the season?
Peter's role in that rearguard action cannot be underplayed. It is an innings that will go down as one to tell your grandchildren. He scored two not out, but crucially must have faced at least 80 balls to use up the remaining overs. Doug also must take much credit for his role. Special mention must go to Ravi - what a superb debut in difficult circumstances. 5-68 in 16 overs, good in the field and then held himself together as all fell around him during our innings. Other positives included the excellent keeping of Ranil, who had one stumping and should have been awarded another, plus the enthusiastic fielding of Mike and Paul.
This was the most difficult game I have captained for all the reasons listed above. However, the reality is that we have 31 points after four games, are still unbeaten and guaranteed to be top of the league. The other reality is that we got away with it on Saturday. If we as a club want to achieve what we all want to across the four teams, then we cannot have such a lack of availability again. All four teams were unrecognisible from the previous three weeks. We take our point and the positives and move on to next week and Uxbridge away.
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