C.E.C.C.| Shepherds Cot | Crouch End | North London | N8 8JJ
The run up to Saturday's match involved plenty of scrabbling around to make sure we had 44 players for our four sides. Then plenty of chopping and changing to accommodate the new recruits. Hats off to Peter and Moh for achieving it. The result was that by 9pm on Friday evening, the 3rd XI was actually eleven for the first time in the week. One problem - zero cars. A quick think made me realise that we would have to 'let the train take the strain' (- one for the older generation there ...). At the club an even quicker conversation with Dhamendra about how to use a train made it evident that I would have to rush home and send an email to everyone with instructions about when, where and how to catch said train.
So I felt a mild sense of achievement when all 11 of us were actually ready to take the field at the start of the match, most having successfully negotiated the London Overground system to find themselves at Headstone Lane. The toss was won thanks to guessing the correct side of a strange foreign coin (one side was sort of a head, the other wasn't) and despite it being a warm day I decided to put Lohana in. Kamuran and Ricardo produced a very good opening spell that saw them both claim a wicket. The highlight was a superb catch by Asif in the covers that saw him knock the ball out of the air and grab it at the second attempt. Both deserved much more, particularly Ricardo who was the victim of another poor drop by me.
As both began to tire, Lohana's batsmen began to settle and the scoring picked up. Dhamendra replaced Kam and almost immediately picked up our third wicket by coaxing a caught behind to Naggers. I replaced Ricardo and proceeded to bowl an awful loose spell that escalated Lohana's score rapidly. Then VC Rob stepped in as I was about to rightfully take myself off and told me to believe in myself and go back to basics. It proved to be a bit of a turning point as I then bowled much tighter and claimed three wickets - Lohana's most dangerous batsmen inside edged on to his stumps, Asif dived full length to snatch a looping catch just before it hit the ground and next ball a big snick was gleefully snaffled behind by Phil who went on his own celebratory lap of honour.
This had pulled Lohana back. Having been 80-3 at drinks they were now just over 100 for six. Kam replaced Dhamendra and bowled an excellent second spell of pace and accuracy. Despite the heat, he soon reduced them to 123-9 thanks to a catch taken by Apu and bowling two youthful tailenders. However, the last wicket pair frustrated us with a gutsy partnership that involved quick singles and plenty of aerial stuff. Kam and the returning Ricardo tried all they could until I clung on to a low catch at mid on to finish the innings and give Kam a deserved five wicket haul. Lohana 156 all out in 49.1 overs.
Tea - did we want a hot drink? No, it was 28 degrees. Thanks for asking though.
Khairul, fresh from another hundred for the 4ths, and Apu opened up and almost took the game away from Lohana before they could think about it. The two opening bowlers put down three or four loose balls an over and all were punished. The boundary was getting peppered and the new ball was lost in a dense hedge before it had really been used. No mercy was shown and Ricardo and myself enjoyed our spell of umpiring, watching the ball flying to all parts. The 50 partnership was one of the fastest I can remember and after six overs we were on 60-0. What a fantastic start. Despite all of the lovely strokes played, what was particularly impressive was that they were both watchful against decent balls.
Lohana switched to a slower pace of bowling to try and stop the flow of runs and to a degree it worked. Apu fell LBW to one that kept low for a good 31, before Rob and Shiva were both also dismissed with the score still under 100. One of their spinners was bowling particularly well and things were starting to slow down and get a bit edgy. Were we going to throw away our excellent start? No. Enter Phil to play the perfect foil to Khairul's aggression. He nudged and nurdled away as Khairul punished anything that was a bit loose before he was finally out caught in the deep with just 30 needed. He had scored a superb 73. Asif came to join Phil and took time to settle before showing us some expansive shots of his own. The pair did well and saw us home with 13 overs to spare - Asif deservedly hitting a glorious straight four to secure 10 points. 159-4 off 29.3 overs.
This was a very satisfying win and one that was made even sweeter given the circumstances leading up to the game. The team effort and character was evident. No 0ne epitomised this more than Nino, who was called up late on Friday night for his first game in the side and was enthusiastic and hard working in the field. I've said it before that team spirit gets you a long way and we have it. You also need game changing players and match winners - we have them also. This weeks my hat goes off to Kam for bowling 16 overs in the heat and taking only his third five wicket haul for the club and the Khairul and Apu for their excellent opening partnership. Also to Phil who volunteered to keep wicket knowing that we did not have one of our regular keepers.
I just hope that everyone got home on the train OK ...
Half way report
This match was the half way point of the season. Where are we? We are in a very good place to push for the promotion that we want. We have won six out of the nine matches, lost just one and sit third in the league on 62 points. I would easily have taken this before the first game. To put this in to context, we won eight matches last year and accumulated 92 points. We have been competitive in every match, bar the losing draw against Kenton when we had all sorts of availability issues and 10 men. We have been consistent also and shared runs and wickets around, rather than relying on one bowler or batsman - this was also an aim at the beginning of the year. We have seen many of the players that have helped us do well and form a good core now be rewarded and move on up. What is pleasing is that a new core is now forming and following the same ethos.
Hampstead are top and have been relentless since we beat them on the opening day, as have Highgate (the only team to beat us) until they lost to Kenton this weekend. Our recent momentum means that we are now just two points behind them. It is going to be a very close three horse race I think and we just have to keep pace and hope that the good availability of players holds. If we gain a similar number of points in the second half, then we are going to be very close to achieving promotion.
Next week sees our toughest test yet as we take on Hampstead for the second time. I am sure they will be worried about us, having been the only team to beat them this season. If we win then it really puts the cat amongst the pigeons for the title and promotion. If we draw or lose, then it will not define our season just yet. It will make our task more difficult but not impossible and there will be plenty of opportunity to rectify the situation. There is plenty of cricket to play and it could be a very exciting time for the side and the club. Bring it on and let's do it.
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