C.E.C.C.| Shepherds Cot | Crouch End | North London | N8 8JJ
After a couple of weeks that had seen us pick up just one point and the league table bunch up around us, it was important to get back on track against struggling MTSCC. We had beaten them well in the first game while I was in Australia. Friday's deluge, which carried on well in to the early hours of Saturday morning, was a major threat to any play. However, we turned up at Edmonton and the pitch and field were wet but in the process of drying out nicely. After the lengths that MTSCC's skipper went to when showing Rob both sides of the coin at the toss in the first match, I returned the favour with added exaggeration. The toss was won and MTSCC were asked to bat.
With Symon and Apu still on a bus, we took to the field with just nine men. This had two consequences - 1) I had to open the bowling as I did against Hampstead and 2) we were treated to the sight of Khairul fielding in his shiny black work shoes, as Apu had his cricket ones. Ricardo and myself bowled some decent stuff but with no luck. Importantly, the run rate was much reduced from the previous two weeks as MTSCC progressed at 2-3 an over. Dave, who had replaced me, claimed the first wicket when he bowled one opener with the score on 49. Ricardo bowled well but was to finish wicketless. Symon replaced him and was to go on and bowl an epic spell.
MTSCC's captain, who would later open the bowling as well, was taking the bowling on with a series of increasing un-orthadox cross batted shots. After instructing one of his team mates to take a photo of him reaching fifty, his luck ran out after reaching his personal goal when he skied one off Dave to Simon at point. MTSCC were then never able to accelerate and a combination of tight bowling and good sharp fielding contributed to this. Their running became more desperate and erratic - two run outs were the result, both after good fielding and throws from me and Apu. We then simply kept chipping away and wickets fell regularly.
Symon ended up with three wickets from his 16.3 overs - one looping catch to Dave at slip, one low caught and bowled taken well on the second attempt, and a great catch by Ricardo who took it one handed after a significant amount of back-peddling. Sanjay, who is starting to find his groove again, also took two wickets - one with Richard's 'ball of the day' that took the top of off stumps and another caught and bowled. With MTSCC seemingly only having 10 men throughout their innings, everyone walked off after the ninth wicket had fallen and went for tea. 156 all out in 48.3 overs.
Tea - Late. Very late. Over 30 minutes late. Not worth the wait.
Despite tea being late, MTSCC took ages to come back out. We were ready and waiting to commence our run chase. As the innings was about to start, a couple of eagle-eyed colleagues suddenly spotted that our opposition now had 11 men in the field. After going on to the field and challenging the captain I was told that they had always had 11 (not true - we all saw it and even his own batsmen and umpires had walked off when the ninth wicket fell) and that he had actually 'declared' as the last man had been 'unable to bat' ... I wouldn't have minded the situation but it was obvious that they had put in a call for an 11th man at some point during their innings and had been waiting for him to arrive during tea. I do not like dishonesty but I like being taken for a fool even less.
Naturally the mystery 11th man turned out to be their best and most dangerous bowler, although in the end it mattered little. After Khairul had smashed the first ball of the innings for six and then got out on the fourth ball, we progressed well and were never in any trouble. Darren joined Ravi and was brutal and watchful at the same time. He batted superbly and was well supported by Ravi, who dropped anchor. Darren was hitting shots all around the wicket and MTSCC were unable to contain him, even the tricky 11th man left arm spinner. The pair put on 75 before Ravi was stumped.
Apu came in and it was then Darren's turn to take a back seat (well, to a degree ...). After a couple of big swishes and a couple of dropped catches, Apu got his eye in and proceeded to dispatch some increasing ragged bowling to all parts. This included five sixes, one of which was absolutely massive and landed right down in the bottom corner of the field. My personal favourite was a straight one that crashed in to the side screen about half way up. In the meantime, Darren was going serenely about his business and passed another well deserved 50. With just six needed for victory and his own 50, Apu was out. Richard came in and hit a four, before Darren finished it with another four to finish on 60 not out. 159-3 in 29.3 overs. We had won with over 13 overs to spare.
This was a very good and pleasing all-round team performance. Our fielding was much better and we backed each other up well. The bowling was also tighter and we stuck to good lines, which eventually gave us the deserved rewards. Our batting was then very solid throughout, and destructive in places. We were better in all aspects of the game than our opponents and showed it. We need to take these positives forward to the next six games. Special mention must go to Richard, who kept well despite his soft hands, 'ladies fingers' and small gloves.
The next three games have turned in to very important ones as we play the three sides closest to us in the table - Kenton, Uxbridge and then Highgate. The first third of the season gave us 32 points and the second third 41 - if we reproduce this in the final third, then we will be very close to promotion. We are currently third and two points behind Uxbridge, who won again. How much of the run-in I will be able to take part in is another story, following the broken finger that I sustained while fielding on Saturday. I find out today how long the recovery will be. I am gutted to miss some, if not all, of these important games but am confident that we are in a good place and have a fantastic core of players for our level. Let's go and do it boys and have no regrets at the end of the season ...
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