C.E.C.C.| Shepherds Cot | Crouch End | North London | N8 8JJ
This season has seen us play some excellent and enjoyable games of cricket. Frankly, last Saturday was not one of them. The conditions were not conducive to playing cricket - regular showers stopping the match, it was cold, it was gloomy for much of the time and an unrelenting wind buffeted the players all day. Add to this that Richmond’s second ground is sandwiched between Heathrow Airport and the M4, which made it feel even more desolate and isolated given the conditions. The smell of aviation fuel was a constant reminder of just how close to Heathrow we were.
In addition, we put in arguably one of our poorer performances in recent times. Our bowling was generally OK but our fielding was lethargic throughout and we dropped at least eight catches, none worse than a terrible one by myself. Our batting pulled things back well and in the end we came away with a winning draw and four points. This was the most important thing and kept our unbeaten run going, which now stretches to 11 matches. They could prove to be four very important and hard fought points.
The toss was won on a very green and damp pitch. Richmond were asked to bat. Quayum and myself could not make any initial breakthrough against the two stubborn openers. Quayum in particular caused plenty of problems as he extracted some great bounce out of the pitch to add to his rapid pace. The first wicket came with just over 50 on the board and thanks to a run out and some un-necessary suicidal running – George throwing the ball in and Mike removing the bails with one opener stranded.
Hikky and Hassan came on and both grabbed a wicket to reduce Richmond’s good start to 68-3. Hikky would go on to bowl a really good spell and be back to his best. He ended up with a fine 3-32. At 106-5 things were looking promising for us but Richmond, led by their skipper, had other ideas. Their lower order included some good hitters and they played with freedom as they were safe from relegation and firmly in mid-table.
Much fiddling around of the bowling, including Khairul demonstrating some useful spin, was deployed to try and break the partnerships. Khairul picked up his first wicket for us thanks to a good catch out in the deep by Quayum. The frustration was building and added to by a terrible umpiring decision, which saw Mike catch a clear nick from Quayum that most heard (including me out on the boundary).
Worse was to come as the survivor then bludgeoned a stack of runs, including one that caught Khairul badly on the hand. The resulting deep cut required hospital attention and meant we had lost our leading batsmen. It was a big blow. It is also unlikely that he will be able to play in the final two important matches of the season. Richmond declared on 217-8 after 48 overs.
Tea – a nice platter arrangement with plenty of cakes.
Moh opened the batting to allow him to then take Khairul to hospital when out and did well with debutant Ruiradh, who has been scoring well in the 4s this year. The pair added a good 32 before Moh departed. Ruiradh followed shortly afterwards but had showed good promise. Kamlesh and George then set about a mini rescue act. One highlight was an exquisite shot from a short ball that Kamlesh flicked over the slips for four.
With the weather and gloom closing in our attention switched to the possibility that the game may not run its full course. Another break for a hefty shower confirmed this and we calculated where we needed to be after the 20 over cut off point and for each subsequent over after that. When Kamlesh and then Hassan were out we were still behind the pace. Crucially this brought Quayum to the wicket.
As George dropped anchor superbly, Quayum followed the instructions perfectly to the point where just after 20 overs we finally got ahead of the rate. If we stayed there and the game stopped, we would secure the winning draw and four points. Quayum mixed his trademark big shots with solid defence and sensible running to keep us ahead. George was gaining confidence and hitting some good shots of his own.
When George was out after slapping one to mid-wicket, we were still ahead of the rate. He had played a vital role. However it was now getting very gloomy and the skies around were looking heavier with rain than at any other point of the day. Quayum passed his half century with a six – it has been a magnificent and vital innings, especially considering the context and conditions – and was now being assisted by Hikky, who was holding firm at the other end.
With the rain starting to fall again and those of us on the side struggling to see the action through the increasing gloom, Quayum was finally out. He had done his job. We were now well ahead of the run rate. Poor Mike, who had kept so well on his debut for us, will not get tougher conditions to go and bat for his first innings. Richmond’s best bowler returned and bowled him. We were on 167-7, still 50 runs short with 11 overs to go, and crucially minus Khairul.
The time was also 7.40pm and sense prevailed in the end. The rain was still falling and getting heavier, and it was only going to get even darker. After a quick discussion with Richmond’s captain, we shook on a draw. At the time it was a relief that the game was over after a difficult day – we had stuck to the job and claimed four points, where one or none was more likely. Looking back now, it could be a vital four points but we must improve in our last two games against two of our closest rivals, as we were second best for long periods.
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