C.E.C.C.| Shepherds Cot | Crouch End | North London | N8 8JJ
Following last week's trials and tribulations, it was good to be back to somewhere approaching full strength for our longest trip of the season. The facilities at Uxbridge are second to none at our level and will welcome Chris Gayle et al when Middlesex host a T20 match against Somerset there in a couple of weeks. I had done my research - Uxbridge score plenty of runs and it was easy to see why. A rock hard pitch (I heard someone describe it as 'a road') and a couple of short-ish boundaries were presented to me at the toss. The toss was won and we fielded.
The less said about the following three hours, the better. I will keep it brief. Our bowling and fielding came under the biggest scrutiny I can remember as Uxbridge attacked us from the off. No one was to be spared as Ricardo, Symon, myself, Mike and Ravi went through a tough afternoon. It was no easier for the fielders who seemed to spend more time fishing the ball out of a hedge than anything else. It was a sustained and brutal onslaught that put those playing tennis next door in danger on more than one occasion. We could not cope and never had any control, bar a 10 over period following drinks. For the record, Ravi and Ricardo both took two wickets and Mike the other. Mike also took three catches. My research proved correct - Uxbridge 257-5 declared in 47 overs.
Tea - sausage and chips. Nice.
Many may have just batted their overs and hoped for the best but it was decided that with a flat track, lightning quick outfield and depth of batting that we would go for it for as long as we could. Ravi getting a first baller in the first over was a big setback but the returning Jon took the bull by the horns and gave Uxbridge a bit of their own medicine. He peppered the boundary as Ross settled in at the other end. When he lost his middle stump, we were on 52 - he had made 42 of them. Unfortunately Rob fell soon after and suddenly we were dropping below the run rate. Enter Shiva, fresh from some morning theatre (medical not showbiz), who carried on where Jon had left off. The highlight was the biggest six of the day. Thankfully the tennis players had got tired of being hit by cricket balls and gone home.
Ross was beginning to play some lovely shots and the pair complimented each other well. At drinks we were half way to the winning total and half way through the overs. It was going to be tight. Shiva was out shortly after for 27, but the partnership of 76 had been crucial in getting us back on track. Symon looked in good nick and kept it going before falling to a great catch in the deep, where the fielder dived forwards at full stretch. Mike did likewise and the score was approaching 200 when he got out. The game was now in the balance as we were still up with the run rate but were six wickets down. Ross was serenely going about his business and played some fantastic shots. This was turning in to a potential match winning innings, just as long as the remaining batsmen could stay with him.
Unfortunately Ricardo was caught off a leading edge and out first ball. Ross realised that he was now running out of partners so tried to force the pace and keep the strike as much as possible. It worked and progress continued, including a six that nearly wiped out half of his team mates. However the killer blow came when he was out for a magificent 89 and Uxbridge knew it by celebrating wildly. Ranil was then run out from a direct hit and the momentum had well and truly shifted. With only one wicket left and seven overs to negotiate, the chance of victory or even the winning draw had gone. The risk was too great. Asif and myself negotiated those last overs against increasingly frustrated bowlers to secure our unbeaten record.
The end result was the same as last week but the one point was achieved in totally different circumstances. Last week, we were never really in the game and had a scratch XI. This week after a horror first half, we attacked and almost pulled off a seemingly impossible win. The fact that we were still going for it and up with the required run rate until the late flurry of wickets was a pleasing response to such a bad bowling and fielding display. To miss by just 25 runs was frustrating. At the time it seemed a disappointing day but on reflection it was an epic match that neither side deserved to lose really.
I do not think that many sides would have almost chased down such a mammoth total and special mention must go to Ross who played an absolutely superb and well paced innings. It was one of the best innings I have witnessed in the 3rd XI in my six seasons at the club. He was also well supported by Jon, Shiva, Symon and Mike. It was also very pleasing that Asif and I denied Uxbridge the win. They seemed to consider that they had a right to win just because they had us nine down and again many sides may have buckled under the verbal pressure they exerted in the final stages.
The result of this match means that we remain unbeaten but have slipped to third in the table as both Hampstead and Highgate, who we play next week, both won again. This match has shown us that we cannot expect an easy ride if we want to get promoted. We have to keep our concentration and discipline throughout the season and that one poor session can be costly. We must get back in the winning habit soon following a couple of losing draws. In both of these draws we have shown positive and stubborn sides to our character and the will not to be defeated however bad the situation looks. We will need those characteristics over the next 13 weeks if we are to achieve what we all want to achieve.
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