C.E.C.C.| Shepherds Cot | Crouch End | North London | N8 8JJ
After last week's gallant defeat to runaway leaders Hampstead, it was important to get back on track against unpredictable Winchmore Hill - a side seemingly capable of handing out a good thrashing one week and then receiving one the following week. In the first game, they were exceptionally poor and Rob led us to a convincing win within two hours. This time around it was to prove a stiffer test ...
As I tried to guide various team members from various parts of London towards Winchmore Hill's lovely ground, the toss was lost. Their stand-in captain took the unusual decision to bat first and I was struggling to hide my delight - it is much easier to control the game and win bowling first, and this would have been my decision had I won the toss. Doug and Dhamendra, both returning to the side from the 4th team, started us off but things did not quite go to plan. Anything loose was punished and by the time Moh's friend Noman finally arrived, the score had already reached 50-0 off eight overs. Myself (briefly), Dave and Sanjay all tried to stem the flow of runs but to no avail.
Last week we were the victims of seventh wicket unbeaten stand of 196. This week were to take an unwilling part in an opening stand of 159 in under 30 overs. Poor fielding and a couple of tricky dropped catches contributed to our plight. When Ravi finally claimed the first wicket thanks to a catch by Noman out at deep mid-wicket, it signalled our first wicket for nearly 60 overs and 355 runs. What happened afterwards was like last week, but in reverse. I returned and worked in a good partnership with Ravi to stem the runs and show what little other batting Winchmore Hill had. This just added to the frustration - if only we had got rid of one or both of the openers early on, then we could have restricted them to many less runs than they ended up with ...
Ravi was to end up with his second five wicket haul of the season. After Noman's catch, I took another one in the covers that was visciously spinning in the air. Next ball he produced a good ball to bowl the batsmen. On the hat trick their skipper clubbed the ball to Sanjay at deep mid-off, who dropped it. Ravi made amends very next ball as he picked up a caught and bowled, which was followed by Asif diving forwards and taking a very good catch at deep mid-on. I was to end up with my second four wicket haul in two weeks thanks to a stumping by Ranil and a hat-trick of catches by Rob at deep mid-on, including the opener who got to his hundred and then got out next ball. 261-9 dec in 46 overs.
It was going to have to be an impressive effort to chase down that many runs but the pitch was flat and offering little to the bowlers. With our batting looking weaker than normal, it would be important for the top five or six to score some big runs. Ravi and Asif opened up and led the charge against some wayward opening bowling. Ravi in particular latching on to anything short, and there was plenty. The introduction of two slower bowlers, especially one impressive young teenager, stemmed the flow of runs and saw us fall below the required run rate. We were never to get back above it. An impressive opening partnership of 102 was ended when Ravi was stumped. What a day he had - five wickets and then a 50.
Darren and Rob then both fell for five and four respectively - Darren stumped and Rob bowled around his legs by the precocious teenager - and with them went all realistic chances of winning. Noman came in, swished at a few before steepling one straight up and was caught. Sanjay looked good after a tentative start and Asif carried on with his increasingly impressive innings. He passed his 50 with a shot that is quickly becoming his trademark - a booming straight drive over mid-off. Sanjay was out very close to the end for a decent 25, as the match petered out to a tame draw. Asif carried his bat to finish with an excellent 77 not out. We were not good enough to get anywhere near scoring the runs and Winchmore Hill were not good enough to get anywhere near bowling us out.
This was a frustrating afternoon all round. People were late, we were under strength, our fielding was poor and we were again put to the sword by two decent batsmen. On another day we would have secured 10 points and jumped above Highgate in to second place. Now as us and Highgate stumble a bit, the other teams are starting to bunch up behind us both. The only crumb of comfort came thanks to a strange twist of fate with the fixture computer - Highgate played Hampstead on the next pitch to us and lost heavily, so our losing draw point inched us to within one point of them.
We need good availability for the rest of the season to ensure that it is us that secures second spot and go up with champions-elect Hampstead. The slightly sarcastic "well done for your one point" from some of the Winchmore Hill players at the end was un-necessary in my view, but who knows how important that point could be? We will find out in seven weeks time ....
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