Sunday’s fantastic match report courtesy of Essex Jim
‘Cricket? In this heat? You’re all mad.’
On a day that started with these words from this author’s partner, we hosted 2nd placed Harrow CC in a must win match up. With games running out, we find ourselves needing at least 2 wins to have any hope of staving off relegation.
Rather inexplicably the quarter final of the over 50 tournament between Essex and Beds had top billing on the main pitch, so we waddled down to pitch 2 to get ready. Having won the toss in 34 degree heat, the visiting captain said words that no one in his position had ever spoken before; ‘we’ll have a bowl.’ Presumably he’d decided that an hours drive in aircon was enough time out of the sun for his merry XI.
With a hint of confusion mixed with joy (the latter felt mostly by those of us still sat in the shade) our openers Mahe and Michael strolled the 6 feet from the boundary edge to the square to get us underway. A score of 300 felt like it was the minimum need in the conditions.
However, the opening spells from either end proved to be quick and accurate so both openers played watchfully and sensibly and took the runs where they could get them. Having seen off the first 2 seamers, Michael and Mahe in particular then began to find the middle with more regularity. With the hot parched outfield and short square boundaries, runs began to flow nicely. Mahe passing his 50 in quick time, soon followed by the industrious Michael.
Unfortunately having put on 120 for the first wicket, Mahe was caught and then Michael departed soon after with the score not having moved on. Disappointment on the faces of both, but a great start for the remaining batters to capitalise on.
Matt in at 3 hit his first ball for 4 (‘as all good batters should’) and looked to continue the scoring rate before Chris was unfortunately out caught to a ball that jumped off a length, caught his glove, then the glove of the ‘keeper before dropping safely into the hands of first slip. An unusual dismissal but a hint that the pitch may have some life in it for our bowlers in the second innings.
Always the man for a key moment, Jesant joined Matt in the middle. Fresh from his holiday in America and having just had his breakfast at 3pm he looked remarkably unaffected by any jetlag he may be feeling, playing straight while finding the boundary at regular intervals. However just as a partnership was brewing, Matt was unfortunately bowled by a low full toss which was the new bowlers first delivery. A less than ideal scenario for anyone!
Ari joined Jesant and the two rotated the strike and dispatched the bad balls when they came. It was clear by now that Harrow bowled deep, each new bowler proving they knew what they were doing. So many bowlers in fact, that we almost ran out of colours in the scorebook! 300 still looked very achievable but when Jesant was out caught behind for a really well played 76, Ari was joined by a slight procession of Newton, Chris and then Jim, none of whom really troubled the scorers.
Simon and Ari had a bit of a swing in the last 2 overs and got us up to just about par, Graces finishing on 299/8. We fell away a little but we still felt there was enough scoreboard pressure to keep us in the game.
After lots of water and some wise words from our captain, as well as some expect local advice from our illustrious host Mr Tim P (Broxbourne chairman and CEO of newly founded Tim’s Taxi’s) we walked out to the middle to set about defending 300. Pitch it up was the master plan. Keep them from being able to pull/cut to the short boundaries and be tight in the field and this was very defendable.
Newton and Ari got us off and running and both held their ends well. The innings started as we had hoped, with our oppo behind the rate and an early wicket into the bargain. Newton clean bowling the number 2. However as had happened in our innings, both the batters began to get their eye in and runs came a little easier (helped by some dire fielding by the author in the covers…).
With a change of bowling came the breakthrough we needed. Simon rewarded for a great start to his spell when the remaining opener tried to clear Mahe at mid off, only to see him nonchalantly stick up his left hand to take a superb backpedalling one handed catch. Celebrations were rightly loud! Simon would then take the next wicket shortly after, bowling the new batter for 1. Graces sensing a real opening.
What we hadn’t seen coming was the hitting potential of the incoming number 5. After a watchful few balls, he gave everyone a preview of what was to come by hoisting a stunningly cleanly hit 6 up and over the river to the legside boundary. I’d say this was the first lost ball but I happened to find it in my garden when I got home, some 25 miles away.
As a result of the hitting at one end, it was even more important that we kept tight in the field and kept the run rate low at the other. This was done well by a combo of Mahe, Simon and then Chris. Mahe would break an emerging partnership, just as it looked to be taking the game from us again.
They don’t have pictures in the dictionary but if they did, the catch taken by Skippy off this steepler at cow corner would sit nicely alongside ‘never in doubt.’ He made it look infinitely more simple than it was.
He then carried this confidence into a bowling spell of his own, one which proved a fruitful stint with the return of another partnership breaker, bowling the number 7 for a well made 33. Even more impressive given that a house fire over the river had shrouded us in smoke for the best part of 45 minutes.
At this stage the heat hadn’t yet claimed an old field scalp so we were very relieved to see Skippy get back to his feet after a brief stint on the floor after some dehydration symptoms during his spell. Ever the team player, he still managed to finish his over before heading back to cow in search of more catches.
The rate was up at nearly 10 an over now but each new batter continued to plug away and find ways to get runs. Number 5 Patel continued hitting some incredibly sweet 6s and meant we continually needed to find new balls after ones were lost in the river. He reached a well deserved century, probably for a SR around 100, but a bit like Ben Stokes in 2019 his celebrations were muted. He wanted to carry the chase home for his team and he was very much the key batter left.
In a bid to get the big wicket, Newton returned to the attack to try to get the breakthrough. After a few frugal overs to add the pressure, he struck the big hitter on the pads. What followed was the most reluctant and slow motion finger raise ever seen at village level. A touching tribute to the late, great Rudi Koertzen perhaps. In such a big moment with the key to victory at hand, it’s always good to see the game played in the right spirit and our relief to see the wicket fall was just as palpable!
With 25 needed off 2, the scoring so far would tell you that it was all still up for grabs but with 2 new bats in, we sensed the kill. There was still time for the game’s second ‘never in doubt’ moment when Matt took a low catch at long off, again making it look far easier than it was.
In all truth, the end to the game felt almost anticlimactic thereafter. The number 10 dispatched the last ball of the innings for 6 and there was an air of ‘that isn’t enough, is it?’ No, it wasn’t. Harrow ending 7 short. After all the drama, the tension in the heat and a post 8pm finish everyone was glad to finally have a conclusion to a topsy-turvy encounter.
Harrow were magnanimous in defeat and the handshakes had were warm and friendly. ‘How are you guys near the bottom’ was a glowing review from the oppo skipper. A lovely sentiment.
All in all, a well rounded effort by all involved and a great win against a very good side. Some excellent performances with the bat by Mahe, Michael, Jesant and Ari were well backed up with the ball by the bowling unit. Perhaps not the finest collective fielding performance we’ve seen but given the heat, errors are to be expected. It was great however to see everyone supporting each other and giving everything from ball 1 to ball 540.
So 1 win down, only possibly 1 more still needed. The season not yet dead and buried!
Peace out, G Town.