Winchmore Hill CC
Tigers 197-8 lost to Graces 198-2 by 8 wickets
The Tigers began the last leg of their season with one of the most challenging match ups in their calendar. Graces skittled the Tigers last year for just 90 so the addition of one of the best technical batters in the club – Tim Royall and the destructive Ed Sobers was a welcome boost.
Matt returned as regular skipper to take over from Emile. Losing the toss, we were asked to bat on what was a pleasingly lush outfield, in marked contrast to the bumpy, barren deserts we have grown accustomed to this summer. Ian Luke and John Ranger got us off to a customary good start, Ian connecting with some trademark flicks off his hips. When Ian miscued, John was joined by Tim and he took control, expertly piercing the field with a wide variety of well-timed drives.
At 93-1 in the 19th over things looked promising but the introduction of Graces twin left arm spinners put the brakes on. Either side of drinks the Tigers tumbled from 93-1 to 115-5 losing key batters John Ranger (37), Tim Royall (44) and Adnan Ali in the process. The nagging line and length of Pal and Modi had forced our batters into taking risks on a docile track and the innings had quickly flipped in Graces’ favour. Emile and Ed Sobers were the last recognised batters with a competitive target some way in the distance. After a match winning 53 no for the 2s on Saturday, much hope rested on Ed’s Sobers’ gnarly shoulders, but impulse got the better of him as he sent a towering drive straight down long on’s throat, leaving Graces to work on our tail.
James Lane rarely gets a bat these days, but he found his best form when the Tigers needed it most, forging a much needed 40 run stand with Emile to recover the innings. James belied his years sprinting ones and twos and slapping 4 boundaries in his 23. Emile (35 no) held down the other end shepherding the Tigers through to a competitive score with a final flurry from Matt Webster (10) taking us to 197. A good recovery from a perilous position but we knew early wickets would be a necessity when we came to bowl.
Our four-pronged battery of pacers searched for a quick breakthrough but were outclassed by two very disciplined, accomplished openers who took the attack to us from the off. Campbell was slashed through point, Imran found little movement, even James who has looked like our most potent weapon took some punishment. It was the Tasmanian Tiger who created the only meaningful chance in the entire first half of the match getting the No.1 to defend one in the channel but the snick was just too wide for Ian Luke to gather. Ian, who has rarely appeared behind the stumps this season, was impeccable. His excellent judgment and tidy and economical glove work was the highlight of a barren first 20 overs.
The tracks on the front pitch have been noticeably tame in the last month and by drinks the opening stand had rocketed to 131. By this stage our goal was to not lose by 10 wickets.
Spinners had taken five of the seven Tigers wickets to fall that day, and when Matt turned to the tweakers the breakthrough finally came. Tim Royall induced a risky sweep from the well-set number one inducing that rarest of things, a first wicket lbw. In the next over Emile struck with the first delivery of his spell for the second match in a row, this time removing the number two leg before. However, at 169-,2 it was too little too late, and such was the Graces dominance they romped home with 11 overs to spare.
Next weekend we move on to the wilds of Suffolk where we must pick ourselves up after this heavy defeat. John Ranger’s funky bus is chugging into life, long-lost Tigers Simon Warren and Aghill re-join the team and the Winchmore express, Hassan Bajwa and his dad Ali will make rare outings. Into the great unknown we go…