Here is the match report for the Friendly XI game this weekend – thanks to Matt
It is always a historic event when Graces get two sides out on the same day, yet there were a number of familiar faces at Broxbourne as Matt lead the side against nearby Epping, following the concession from our original opponents.
Given the strongly unforgiving forecast later in the day, Matt was hoping to bat first and would get exactly that as the visitors decided to bowl first in a timed game. With 150 minutes to bat, Matt sent himself and fellow Northamptonian Henry to open up. However, they were sprung a surprise as the opposition skipper, Hasan, decided to open with his own off spin, causing a little concern on the Graces openers. It would prove an inspired decision as Henry would fall LBW attempting a sweep and Kosala was unfortunate to play inside the line and see his off stump hit, leaving Graces 6/2 after the second over. A sudden flurry and hive of pads appearing from many different bags didn’t leave much confidence in Matt, now joined by Dom, but it wasn’t necessary as Dom would provide the perfect Boycott-esque partner.
Without the pressure of limited overs, Matt and Dom were able to patiently and slowly rebuild the Graces innings. Dom was proving to be as solid as the pavilion behind him, with a effortless display of ‘digging in’, something rather the polar opposite to what his Bazball watching team mates were viewing on the sidelines. But it was proving the perfect accompaniment for Matt, who was reading the bowling well with a repetition of late glances and nudges through the point and backward point region to slowly keep the score ticking. With skipper Hasan continuing to hold up one end, Graces were steadily keeping the offside sweepers in use as the run rate hovered around the three an over mark. However, a variety of options were being offered at the other end, providing the odd extra and Matt the opportunity to have a look at the odd stray ball with runs coming mainly in ones or fours.
With the clouds steadily coming in, shortly before the drinks break, Matt had played his way to a well earned fifty, with very little opportunity coming Epping’s way since the second over. The drinks break, however, did spark a bit of an upturn in the batting mentality, with Matt and Dom, in particular, visibly upping the speed of running and pushing the tighter runs much more often. This combined, with some intent to pick gaps in the legside fielders from Matt, raced the partnership to a fantastic century stand. Continuing in search of some legside hits, Matt would then step across just too far to be hit bang in line by bowler Riad for a good captain’s innings of 81 from 87 balls to end a superb stand of 114. The Northants’ Martin would be next in, looking to keep the attacking mentality going and after a good couple of big boundaries, would reach a tad too wide for one and snick one off the keeper for 16. Not long later, Dom’s impressive resistance was upended as he became Ritul’s second wicket, out for 31 from 82 balls, but was worth so much more in the context of when he came to the crease.
The panic of pads and velcro resurfaced again as Scott would then try to continue upping the anti, leading to a straight up drive to be the keeper’s second catch. When John was unfortunate to get a fine edge behind the following ball, all of a sudden Graces were 157/7. There was still confidence though as Kash, complete with GoPro on the helmet, hit a few lusty blows to the boundary to ensure the scorebook was still moving on, until Rajesh got his third wicket and the keeper’s fourth catch – out for an almost run-a-ball 24. London-based Martin and Jonners were now in as the final few minutes counted down. Many a cheer was given to Martin in search of that first Graces run, but despite a solid 16 balls faced, he would be left armer Rajesh’s fourth wicket before that run would come. This left Jonners and the next Northants’ representative, Dan to see out the last over, that was until Dan got himself stumped off the final ball of the innings. All out 184 in 43 overs.
The second innings of 75 minutes plus 20 overs began in the ever-looming gloom, with spots of drizzle falling. Keen to get the overs in quickly, Matt decided a quick and slow bowling approach would help, having Dan and himself open the bowling. Initially, it seemed a great idea as Dan managed to good early wickets, Riad LBW and Sandeep bowled, followed soon after by Matt getting Shah stumped for a duck, courtesy of Henry’s quick reactions behind the stumps – 9/3. As the rain steadily increased, the seamers were used in short spells, with Kash brought soon into the attack, getting Dhiru caught by Kosala for a duck. By this time, Matt had replaced himself with Dom, continuing the genuine all-round ability, getting Ritual bowled for 15. By the time Kash had got his second wicket, another bowled, Epping found themselves 26/6! It seemed as if the pending storm wouldn’t matter after all. Speak too soon….
A resistance was then met, with skipper Hasan, who walked to the crease to comically take guard at the non-striker’s end, and Taslim able to see of the pace and play very astutely to the wily bowling of Dom. The continued drizzle was just not quite enough to force the players off, but did make bowling difficult with a wet ball, even losing one in the hockey hedge didn’t change things. A repeated switch of short spells between Kash and Dan didn’t seem to make the breakthrough, with skipper Hasan latching on to anything short and wide with some very strong cut shots. After seven overs straight through of Dom, Matt went back to himself, but was still unable to make a breakthrough as runs were suddenly coming at an alarming rate. Martin B was then brought into the attack to offer another spinning option and was able to bowl with good control, but the wet ball providing an occasional loose delivery for the batters to cash in on to build a century stand. Cash being the operative word, as Kash was then reintroduce, bowling now at the opposite end, hoping for the breakthrough, as the required run rate was still very reachable at just over six per over.
Finally, Taslim’s resistance was broken with a strong yorker to bowl him and end the stand of 112. Three balls later and the big wicket of Hasan was achieved, with Kash getting him to chip to Dan at mid wicket for a good, low, forward catch – scoring 75 batting at nine was highly impressive. It was Dan and Kash tasked with taking the final two wickets required for victory, but ultimately the two batters were able to see off the remaining minutes to end the game as a draw in Graces’ favour, 15 short of the asking target.
A good day had by all and great to see another Graces double header successfully completed!