Home v Mandarins – won by 50 runs

Thanks to Matt for this match report

A Captain’s Innings
Finally, Graces were back playing at the wonderful Broxbourne, with two games. The Metronomes were the visitors on the main pitch, whilst Mandarins visited on the back pitch. Unfortunately, due to transport issues, on the back pitch, the start was delayed and with not a full compliment of players, skipper Matt luckily won the toss and chose to bat. Graces debuts for Amy and Muneeb.
With only six players present as the game begun, it was vitally important that Matt and Michael provided a strong and lengthy opening partnership. It was an ominous sign for Mandarins when the first ball of the match was a leg side full toss that Matt swatted away to the boundary for four. The Broxbourne pitch was as ever very good, however, with the considerable recent rain, there was a slow nature to the pitch with the odd ball sticking in the pitch, which was used to good advantage by Mandarins’ debutant Wahaj opening from the other end. A brief heart in mouth moment as Matt edged one just short of slip in the second over. However, the patient pair were beginning to be rewarded for it as eventually, the occasional misplaced delivery presented some good scoring opportunities, particularly with the small boundaries, as the scoring rate climbed. Matt, in particular, finding the boundary with regularity.
Fully aware of the demolition-style collapse from 2023’s fixture, the curator of this, Ramani was introduced into the attack. It was apparent from ball one that he had significant turn in his off spin and had to be watched very carefully. Eventually, Graces had the full compliment of players and this allowed the skipper to relax and open up his run scoring options. A clever combination of sweeping and coming down the wicket was starting to alleviate Ramani’s dangerous spin and the openers looked set for a century stand. This was until Ramani was finally able to get on the scorecard, fooling Michael with a straighter ball to knock the outside half of the stumps. An opening stand of 82.
Sahahrukh, with his galloping run up more than half the length to the boundary, picked up the second, dismissing Shumail, who had looked dangerous hitting three clean boundaries in his short lived 19. Amy, on Graces debut having travelled from Milton Keynes, was number four and immediately impressed with well timed drives as the Mandarins attack turned to some much slower and loopier tactics. With Matt having surpassed fifty and getting ever closer to magic three figures, he began to move the ball around the field for more singles, allowing Amy to have more of the strike, including sploshing a six into the canal and a big score was now looming. Young leggie Chadwick was brought into the attack and would have been thrilled to see that not long later, Matt would bring up his third Graces century from 110 balls and immediately retired to the safety of the pavilion.
Unfortunately, Amy would soon be there too after a miscommunication with Syed Aqib and was ran out for a good looking 26 off 25. Jonners was next in at six and a combination of solid defence and finding the inner fielders meant he would unfortunately depart after becoming Chadwick first wicket, LBW. An over later, he would have his second, bravely replying to Syed Aqib putting him in the water, bowling him as he tried to repeat it two balls later. Dom would also be quickly in and out too and then Moeed, taking Graces from 186/2 to 216/7. But, Muneeb on debut was still at the other end, dispatching four of his twelve balls to the boundary, including three sixes to finish unbeaten with 26, as he and Imran saw the innings out to close at 238 after 40 overs.
Moeed opened the bowling for Graces’ defence and returned Mandarins’ first ball favour with his own full toss that went to the boundary. An early settler for opener Baxter.  The same could not be said of his partner Wilmot, who received a brilliant in swinging full ball to swing through to the stumps for a golden duck. McKeon was next in and built a solid partnership with Baxter, attacking the short boundary and hitting some good offside shots off Imran’s bowling as a five-an-over run rate quickly came. The boundaries continued to flow given the quicker pace of Moeed, but he persevered, getting McKeon to snick behind for 29. A quick run out from Shumail soon followed and 58/3 looked a great start. With the majority of the remaining bowlers deciding that they would rather bowl to a longer legside boundary, Matt had to bring himself on earlier than planned. It was immediately clear why as his first ball went straight into the canal from a Wahaj sweep, quickly followed by two more fours in the same over.
The partnership that Baxter and Wahaj built was bringing Mandarins back into the game, the field was moving around regularly to keep up (despite Michael’s pleading with the skipper to move a fielder almost every ball). Even six very tidy, consistent and economical overs from Rahat couldn’t force a wicket. So up stepped the ‘Dominator’!
In just his second over, Dom was able to dismiss both batters, Wahaj caught by Shumail for 41 and then Baxter bowled for 53. This was the innings defining over as it was clear the remaining batters were struggling to keep to the ever-climbing run rate. Shumail replaced Ratan to bowl the remaining seven overs from the hockey pitch end He would only need six as he ripped through the lower order with an LBW, a bowled and two caught wickets, one by Imran at mid on and another by a fully forward sprinting Jonners at short third man. The game was all but done. Muneeb race through two overs and Moeed finished his eighth. Leaving one over left at each end, and Shumail the opportunity to bowl the last over for his fifth wicket to seal the game. Yet, he couldn’t stay out the game that long, taking the catch the deny his chance for the five, giving Matt the last wicket and rightly have the last say, as his innings ultimately defined the difference in the scores. Shumail 4-18, with a catch and a run out being the standout performer of the second half.
A brilliant day’s play between two equally brilliant clubs!