This Sunday game had a lot of excitement around a pitch looking promising for batsmen, showcasing fantastic bowling from Ashford Hill and series of gambles from Welford Park.
Fifteen minutes before toss, Mark (our beloved skipper) delegated captaincy to Dushy, shall we call it gamble number one. Mark did note how sluggish the over-rate was last time Dushy was captain (thanks Mark for the motivational speech). We had 4 players on their debut at Park - Sagar, Uzair, Shahbaz and Bhushan.
Having lost the toss; As Skelly says, "We send out our best tosser and he lost the toss"; Park were put to bat first. Mikey stepped up for the challenge to open the innings with a slow player like Dushy and thus we changed our opening pair again. Contrary to popular belief, Dushy was not slow this time - golden duck - back in pavilion before you could blink. Mikey braved on while wickets fell on the other side, Park losing Uzair(2) and Brooksie (1). Then stepped in our hero of many games this season and last season (many previous ones) and many ones to come, Herro, steering the game on path for Park. Soon after Mikey was bowled over, bringing in Sagar, who played a brilliant 100.00 strike rate on his debut. But Park's predicament continued, losing Shahbaz, Mark and Emily and Bhushan within a span of 5 runs. It was only Kiran who went for the last stand, while Herro went on to his 50. Unfortunately they missed the last wicket partnership record by 1 run! We could put up only 132.
After amazing teas by Kiran, Park needed disciplined bowling and superman fielding and that is exactly what the whole team went on to deliver. Kiran opened the bowling and bowled over one of the openers and he kept coming back in his following overs to get more wickets finishing at 4 wickets and only 1 extra. Opening from the other end was Sagar, and his tight bowling kept the pressure on. First change Mikey came in to claim 2 wickets and Shahbaz kept the run rate down. All these happening with brilliant support from fielders, dives by Uzair, Mark's quick reactions keeping batsmen in their crease, Brookise being a wall at midwicket and Emily kept chasing and converting 2s to 1s at gully. Bhushan claimed one important lbw. Herro bowled a brilliant spell to get one lbw. Finally Ashford Hill needed 22 of 12 overs with 2 wickets to spare and they kept getting 2s. Now the final gamble, having not bowled the whole season till now, Dushy was supported by vice captain Mark and he came on. All went well, thanks to Mikey for a brilliant catch, which was followed by a clean bowled. Park wins by 16 runs in 32.5 overs. phew!
Well as friendly games played on a day that began at -0.5 degrees, this one was a real pot-boiler! The visitors from Southampton Uni looked every inch the team on a mission as they showed up an hour before the start looking resplendent in chinos, blue blazers and club ties. Our last player actually arrived an hour into the game in pilot fancy dress so our standards cannot be said to have been quite as high. As Whispering pointed out, the rocking up in uniform really loses its shine after the 50th time Spinders. Though given the recent whatsapp stream, we all suspect he wears it at Herro’s request…
After Monica, skippering his first Sunday match, lost the toss – clearly due to a faulty coin leant to him by Jamo and his “these aren’t sight screen pushing shoes” – the Park were inserted on a very damp but drying wicket. The first ten overs were about survival, with Dushy and Monica poking and prodding at imaginary vipers to reach 12 for 0 after 10. The crowd was raucous with excitement, so much so that the first 2 of the day warranted a cheer. Monica cashed in on the change bowlers and brought up his 50 before drinks at 20 overs, with the park 77-0. Having mentioned to Dushy they should push on after drinks, the next ball precipitated Dushy’s wicket as the opposition Cheese turned one back from outside off. Aseem came in, hit three sumptuous boundaries and was lbw to the same bowler. Whispering came in as their slow left armer and Captain was turning the ball square and was done through the gate going for his trademark sweep, swiftly followed by a (unusually) grumbling Herro. Who’s be an umpire eh? Poor Jurgo.
Monica went in the 29th over as fatigue (lack of fitness) caused him to play over a yorker. He was still taking off his pads when Atul was gone too. This left Spinders and Uday to bring home the innings, with Spinders carving the final ball over cover for the first six of the season – which turned out to be somewhat important!
After tea (the actual cups of tea, as made by Jamo, being a sought a grey, warmed up water with milk affair – must be how the upper classes like it), Southampton made a confident start on a much dryer wicket, reaching 30-odd without loss of 10 oversbefore Whispering struck, Mikey C taking a fine catch at point. After both Jamo and Whispering had got 6 good overs under their respective belts, Uday and Mikey C proceeded to bowl with superior swing and, after Uday’s 11 ball first over, great control to peg the Southampton boys back, Mikey deservedly amongst the wickets. Special mention to Uday for warranting 2 slips on a slow wicket on a Sunday in April! Play swung back in the park’s favour until a good 4th wicket stand meant that with 6 wickets remaining, the boys from Wessex needed 6 an over off the last 10. Spinders and the Real Cheese bowled well without luck, Cheese again showing that the ball could be swung at the Park and Spinders showing good rhythm. There were a few dropped catches and a missed stumping as the Yellow Hat of Shame was passed around, but generally the Park fielded well, with Aseem exceptional in the outfield and Atul catching sparrows. Herro had a good day behind the stumps on a very testing surface for the stumpers.
Jamo and Whispering came back and a couple of quick wickets for Steve meant the park were back in the hunt. A fantastic game, played in an excellent spirit, came down the the last over. With 8 runs needed Monica turned to Spinders. With a wicket and a run out, it came down to the last ball, with 4 needed for a Southampton win. Holding his nerve to complete a stellar last over, Spinders was heaved towards the legside boundary, where Uday calmly threw in and the second run out of the over meant the Park were home by 2. Not bad the day after snow had fallen on the ground!
The Wessex chaps joined us for the traditional blue stripe, awarding it to the hapless chap who missed the easiest run out we’ll see this season (“go to fine leg and think about what you’ve done”). Our award went to Herro for making it halfway to the middle before realising that we had decided, in a break with tradition to use bats.
Well done and come on the Park!