Weather: Mixed. Periods of sun followed by a cold, wet period.
Pitch: Dry and dusty at one end. Green at the other. Looks like Andy Caddick
Ground: A long way away but nice facilities paid for by GSK. Long outfield, one short straight boundary, good views of planes Giles may or may not be able to fly landing at LHR.
GSK's Swyncombe Avenue played host to the Village's 40 over match against frutily named London Shabab. A quick Google of "Shabab" indicates that we were playing some sort of youth team, generally conceptually bounded at the upper end by the age of 40. As will be explored later, this was not entirely accurate as a man well into his 40s bowled heat in the dark from an end backed by red brick houses.
Ten Villagers arrived for a midday start, grumbling about being out of bed an hour early, but well turned out. The Skipper lost the toss, but got his wish as the Shabab elected to bat first on a pitch with ample footmarks and dust at one end and a green patch on a length at the other.
Giles Tupper opened up from the end where he could target the green patch only to discovered that his run up was hampered by a large-immoveable metal plate on the ground as he approached the crease. After bowling the first ball of the game for five wides, Giles proceeded to leap over the metal plate and deliver a tidy opening spell, taking a single wicket with one that kept low from back of a length and beating the bat numerous times. At the other end, Archit bowled around the wicket, thus negating the existence of the dry patch which may have proved helpful and, with a very short boundary back over his head, got into a tussle with opposition number 3 batsman "Baks". Archit knocked over one opener with a delicious nib-backer (again remember this is from right arm around the wicket) and then drew Baks into a false shot first ball. The ball lobbed gently to cover, where TdM ran back slightly and with the ball coming over his shoulder, caught it, lost it, caught it, lost it and then fluffed it. Baks didn't change his approach however and smacked the next ball for four as his began his assault of the Village bowlers. Archit did bowl Baks early on in his innings but that was called a no-ball (fair early call) so the Village's prospects looked bleak as the Shabab fourth wicket partnership grew and grew.
A change of plan brought former seamers and now spin twins TdM and Skipper Cressey together. TdM got the breakthrough as oppo captain Ali skewed one up in the air to Archit and Cressey then piled in through the open door to knock over the lower middle order whilst both bowlers started to contain the hard hitting Baks. After his first 2 balls were dispatched for 6 by Baks, Cressey turned to a mixture of leg and off-spin to tie up the batsman, and this proved remarkably effective returning him impressive figures of 4-37 from his allocation of 8, all the while bowling from the end with the short straight boundary. After a brief break and change of ends, TdM finally snared Baks LBW for 94 with a surprise seam up delivery which Villagers seemed to either think was going down leg or the batsman had hit it. Either way a fine innings from Baks. People will say he should have been out first ball but that may have killed the game and in fact the day was more enjoyable with his runs on the board. Pitcher rolled up the innings and a solitary wicket and the Village had been set 212 to win in 40 overs, having bowled Shabab out in the 31st over.
The early end to Shabab's innings meant an extended break as both teams agreed to wait until the oppo captain's wife arrive with chicken. It was worth the wait as 6 freshly cooked and seasoned whole chickens were laid out along with wraps, an industrial vat of hummus and salad. As Villagers filled their bellies, the clouds gathered and Pitcher and Giles competed with different weather apps to predict a) when the rain would come and b) how long it would last...both were wrong.
With plenty of opening batsmen to choose from, the Skipper decided to pit the top 3 run getters of the season so far against one another in a Darwinian race for the batting award. JdM and Thomo opened up in a bid to hunt down Morgs who found himself at number 3. Morgs' pads did little but keep his legs warm for the first 20 overs however, as the openers balanced defence with attack beautfully in conditions which were increasingly wet and gloomy. Not content with scoring all of Shabab's runs, Baks opened the bowling, but it was Mahesh at the Heathrow End who caused most problems. With a short ball described by Thomo as "4 yards quicker", Mahesh defied his apparent age, which did not match the desciption of "Shabab". Instead the literal translation of Mahesh as "Great Lord" was more accurate as he regularly beat both batsman and, as the rain descended and the sun was blocked out, prompted discussions about whether or not playing conditions were safe as he bowled more and more short balls. But all Great Lords must tire and as the sun came back out and Mahesh got into his 7th and 8th overs on the bounce, a few loose deliveries appeared and JdM and Thomo ably dispatched them. JdM had domianted the scoring to this point as he took advantage of the short boundary to put one into the tennis courts and a number of others into the long outfield or over extra cover for four. With one ball to go until drinks however, he lapsed in concentration and nicked one behind off change bowler Aadil, departing for a well compiled 68.
After drinks, Thomo continued on his merry way, overtaking Morgs at the top of the run getting tree for the season. Of course, batting at 3 Morgs had a chance to reclaim his spot, atop the Village batting pile, like a majestic love dragon surveying all his conquests which lie around him like the burnt men, women and children of King's Landing. Instead he got a duck, out sweeping a short ball which, unlike WLD himself that morning, couldn't get up. Deano also came and went for a duck, out stumped for the third time in a row, which brought Alpha de Mellow, Toby, to the crease.
Thomo departed soon afterwards, bowled trying to push things on and Abrar joined Toby with the field set back. And with legspinner Mansoor now finding his rhythm, the Village were at risk of getting either bogged down or bowled out, but TdM settled the nerves with another classy innings to reach his fourth 50 of the year in only six games. Ably supported by anchor Abrar, the two took the Village to within 20 runs of victory when TdM was bowled trying to finish it in style. This left Skipper Cressey and Abrar to see things home, and with nerves still jangling slightly, Cressey popped one over the short boundary for six to put the game firmly in the Village's hands. The Village won in the next over after some carefully placed shots by Abs ruined any hopes Shabab had of pulling off a miracle and the Village were home by 5 (or is it 4 with 10 men) wickets.
Shabab must be left wondering what would have been possible if they had batted a little more conservatively and used all of their 40 overs, or if they had held back two or three overs of Mahesh to attack an exposed middle order. But we applaud their gung-ho approach, especially as it led to a fun exciting game of cricket which ebbed and flowed both ways throughout the day.
An all round good game played by both teams in a good spirit and the Village look forward to a return next year.