Ghosh! What a scorcher!
How we managed to win this game against the Sunday Times Occasionals is a mystery. It looked all over with seven wickets down and 100 runs still to make. Yet we managed to win. Pretty it wasn’t.
Indeed, it would be fair to attribute victory chiefly to a slightly less comprehensive display of incompetence than the opposition manifested. We won ugly, but we got over the line. That’s the important thing, and it’s an attribute that, for example, the England football team have never been able to master.
Normally, when you restrict a team to 198 off 40 overs you can feel pretty pleased with yourself, but in this case it could and should have been so much better. There were numerous drops, far too many extras and one or two of the bowlers let themselves down. Simon, who had bowled so sweetly against Chippers, began with a series of full tosses and long hops and the first over went for no less than 21. It got a bit better after that, but he never found the right rhythm.
Fortunately, Viral, from the other end was in much better shape. Opener Mills, who had raced to 20, edged to slip where Tim juggled and dropped a chance he would have gobbled up with bacon and eggs last season. It wasn’t too costly, however, as Mills was trapped in front by Viral shortly thereafter and he departed, chuntering disconsolately.
Wickets continued to fall at regular intervals thereafter. Some of the ST batsmen seemed a little green. Indeed, some of them looked as if they had never played the game before in their lives. They really shouldn’t have detained us as long as they did. But there were dropped catches aplenty, in a fielding display that recalled a previous Strollers era. Our skipper, in fact, seemed to be having a game that might have been introduced to him in the form of as a bad dream on a night of swirling fog by the Ghost of Gavins Past.
After shelling one at mid-on, he set off from gully to third man with stately progress to retrieve an edge through the slips. Clearly, a certain period of time elapsed before he reached the ball, during which the batsmen ran two. After getting the ball, he contrived to lob it along the boundary rope, at an angle of some 45 degrees to the wicket; whereupon the whole stately progress routine started all over again. By the time the ball got back to the wicket, they had run four – a feat one occasionally sees at the MCG with very quick runners.
For Strollers of a certain vintage, this little incident brought to mind the antics of Simon Poole, aka Popsy, a batsman of great elegance and a fielder of breath-taking incompetence. On one occasion, fielding on the boundary, he contrived to throw the ball over his own head and over the boundary to gift the batsman an unexpected five . This became known as ‘The Popsy’; Gav completed what will henceforth be termed ‘The Semi-Popsy.’
Not that the fielding display was completely laughable: Abhik bowled a very tidy spell and Dave took a very smart catch behind the wicket and also completed a stumping. Ron Bannerjee also bowled well and was unlucky not to take more wickets; he suffered unduly through drops. Finally, Viral and Simon brought off a nice run out.
Throughout all this, the opener Seaton continued blithely. Though he was dropped a couple of times, he was clearly the class act of the side and finished the innings with an unbeaten 88. Without his contribution, ST would have been in real trouble.
In addition to the drops, there were 27 extras, which made the second biggest contribution to the overall score after Seaton’s 88. We should have restricted them to something around 150.
Still, 199 to win was very gettable. Wasn’t it? Things didn’t start off well, however, and continued to be bad for quite some time. Lee’s first over was very erratic and Gav helped himself to a couple of legside pull sweeps for four. In his next George was dropped at cover. It was the all-time dolly. So big a dolly it might have been named Barbi. This proved the harbinger of things to come.
Gav swung all round the first straight one Lee bowled, thus completing the final page of the Ghost of Gavins Past. Henry was very unlucky to be well caught in the slips off the impressive Herneman, the pick of the bowlers. George was bowled by the same bowler and Tim departed to a good ball from the skipper Struthers.
We clearly needed an innings and both Viral and Ron Bannerjee threatened to give that to us. Both struck some mighty blows, Ron’s first scoring shot being a straight six that sang off the bat over the sight screen. But both departed in the 20s, Ron to a catch behind and Viral, unluckily, to a loopy full toss that dropped on the wicket.
When Davey was out for his second duck in week, caught behind, we were seven down and still some 90 or more short. Catches continued to go down all over the field, three, unbelievably in the same over, but it didn’t look as if it would matter.
Gloomily texting a friend on the boundary in the gathering gloom and drizzle, Simon said ‘We are about to lose.’ ‘You need the spirit of ’81!’ came the reply. ‘Yes, we need some of that. And Ian Botham,’ this writer wrote back.
Well, we found one. Coming in at number eight, Abhik set about giving it ‘some humpty’ in the spirit of Headingley ’81. He was put down a number of times but the score mounted quickly. Giving him impeccable and sensible support was Gideon, making his first appearance for us of the season, stealing singles and giving Abhik the strike.
To begin with, this seemed to be only prolonging the agony. It was giving us a smidgen of hope, and, in the words of John Cleese, ‘it’s the hope I can’t stand.’ Yet the scores crept closer and Simon began to fidget nervously on the boundary once more. It was clearly time for a few more stirring words from Henry Newbolt.
There was time for a final twist. Abhik was out stumped, in the most unlucky fashion as the ball cannoned off the keeper’s pads and into the base of the stumps without him knowing anything of it. Cue more pacing from Boughey. But there was no need to worry. Ron clipped one through the single saving ring for a boundary, and then, in the 36th over with the scores level the winning run arrived courtesy of a wide. Cue somewhat unsporting cheers from the boundary.
What an innings from Abhik! Very rarely has the writer seen a game completely turned on its head by a display of hitting like that. The skipper might need to rethink his batting order…
It wasn’t the most elegant win. But they all count. It should be added that the Sunday Times boys were very sporting and friendly opposition, and it is to be hoped that this fixture becomes a permanent feature.