Detail: 26-07-2020 - Richmond
Result: Won by 2 wkts
Blues vs Richmond CC
Due to some tactical fixture scrambling, which is a very scientific approach of spamming as many clubs as I could find on Google and asking if they could host us. In return for the promise that we will help re-stock their bar's coffers, drop lots of catches and provide all round good chat, we secured a last minute fixture at Richmond CC. Somehow we rocked up to one of the nicest grounds I'd been to, without having to buy a ticket to be let in. The groundsmen (multiple) informed us proudly that Middlesex play here occasionally. Already the nerves were gathering in the assembled Blues, fears of being skittled abounded with everyone quickly checking there were helmets in the kit bag if needed. After a bit of rain on the day before (and during the game about 4 times) the pitch was freshly painted and the outfield lush. Certainly a far cry from the astro deck on Wandsworth common of last week, with not a bottle top, cigarette butt or smashed glass bottle in sight.
We lost the toss and were made to field. A particular highlight was when the heavens opened and the Blues moved en masse as one, in a synchronised manoeuvre to run off, grab the covers and wheel them back on. All under 10 seconds. Think F1 pit-stops, but by men in whites.
With Das only checking his diary 24 hours before the match was due to start, the Blues had a wicket keeping crisis on their hands. In a rather unusual turn of events it was decided that Harry Tawney, recently the worst catcher in the Blues, should don the gloves. The closer we are to danger the further we are from harm.
The warm up nets proved eventful. Rory Collett, the Tisbury express, was steaming in whilst our premium bowler Hal was on strike. What could possibly go wrong? 5 minutes in and a yell erupts from the nets as Hal is down, poleaxed by a Collett beamer landing flush on his neck. Archer vs Steve Smith all over again, but this time with no Marnus Loosebuschange to ride to the rescue. After a quick HIA Hal was declared fit on the basis that he had driven all the way from Oxford and was damned if he was going home. Tawney was then treated to a 15 minute keeping masterclass from Youcef in the nets, complete with dog throwers, fluorescent ones and brummy slang.
Indeed it was a game of 2 halves for Harry tawney. 2 blinding grabs in the first 3 overs to take the openers. Then after drinks a few drops and missed run-outs to end net neutral for the day. Although it must be said HT saved many a leg side bye by some sharp diving to his left, 'wearing' multiple balls on his chest. Still as seen in the Windies series, keeping in England is not easy, and on reflection he probably did a better job than Shane Dowrich.
A superb day in the field all round, with sharp fielding, good throwing, tidy bowling and incessant chat throughout. Fitz commanded in the field, with smart fielding placements keeping the runs dried up.
Thunderbolts from Rory and Will Gaunt terrifying both the oppo and the stand-in wicket keeper. Catch of the day goes to Fitz, who dived to his left with both feet of the ground to take a stunning left-handed catch, that he held onto despite smashing into the ground. Unbelievable stuff. Very un-Blues indeed.
The Blues featured Identical twins, maybe for the first time, hopefully not for the last. Luckily the Pike gene pool is rather strong and having 2 Pikes in the field was certainly an upgrade from the usual Blues hungover fielding.
Special mention to all the bowlers, a superb attack hunting in packs. Great pace from Will, Rory and Hal. Very tidy from Glenn, Ollie and Harry J. Hal took 2 wickets in 2 overs dismissing their top order with ease. Rory caused havoc with speed, chin music and well times yorkers to finish with the day's best figures 19-3 off 7. Will took 2, both thunderbolts, and could have picked up a few more. Welcome back Rory and Will. Glenn's figures rather baffle upon reflection, bowling 7 overs up the hill into the wind and only going for 11 runs. Miserly. The Peter Siddle to Starc, Cummins and Hazlewood charging in at the other end.
After a highly enjoyable 35 overs the oppo finished on 137-7. Seeing as the Blues scored 229 last week, could the Blues be on for a 3rd win in a row?
Of course after fielding and bowling so well and restricting the oppo to what seemed a below par score, you can only guess what happened next?
That's right, in no time at all it was 20-3. Tawney and Alistair, the forlorn hope, were first into the breach. Sadly for them the side we faced seemed to have some sharp bowlers without the customary bad ball every over. Both almost got in, getting 7 (harry T) and 8 (Alistair) respectively. Fitzy, like England's own captain, seems to have developed the unfortunate habit of attracting worldie balls, and was dealt a jaffa first up. The ball found the smallest of outside edges and flew to the keeper's hands. You could see a very nervous Ollie Pike standing at umpire, on debut for the Blues, wondering what the best course of action was. Ollie's hand started shaking, rising and falling as he considered first the pros and then the cons of giving the club captain out. As the fielding cries of celebration got louder Ollie was put out of his misery as Fitz nobly fell on his sword and walked back off the field of play. 20-3. Suddenly 137 looked a pretty good score.
Alex Pike, still net negative for the Blues - having scored more against them than for them - took over. Joining Youcef they both played some brave defence and then some solid strokes for 1s and 2s. The outfield was wet, as well as being enormous, which meant 4s were incredibly hard to come by. Obviously the chief Nurdler was happy with this and Youcef stuck to his task well, keeping his cool, rotating the strike and most importantly not getting out. Alex and Youcef put on 22 runs together to give the Blues a slight respite. Alex Pike was in and playing nicely until he mistimed a late cut and hit it straight to a fielder. Out for 14. Panic was setting in. 42-4
Harry Jenkins walked to the crease. The walk of a man resigned to his fate, scratching his guard and looking at the bowler with the air of condemned man looking up at the noose. After reaching double figures once last season surely he was due a score? Harry and Youcef combined well and saw the oppo start rotating the bowlers. On was brought a leggie who was ragging it square. Certainly not very Sunday league. Jenkins decided to take the spinner on and take the bounce out of the equation, getting forward and swatting the ball away and shuffling to the other end. At the halfway point, it was roughly 60-4 and the game was still on. The plan was to take it deep and let the famous Blues tail bring it home. After a fluent and disciplined 14 Jenkins top-edged an awful leg side ball high into the air that was easily taken. 72-5, still a lot of work to be done.
Ollie Pike joined Youcef, edged his way to 4 and was dismissed. Hal Stevenson, the opening bowler, bustled to the crease. This was the game. Our gung-ho star all-rounder, capable of hitting 4s for fun, needed to come off for the Blues to have a chance. Being an incredibly helpful and supportive chap, Harry Tawney made Hal very aware of this fact multiple times as Hal was padding up. No pressure then.
Cometh the hour cometh the man, Hal didn't waste time and started swinging left and right delivering haymakers to all sides of the ground. Youcef, not wanting to be outdone, even hit a 4 to try and join in on the fun. The Blues were inching closer. 40 needed of the last 5 overs. Was it possible? Would we dare to dream?
Just as runs started flowing thick and fast Youcef and Hal were undone. Hal was bowled and Youcef caught, departing for a solid 36 from Cef and a bombastic 26 from Hal. Glenn and Will Gaunt were left, 2 wickets to go, with our 11th man Rory praying he didn't have to go out and get dismissed for none. 14 needed of the last 12 balls. Every ball was nerve-racking, the tension was unbearable. Glenn Moore took centre stage and opened up those experienced arms of his to hit a 4 straight back over the bowler's head. Outrageous stuff. On it went, dot ball, 2, dot ball, 1, dot ball, 4. Tight stuff but Glenn and Will always managed to stay just ahead of the eight ball. And then the penultimate ball was hit for 2 and a draw was guaranteed. 1 ball left. Glenn facing. The field brought in. Stormy skies ahead, the wind blowing across the ground, the spectators (all 4 of them) perched on the edge of their seats. The opening bowler ran in. Threw it on a good length on 5th or 6th stump. Glenn, steely-eyed, rocked onto the back-foot and stroked it down to the third man boundary for 4. Scenes. Mayhem. Carnage.
What a victory. The Blues bat deep. And celebrate in style. Congratulations all round, a heart-warming affair at a great ground with a valiant opposition. Multiple jugs later the de-brief was still in full flow. Cars were tactically left at the ground, sofa beds were assembled by disgruntled girlfriends all across South London, and a select few moved off into Richmond to tell all who would listen of the exploits of the 11 men who had won by the barest of margins.
Harry Jenkins & Alex Pike: 14 each
Glenn: 13 off 2 overs
Will: 2 not out. Reminiscent of Jack Leach, a very important 2 runs
Harry Tawney: 7
Ollie Pike: 4
Hal: (7 overs) 33-2
Glenn Moore (7) 11-0
Ollie Pike (6) 30-0
Rory Collett (7) 19-3
Harry Jenkins (4) 11-0
Will Gaunt (4) 32-2
[updated 28 07 2020]