Detail: 30-08-2020 - Blackheath
Blues vs Blackheath 30th August
On Sunday The Blues assembled in beautiful Blackheath, one of the more picturesque grounds on the calendar. With this fixture being over 50 years old, the Blues felt the weight of history upon their shoulders. The opposition invited us to bat first without a toss, on the basis that they only had one good batter, so wanted to make sure we batted 35 overs. Their skipper was a lovely chap, butter wouldnt melt in his mouth, and he made this offer from what he promised was the bottom of his heart. Naove captain Jenkins jumped at the chance of batting first and put the boys in.
What was normally a batting track had turned into a quagmire of uncertainty. Demons all over the crease, devils in every delivery, it was a far cry from the astro decks of South London. After a week of stormy rain, Das and Youcef quickly found out to their horror that their beguiling captain had pulled a fast one on the Blues. Very quickly both Das and Youcef had nicked off for a duck. 2 of our premium batters dismissed for nothing. Oh dear.
Archie Tawney, barely awake after a big one, was thrown far too quickly into the deep-end. Despite the hangover, Archie batted sensibly with some trademark shots behind square, nutmegging their slip cordon consistently. After settling down somewhat he started running off the G&Ts by avoiding boundaries at all costs. Archie then proceeded to hit it straight to a fielder and run. Steve, having seen this script before, stayed firmly in his crease and sent Archie back. Comically slipping in the middle of the crease, Archie was calmy dismissed for 7. 3 down for very little.
Then it was Lukes turn, who played with an amazing amount of nervous energy. Bouncing on his toes as the bowler ran in and running halfway down the track almost every time he hit the ball, regardless of where it went. That being said, he timed the ball nicely and looked relatively untroubled by their bowlers. Unfortunately, although Luke was hitting the ball smoothly, fielders kept getting in the way to keep the scoring down. Out of no-where the bowler produced a good ball and Luke was castled, departing for 14.
The Blues had limped to the 17th over and had posted 72-4 so far, which was vaguely respectable on what was certainly a two-paced spicy wicket.
Harry Jenkins joined Steve Metson at the crease. Steve had earlier nicked off in the second over but was very kindly dropped by their keeper and ever since had played beautifully. Relishing his second chance, Steve played the senior pro role and anchored the Blues innings as comrades had fallen all around him.
Jenkins decided enough was enough and knew The Blues needed to get to 25 overs without another wicket falling to set up the bombastic tail to explode. Knowing Monday was a day off and with post-cricket drinks planned Jenks knew there needed to be a sizeable amount of cricket to discuss and therefore the game had to go the distance. God forbid we talk about anything else.
The oppo wisely concluded that what Harry J hated most was excruciatingly slow accurate bowling. Asked to do a job, their 50 year-old accountant proceeded to torture Jenkins, slowing it right down and looping it accurately towards the stumps. Showing more self-restraint than ever before in his life, Jenkins dug in and tried desperately to nudge singles to get off strike. As if to rub it in, whenever Steve was facing, wide ones, full tosses, long hops, you name it, were thrown down which Steve ably dispatched to the boundary. Steve and Jenks combined for a nice 60 partnership to halt the alarmingly frequent fall of wickets. Batting sensibly together for 10 overs the scorecard kept ticking over and the boys accumulated.
Finally, their slow bowler was removed for the attack and a couple of young quicks were brought back in. After Steve dispatched these likely lads, the oppo went back to their strangulation plan and brought on their chairman for some looping off spin. This was far too much for Jenkins, who had used up all possible concentration on the last yuck bowler. Deciding he had done enough and with 7 overs remaining in the game, now was time to hit out or get out. Duly obliging the chuntering Blues on the side-line who were worried they had got out of bed for nothing, Jenkins went for the big heave-ho. The inevitable happened, no contact and the death rattle. Delighted by the captains misfortune, James on debut sprinted to the crease. 29th over 135-5.
James, off the back of a 6am finish, wasted no time out in the middle, lining up their bowlers from ball 1. Crash bang wallop, two 4s and two singles to get to double figures in no time. Pride cometh before the fall. Dancing down the wicket to a spinner, James missed by a foot. Despite the keeper dropping the ball, James stayed out of his crease practising the shot a few more times, which gave the keeper ample time to gather the ball from the floor and send the bails flying.
Steve Mettson, after playing so beautifully got to 78 and then was dismissed. Remarkably surviving so long on a pitch that no-one else got in on, Steve had to leave after nicking off. A much-needed solid foundation and Metto had posted his annual big score, he could go back to school a happy man.
Hamish Fyfe, dropping down the order to do a job with the ball, then took his place at the middle. Similar to James, crash bang wallop, 4, single and out. Then it was Mo and Rory Collett to burgle as many runs as they could off the last 2 overs. Rory, batting for the first time this summer, then proceeded to bat just as he bowls. Dancing around the crease, chuntering to the bowler before and after every ball, and every limb pumping as he scampered the 1s and 2s. Mo at the other end was coolness personified and hit a fantastic 6 into the woods. Between the two of them they put on at least 20 for the last 2 overs. The Blues, after an early wobble, had amassed 178 runs. Definitely defendable, but would it be enough?
Just before the openers were ready to stroll to the crease the sun came out and started flattening out what had been a two-paced wicket. Their skippers plan was coming beautifully to fruition. Or so he thought Enter the demon pair of Rory Collett and Glenn Moore. Bowling beautifully from both ends the two bowlers caused havoc with Blackheaths top order. Showing superb control Rory Collett picked up 2 wickets in 2 balls, the first with good length and great hostility drawing the batsmen into a nothing shot which Hamish Fyfe took tidily in the field. The second was an absolute peach that pitched on middle and seamed away to hit the top of off. The hattrick ball was set up, the fielders moved in, crowding the batsmen and piling on the pressure. Steve at first slip, wizened by cricket over the years, predicted what would happen next. As if on cue, a leg side wide was thrown down and we could all carry on with normal Sunday cricket.
Glenn, torturing the batsmen from the other end quickly got in on the action. A golden ball that swung from leg to off stump drew the smallest of slivers from the edge of the bat, barely registering on snicko. However, a huge appeal from keeper Jenkins and the very honest/timid 15 year-old tucked his bat under his arm and trudged off the field. Shortly after Glenn skittled the next batsmen and Blackheath were 17-4 after 6 overs. Glorious.
For the next few overs the boys bowled well, Glenn and Rory after 5 overs each of fire and brimstone took a rest and Hamish and Mo began challenging the batsmen. Mo, with his usual variety of pace and bounce started asking questions immediately. So much so, that a run out opportunity was born. The ball came to Hamish who collected the ball neatly, took his time, picked the right end, hurled it past the nearest batsmen to the bowlers end, whereby Mo plucked the ball out of the air and took off the bails to send the batsmen home. Great composure from both Hamish and Mo. 34-5 after 12 overs. Pressure building.
Needless to say, after such high-quality cricket with batsmen dropping like flies in the face of the Blues bowling, the atmosphere on the pitch was electric. The sheer volume of whooping, hollering and cheering was at such a level as to cause onlookers to wonder what on earth was going on. Surely they cant just be playing cricket? Special mention to Youcef and Hamish for solidly standing at silly mid-off in order to get into the batsmens eyeline at all times, regardless of the captains orders.
However, it was not going to be one-way traffic for long. The new batsmen who took to the crease looked like he knew how to bat. Slowly but surely, batting incredibly sensibly and waiting for the bad ball, he began to amass runs at his leisure. Fields were set, gaps were found and no chances were given up. The one tiny chance he did give up was to Glenn who had the ball smashed back at him much faster it was delivered, so much so that Glenn did well to let it hit him and not go for 4.
Apart from that, he made it look easy. After the oppo had steered successfully to 100-5 from 24 overs the contest looked like it was back on. James Leworthy on his Blues debut was thrown into the attack. After staying up late shadow bowling the night before, James had a few sighters and then settled into his groove comfortably. With a notably long run up James ran in off the boundary and asked questions of the batsmen. Hamish Fyfe also did a good job in the middle overs and showed excellent variety in his approach. The occasional jaffa on middle stump quickly mixed up with leg side wides kept both batsmen, keeper and fine leg guessing. As the overs ticked by and no chances came, the words of the opposition skipper started to ring in my ears we only really have 1 proper batsmen. Well as is often the case in cricket, one excellent individual can make the difference; huff and puff as we might, we just could not dislodge him from the crease.
A brief ray of hope entered our hearts as Rory managed to dislodge the guy at the other end, sending his stumps flying. A wicket is a wicket, but really it was a consolation prize as the main man was still out there playing, having already passed 50. With our blood up and every fielder baying for blood wickets the volume began to ascend. Sadly, it had zero effect on the batsmen who calmy kept picking the gaps in the field and finding 2s and 4s with ease. A few fielding mishaps gave the oppo encouragement as the leg-side Deloitte duo of Archie and Luke did a fine job of ushering a slowly hit shot through both of their legs and to the boundary.
As the overs trickled by and their total kept ticking up, we had it down to the last 3 overs when their star batsmen got his century. A very brief raise of the bat, muted doesnt even cover it and he was back to business. After some neat bowling from Glenn and James at the death It came down to the last over. Glenn was on last overs duty and bowled beautifully to get it to the oppo needing 3 from 3. A dot ball followed, 3 needed from 2. Sadly with their star-man on strike and seeing it like a beach ball, he managed to find the gap and stroke a 4 for victory.
A valiant effort by the whole team and a nail-biter of a finish as usual. In the convivial de-brief it transpired this lad had now hit 5 centuries already this summer for his Saturday side, which made us all feel slightly better. More importantly because he was only about 15 he was playing without the inevitable hangover which is basically cheating.
Onwards to Yorkshire for pride and glory. Then its off to Dulwich on the 13th Sept and New Malden on the 20th Sept.
[updated 03 09 2020]