Detail: 23-07-2023 - Czapalski

Result: L by 125 runs
The Blues CC vs Jack Czapalski XI

Sunday was a new dawn for The Blues CC. Late-night-Saturday enthusiast Jimmy Leworthy had finally been given the keys to the kingdom and match-managed his first game for the club. For such a momentous occasion, he also decided it was fitting to arrive to match on time to much of the bemusement of his teammates. The opposition today was Jack Czapalski's Invitational XI. After many a sleepless night, stewing upon last year's defeat, Jack was determined to get retribution this year.

With London being wetter than an otter's pocket on Saturday, I was surprised to have a full XI still available on Sunday morning, as I assumed most members would have played serious rain cards on Saturday night. The only near dropout was Cef, who had given himself a gout flareup from what I assume must have been caused by a Henry VIII-styled banquet on Saturday. However, being a great club man, he fought through the pain to make the XI.

Surprisingly, the back pitches at Barn Elms had not become part of the Thames and were very dry. Nonetheless, we decided that playing on the Astro wicket would be the sensible option, as the uncovered grass wicket needed far too much TLC.

Unaware of whom Jack Czapalski had selected, both captains came to a gentlemen's agreement to allow Jack's XI to bat first whilst the Blues would bowl. Oh how naive Skipper Jimmy was.

The opening batsmen - Romer-Lee and Beckley - when approaching the crease, collectively said they 'had not played cricket all year'. Accounting for this, it was decided to give the new cherry to club legend Richard Mullet and one of the star bowlers from the week before, Rob Hadden. Unfortunately, this transpired to be huge hospital passes to our poor openers. The opening batters decided to compete on who could land the ball closest to Craven Cottage, with some devastating hitting to all areas of the ground.

To try and stem the flow of runs, fellow seamer Will Rothwell and former batsman-cum-seamer-cum-off spinner Hamish Fyfe were swiftly brought into the attack. While both were trying to find their bearings, the batsmen were not so considerate, continuing to take no prisoners.

The first significant chance of the match came early into Fyfe's spell. Skipper Jimmy decided rather than catching a ball straight down his throat from the dangerman, he would take the attempt straight to the chest like a prime Berbatov, much to Fyfe's utter dismay. Very embarrassing for the skip and put himself firmly in contention for dick of the day, early doors.

Skipper Jimmy decided that having seen both openers retire after their destructive innings, it would be the perfect time to bring himself on before more big hitters would come in later on. With two relatively fresh batters at the crease, we managed to slow the run rate down, with Fyfey managing to get the first breakthrough with a decent take from Jack Ward behind the stumps and finished with 1-35 off his seven overs straight through.

With fellow twirler Digby picking up where Fyfey left off from one end, we went with our own version of Mitchell Starc, Cef, bowling in duckers from the other end. While Digby teased the batsmen with too much rip at times, Cef made an instant impact picking up two wickets early doors, including one of their other big hitters, Matt Janes.

With a point to prove, Captain Jack came in next. to a hostile field of three slips, several gullies and short grabbers. However, unfortunately, he was unfazed by the field settings and hit numerous firm straight boundaries on his way to a solid 23.

During the final part of our bowling innings, Hadden and Rothwell came back into the attack, and both finished off well, grabbing two and one wickets, respectively. Their efforts at the end also helped ensure that Charlie Ellis couldn't continue his run of hitting 50s in Blues fixtures.

With The Czapalski XI declaring on a mammoth 269-8 after 34.3 overs, we knew it would be a massive task after tea to chase this down. After fuelling up with the finest delicacies from the frozen section in Tesco Express, it was time to attempt our Everest.

It was decided big and quick runs were needed early doors, which is why Luke Dickinson (who had not played cricket all year) and Youcef 'The Hammer' Hassaine were tasked with setting the boys off on a blistering chase. Unfortunately for us, Romer-Lee, who decided hitting 50 not out wasn't enough for his contribution to the day, was tasked with taking the new rock with Blues defector Charlie Ellis. Cef did a solid job taking the shine off the new ball and rotating the strike, whilst the 'out-of-practice' Luke looked in decent knick playing some lovely shots against a skilled bowling attack. Having established a strong platform, Luke was unfortunately cleaned up by Romer Lee for 12.

Next in was Wardy, who again started nicely, but then by some horrible luck, a rogue gust of wind coupled with a branch simultaneously snapping whilst attempting his shot made it look and sound like he knicked it to the keeper. Understandably he was not happy with the decision.

Following Wardy was Simon Richards. Having not been involved in a run-out in the past two weeks, he wasted no time applying himself in one with Cef. Cef, who was ticking along nicely, hit one straight to Romer-Lee, who, having already shown his prowess at batting and bowling, got a direct hit at the bowler's end, from point. Fair play.

Realising the lads were in trouble, the Skipper decided it was time to run the gauntlet. After hitting four consecutive drives for four, there were murmurs from the sideline. Could this be about to be a Headingly-esque innings in SW13? However, this was short-lived, as the fifth ball went straight to Velcro Mitts Czapalski behind the stumps.

Czapalski's next victim was Simon, who arguably got one of the balls of the day to dismiss him. Fortunately for Simon, his attempt for the world's longest duck was not captured in Play-Cricket, so the no damage to the strike rate.

The spin twins, Fyfey and Digby came in at six and seven. Digby played some lovely dabs to find the gaps, whilst Fyfey pulled a decent four (standard behaviour from him). However, sadly both of them had headlosses, each giving lollipops to close-in fielders.

Next up, Archie picked up directly where he left off last week, leaving another straight one, first ball. Lucky for him, this one wasn't caught on camera. The big question is whether he follows Eddy J into a Blues sabbatical or potentially goes for the Golden Audi (4 golden ducks in a row).

At this stage, we had resigned to the fact the game was slightly out of reach as we needed to go at about 16 an over. Nonetheless, we were treated to a very aesthetically pleasing Mullet red-inker cameo, ably supported by some great hits from Rothwell and Hadden.

Sadly the Blues were bowled out for 144 (this number might need auditing), falling short by about 125 runs. We must hand it to our hosts, who were the better side on the day. Congratulations on the win Jack Czapalski and thank you for organising.

We look forward to making it 2-1 to The Blues next season.

[updated 30 11 2023]