Detail: 24-09-2023 - Chertsey
Result: W by 2 runs
Final match report of the season (be warned, it's probably also the longest).
Blues at Chertsey 2023
The hero arrived late, wearing blue sliders, and possessing no other footwear. At this point it didn't look as if he'd be the man to rescue the Blues..., but we're getting ahead of ourselves.
An unfortunate cycling injury to Brando (get well soon cobber) meant Glenn was handed the tricky task of finding XI players for the last fixture of the season, when many have turned their focus elsewhere and kit has been packed away. He soon found himself, in time-honoured Blues fashion, scrambling for players. Among the excuses was a finger injury which appears to prevent the victim writing match reports, and dog-sitting duty.
Eventually, largely thanks to Naga, an XI was found, and eight of them had arrived at the picturesque Chertsey ground by the toss. Given the absence of fielders the skipper chose to bat, having acquiesced to a request for 40 overs on the grounds we were unlikely to play the full 80.
Fortunately the middle-order then arrived, but only after Jack had been pressed into opening. Forty overs to score the 36 required to overhaul Jenks in the Blues batting ranks, what could go wrong?
Alas, having been dropped off his first ball Jack was caught off his third, 35 runs short. With a potential 78.1 overs remaining a long day ahead beckoned before he could head home to watch the rugby.
While the team wisely gave Jack a wide berth Kapil, the first of our four ringer debutants, joined Nick Ellerby at the crease. It's become clear over the course of this season that while Blues' core playing group are often in indifferent form we have a very strong pool of ringers, and this match was no exception.
Kapil and Nick proceeded to add 101 runs in 106 balls with Kapil making 66 of those off 52 balls. Blues hit eight sixes during the innings and Kapil smote four of them. Unfortunately Kapil went in the over before drinks and Nick (for a fine 40) in the over after. Sanjeev (18), Naga (27) and Jimmy L (23) rebuilt the innings and at 189-4 Blues with eight overs remaining were looking at a commanding score. However, that soon became 190-7 with Mullet and Jimmy H both recording blobs.
Enter Kyle, our second teenager of the season (and also sourced from Richmond), who smacked an excellent 35 not out off 19 balls, including successive fours off the last two balls after boldly turning down a single with the skipper at the non-striker's end itching to get off the mark. Those two fours would prove important.
Blues ultimately posted 245-9 off their 40 overs. Against a team with several kids and a few veterans it looked like it should be enough.
Eight overs into the Chertsey innings that view looked optimistic with our hosts 73-0. Showing no respect for his venerable opposing skipper their opener had launched into Glenn whose four overs went for 41, inflicting serious damage on a carefully nurtured economy rate.
At the other end the fourth ringer, left-arm pacer Yash was faring better, except edges were either eluding hands or falling out of them.
The skip turned to Jimmy H. Having been given out lbw first ball it's fair to say Jimmy wasn't a happy bunny. This translated into a spell that got quicker and quicker, especially after more edges and a drop. Behind the stumps Jack got deeper and deeper.
At 109-0 in the 13th that pace forced the breakthrough, though in unhappy circumstances as one of the openers, on 56 off 48, attempted a pull shot and top-edged into his helmet-less temple. It was a sickening blow and play was halted for a few minutes before he was helped up and off the field. Thankfully he reported the following day he had nothing worse than a black eye and a headache.
An end, nevertheless, had been opened up, and Blues advanced through it. Kyle, whose left-arm spin had squeezed the scoring rate, soon dismissed the No.3 and James got the No.4. Then he saw off the skipper, who had been chasing 102 to be Chertsey's top scorer of the season. Like Jack he'd fallen exactly 35 runs short, though having made a 49-ball 77 he was feeling rather happier.
Jimmy H finished with 2-61 which didn't do justice to a seriously quick and testing spell. Replacing him was Rich, the other duck-maker which meant, with Glenn having opened, the entire innings from end that was delivered by bowlers who did not make a run between them.
With a wily mix of seam, swing and changes of pace Rich soon slowed the scoring. Supported by a couple of tight overs of leg-spin from Sanjeev at the other end the rate was creeping up. Nevertheless, with ten overs to go Chertsey had clawed their way to 195-3 and even with one batter at A&E the five-an-over target meant WinViz heavily favoured them.
But The Mullett (3-30) proceeded to produce his best spell season taking tree wickets for one run in eight balls. Blues sensed victory could yet be within their grasp. With Yash brought back early to further tighten the screw Chertsey's equation went up to 23 off the last three overs.
Rich would bowl one but what of the other two? Prowling out there on the boundary was Jimmy L, as yet unused. But the skip also had overs left, and a keen desire for a pair of wickets to make it 30 for the season and end the summer in a blaze of glory.
Some independent counsel was needed. Keeper Jack was consulted. As subtly as possible he pointed out Jimmy 'might be harder to hit'.
It Jimmy who had arrived in sliders. Fortunately the skip had thrown a pair of white trainers in the car for net bowling. Armed with a thick pair of socks Jimmy's size 8's managed to make the size 10.5's fit.
Anyone familiar with Billy's Boots, the comic-strip in which a hapless schoolboy turns into an ace goalpoacher because he finds a pair of Dead Shot Keen's old boots will know where the credit lies for what happened next. But I suspect most readers are too young, and besides, it wasn't really the boots that did the trick.
Jimmy's opening over went for eight. With Rich was heaved over cow for six in the next, but only three runs and a bye off the other five balls.
One over to go, five to win, three wickets in hand. Jimmy to deliver.
Slower ball, beautifully disguised, batter swishing at thin air. Two scrambled singles. Then another slower ball and the senior batter is bowled for 29. His son, next in, misses and is run out for a sacrificial nought, Jack calmly throwing the ball to Jimmy to do the honours.
So the last ball of the day's 80th over, and the final one of a season that began at the back end of April, arrives. In the gathering gloom the last pair, a couple of quick young scamps, are at the crease, three to win, two to tie. It's 2019 all over again. Nick even starts suggesting a super over if there's a tie, but it's getting dark, we've done 79.5 overs already and Jack wants to see the rugby. Let's get it won.
The field is in. Jimmy waits at the end of his mark. 'Whatever happens, into the gloves,' commands Jack, whose day is ending much better than it started.
Jimmy produces another unhittable delivery. The ball strikes the pads and squirts towards The Mullett at backward point. The kids start sprinting. I can hear Ian Smith in my ears, 'they're gonna push for two, they've got to go'.
The Mullett calmly gathers, Jack waits. And waits. Time stands still. It's not exactly Jason Roy swooping in and Jos Butler diving for the stumps. But eventually Rich carefully lobs the ball in, Jack whips the bails off and the kid's out by 'the barest of margins'.
OK, he's actually still halfway down the track, but who's measuring?
Amid the drama no one even notices we've finished on a hat-trick of sorts, one bowled and two run-outs. Take a bow Jimmy. What a finish.
[updated 28 11 2023]