Saturday, July 04, 2009

Goresbrook V's Grays & Chadwell 4th XI

So this was it my first League Match. The match was at home against Goresbrook. Initially I'd had all sorts of pre-conceptions about the standard of the cricket being so much higher and an expectation that because it was League Cricket it was no longer friendly and I'd be expecting to be sledged if I got a chance to bat. I also had expectations that there would be official umpires and we wouldn't be umpiring ourselves as it was a League Match. Not so on all counts.

We played on the pitch nearest the flats, I personally have no preferences between either but look forward to seeing some nice ruts, not that they're ever on the side that I want them (Off-side). The pitch looked indifferent, bouncing a ball on it didn't elicit much bounce at all.

The weather was sunny with a bit of cloud and a bit of a breeze with no real threat from rain. The wind was westerly coming from the Bowling green across the pitch and slightly diagonal so my preferemce would be to bowl from the Flats end which I ended up doing.

The Team

The only bloke I knew of from team list posted on the club website (See below) was Alex McLellan. All of the others were completely unknown to me and I didn't have a clue who they were or the standard that they'd be playing at. So yesterday I went on the website to try and establish what kind of a bowling attack we'd have and try and ascertain who the quicks would be. It'd obviously be easy as they'd have far better averages that the spinners hence they always start the bowling in them matches? So doing my research I came across the following data....

J. Warren - No data - Decoy?
J. Laurence - Batsman with good figures.
J. Aldwinkle 1-0-10-0
S. Farr 5-0-47-0
A. Mortlock - Batsman with good figures.
C. Knight 3-0-46-1
J. Milsom 7-2-15-2
E. Fuat - No data - Decoy?
G. Scott 2-0-15-1
A. McLellan* 53-2-333-9
D. Thompson

Having extracted that data I was beginning to see a different picture of how this might go. This line-up looked a lot worse on paper than the Sunday teams I've been playing in for the last 2 and a bit seasons. Without seeing these people I'm expecting a young team or a team made up of almost entirely new blokes. This certainly looked interesting and from my understanding of how this cricket lark is organised my expectation would be that the oppo would be on parr with our team and that someone would have seen to it that this was the case?

Not so, some of the blokes on the list couldn't make it for a start so we had a couple of blokes who I did know that looked as though they'd be able to make a definition one of which was Terry Hills of the Hills Dynasty at Grays & Chadwell. Terry's the bloke that trains us over the winter and shows us all how to bat, his stats for his career at G&CCC run into the 10's of thousands as far as I'm aware so it looked as though the batting would be in safe hands. Additionally we had Glen who I've seen hit the ball in the past so we weren't going to be confined to boys. But as they all started to turn up there seemed to be an awful lot of boys in G&CCC shirts and the only other people were 1st team players. I figured all these boys who all looked about 14-16 years old would be all these anonymous players on our team.

The Oppo

The Opposition on the other hand didn't look like 4th XI players. They all looked fit and up for it and more importantly for the most part in an age bracket of 21 - 35. Whereas we were 80% 14-16 year olds. 3 blokes in the 45-60 range and Wizard who's in his 20's. But we had Terry Hills so it was okay. The Oppo were made up of a mixture of ethnicities once again meaning that some of these bloke have probably been playing cricket since they were 6 months old. All in all it looked like a total mis-match and that we were in for a mullering.

It then got worse. Wizard who was the captain came back from the toss to let us know that we were batting first. It looked as though they were intent on getting the game over and done with and home by 3pm or something stupid. Now if this was a Sunday game they may have batted first to give us a chance as our bowling my have meant the game would be extended, but the impression I had from the outset they could see the structure of our team and they figured that they'd clean us up for less than 50. It just so happened that Wizard let on later that was their intention, they didn't think we'd make it to 50 even, so you can see what kind of a game was coming up.

The Batting

Jack Plane and Jack Day opened the batting both around about 14-15 years old facing a a bloke that looked like he was in his 30's determined to get home before 3pm. I can't bat so I can only praise these blokes for standing up and coming forward to open against such an ill-matched opposition. Word on the street later in the day was that this team was their 3rd XI with some blokes missing (3 of them)? And the numbers made up with 3 blokes out of their 2nd XI. We'd played them a few times already it seems (This team) and they'd thrashed our 2nd XI. The two Jacks got off to a steady start not scoring any runs for at least the first 3 overs. Then right at the end of the 3rd over Jack P hit the ball out to Mid On and it looked like it was going to be caught but dropped short and then was mis-fielded, so a run was on. The fielder recovered and saw a chance to throw down the stumps and get Jack P out, he threw the ball and it missed the stumps, but then the bloke backing up missed the ball and it went over the boundary! Next ball Jack P was gone clean bowled to be replaced by Esh Fuat. Within the next couple of balls the bowler takes the other Jacks wickets clean bowled again to be replaced by Stuart Farr. The score was soon 4 for 2 off 4 overs, it was not looking good.

Stuart hits a four but is then is given LBW. Then out comes our saviour Terry Hills. Our coach and a batsman with many years experience and the kingpin of our innings all our hopes and aspirations are in Terry's trusted hands, he is our only chance. Esh hits a lovely four out to Fine Leg and by the 7th over we're on 24 for 3, but all the runs are coming from Esh and not Terry. Terry is obviously getting his eye in and settling down before he lets loose? One of the kids that is queued up next to go in is given the incentive of a quid for every run he makes, his Grandad then round it up to a fiver by offering 4 quid for every run he makes. The runs tick over slowly but it's all down to Esh. 30 for 3 off 11. Then suddenly while Terry is on strike I see the bails flying off the top of the stumps hit by the ball, I have to look again and sure enough one of the bails is still in the air gone well beyond the wicket keeper. Hold on - this isn't in the script - this is Terry Hills, this is............ S**t....... He's gone, suddenly the gravity of what has happened sinks in, this is like Kevin Pieterson being bowled for 0 in the Ashes amidst a top order collapse.

"Wiz - how many runs did Terry make"? I ask.

"None mate...... He's gone for 0". We all sit stunned looking at Terry making his way back across the field, another young boy - the "fiver per run kid" runs towards Terry and it's all in slow motion like some catastrophic movie, his name is James, he's been sitting there anticipating going out and facing the bloke that's been bowling everyone, in the confusion and the surreal world that is Post Terry Hills gone for nought the match just becomes like a scene out of Donnie Darko, somewhere someone says something about there being a new bowler, the scene speeds up, Terry's there saying something about the ball swinging and he's talking to me and someone else but it doesn't seem real, nothing's right - it's all wrong and happening at the wrong speeds like in Donnie Darko and I have a flash back and see the bails flying through the air in slow motion again. The giant Rabbit runs up to the stumps with it's ugly big ears sticking out of his head and bowls the ball James blocks it and survives.

Eventually reality returns and I'm looking at my phone thinking should I ring Michelle and tell her to pick me up early? All is lost we're now in a total state of disarray. I'm sent out to umpire and I get to watch at close hand how we capitulate, their captain at every single ball is barking orders and encouragement as though it's a county match or something. One by one we go down and The Wizard is looking to at least reach fifty just to prove the Oppo wrong. Esh does well surviving several batsmen but eventually he's clean bowled as well. Terry joins me umpiring and as another man goes he tells me to leave the umpiring as Glen makes his way out for his innings. Wizard rushes me along as I'm next and I'm no-where near ready. Thankfully Glen holds out and I'm ready in time. Glen is soon dismissed and out I go like a rabbit in the headlights/lamb to the slaughter etc. Glen stops me half way which is customary for batsmen to do. It's where they share insider information, usually it's just as effective as someone stopping me and telling me this weeks lottery numbers in Latvian! "It's straight - not swinging - but it's on the stumps". That actually makes sense for once. The kid that's there meets me in the middle another customary ritual for batmen he looks to me as I'm older, looking for answers to all his questions and doubts, I look at him for the same because he's probably been playing cricket twice as long as I have even though he's only 16 or so. Neither of us say anything - I feel I have to say something to break the stale mate as we stand there and 11 of the enemy stare at us wondering why we're standing there saying nothing to each other. "I've got nothing to say son - I'm not a batsman". He looks confused and distraught and turns away looking lost and alone. The umpire say "Two to come right arm over the wicket". The geezer runs in and the balls a yorker and I stab the bat into the ground in front of the stumps and it bounces away harmlessly. Similar thing the next time and I survive. There's a sequence of events that occur quickly and the young bloke is out leaving me out there to soon be joined by The Wizard a kindred spirit - another Wrist Spinner. I meet half way.

"What are we going to do Wiz - this is a bit of a laugh you and me last men standing"?

"I'm not bothered mate we've made the 50, I think I might have a bash and go all out for it - I'll see".

One of his first balls he leaves. The next ball I'll transcribe his description from my notes It was an Allan Donald type ball that came off the top of my bat and hit me under the chin in the neck. It looked bad I thought he'd have been pretty shaken up but he was alright. Despite taking one in the neck at high speed he gets hold of the next one and looks as though he's going to get it through the covers but the bloke dives on the ball and stops it. I'm looking at this and thinking I can see where this is going.... The next ball sure enough a wild swing and there's bails and stumps flying all over the shop. I'm not out for 0.

Looking at the scorebook I can't make sense of it but I seem to recall we were set the task of bowling them all out for 52 to win the game. For a while it was suggested that we carry on playing and have teas after. We had tea instead. Initially I was up or a bowl but as I sat there contemplating it I realised that they had nothing to lose and might come after my bowling big time and I could get battered. Terry (The Mortal) Hills suggested let the lads bowl and that's what the Wizard did. In the end they didn't do a bad job and they took 2 wickets one of which Esh caught? I came on in the last over with 2 wickets down to try and bowl the remainder of the team out with only 3 runs in hand. First ball was very close and nearly got an edge with a Leg Break. The 2nd ball the geezer hit it to Long Off for 4 to win the game.

All in all a thoroughly depressing outcome. I think I'll stick to Sunday games if that's what League Cricket is like.

Roy turned up during the match showing the outcome of his fielding last week stopping one of my legside balls reaching the boundary. Massively beyond the call of duty during a Sunday friendly match and I can only apologise Roy for causing you so much grief! Roy went to hospital straight from the match and wasn't released till Tuesday and they're still not sure what is he's done and he's got to have a MRI scan this week. So good lukc Roy and I hope the news is good and you're back on your feet again very soon.

Finally; I thought it was just me that was thinking that the oppo were only too aware of the fact that they were a far superior side to us and could have easily batted first to see how well we might have bowled and therefore set us something impossible to chase with our batting instead of doing this way round where the game is simply cut short and you end up with a situation where The Wizard was feeling terrible about taking a tenner off everyone for two pound fifty's worth of a game. It wasn't The Wizard's fault it the Oppo's. Someone who know's a lot more about this stuff than me made the point that this was a fairly frequent approach that this team take but there maybe a downside to it in that their batsmen in the middle order don't get any match practice and it may be to their detriment in the longer run? I think also surely if your were a Middle order batsman who didn't bowl particularly you might get fed up with the lack of involvement in the game?