Sunday, August 28, 2011

Controversy at the U13 semi final

So, today was the semi-final in the U13's league. The contenders for the title are us - (Basildon & Pitsea) our opponents for a place in the final - Rayleigh and the other match was between the favourites Orsett and their oppo's Leigh On Sea. As mentioned earlier this week my son Ben wasn't selected and was the 12th man, so we were up this morning with all the gear ready to support the team and Ben to take anyones place if they didn't show up or got a ball in the teeth during the game.

The weather looked iffy, bright and breezy, what photographers would call cloudy bright and what weather men would describe as having the potential for a heavy shower. Initially because of me we ended up at the wrong pitch, but a phone call to Neil soon sorted that out and we arrived at about 6 overs in and 1 wicket down and the score at about 30, so they were doing okay at this point.

We settled down to watch the game, as usual there was a big turn out of supporters for B&P despite the fact that we were the away team.

I reckon again like the Southend match earlier in the year we outnumbered the home support by three to one easily. The bowling was on the money generally and the fielding supported the bowlers efforts, Anthony Ayres and Ryan stopping a few balls between them that would have gone for at least two and possibly four. The Rayleigh batting looked okay and their scoring was steady with communication between the batsmen ensuring for the most part that risky runs weren’t made. Nothing un-toward happened throughout the game except for one contentious run out shout that everyone went up for – team and supporters and the Square Leg umpire didn’t give it. Some of our supporters were shouting from the boundary at the umpire and had to be reminded by Mike Blerkom that the umpires decision had to be respected, football fans I guess getting a little carried away? I’d shot a picture of the stumping and had a look at it on the camera screen and you can clearly see that the bails have been removed but on closer inspection see below, it's inconclusive, the shutter speed was so fast that it's frozen the ball in flight not leaving any blur-trail to indicate where the ball's come from. Added to that the Nathan isn't near the stumps either so the picture ends up offering no clarification at all.

Ryan Davies bowled well with three wickets off his spell which was 3 or 4 overs, and he didn’t concede that many runs either. Trying to take pictures it’s not that easy to keep track of what’s going on, but I got the sense that no-one else bowled out of their skin particularly, there were one or two mediocre performances, but generally the team bowled quite well as a unit and the job was done pretty well in that the oppo scored 101 off their 20 overs for 7 wickets.

During teas, the trainers and G-man had an inspirational chat with the lads ‘Don’t go made trying to smack the ball everywhere'. That kind of thing. They all sat there looking quite anxious and I don't think any of them went out and got any biscuits or drinks!!!

The game resumed under rain leaden clouds but huge expanses of blue sky either side of us. B&P batted well. Sonny Downes hitting a series of 4's in amongst some singles. Reagan Mead in support struck a couple of balls that they ran 2 on before being bowled by a small fair haired lad in the 2nd over, Reagan playing too early and hitting the ball straight to extra cover for an easy catch, you could see he wasn't happy with the way he was dismissed. Harrison Morris then took up the task of getting us on track for a win and he followed in the same vein as Sonny hitting a couple of boundaries. Sonny was next to fall to a catch made very low on the ground bowled by a bigger fair haired lad in the fifth over, but by this point our run rate in comparison to theirs at the same point in the game was better. Sonny fell with the score at 26 for 2.

Mitchell McLeod wasn't at the crease for long having replaced Sonny, he only faced one or two balls before swinging the bat and being bowled clean by the 1st bowler. By the 8th over we were half way almost, at 48 runs for 3. Around about this stage they brought on their Wrist Spinner, some of us had seen him last year and he was pretty tidy and took 2 or 3 wickets in just a couple of overs. John Bonnet passed me saying 'Watch this kid - he's pretty good', He finished his spell on 3-1-7-0 our lads had survived. Jack Green made his exit after being run out after getting 14 runs. Harrison Morris scored a steady 20 before being caught.

The score at this stage had us still in front and with Harrison Morris and Jack Green gone we were nearing the tail. Anthony Ayres made a quick exit via another run out which had always looked risky and it was his call to go for it, he only gained us another 1 run and all this under an ever darkening sky. The last of the recognised batsmen Harrison Birch and Nathan Hubble (Wicket Keeper) went in with a mission to maintain the lead and keep inching up the run rate difference to put the game safely in our hands. It was looking do-able we were in the leading and ball by ball extending that lead. There were 3 overs to go and Hubble and Birch looked to have it in the bag with just 12 runs needed, my heart was in my mouth 4 an over, yeah it could happen, but the next ball could be a wicket and then we're into the tail-enders and anything could happen, it looked like a bit of a nail biter ending and then it rained. The rain didn't stop either a big black strip of cloud coming in from the west ran west to east right over us. Everyone legged it to the pavillion. The score stood at 89 off of 16 overs.

Crammed under the canopy of the pavillion everyone peered out as the rain looked to be here for quite some time and it wasn't letting up. Even from more than 80 yards we could see that the already wet wicket wasn't looking to good. All around us people wondered what was going to happen with the game, had we won because of the rain? People were saying that their lads couldn't play next week, others were saying that there'd have to be a re-match, but the re-match would then be played with a different team?

Neil and some of the coaches were now getting agitated because a game that we had in the bag was now being potentially called off for a re-match with only 3 overs to go and us in a position where we'd have won all for the sake of another 10 - 15 minutes of play. Others were saying that we'd see what would happen if the rain would stop. Some people were grumbling about the fact that their lads were supposed to be at football, the atmosphere was one of simmering anger. G-Man was thumbing through the rule books looking to see what the ruling on rained off games was.

A crowd gathered peering over his shoulder looking for a solution that would see the correct outcome. The rain in the meantime had faltered slightly and was now only light. In the west a blue sky was moving in as the rain cloud petered out and the rain finally stopped. Both teams made their way out on to the pitch, people were getting annoyed. Clusters of people discussed what was happening, but no-one seemed to know, the feeling seemed to be that now the rain had stopped, we would all wait to see how the wicket would drain, but the wicket had standing water on it and it was already water-logged when the game had started.
Their annoyance was stepped up by the arrival of a bag of sawdust. At the start of the game because the wicket had been wet when B&P were bowling we'd requested sawdust for H&S reasons, but were told that there wasn't any and now with the prospect of their lads bowling on a wet wicket a large bag of sawdust suddenly appeared, it all seemed a bit fishy.

The sawdust was put down and we all waited for another 20 or 30 minutes, it looked as though the oppo was happy to play the last three overs, but then of course they would be, they had sawdust down, the ball wasn't going to bounce, all they really needed to do was bowl straight, but we were caught between a rock and a hard place, if we didn't bat, the other ideas were to have a bowl off which had been suggested by the district league manager or call it off and play again next week. All outcomes worked against us, the game was in the bag as far as we were concerned and all the alternative options levelled the playing field when it was in our favour half an hour earlier. Despite all the heated meetings in the back rooms of the pavillions it looked as though we were going to be stitched up and the best option looked to be to try and bat the three overs and get the 12 runs.

The bats were ready and the Rayleigh boys had taken the field and then the rain resumed again. It was the last straw, some of our officials were saying 'If they're that desperate to win and they want it so much that they'd go through by cheating - let them'. Shortly with nothing resolved and with the rain now completely rendering the pitch unsuable we all drifted home with a decision seemingly being placed back in the hands of the league manager.

One of the daftest rumors was that at a pre-match meeting the issue of a rained off match had been raised, but the Rayleigh contingent simply said 'It wont rain' and despite several attempts to get an answer on the rain issue, they'd simply come back with the same answer..... It wont rain.

later that day we all got a text saying in the end the situation was resolved by the use of the Duckworth Lewis method and that we'd won by 7 runs and justice was finally done. We were through to the final against the mighty Orsett. Meanwhile spies at the Orsett game were texting saying that Orsett had turned over their opposition (leigh on sea)for 23 runs winning by 10 wickets.

The next day was fun day and the lads were given their moment of celebration somewhat belatedly and subdued during the day, but the crowd cheered and celebrated their historic win.

See also Dave Ayres official response to the match