Our final May fixture brought a trip to a new venue for the club to play Sheen Park, a club with 3 Saturday teams. And a fine venue it was too – Sheen Common is a pretty little ground on the outskirts of Richmond Park with a nice selection of trees and benches ringing the pitch. The latter proved useful for both crowd members, who were in for a treat of a game, and tired outfielders (particular thanks goes to the family of Derek Boyle for providing my own seating arrangements between overs). The local housing was some of the more expensive in UK, but the fact that John Leslie used to own a neighbouring property shows you can’t buy nice neighbours.
The big team news was a debut for Ian Prytherch – a first success for the revamped website that Mit was very keen to highlight. Apparently he was tempted by the ‘friendliest club around’ advertising line. Gary won the toss, decided to field, and thought the friendliest thing to do was to force Ian into opening the bowling despite his preference for ‘checking what standard he had let himself in for’ first. But he needn’t have worried as his good off side line with a slight cutting action that produced plenty of movement was certainly up to WUCC standards. He also has some useful sounding connections in the culinary industry that came up during a conversation on eating/ entertainment options in Westminster over tea.
Sheen got off to a steady start, but thanks to some consistent bowling had only reached 16 when Brown got the first breakthrough in the seventh over. An uppish drive in swinging, overcast (and sometimes showery) conditions was always going to be dangerous. Curtis took his customary time over judging the flight at gully, remaining stock still until the very last moment, before flinging arms above head to take a good catch. The wicket seemed to give Brown greater confidence as he whistled a number past the edge of the incoming George on a pitch that was producing more bounce than we usually get at Fortress CP, but neither he nor Ian were able to strike again in their opening spells.
The second wicket only came in 17th over – Hasan nonchalantly plucking a fast moving ball out of the air with one hand at first slip after Greg had induced a top edge from the other opener. A further wicket followed with Hasan getting a LBW decision that the umpire took a long time to give – this left WUCC feeling marginally on top at drinks. However, a period of sloppy bowling and fielding followed that allowed Sheen to gain momentum. Hasan’s first wicket seemed to have the opposite impact on his bowling confidence that Brown’s had earlier, and a couple of balls went round or through fielders legs. For Sheen, George took advantage by despatching some loose bowling that included too many full tosses to the boundary. The youngster had a distinct resemblance to England’s test captain (nicknamed ‘Junior Root’ by teammates), and he found regular boundaries on a hard outfield that gave good value for shots played. One particular leg side half volley flick drew deserved applause from the crowd.
Despite Rowan producing a good consistent line that would usually see him pick up a couple of wickets, George passed 50 with a well-timed cut through point and accelerated from there. He was helped by a couple of drops on his way to 75 – one difficult slip catch to Hasan off Rowan, and one decidedly easier catch to Hash at mid-on that should have been taken but thudded into his chest, before thudding onto the floor.
By the time George departed thanks to a very well taken catch in the deep by Ian off Patel, Sheen had made it 146 in the 34th over. After some strong blows from the lower middle order (particularly a man bravely wearing an Alice band – but such is modern society that this went unremarked), the opening bowlers were brought back for the final overs. Brown picked up a second wicket off the toe-end edge through to Flannery behind the stumps, but overall Sheen posted a competitive 191 from their overs. One of those scores that sounds very gettable on a runs-needed-per-over basis, but needs some substantial innings to get us close.
Tea was of a high standard with a pasta salad and hot dog adding some good variety to the more standard sandwiches and desert cakes. Mention should also go to an opposition member’s dog for providing entertainment – dribbling a tennis ball with an empty coke bottle was the party piece.
The WUCC innings got off to dodgy start with Hash dropped in the first over, followed by Chai being given LBW in the second by Mit (not one to give these decisions easily but found this too plumb to ignore). Their two opening bowlers were effective with Ashberry senior – who also had 2 sons playing – finding a good consistent line, and Brennan producing a lot of swing with a more loopy action.
Some useful partnerships followed for WUCC of 35 and 20. Hash played one of his best looking innings for the club, which included a by now standard-for-him six over the bowler’s head followed by an elegant sweep for four. He ultimately departed for 22 after a good catch diving forward at point off Brennan’s bowling. Flanners also looked in good, positive scoring form, but he could not make the most of it after gloving behind for 27 having got into an awkward position from a good ball from George (and surprised some by being honest enough to walk).
WUCC had reached 67 from 17 overs before the Sheen captain called on a first team bowler (the quicker Luke variety of the Ashberrys) to add some extra venom into the attack. Quick, accurate and with plenty of movement – i.e. far too good for our middle order. He got three quality wickets, with the highlight being a delivery that took a small chunk out of the top of off stump to remove a bemused Saxby. There was some discussion of his pace on the side line – Curtis thought 70 mph, but then he also informed us later that he was (a) better than Sameer at batting in his youth, and (b) was a specialist runner in distances ranging between 100m and marathon. So maybe lets stick with closer to 65 mph.
Patel and Dean were the other unlucky batsmen to fall to the quicker Ashberry, though note should go to a defiant and brilliantly timed first-ball four from Dean over the quick bowler’s head (ask Gary for video if not already seen – though make sure you are very specific about the video you want from him or you might end up in real trouble with your other half).
WUCC’s chances seemed slim at that point, but an excellent partnership of 72 between Hasan and Rowan got the visitors right back into it. Coming in just 11 overs, it also produced the acceleration in scoring required. Hasan gave one of his best innings against some challenging bowling, mixing sound defence with some excellently timed strokes. Rowan also produced an impressive range of shot – front foot drives, back foot drives, cuts and pulls all being brought out of his well supplied locker. Even the returning L Ashberry was met with some good defence and efficient strike rotation.
Hasan ultimately departed for 67 before he could push home the advantage though – bowled off the accurate spin bowling of the third Ashberry in the attack, who really slowed the run rate down effectively. Rowan was run out soon after, attempting an ‘ambitious’ run that resulted in his shot locker being slammed shut. With that swing in momentum, the game was coming to nerve-shredding finish with 27 needed from the final 4.5 overs and 2 wickets in hand. Curtis needed a runner after hurting a knee trying to take a spectactular catch late in the Sheen innings – and for some reason WUCC decided a c.50 year old observing Ramadan was the right call (maybe someone took the wrong meaning of the word ‘faster’?)
Another dodgy decision that brought a crucial error also occurred at this time. As Brown had to pad up, the scoring pencil was given to Patel. He was the closest person, but definitely not the right one – he had no real idea how to score despite having played the game from a very young age. This resulted in real confusion on the number of overs remaining for the remainder of the match. By the time Ian’s debut innings ended on 4, a more reliable check of the scorebook showed that WUCC had just 7 balls left (rather than the initially thought 13) to get the remaining 12.
It was down to injured Curtis and Brown to get them from the last over, bowled by George. After some singles off the initial balls, Brown gave the team a moment of hope with a firmly stuck 4 down the ground on the penultimate delivery. As the crowd drew its breath for the crescendo of excitement, a repeat down-the-ground stroke was tried, but the connection was not of the required quality. The desperate running got through 2 runs before Sheen calmly took off the bails for a 2 run victory.
So a loss, but a very entertaining one with a number of positives: some good looking contributions with the bat in particular, a new player who will hopefully return for more exciting instalments, an opposition found that has a good ground + tea + welcoming spirit combination. There was also the bonus of a good pub (The Plough) close by for a bank holiday drink that was greatly enjoyed for those with the time. A long discussion to find prime responsibility for the two runs that lost us the game resulted – a summary table below demonstrates it was a team effort though Patel probably edged it as prime suspect.
Individual Blame Game Executive Summary:
Hash – Dropped their best batsman
Chai – Duck
Flannery – 3 crucial byes conceded as wicketkeeper
Furrukh – Ropey post wicket bowling (though fine 67 also gets MoM)
Saxby – As skipper, takes partially responsibility for all other team member’s faults as he chose to put them in that position
Mit – Inability to score and did not give a clear wide while umpiring
Greg – Ball went between legs in field for an additional 3 runs
Rowan – Ran himself out when well poised to see us home
Ian – Distracted batting effort with talk of great sounding Thai food offering
Curtis – Injuring himself in attempt to win catch of season again
Peter – Gave the scoring pencil to Mit, and could not produce the batting blows needed at the end