With Ploughmans putting out two teams on Sunday, there was always a slight fear that we’d be spread too thin to be competitive. No such worries for ‘Blue’, however, as they took on the mysterious Island Vale CC. Very little could be found on these guys beforehand and, as the agreed start time came and went with only one member of the opposition in attendance, it became glaringly obvious why. For anyone who has played club cricket in this country for a decent amount of time will testify, administration and time-keeping aren’t the strongest suit for West Indian teams. Frankly, it’s the kind of thing that winds me up even more than Gulbadin Naib’s captaincy. It’s infuriating. They finally arrived (in dribs and drabs) on The Hollies, and with the game reduced to 35 overs, your scribe had calmed down enough to accept the situation and went out to umpire the first few overs.
It was only the first few though as we lost two wickets fairly swiftly. Trent Catanzariti has been a nice addition to the Club this season. An affable, cheery, Aussie with a laid back demeanour… Kinda like Laney was 20 years ago. In fact, could Trent be ‘The New Laney’ ? He opened with another laid back individual, the languid Kesh Wanigasekara, and the pair of them had to deal with dolly drops from one end and a Rastafarian with decent gas at the other. Said Rasta bowled Trent for 12 (not before Trent had clubbed him to the boundary three times) and then accounted for debutant, Dani, with a really good nut two balls later. Chris Lilford making his first appearance in far too long strode to the crease to steady the ship. And that’s exactly what he did. Kesh and ‘Lilf’ put on 61 for the 3rd wicket pretty effortlessly by making batting simple. Keeping out the straight ones and latching onto anything loose. Lilf was particularly punishing of anything around middle or leg stump. Such serene progress had the two made, it was something of a shock when Kesh top edged a shortish delivery and departed for a solid 20. Parrish batted at No.5 and did his best to bat around Chris, who was now beginning to look very comfortable, before he was caught at midwicket. I then joined Chris and one of the first things I did whilst out there was congratulate him on his fifty, brought up with a tickle round the corner. It was a really tidy, efficient, gem of an innings played with the minimum of fuss. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of it from Chris in the weeks to come! Island Vale mixed up their bowling up at one end but persevered with their other ‘quick’ from the Orchard End, who by now had come round the wicket and started to threaten Chris’s off stump a little more, and eventually got his reward with a straightish ball that beat Lilf’s bat before thumping into his pads for a relatively simple LBW decision. Chris out for 65. I hit a car at one point and then deposited the quick into the orchard before trying to arrogantly repeat the trick on the next ball and got cleaned up for 30. By the way, #RaceToTheChurch is not PCC going all evangelical on you but simply an initiative to see which Ploughman can hit the church with a six first. For those of you who played at Gunnersbury, the Church is now the new tennis courts. Another debutant, Joe Hookings (a mate of Grayzer’s from Devon) had replaced Chris and Bob ‘Freeway’ Keogh replaced me. Both played lovely little cameos and put on a great 44 run partnership for the 7th wicket, biffing and bunting the ball around to substantial effect and taking The Plough over the 200 mark in the process. Joe made 19* and Freeway 17*. PCC finished on 214 for 7 off their 35.
Tea was taken just in time to see James Vince actually do something good in an England shirt.
In order to keep Island Vale’s big hitters in check (well, they talked a good game anyway) we needed two opening spells to really set the tone, so it was a brave bit of Captaincy from Simon to give the new ball to two chaps he’d never seen bowl before! It turned out to be pretty inspired decision in the end as the third debutant of the day, Gurtaaj, immediately found a good line and length from the Orchard End, causing both batsmen issues and was unlucky not to take a wicket in his opening spell of five overs. From the other end, Joe bowls left arm over (useful), and his first ball was a beauty, swinging back into the right-hander he found a thick outside edge that unfortunately flew through 3rd slip for four. He continued to move the ball around and was proving awkward to get away as the partnership restricted the oppo to about 25 runs off the first ten overs. The pressure that created finally bore fruit in the 13th over when, clearly feeling the pressure to up the run rate, the opening batsmen failed to communicate properly and Matt Jones calmly picked the ball up from cover and threw it into Kesh to whip the bails off with the No.2 well short of his ground. Jonesy (2 for 42 off 7) was in the thick of the action having taken over from Joe and he bowled as well as I’ve seen him bowl for a while now. He really concentrated on trying to bowl at off stump and the lack of pace he provided really worked in our favour as the Island Vale batsmen played some really ugly old hoiks here and there as they tried desperately to up the rate. Matt eventually got his reward and actually removed their two best bats – the dangerous looking No.3 caught plumb in front and the Curtley Ambrose look-a-like who’d grafted for his 61, playing on when looking to plant Jonesy back over his head. Those two scalps proved key in the end as a steady procession of Island Vale batsmen came and went as Simon mixed up the bowling with a combination of Lonnen (2 for 23), Parrish (0 for 28), Catanzariti (2 for 22) chipping away, helped by some solid fielding all round (special mention to Dani at this point, as he was something of a ball magnet all day and definitely ‘wore’ a few for the cause!) before the openers Joe (1 for 30) and Gurtaaj (1 for 12) returned to pick up a deserved wicket each. The game ended somewhat ingloriously with Lonnen bullying a 12 year old (by bowling a slow straight one that he simply missed!) with the opposition 50 odd runs short of their target.
What must be said is that Island Vale and their supporters were a lovely bunch with one old gent in particular providing us with laughs. It was a truly well-spirited game of friendly cricket, with both teams doing their bit to ensure a fun day for everyone. Sunday cricket as it should be and they’re very much one to consider keeping on the fixture list if possible (just tell them we’re starting at noon next time and we might get going by half 1 if we’re lucky!). Finishing at nearly 8pm on a Sunday is annoying (not least because it eats into valuable beer time) but surprisingly, buoyed by our performance on the day, England’s performance at Edgbaston and a quick post-match safety briefing, I floated home from DSG a very happy Ploughman, not actually bothered in the slightest.
More days like this one please!