It would be a day of too few spectacular individual performances at DSG on a truly delightful Sunday as Ploughmans Blue took on the unseen, but evidently formidable, Spartans CC under a gracious ‘let’s play cricket’ sky.
After losing the toss and being sent into bowl, Sunday’s Ploughman blue side took the field, led by our new favourite headband on our one and only, Si Carson. Starting with only 9 players as we waited on a north London household who, it can only be assumed, fondled the wrong balls deep into the morning, the fielding gods proved less kind than their weather compatriots.
Opening up with the ever-reliable Earl, Liam Gray from the sightscreen end, and Chris Silvapulle from the other sightscreen end, Spartans opening batsmen made the most of a thin fielding side and a tight bowling attack, many backing up from notable Saturday performances. The batsmen latched onto anything short and on the pads, swiping across the line, at times unconvincingly, as the ball slipped through fielding hands more often than not, leading to quick runs and missed chances.
Off to a flier at 0-40 odd from the first 8 overs, Plough heads drooped early and the notions of a potentially long and frustrating experience in the field loomed over us. In need of a lift and a fielder or two, an inspired double bowling change saw new man Yasir with ball in hand and our one-of-a-kind, Niraj Tailor. Yasir tied the batsmen down with some truly metronomic lines and lengths, finding the edge many times without luck but buying us time to fill the gaping holes in the field.
With 11 Ploughman now on the field, a shift in energy followed as runs slowed. Our first wicket would come courtesy of Mr Tailor in his 3rd over. A pitched up, looping teaser encouraged a vicious sweep from their lead bat, who was completely deceived in the flight, missing the ball as it crashed into his stumps. At 1-78 there was still plenty of work to do, but with the right man at the helm, the barrage was opened and the next 9 wickets fell for just over 100 runs, including a delightful loop again from Niraj, slicing a delicate outside edge of their number 3 bat and taken behind by yours truly. Niraj finishing with an inspired 4-45. Catches coming off his other two wickets from Mr Safe Hands Liam Gray at first slip and Tom Lane on the boundary. Oh wait no – that one went down. Iskander Eaton at mid wicket 😉
Iskander also proved a true force to be reckoned with with the ball, a double wicket maiden in his first over! The in-form batsman and a crafty right arm offie finishing with an offensive 4-9, including a delightful stumping from our substitute keeper in Sandeep after we swapped gloves to allow my leg spin to be rumoured about, though who could take Mr Eaton out of the attack as wickets flowed and the runs didn’t.
New boy in the team (though a familiar face along the sidelines) in Anusha finished a very tidy spell of left arm medium on debut, cementing our tightened screws at the back end of the innings. Spartans finishing all out for a very respectable 186, but the Plough feeling confident and pleased with the splurges in wickets. Tom Lane also capped off his treasured fielding performance on the boundary with an over at the end, consisting of 8 deliveries, 1 wicket and 15 runs. Love that!
Big shout out again to Yasir for his unrewarded though delicious spell of bowling in partnership with Niraj, definitely deserving credit for the frustration of the batsmen who would later lose their wickets.
We opened our batting display against a very, very tidy bowling attack with our aforementioned North London household in Tom Lane and Iskander. The bowlers bowled fast, straight and effectively as our boys defended well and pounced on anything short. An opening stand of a very attractive 30 came to an end as Tom lost his off stump to a piercing, full paced yorker. A good one.
Rob Keogh in and number 3 came and went as a self-confessed running mix-up saw him back in the unwalled dressing room and their bowlers made the most of a rattled batting line up. Sandeep and myself out without scoring to an outside edge and another in swinging yorker. With Iskander battling on and wickets falling around him, at 4-50, we needed a hero. Enter, once again, Niraj Tailor. Confidence, it proves, is key. The man backed himself, and the runs pinged off his bat as the duo combined for what looked to be a momentous and hopeful partnership, taking us to drinks at 4-75.
Plenty to do but with the right men doing the job, the runs continued as Spartans opening bowlers took a rest and the spinners came on. Niraj pounced on anything short to pull and anything pitched up to slog sweep as Iskander worked the ball and ran hard until a brain fade saw him stumped for a gutsy 39.
Wickets continued to fall from there with fighting efforts from Liam Gray, Silva, Anusha and Yasir getting us within a long reach, needing 8 an over from the last 6. Niraj did what he could and did it admirably, though the running between the wickets would need tightening as singles weren’t taken mid over and were taken at the end, shielding the in-form man from the strike. With 24 to get off the last 2 overs and 9 wickets down, the mountain was simply too great as Si and Niraj got us to 172 at the end of the 40 overs, Niraj finishing on an unbeaten 62.
A breathtaking 50* under pressure against an exceptional bowling attack with wickets falling around him, it was a truly gutsy performance from a none more deserving bloke, exemplifying the fighting Plough. Bringing up his 50 you couldn’t believe the pride that flowed from both umpires and those on the sidelines as Niraj took of his helmet, raised his hands and bat and took in a memorable moment in his career.
“I’m not religious but why not?” he proclaimed as he kissed the pitch and thanked whoever it was in the sky that allowed him to be dropped on 48, seeing him through to a memorable moment. Well done mate.
Spartan’s proved too good on the day, but a fighting game of cricket ensured a great one. We will have their number next time.
Plough on boys.