All excellent examples of heroic rear guard actions by a beleaguered force against a mighty foe. I believe however that Sutton Challengers away in the white hot heat of the Surrey Cricket League on July 24th 2021 must now rank alongside these remarkable human feats.
The narrative surrounding the Plough’s 3 consecutive league victories has been that we have simply overwhelmed our unfortunate opponents with destructive batting, miserly bowling and excellent fielding. To buy in to this narrative is to ignore days like this where, were it not for a few outstanding performances, in particular our own resident Leonidas (Adam Barraclough), the glorious history of the last 4 years could have been very different. Bare in mind at this point of the season we were not streaking away at the top of the league table, we were firmly in the middle of the pack after a somewhat underwhelming start to the campaign. A reverse here would have meant a final day victory for Surrey Warrior would have spelt 2nd place rather than 1st for the mighty Plough.
On the day, league captain Colonel James Tisato took one look at the pitch and decided to put the opposition in to bat. Opposition captain Chintu did not seem particularly perturbed by this decison and we would begin to understand why when he got in to bat.
The proceedings were started by messrs Lonsdale and Bolshaw. They bowled well, Oli in particular finding that extra yard of pace to unsettle the batsmen. At 53/3 the Plough had had a decent start with the wickets shared between the openers. There then developed a tricky partnership between the Challengers opener Chirag (80* off 105 balls) and the aforementioned skipper Chintu who hit a better than a run a ball 44.
It was the introduction of the wheeler dealer (lieutenant Adeel) that turned the game once again in our favour, snaring himself a couple of quick wickets to open the door for us once again 119/5.
Unfortunately it was a door we were unable to walk through. Some powerful lower order hitting and the unbeaten 80 from Chirag, who carried his bat, meant the Plough were looking at an imposing chase of 211 on a slow and sticky deck, not ideally suited for big stroke play.
However during the mid point break, during which sandwiches, ciggies and an array of quiches were consumed (recipes and suggestions can be ordered from [email protected]), the mood was upbeat. The feeling was with a half decent start we would be right in the hunt.
A few short overs later at 28/3 things were already going pear shaped. Luckily, unbeaten at this stage was our opener on the day Adeel Riaz. If you’ve had the chance to play with him you will know what a fantastic cricketer this man is. Bat, ball, it’s all the same to him and his wealth of cricketing experience. On the day he was right in the mood and played a silky smooth knock when the team was right under the pump to drag us back in to the contest when we had looked dead and buried. His 61 off 89 balls had kept us afloat, but a further collapse after his departure left us at 147/8, staring down the barrel of what would have been a catastrophic defeat for our league title aspirations.
The next act of this gripping encounter was to be possibly the single most important session of cricket for the club in the 2021 season. Although the stoic Adeel had departed, during the subsequent collapse Adam Barraclough had made his way to the wicket. Like Leonidas squaring up to the advancing Persian hordes, Baz planted his feet and swung hard, not giving an inch to the enemy on the day. Usually a fixture in the league team, Baz had had some unfortunate luck with a broken finger on the first day of the season and parenting duties keeping him away from the action. Thank god he turned up to play his part as our saviour on this day. Despite the precarious state of play Baz set about demolishing the attack, smacking the ball to all parts. The opposition, who must have thought the game was in the bag, had no response. Ably assisted by his two lower order comrades; major Bolshaw and private Lonsdale the three of them managed to pile on the runs necessary to just see Plougmans over the line with 6 balls and 1 wicket to spare.
The resulting Lonsdale roar and the defeated Plough batsmen streaming on to the pitch to celebrate with our heroes in the middle told you just how much this moment meant to the team.
In hindsight, I would say this was the day we all started to believe we would win the league. Overcoming our short comings on the day and the nature of this complete team victory is what great teams are made of.
Thank God it proved to be the case.