Is there a better way to arrive at the DSG than by bus?
Oh, don’t get me wrong, pulling up in air-conditioned luxury is a treat and I am very grateful to those who have provided a lift. Or if you can carry off a Royal Enfield, turning up like a rock star, then fair play to you, however you’ve got to be able to back it up like Suri can.
But being on that number 3, as it trundles through Brixton and Herne Hill, scooping up a Ploughman here and there, (Tom Lonnen and Rob Keogh on this day), with the well-wishing and the back-slapping and the chat in anticipation of the game, alighting and then perhaps falling into step with a couple more team mates on Turney Road, turning into the drive and catching that first glimpse of green grass… it all just seems very right.
Beautiful skies, and blistering temperatures provided the backdrop to Southbank CC versus Ploughmans CC.
It’s a day for the brimmer rather than the baggy, that’s for sure. Everything starts according to plan, Simon Carson winning the toss and without hesitation opts to bat first and make the opposition toil in the field under a blazing sun – plus Ploughman Adeel Riaz, nobly stepping into the slips for the short-staffed Southbank.
Chris Butlin and George Boughton open, both quickly and effortlessly getting off the mark and making the most of the quick outfield.
Boughton looks especially solid in his defensive strokes, putting everything behind the line and watching the ball all the way on to the blade, yet his is the first wicket to fall, pinned lbw for 26 in the ninth over, the score at 45.
Joining Butlin in the middle comes Suri Poleboina who continues to keep the scoreboard ticking over at the same pace with two fours and a couple of lusty sixes, but that partnership only lasts 3 overs before Butlin out, bowled Shaoib, for 30 runs off 33 deliveries.
Logan Cassin enters the fray and a strong partnership appears to be blossoming, but just as the 100 is brought up for Ploughmans, Suri falls – caught at mid-wicket by – oh the cruelty of this game! – substitute fielder Greeney. We’ll move on I think…
The new bat strides out, it’s Rehan Raees and he’s been in fine touch lately. Not to be hurried he sets about his work, he and Logan patiently keeping out the good balls and despatching the others with expansive drives.
But when John Twinn bowls Raees for 20, it precipitates a serious stutter in the batting.
Adeel Riaz is given out lbw off the second ball faced, and Robert Keogh is clean bowled first ball. A salivating Southbank move in for the hat-trick ball: they smell blood.
Azharul Haque is a cool customer though, he’s not phased by this and nonchalantly gives himself six deliveries to get his eye in before opening his account with a boundary.
Outside of this drama Cassin has, as is his way, steadily been accumulating runs, racking up 30 of them, not out. He’s scoring more boundaries now but the Kiwi is impervious to the heat and happy to run the quick singles too. There’s a six and a couple of rapid fire fours and he’s notched up another half century.
A few balls later and Ploughmans reach 200 runs, just as Azharul Haque is caught by Zach Mendelsohn off the bowling of Dalton.
The scoreboard reads 203 for seven wickets in the 34th over.
Tom Lonnen striding to the crease to join Logan Cassin is a good position to be in, but somehow it feels a tad light on runs.
This is a well tuned combination and 25 more runs are added before Cassin is caught Nelson, bowled Dalton. It’s been a spectacular, classy innings, with eleven fours and two sixes to bring him 74 from only 73 deliveries.
That brings Damon Greeney to the crease in the 38th over with the score at 228 for 8.
“We’re not going to get bowled, okay?” is the order from Lonnen.
Greeney follows instructions, caught for two.
This forces skipper Carson to emerge from the shade who adds a single from one ball faced, end ensures the opposition have been in the field for the full forty overs.
Lonnen 20 not out, Carson 1 not out. How valuable would those last runs be in the final reckoning?
Tea, and then we will see if Southbank can chase down 245 for victory.
We are well into the afternoon now, but the temperature has dropped by maybe a couple of degrees only. It is a hot and steamy day still.
Carson has bowlers on tap it seems, and chooses to open with Greeney and – an inspired choice this – Adeel Riaz.
Southbank openers Chowdury and Peak in particular make the most of the ball coming on to the bat, boundaries are coming off Greeney, but they are frustrated and pegged back by Riaz. At the end of 10 overs Southbank are 59 without loss, and as near as dammit to the run rate required.
At this stage Southbank must feel they have the measure of the bowling. They’ve seen off the openers, Tom Lonnen is brought on to stem the flow of runs, but the openers are still keeping the scoreboard turning.
And then the captain unleashes Azharul Haque on them.
His first ball swings wickedly. Peak misses it and, eyes on stalks, blinks down the track, surprised by Haque’s action and the pace he generates from so few steps? Or, momentarily unsettled by the amount of movement he thinks he’s just witnessed. Peak remember, has spent all afternoon behind stumps.
The second ball passes through adjacent postcode before it comes to rest in the wicketkeeper’s gloves. Peak turns to Suri: “nobody has moved it all day, and now… How am I meant to play this?”. Poleboina beams and offers some words of advice, or sympathy. It’s a maiden over.
Eqramul Chowdury is bowled for 18, first ball of Haque’s second over, this brings a slightly early first drink break and Shaoib to the crease. The batters are wary of Haque and respectful of Lonnen, but the rapid and sometimes uneven outfield mean runs are still coming.
Haque takes another wicket, and it’s a big one, Jon Peak for 61. It’s a big swing but he doesn’t fully connect and top edges it, the ball goes straight up and Suri has his gloves under it, just next to the crease. 91 for 2 in the 18th over.
No wait – make that 94 for 3 after 19 overs, as Lonnen dismisses Shaoib for 9 with a beautiful ball disrupting the top of off stump.
Another couple of overs from these two, including a maiden from Azharul Haque and it’s time for a change. Logan Cassin from one end, Rehan Raees from the other.
Cassin is straight into his work. Fourth ball and Nelson hacks down on it in a desperate attempt to keep it out. The ball squirms between bat and pad, trickling, creeping, onto the stumps. A bail trembles in its groove, a blood curdling battle cry from Suri and the terrified bail throws itself to earth – plop. That’s bad luck, but that’s also 109 for 4 in the 23rd over.
Raees Lightning increases the pressure from the other end. He teases and tempts the batter with flight, frustrating and drying up runs, they simply can’t get him away. Eight minutes later and Logan strikes again, lbw this time, Brims out for 8. The scoreboard is flipped over to 119 for 5, 25 overs.
And now Southbank rally. This comes as no surprise, no one thought for a moment that they would roll over, and Harry Fawkes and Matthew Ireland look up for the fight. The required run rate is creeping up, but with more than a dozen overs remaining, they have something to work with.
Ploughmans CC need to cut-off the boundaries, keep it tight, scrap for every run. The Cheer X1 have arrived, Gray, Tennant and Eaton to boost spirits from the boundary, but the heat is oppressive, sapping energy from aching, tired limbs.
Keogh demands more though: “come on boys!” he urges, “we trained for this in Spain”. You can’t spell Ploughmans Cricket Club without Rob Keogh.
Butlin and Boughton led out the batting, and now they lead by example in the field. Both throwing their bodies on the line, chasing down everything. Chris Butlin skinning elbows and George Boughton forced to leave the field temporarily to staunch the flow of blood from a deep gash on his right hand. Honourable wounds gentlemen, honourable wounds.
Riaz and Lonnen are back in the attack now the final overs loom. Keogh is adjudged to have stepped over the boundary while fielding – four runs – and now Haque is being called for bowling wides? What’s going on here? This could get very tense.
Southbank require 33 runs but there are two just overs remaining. Surely this is beyond them, surely? Well, just last week we saw 35 runs shipped off one over, and that was at a Test Match. If cricket teaches you anything, it’s never say never.
Greeney to bowl the penultimate over. A single off the first ball, then six, then four… uh-oh… take a deep breathe… next ball a single, and then a dot. Last ball of the over and Ireland skys it.
Greeney wants to own the moment and puts his name on it. “Drop that!” shouts Ireland, to no avail, the bowler has it.
Logan Cassin takes the ball for the final over, 21 runs required. He still hasn’t broken sweat and now, almost immediately, puts the game out of reach for Southbank, a dot ball and Southbank can only muster a single off the next. It’s gone for them now, it’s over.
Logan concedes a mere four runs in this last over and Ploughmans CC win by 16 runs.
Cue wild celebrations? Fireworks? No, just handshakes and applause all round. The satisfaction of playing in a good, tough contest that went down to the wire was enough.
The fabulous weather was a bonus, and boy that beer under a setting sun tasted good.
Time to pack up and catch the number 3.
But what was it that Tom Lonnen had said on the bus earlier today? Oh, that’s right… “this is just another game of cricket”.