Holton & Wheatley vs Tetsworth

Sunday 24 July 2011

Original Report by John Simpson 

 

Second-only tied match in Holton’s history

 

Holton & Wheatley 198-7; Tetsworth 198-8

It was fast track, a gloriously sunny day, and we rolled up expecting to be steamrollered by some gigantic Tetsworth batting. But immediately there was good news – several of their key players were in the Caribbean and not available fo r smiting-the-ball-around-the-park duty. There was some bad news too, as our centurian from last match, Binoy, was away this Sunday, leaving a gaping hole in our precarious batting attack.

Earlier in the week Neil (match manager) had had a very difficult job putting together the team. Normally there’s no particular problem, but there are always a couple of weekends in the year when everyone seems to decide to take a holiday. And this happened to be one of them. Undaunted he’d manned the phone and fired off emails in search of players, and Rohan and Hugh had come up with the goods – in the form of David Morrish, ‘Sid’ Siddharth, and Amith Premkumar.

As the Sunday afternoon loomed into view, Holton had eleven men on the park, and we were matched against the mightly nine of Tetsworth.

Putting the batting order together can be a tricky issue

In the absence of our captain Guy Burford and Vice-Captain Graham Nichols those of us with a fair grasp of the Laws of the Game had a brief meeting to elect a Captain for the Day, and I drew the short straw. Arrangements for the toss were concluded, and we were batting first.

Putting the batting order together can be a tricky issue. I realized in amazement that we had the potential for some big scores, and that we batted right down the order. But that only makes it more difficult. After considering various options: alphabetical order (first name, last name, reversed), physical size (tallest or smallest first), singing ability, etc., I eventually decided to mix it – interspersing mature experience with the brash promise of youth. To Hugh Kitchin’s surprise it was as a representative of the first of these categories that I put him at No 1, with rank newcomer Amith Premkumar as a hopeful at No 2 – just to see how it went.

And it went pretty well. Hugh and Amith got stuck in, with Hugh driving elegantly and Amith showing that this wasn’t the first time he’d picked up a bat. The spectators gasped, for example, at a beautifully executed on-drive off his legs to the mid-wicket boundary. Things were looking up, despite some tidy bowling by Tetsworth.

As usual, disaster struck

As usual, disaster struck just when we least expected it, with Amith (10) shuffling across his stumps to be adjudged lbw with the score on 12. But this was just an opening for more experience to wend its way to the crease in the form of Simon Switala, on the back of a multi-run haul this season so far. After a cautious start, both batsmen started to see the ball well, and the score moved on past fifty as the sun beamed down on our exploits.

Another  moment of indecision

With the total at 71 a moment of indecision brought about Hugh’s downfall, run out on a sharp single. Still, 71 on the board as we approached twenty overs wasn’t bad for us, and it was a springboard. Sorry, a rush of optimism overtook me there.

Simon and Rohan Sen took us on to 80 before Rohan was caught, and we knew we need a few more runs before the cavalcade of batsmen started to fade. Kiran Nair joined Simon for several overs, until Simon too was caught for a solid 32. And now it was down to Kiran and Mahesh.

Both batsmen have been in the runs recently, and Mahesh particularly started by bludgeoning some loose leg-side balls to the boundary. Kiran looked keen to get a move on, but in the early overs proved too flexible and wristy for the ball. But things settled, and the Tetsworth attack gradually saw themselves plundered for an 87-run partnership ended only when Mahesh allowed himself to be bowled with the score on 178.

Kiran rampant

At No 7 we had another new signing, David Morrish, but it wasn’t his day (bowled, 0). As we approached our 40th over, Alan Banyard came out to partner a rampant Kiran, and we watched the score rise to a respectable 198 for 7 before the whistle blew for tea. (That’s a metaphor – there isn’t actually a whistle.)

Now we know that Tetsworth have an array of fine batsmen, and that 198 runs would hold no fear for them. Our main hope was a miracle. In the absence of coloured lights shining in the sky, etc., we elected for opening the bowling with Kiran and Sid Siddharth (another new signing said to bowl a bit).

Well, we turned up lucky again, and Kiran and Sid bowled a neat and nagging spell, with Kiran grabbing the first scalp – the Tetsworth No 1 returned to the pavilion for a duck. But we knew that might not mean anything. The new arrival paired up with No 2, and started to take the bull by the horns. We’ve been there before: massive, thundering blows for six over midwicket from perfectly respectable balls; faultless cover drives bisecting any fielders we might have in the region; cuts straight past the static hands and feet of lunging Holton fieldsmen. Both batsmen were in their way to fifty apiece.

So I looked for our secret weapon

This is what a captain’s for, I thought to myself in a concerned little fashion. Make a change and change the game. Dropped catches lose matches. And other available clichees. So I looked around for our secret weapon. Cruelly removing both Kiran and Sid from the attack I decided on spin – buy the wickets – we’ve got enough runs. For a while, at least. So I threw the ball to our old, reliable saviour of years gone by – Alan Banyard. A twist and a twirl beats a boy or a girl. The pocket dynamo had been saved for a cameo bowl. At the same time I came on too, in a further attempt to buy wickets.

I might as well not have bothered with myself. It’s true I had one or two catches put down, but mainly I was selling wickets, not buying them. But the secret weapon came into his own at the other end, and on 63 the Tetsworth No 3 saw the cricketing equivalent of dollar signs as Alan’s delivery arrived – only to find himself bowled by the wiliest of balls from the master.

The scoresheet is incomplete for some of the Tetsworth innings, so here we have to rely on group memory, the collective unconscious, and guesswork (all fairly similar, if truth were known). With one batsman out for fifty it was possible that the tide would turn our way, and I plodded on for a while under that mistaken assumption. But reality came back to bite, and I realized (as usual about an over too late) that we needed some new ideas in the bowling department.

Fresh ideas came in the form of Mahesh – in crushing form earlier in the season – and newcomer-who-could-bat-a-bit Amith. Things suddenly quietened down on the batting front, as Mahesh and Amith (who-can-bowl-a-bit too) proceeded to harry the batsmen and dampen their run-getting ability. After the earlier deluge, it was great to see Mahesh concede only 21 runs and Amith 29 in their spells.  But neverthless Tetsworth were still approaching ineluctably (which had to be got in somewhere) on their target of 199 for victory.

An idea with legs and a small outboard motor

It was another time for dramatic intervention, from any of our eleven secret weapons. This time it was Neil’s turn. It was late in the day to bring on Neil, with only twenty runs needed by Tetsworth for a trouncing win. I hoped it was an idea that had legs. In fact, it was an idea with legs and a small outboard motor. Neil grabbed the ball and launched into his runabout run-up, twisting the ball this way and that in order to provoke it to perform the unthinkable. In the face of slow spin batsmen can forget their heads. When they are both on fifty and need only twenty to win, it is even easier for heads to become disengaged. And so it happened. First one batsmen edged a spinning tortoise to Simon behind the stumps , and then – miraculously – the other run machine followed a wild leg-side wobbler, sweeping the ball safely into the hands of Simon, who received the full force of bat and ball on his gloves at the same moment – and came out holding the catch.

It was at this point that we started to think that the game might not have Tetsworth’s name written all over the box and gift-wrapping. Maybe the remaining bats (there were three more wickets to fall) would quail before the requirement to score another ten runs. If wishes were horses...

A sense of quiet electricity

Still, there was a sense of quiet electricity fizzing around the Holton team. Fielders edged in closer to the bat, we started talking again. Save the singles. Keep the ball on line. Crucially, a committee decision reminded me that it might be a good idea to bring back the fearsome Kiran in place of Neil, who had done his job gallantly.

So with the tectonic plates of the game rearranged Kiran charged in to search for one of the final wickets. Could we hope for a collapse? And – amazingly – Mahesh took the catch. Two wickets to go. Three runs to get. You wouldn’t bet on it, though. Back at the other end, Mahesh was carrying on. He bowled the penultimate bat. The scores were level. We heard a rumour that the final batsmen hadn’t played for many years. Was this disinformation? He looked a slugger. What hope did we have?

As the last batsmen settled down into the crease and looked around the scores were tied, and a snick for a single would resolve the game in favour of Tetsworth. In ran Mahesh. Good ball, and it hits the batsman straight on the pad. We haven’t been lucky with the decisions today. Not lbws. Not run-outs. Not nothing. So we don’t get this one either.

Holton back from the brink again

Another ball. Maybe this batsman really is a bit rusty. Again a good ball from Mahesh. The batsman raises his club and makes forward contact. Scores level. The ball leaves the bat and could make the winning run. In further amazement we all watch in slow motion as the ball heads directly for Amith’s feet at very short cover – catching cover. Amith gets down like a tiger and holds the ball. All over. Mahesh has three wickets. The scores are tied. Holton are back from the brink again. Honours even. It’s what the game’s all about.