Saturday saw the Plough take on Old Kingstonians in an action-packed and spiteful league match. Arriving at the ground in gloomy weather, we were somewhat concerned to see the oppo netting and looking rather good. Spirits were lifted when Noodle pointed out that was in fact Alec Stewart overseeing a Surrey training session and we were actually a few pitches further over.
Despite having prepared a road and winning the toss, the oppo skipper unusually chose to send us in. As we?ve been making a habit of recently, we were several players short come game time and a hasty reshuffle found Britto and I opening the batting. We started steadily against sharpish opening bowlers with a few early boundaries but I was shortly bowled playing one across the line. New boy Dave Risley, on debut and not having held a bat for two years, suddenly found himself in at three. Despite looking rather ?agricultural? (in his own words), Dave took the attack to the bowlers and together with Steve advanced the score to 84-1 shortly before drinks.
Dave then skied one and was caught for 37, bringing on the first of the day?s bizarre cricketing incidents. It was clearly the keeper?s catch but this did not perturb two other fielders from making a heroic attempt. All three charged in and collided in quite nasty fashion, leaving one player unable to walk and the keeper hobbling about in pain. The player who actually took the catch didn?t seem to notice (or care about) the carnage, however, screaming ?OUT!? as loud as he could (just in case it wasn?t clear enough). There?s a first time for everything in cricket?
This brought Noodle to the crease and he and Steve tried to see off the end of an increasingly fiery spell from the opener. Steve was beaten outside off several times due some lovely late swing and the bowler?s frustration was clear. It eventually erupted after one narrowly missed the outside edge yet the oppo were convinced he?d hit it. In disbelief at the decision, the bowler repeatedly called Britto a cheat over the next few overs, even loudly telling him this while he was running in to bowl! We survived until drinks but the game had taken a turn for the worst and sadly never really recovered.
After drinks Kingstonians switched to spin with some success. Steve was out to their offie for a solid 23, unfortunately caught by the same idiot opening bowler at mid off. After arriving late our regular opener James Spence finally made his way to the centre at 5 but only lasted two balls ? bowled shouldering arms to one that turned in sharply. Who knew that throwing the ball can be quite an advantage when bowling spin? Well played Kingstonians.
Duray joined Nick with the score at 112-4 and really took the game away from the oppo. Both played some beautiful cricket shots and Nick was eventually caught for 45, thrilled to have worked his way out of a rut (and finally made some runs in front of mum and dad!) Posh Tom came in at 7 and mostly watched as Duray simply destroyed the bowlers, consistently hitting big shots to all parts of the ground. Lockhart departed with the score on 207 and Lilford joined the skipper, both continuing the superb strokeplay to take us towards 300. Despite a lot of good will from the sidelines, Duray fell agonisingly short of his ton on 92 but by this point it was clear he?d played the matchwinning innings. Lilford and Bala got us to 299 after 45, Chris finishing on a very well made 30 not out.
Tea was decent but not particularly noteworthy and we found ourselves ready to field under even darker skies. It seemed that no one had told the oppo, however, who were still deciding who was to pad up when we were ready to go. After eventually getting under way after 5:30 (!!), it was disappointing to see Kingstonians never really make an attempt at the target. Against some excellent bowling from Gray and Lilford, they struggled along at 3 an over and the required run rate climbed quickly.
Grayzer was eventually rewarded for his outstanding control and outswing with a caught and bowled, although he really deserved more having beaten the bat so often. Chris was also unlucky to end wicketless after some very nice inswingers that just couldn?t break through. Matt Jones replaced Gray and quickly picked up the other opener to a good gully catch by Risley.
A few rotations saw Ridgway and Spence bowl through a period of oppo ascendency, reaching 141-2 and culminating in one of the most unsportsmanlike incidents I?ve ever witnessed on a cricket field. After defending a Spence ball off the back foot, the ball dropped near the stumps and could very likely have gone on to hit. Kingstonians? number 3 had a total brain fade and knocked the ball away with his hand. Despite the entire fielding side seeing him do it, the umpires inexplicably had some doubt about the decision. We heard various explanations (?I was trying to give it to the keeper? to ?I tried to catch it but I didn?t catch it? to ?I swear I didn?t touch it at all!?), leading to a conference between batsmen and umpires?at which the conclusion was ?not out, let?s move on?! The game had truly descended into farce and credit must go to our skipper Duray for stopping the chaos and getting us focused back on the game.
Over the next ten overs, Spence got his revenge with three wickets and was ably supported by Bala, who picked up two. At 202-7 and the required run rate at 13 the game was effectively over, but the oppo managed to drag out their innings to the full 45 overs, ending up on 227-7. It was particularly enjoyable to play out the last two overs in the pissing rain, just to watch their skipper block or leave almost every ball?Kingstonians truly are a weird bunch.
Despite all the frustration, this was another commanding win for the Plough and the second league win in a row. Pretorius was clearly best on ground with his 92 but was very evenly supported by the rest of the team with both bat and ball. It is a real pleasure to see us play high quality, consistent cricket lads and more league wins are clearly on the way. Let?s just hope for a more normal opposition next time around!