Players of the Match
- Uncle NIGE – 4-38 (Pick of the bowlers)
- Tom Lonnen – 97 runs (Rock Of Gilbraltar innings)
- Chris Silvapulle – 50 runs (Maiden half century)
- Niraj Tailor – First 100 runs for the season and Bondi rescue outfielding
Fresh from the World Cup football fever that has engulfed the nation of England for the last month after over 20 years in the doldrums, it was straight back to normality at the Hollies on a day that could have easily been mistaken for the 2nd PCC tour of the year serendipitously scripted in the West Indies courtesy of the echoes bellowing away all day from the nearby Herne Hill festival a.k.a. Lambeth Country Festival.
After the free trip to the panel beaters last Sunday, PCC welcomed back with open arms Niraj ‘Slider’ Tailor from his loan appearance last weekend as a key wicket taking and run inhibiting ‘devil’s advocate’ package for the friendly neighbours of the Hollies a.k.a. Southbank. Although enamoured and flattered by the acknowledgements from our man of the people, the able deputy Mr Silva, in last weekend’s match report, it was a golden opportunity for yours truly to step back into Plough apparel from head to toe for the Southern Showdown and the chance to help us redeem ourselves with a vengeance after the meagre showing in the batting and bowling departments not so long ago.
Cordial compliments are accorded to AJ Prasad for the sterling dual appearance all the way from Reading as PCC look forward to bolstering their bowling strikepower on a wicket which would have given the greats of Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne itchy feet to the point of calling for the services of a podiatrist.
Sent in to field, the opening bowlers were taken to all parts of the park with positions such as point, best suited to Jonty Rhodes in his hay days, given the brazen bits as Southbank’s openers opened up their account at a rate of knots like a yacht on a Sydney to Hobart race on Boxing Day putting on 50 odd within the first dozen overs. A very long day ahead beckoned for the Ploughmen in peak summer sun as a run chase of 240 plus looked ominous; ingredients for a Great British bake off.
With a change of pace and seam waiting in the wings, Simon Carson rang the changes bringing on Plough veteran Tom Lonnen and himself for momentum swingers. Patience eventually paid off as Tom drew a loose shot by way of a miscued cover drive to Slider which was greeted with applause and high fives from all and sundry in the baggy blue hungry for their first scalp of the day. Carson also lifted the morale of the boys with his Ian Harvey medium pacers much like the great man over his decorated career across 1999-2003 international cricket series and ancillary domestic cricket tournaments for the Victorian Bushrangers.
Guided by a breakthrough and the concomitant retrieval of their mojo, PCC toiled away at the middle order stifling the flow of runs with yours truly, Kesh, AJ and Shaw eliciting individual and vital moments of desperation and reflex in the field to curtail boundaries and singles when our other southern half were starting to hit their straps all over again like a demolition ‘job’ on a fresh bucket of KFC. Admittedly all endeavours were exhibited on profoundly difficult turf littered with ‘potholes’ and sandpits creating no shortage of difficulties in curtailing the barrage of shots aimed at deep cover and deep square leg just to name a few. Whilst the holes weren’t as big as the Grand Canyon, a bicycle front wheel certainly passed the sink test when our captain of the day attempted a Tour De DSG on the standby two wheeler.
On a wicket that offered considerable turn and irregular bounce, AJ and Nige were demonstrably excellent exponents of spin taking key wickets at critical moments as the first innings ticked past the halfway point. Whilst yours truly’s finger spin remained patiently parked like a patron at a post office on a $3.50 all day return double decker bus ticket, the captain rewarded AJ with the ‘last drinks’ as Southbank’s two talismanic stalwarts wagged their tail launching aerial assaults across the hollies to leave the Ploughmen with a substantial target slightly past the 220 mark which would have left Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Sachin Tendulkar, Virendar Sehwag, Sanath Jayasuriya and Kumar Sangakkara (just to name a few) chomping at the bits to go at close to a run a ball across their tremendously well decorated careers.
With the petrol station cuisine consumption taking place over at the tea house came egalitarian formulation of the batting lineup based on the bowling proceedings as Tom Lockhart and yours truly shouldered the responsibility for opening up the run chase account whilst taking the shine off the bright red ‘kookaburra’. With ten wickets in hand and an asking run rate of circa 5.5 runs an over, a steady pair of hands, sharp singles and a vision to survive the first five overs was the planned Sunday session to pave the way for subsequent smooth and risk free batting to glide PCC to an overdue win on home soil.
Synonymous with the cogs on a bicycle wheel, establishing or chasing winning totals is the sum of all moving parts. It is predicated on the tactical execution of the strikepower available on the day of battle. As Australia and Sri Lanka have shown across their halcyon years in ‘big dances’ every 4 years, the top order have the potential to take the bull by the horn and play shots from ball 1 when the target tally gets beyond 200. Whilst the Portugal kegs consumed come to the fore, the stage was set for a maiden hefty Sunday run chase this year and the opportunity for all and sundry to test themselves against intimidating, imposing and at times impenetrable bowling; successful run chases are predicated on the top order hitting the gas or keeping wickets in the infancy of an innings to keep the fast bowlers at bay (lessons learnt from Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting empire admiration decades).
Candidly speaking, opening the batting has been a rather new adventure much like a 1 way ticket to London. On the back of strong encouragement from our experienced and emerging leaders, leveraging from such maiden appearances across Coimbra, Chobham and Dulwich destinations was never meant to be easy like drawing a straight line of best fit across an A4 sheet of paper when planning a sailing expedition across the Adriatic Sea. There was bound to be the baptism of fire which top bowlers in full flight are too happy to unleash come rain hail or shine; unrelenting ‘Nissan Skyline’ and ‘rising tsunami’ deliveries that had the power to render taking guard across middle and/or off stumps ineffective; ask Brian Lara after his dismissal at the MCG against Jason Gillespie back in 2000.
The experience proved to be a candle in the wind with the gig over before it had begun. Such an asymptotic experience that provided the kill joy of the day in front of home fans present…sweet dreams for the bowler and sunset for the ‘rising sun’.
When the cards are stacked well, batting can be such a fantastic, therapeutic and rewarding experience like going to a Timeout London accredited restaurant and letting the subordinates on shift do all the fetching for menus, meal orders, fresh dishes from the kitchen and then the inevitable bill. Synonymous with the cardio session served up 3 hours beforehand when Southbank went ballistic picking the good places on the park to offer free long distance marathon drills to yours truly; could have been a taste of the oppo’s own medicine. When up the proverbial without a paddle, its then time to find the nearest telephone booth and ring Father Xmas for a ticket to Gilligan’s Island; trouble in paradise.
360 degree wagon wheels unfortunately aren’t accessible from the local supermarket shelf up the road but may be worth an S.O.S call to the CEO of Tesco for the next 200+ run chase on chicken schnitzel pitches complimented by fried bananas. If it was that simple, then it would be like a random stranger on a London train/tube bestowing into eager hands of a restless post work commuter the divine intervention in the form of an outdoor cinema and a waterfall of G+Ts.
It’s a shame video players are now consigned to the history bin as the 1st 5 overs needed the pause and rewind button. With the absence of tennis balls to play oneself in, it was like Michael Schumacher without a steering wheel in sight.
Unfortunately, the top four batsmen fell victim to a killer concoction of swing and ‘back cutters’ as Southbank’s opening 2 bowlers staked their credentials for Surrey League call ups with their lethal Alan Donald-ish bouncers and Dale Steyn-esque outswingers.
On the back of recent ‘rising sun’ batting crusades, yours truly was unfortunately unable to replicate the good deeds against clinical bowling arsenal that came, saw and conquered the corridor and channel of uncertainty well exploited by the globe’s best bowlers of past and present such as Glenn McGrath and Shaun Pollock. With the gates opened up like swiss cheese came a free ticket back to the drawing board.
As poise and conviction went swimming and fishing in the ‘Carribean sea’, it was no man’s land for the remaining top guns Lockhart, Keogh, Shaw and Kesh as the game looked all but over approaching the 20 over mark. Looking around at the patrons in white, reverting to a test match and follow on enforcement may very well have been the 2nd course of the Sunday spit roast.
The run chase was in a feeble and diabolic state of affairs as Southbank’s captain looked to the spinning options heading towards the halfway point considering the exhaustion of his first tier bowling contingent.
Lonnen and Silva eventually met at the crease dangerously close to the point of diminishing return when the home side starred down the barrel of a shooting gallery with half the wickets in the shed for less than 100 runs. Akin to throwing out the rulebook for run chases, finesse and fortitude were the cornerstones of the lower order fightback with illustrious boundaries across 360 degrees of the park.
The next hour then saw close to the comeback of the season as the pair put on an entertaining and enlightening batting expedition that injected a rainbow of hope into a faltering innings running on the smell of an oily rag. With the opposition’s spin bowlers and medium pacers tasked with the job of mopping up, Lonnen and Silva imposed themselves with authority taking both of them to the cleaners to the point of 50 odd runs required from the remaining half a dozen overs.
With Southbank then tiring and losing its mojo, sundries, fumbles, missed run outs, ‘John McEnroes’ to the umpire (Solo) and dropped catches signalled the change in tide before their captain rung the changes and entrusted the No.2 opening menace to take charge of the death bowling.
With the petrol tokens running dry, Lonnen tragically holed out in the deep in the 90s whilst Silva went for one too many after catching a falling star, putting it in his pocket and guiding himself to his maiden half century.
As the asking rate crept above ten an over and the timber running thin on bark, the run chase lost its wheels as the task become insurmountable for Carson and Prasad at the crease. On a consolation note, like running a jury service, the unawarded and awarded wide deliveries appeared to have cancelled each other out thanks to the ‘medicinal’ content provided by both batsmen and bowlers on a blackboard and chalk bowling crease to the umpire turned now democratically appointed match reporter just for one round.
It can be confidently said that there is no harm in an honourable loss evidenced by recent difficult Sunday outings marred by incomplete batting exhibitions and loose bowling + fielding all round. As Southbank have shown across the last fortnight, strong platforms are built on preserving wickets, pinching singles and the preparedness to play shots all around the park.
Off the field, there was no shortage of banter and smiles as we happily shook hands with the Southbank allegiance to convey our many thanks for a very good game in the end followed by mutual frothie fanfare as the sun settled down at the Hollies. A largely pleasurable experience playing against them with hardly any bones or controversy to pick at.
Whilst the top order didn’t get things off to a bright start, the resilience and redemption shown towards the end of the innings is admirable when it would have been easy to throw in the towel against a young, zealous and clinical bowling line up that were up and about on all cylinders.
As we look ahead to the latter half of the season, there are undoubtedly green shoots of growth as the immersion and integration of fresh blood into PCC this year is opening up opportunities for newcomers to be exposed to a variety of batting artillery and bowling contingents evidenced across key periods of this game and noteworthy preceding games (i.e. Northfields) when the rub of the green has gone begging and matches are up for grabs in key periods such as the middle and business end of an innings.
Very best of luck to both teams across the upcoming slated fixtures as I look forward to sharing in continued success on this unparalleled wave of opportunity and growth.
Yours in fun at all costs with the Plough.