I have been a Ploughman for 22 years now and within that period there have definitely been seasons where Sunday’s opposition from Putney CC would’ve provided a pretty competitive fixture for The Plough’s Sunday XI. These, however, are extraordinary times and the Club is in such rude health, that even if Putney had pitched up with a side similar to the one that narrowly beat us by five runs earlier in the season, I still believe we’d have won comfortably. There are more guns in our ranks right now than your average Walmart in Texas! One of whom produced a special innings for a special occasion…
Honoured, as ever, to be asked to Captain a Ploughmans side, Sunday’s affair had particular resonance as it was my 400th match for the Club. When written down like that it does seem quite extraordinary and the fact that two of the current squad have achieved such a feat tells you a) how much we love cricket and this Club in particular and b) how tragic we must really be to not have found something better to do with our lives. Seriously though, 400 matches is something I am immensely proud of but is testament to what a great place The Plough is and, in particular, the fabulous people I’ve shared so many cricket fields with over the years.
The simple truth about Sunday is it was a mismatch. I don’t want to be too disparaging or disrespectful of the opposition but they were the archetypal lambs to the slaughter in a wholly one-sided affair. They really didn’t help their own cause with some bang average captaincy, ordinary bowling and below par fielding but, by the same token, we didn’t allow them to do anything else. We could’ve been even more ruthless but they are a good set of lads who just found themselves having one of those days… We’ve all had those.
I opened the batting alongside Max Gumpert, keen to prove I could also score runs from higher up the order but ended up playing second fiddle to a very special knock from Max. He took a couple of overs to get settled (and blow away his hangover) before launching into a full on nuclear assault of their bowling. As mentioned in the post-match interview, he plays good bowling well but he absolutely murders average bowling. The hundred partnership came up in very little time as Max, playing proper cricket shots throughout, launched the ball to all corners of DSG. It just seemed sensible to keep giving him the strike! He reached his hundred with the score on 131 (making me look decidedly pedestrian in the process) and then, after a cursory thought towards us setting the highest ever 1st wicket partnership for the Club, opted to try and whack every single delivery for six or four. He was eventually caught by the keeper off a top edge in the 19th over but had scored 130 runs off 77 balls, including 18 fours and 3 sixes. I’ve witnessed some of Ploughmans’ greatest knocks and this was right up there with the best of them. A truly staggering innings from a seriously good cricketer. I’m just so glad he’s scoring hundreds for us not against us now!
Unfortunately for Putney, there was more to come…
I accelerated in the hunt for my own century but fell 15 runs short playing a lazy shot (to a terrible delivery), caught at cover. After which, the oppo enjoyed their best passage of play for the afternoon, picking up the wickets of Adam Barraclough, David Graydon (who used to play for Abdul Aziz, for those of you who remember them) and Akash Rajput, all reasonably cheaply. Sadly for Putney, the towering figure of James Tisato was in at the other end. Saturday Captain, James, has been stoic in the face of yet another injury that has robbed him of time on the cricket field this year but the fact that he continued to turn up to support, score and be a thoroughly good example to all whilst we all raised hell around him is to be commended and certainly shouldn’t be forgotten when people deliberate over their Clubman of the Year award. His patience was rewarded… and some! Unfortunately dismissed the day before (when he wasn’t even supposed to be playing) he couldn’t have dreamt of a more favourable attack to face to get him back in the swing of it. Good things come to those who wait, however, and you do, of course, still need to cash in when the opportunity arises and Tis did that with aplomb, reminding us all of his enduring class in the process. The final over of the innings was the cherry on the cake as he was literally gifted an additional 20 runs but, frankly, he deserved those. We finished on 348 for 5 (yes, that’s the correct way to display an innings) off 40 overs and Tis had 85 of those from just 49 balls faced. In all honesty, we could’ve made 400+ but that seemed a little awkward and unnecessary.
Putney had no reply and the game was most certainly done and dusted by the time they’d lost 3 wickets inside the first 3 overs, including a suicidal run out by their opener who hadn’t even faced a ball at that point. The combination of good bowlers hitting the seam and (possibly) a wearing pitch used twice in two days saw the ball move around prodigiously making Tom Parrish work pretty hard with the gloves on behind the stumps. Matt Bolshaw was his usual metronomic self from one end, to which the opposition batsman simply had no answers. He took 4 wickets without breaking sweat (one of which courtesy of an excellent low catch off a bottom edge by TP) and, despite the chance for a deserved 5fer, I simply had to remove him from the attack just to ensure we’d get a bit of time in the field.
Matt Hopper was at the other end and he bowled well enough, although seemed to struggle with his length more than usual. A solid-looking 57 run partnership for the 7th wicket developed and gave me the opportunity to get a few other guys into the game… Nigel Stephenson (who tried a few new variations on a good day to do so) got through his full allocation but without taking a wicket. Simon Carson tried a bit of (really decent!) off-spin for a spell of 5 overs and really should’ve bagged a wicket after a sharp catch from Tis at slip that was inexplicably not given out. Newbie David had a go too and bowled a really tight line with good gas and picked up two wickets, one bowled and the other an excellent catch by Baz, who had to turn around and dive to catch a ball that went over his head. Then Akash showed some promise with a very tidy spell of left arm finger spin and he too bagged a wicket. All the while, ‘Bush’ had been waiting patiently, fingers crossed, hoping for a second spell. As the 9th wicket fell, I offered him his final three overs to try and get that feted 5 wicket haul. Which he’d have done if only he knew how to bowl at the stumps! Eventually, impatient for post-match beers, I brought myself on and removed the Number 11, caught and bowled, with just the one delivery. Perhaps a fitting way to end the day.
The Putney lads were very gracious in defeat and congratulated us on our performance as we shared in a little tradition of theirs – post-match shots!! My thanks to our supporters on the day, particularly Inca, who liked my new hair. My only regret is that with the children and dog in tow I couldn’t stay longer and drink the various jugs of beer that were bought. No doubt there will be plenty more opportunity for that, however.
I’m already looking forward to 500…