I’d heard plenty about Ickenham CC from those who had played there before and I wasn’t disappointed, as on arrival I found a decent outfield, a good-looking wicket and a splendid pavilion. There was plenty of good-natured chat with the members of the opposition in attendance early doors but that was quickly tempered by the knowledge that they would be a little stronger than previous years ? their 1st and 2nd XIs were recently crowned champions of their respective leagues and their 3rd XI got promoted. Even their ladies team won its division. So, a potentially daunting task ahead for The Plough, especially as we only had 10 men at this point (thanks to a late drop out). Not to worry, Ickenham’s benevolence continued as they offered up their Skipper, Elliott for the day, as they called in an old-timer (with hands like buckets btw) to replace him. Emboldened by the inclusion of a good player and another guest who regularly plays for Ealing Twos, Skipper Carson called correctly with the toss and had no hesitation in opting to bat. Ickenham provided qualified umpires and an iPad to operate the electronic scoreboard – things were definitely looking up.
Rob Bentley was the guest from Ealing CC and he was wearing a Cardiff University cricket jumper with his name on the back. This prompted a quick query from one Ploughman. ‘So, if you go to Cardiff University, then you must have heard of the absolute legend, raconteur, lothario and general man-about-town, Harry Davies?’ ‘Yes, mate’, came the reply, ‘Proper little gobshite’. And with that, he strode to the wicket alongside Steve Britto.*
What followed was one of the best batting performances of The Plough’s season. Surprisingly, the bowling wasn’t as threatening as expected but there were plenty of good deliveries to negotiate throughout the innings. One chap with a questionable action definitely the hardest to get away of the eight bowlers used. We were also granted a slice of luck, when a 1st Team bowler opted to bowl loopy off-breaks instead of his usual quick seam up stuff. One such loopy delivery deemed to be over waist height was then followed an over later, having reverted to his usual action, by another chest high full toss. Much to the bowler’s chagrin he was removed from the attack, never to return (Matt Spencer knows how he feels). Definite bonus for us though as he looked handy.
Rob looked very capable for his 20 until he was too early on a shot through mid-on, offering a simple catch. Elliot Evans (previously Ickenham’s skipper for the day) went in at 3 and put on 83 for the 2nd wicket with Steve. To be fair, the chap looked a batsman of real quality – solid in defence and utterly ruthless with anything loose. Steve flew the flag for The Plough from the other end though and, whilst perhaps less fluent or flamboyant, definitely did his bit for the partnership. Indeed, it came as quite a surprise when Elliott was bowled for 44, by an arm ball from their other off-spinner. Drinks were taken at this juncture and Duray joined Britto in the middle.
Both these boys have had excellent seasons – Stevo piling on the runs as usual and Duray, at times, wholly dismissive of bowling attacks. I’m sure the watching Plough on the boundary were very proud of the fact, that despite the two quality additions to our batting line up on the day, it was two of Ploughmans’ finest who actually stole the show. What followed over the next 18 overs or so was a systematic dismantling of an attack and the perfect display of how to build a commanding total. Pay the good balls the respect they deserve, keep the scoreboard ticking over with ones and twos and ensure you despatch the rank deliveries. Duray spanked 73 including eight monster sixes in a really authoritative innings, before mis-timing one completely to a fieldsman at mid-off. Meanwhile, there was a growing feeling that Steve might actually manage something no Ploughman had achieved this season ‘ the magical three figures. A few of us had come mighty close and it’s been a long while since the Club has drawn a blank on centuries for a season, so if it was gonna happen, it had to happen now. We knew this, Steve knew this. The benefit of batting for so long though, particularly on a good wicket, is that when a team has thrown the kitchen sink at you and you’ve given them just the one half chance along the way, the confidence it gives you as a batsman is unrivalled. The ball suddenly becomes a beach ball and batting is the most natural thing in the world. Despite some slightly unnecessary questioning of the state of his nerves once in the nineties from the boundary (thanks, Ranny), I don’t expect there was ever any doubt in Steve’s mind that he would reach the landmark, and I was delighted to be out there with him when he did it – a well-timed sweep shot that whistled to the boundary being the shot that took him there. Very well batted, Steve. A brilliant innings, right up there with your very best. My advice at that point for the centurion was to carry his bat and get that useful little star next to the 100. I wish I’d listened to my own advice at this point but having sat with my pads on for 32 overs I found myself betwixt and between by the time I went out for the last 13 deliveries of the innings. Stick or twist? Block or bludgeon? I did neither and it was left to Niraj to face the final 4 balls, rather protecting Steve’s average at the other end, as a good PCC innings had a rather tame ending. Still, 292 for 4 was a pretty formidable target.
Tea was taken and, possibly controversially judgemental of me here, it didn’t quite live up to expectations. A solid 7.5 / 10 at best.
In reply Elliot had warned us that numbers 1-9 could all bat. He wasn’t wrong. Puff opened the bowling and it was immediately obvious one of the openers was just gonna tee off. Guest Ranjan Waas(hole) took the new ball from the other end. Ranny’s a good lad, full of life and a decent cricketer to boot but it’s his banter/comical sledging that is his true forte. No-one is exempt, including himself and right from ball one Ranny’s mouth was firing off good, bad and downright terrible banter. I’d love him to join The Plough (if only because he always brings sweets to cricket – marginally healthier than cigarettes) but suspect, sadly, he’ll just stick to the odd guest appearance here and there and potentially be the greatest Ploughman that never was. Anyway, neither bowler could quite make the breakthrough but Ranny did have a say in the first wicket to fall, when he made a tough chance look very easy at extra cover to dismiss the big-hitting opener off the bowling of Chris Silvapulle. Silva bowled very well to be honest. When he finds the required fuller length he can be quite a handful and it’s encouraging to see he’s listened to the advice of senior players throughout the season – showing he’s a thinking bowler as much as anything else.
Throughout the 2nd innings, Ickenham were there or thereabouts on the run rate and every time we took a wicket another good batsmen came in and got going straight away to keep the chase at a manageable level. I huffed and puffed for eight continuous but ultimately fruitless overs and then Simon just did his best to mix it up from both ends. Duray removed the real danger man with an excellent caught and bowled after he’d breezed to 83 in no time at all and Scooper rolled back the years to take two wickets in an over in the middle of the innings, including a wicket off his very first ball. Proving there is life in the old dog yet. Injuries have robbed us of his bowling for too long now so hopefully this is a sign that we’ll see more of it in seasons to come. We manfully plugged away and an excellent high catch off Silva by Elliott removed the ominous-looking skipper and, despite Steve displaying two examples of how exactly NOT to field on the boundary, for the most part our fielding was sharp and well-executed. ‘Nikki Slider’ the embodiment of our efforts, as he was a real ball magnet for the day and in being so he exhibiting some of the finest, resolute, Gandalf-esque (‘Thou Shall Not Pass!’) fielding skills I’ve witnessed this season. Skills in line with his loquacious dissemination, perhaps? (See what I did there?) He had a bowl too and initially struggled to find the right length but came back well towards the end of his spell. Tom Lockhart relinquished the gloves for the day to allow Rob Bentley to nurse his dodgy shoulder and was given a rare chance to bowl and did so pretty tidily to be fair to Tom. I sense a few sessions in the nets (with the butler to collect all the balls from the other end, obviously) might be in order this Winter for Posh Tom.
A 15 year old briefly threatened to ruin our day (until Duray ruined his with that enormous mouth of his) but by the time the opening pair of bowlers returned to wrap things up, PCC just about had things under control. 18 needed off the last over with the experienced Ashish to bowl it and they didn’t get close. Ploughmans eventually running out winners by 15 runs.
It was an excellent cricket match to be honest, with both sides unflinching and determined, yet played in a very good spirit (for the most part). No question Ickenham will be disappointed to have lost to us again, especially after having such a successful season. However, we’ve had one of those too and this match demonstrated exactly why – camaraderie and bonhomie alongside bags of talent and skilful application is a heady mix. Throw in that winning mentality and a resolve to never throw in the towel (as shown by Sunday’s side the next day) and you have all the ingredients for winning cricket matches. There really shouldn’t be be a single one of us that wants this season to end such is the good feeling coursing through the Club right now.
Plough on, lads.
*This may or may not have happened. Potentially artistic license.