Saturdays are not Saturdays without cricket. Opening the blinds and seeing bright blue skies gives a player nothing else but an itch to win the toss and elect to bat. This was definitely the case for Saturday 23rd, where the years temperature records were set to be broken, and Ploughmans CC skin was set to sizzle. The prospect of solidifying Ploughmans CC’s position at the pinnacle of the league against fellow titans Croydon CC was matched with a perfect poached egg on toast breakfast – it was important not to be overawed by the occasion.
Upon reaching the ground, it was clear that the London summer had adversely affected the track. A ground keeper’s inspection of the track options made little argument for the most usable wicket. It was decided upon review the track with fewest divots would be the most suitable option. The team traveling was a set of regular ploughmen followed by an entry of a couple of fresh ploughs. Despite the changes made to the 1st XI, it was clear from season performances that we would arrive at Croydon looking strong. An opening 6 batting line up fully equipped with long levers and an equally impressive bowling attack meant Croydon CC had their work cut out for the day.
After a clean warm up and an obligatory pitch inspection, the game commenced after an unfortunate toss, sending Ploughmans CC out to bowl in the testing heat. Openers A. Paul and M. Spencer gladly took the new cherry and commenced the battle with a hostile Plough pitch. The opening Croydon pair looked unsteady against the torrent of Paul and Spence. Ash’s second over brought the first chance of the day, the opportunity was made to look very challenging by the undisclosed fielder who shamefully put the ball down after it collided with his chest – bruises reportedly are ever present (if that makes things better – SORRY ASH). Despite this missed opportunity, the next over brought the reward on behalf of Spence, dismissing the opening batsman caught behind for a duck.
Reluctantly, the opposition updated the scoreboard to 2-1 and their team began to rebuild. After a solid few overs from Spence, R. Lonsdale joined Ash in the attack. This is where things began to get real tasty. Ross looked like he’d been in a sauna whilst waiting to bowl as he ran towards the crease pumping out steam. His 9 overs made the ground quake and the batsmen’s ankles break, as his spell reaped 31-4. His partnership with Ashish Paul finishing on 20-1 and a beautiful cameo from L. Gray piled the pressure on the flailing Croydon CC team at 105-7. The bowling side continued this pressure as Spence resumed his spell with D.T. an apparent part time bowler – much likened to Morne Morkel meant there was no let up for the hosts. After a potential hat trick opportunity from D.T. Morkel and the innings reached 140-9 with 5 overs remaining, it was reluctantly time to see how effective spin was on the dusty abyss. Duray’s appearance proved handy as he was able to wrap the innings up in his second over finishing with 7-1.
The innings was impressive from the tourists, plenty of energy and tight fielding. Not to mention the obligatory chat to the batsmen from our overseas sledging specialist C. Ovens encouraging the batsmen to join their friends back in the pavilion. A well-earned 150 all out by the visitors made for a welcome half time lunch and time to cool down after joining a shell-shocked Croydon CC.
Opening batsmen C. Ovens and O. Lonsdale looked eager to make inroads, as they strode confidently to the middle before the fielding team had a chance to digest. After a coherent first partnership a few Sundays previously, it was business as usual as Croydon fired down some early out swingers and cutters. Some cover drives and cuts joined the mix as the basis for an opening partnership was laid down once more. On reaching the unbeaten 30s the pair looked to be settled as O. Lonsdale feathered a pouncing ball to the keeper and drearily returned to the dressing room with an unmentionable 11. A lovely few shots from Ovens and Tisato was all that was added as Ovens cooked a length ball to mid on for 22 and Tisato was toasted after leaving a straight one for 4. Still positive, D.T. and skip F. Mills joined the crease and looked to make serious inroads. The in-form duo played some profitable shots onto and over the boundary until Thomas joined his friends back in the dressing room for 16 and Mills cottoned one on to his stumps.
After being out done at 73-5 Duray Pretorius and Kesh Wanigasekara looked to be the last full batsmen joining the crease. An avoidable position to be found in meant the pressure was on to keep hold of their bats. Unfortunately, Kesh cashed in with a leg side shot to mid-wicket producing the catch of the day from an unsuspecting opposing fielder diving to catch with his strongest side. Pressure building on Duray, Paul joined the ever-changing wicket to make a holding role for a strong looking Duray. Paul departed for 1, producing a determined looking Liam Gray to the crease. ‘Game to win, league to win, focus’ were the words of the remaining 54 runs, as Duray spurred on his equally gritty Gray. But Gray was not grey in his supporting role which implored Pretorius to save the Ploughmen from an unexplainable defeat. A resolute performance from the S.A. prodigy lead the team to requiring 2 to win after attempting to cream a straight one for victory on a well worked 40. It seemed fitting that seamer Ross would see through the final runs through the slips. Fist bumps all round as the Plough record remained untarnished. An excellent victory for the team, showing great character and determination as we ‘plough on’ through the season, margins will prove important. Surely this was a highlight.
The team followed with a celebratory few clubhouse jugs, as they recalled the highpoints of the day and how we could improve. Few returned home, but others carried forward in search of more jugs. The success carried us forward to our home, the Plough bar and kitchen where we were welcomed and removed as doors closed seemingly early after some more rumoured topless antics. As a reporter I can’t carry further into this story, as details become blurry and drinks became heavier. All in all, a solid day to be a plough!