That rarest and most unseen of sights, the Ploughman’s Monday XI*, took the field under grey skies at the tail-end of the most Baltic August bank holiday in recent memory. Captain Silvapulle, smarting over his current 100% loss record as skipper, had no hesitation in putting the Plough into bat in the impressive surroundings of Uxbridge Sports Club, prompting a few groans from the opposition who had much the same idea.
Uxbridge would open up with their sole seamer, a useful right-armer, and the first of 7(!) spinners that they would bowl with. Despite rumblings of some gremlins in the pitch and their third game in three days, the Brothers Gumpert showed no signs of exhaustion when heading out to open, milking the bowlers around the ground for a 50 partnership within the first nine overs. There was fast running between the wickets aplenty and some big straight drives as they refused to let the bowlers settle, and Max quickly brought up his own 50. The partnership was eventually ended for just short of a century for 96 when Fred was bowled by the first change for a useful 30.
This brought the first of the power couple Iskander out. Despite looking very comfortable against the bowling and knocking the ball around well, Plough finally paid for one of our quick singles when he was run out by a direct throw from point for a healthy 18, bringing out his partner in crime Tom Lane. Plough were riding our luck at that time with several catches dropped, but Max finally brought up an exceptional hundred soon after that, his second in two days and the first Plough to ever hit back-to-back tons on the same weekend. From then on, the pair kicked on as Plough accelerated passed 200.
Max eventually brought up his first 150 for Plough with a neat dab to the leg side, and with no Mr T Lonnen around to stop him, decided to retire at this point, bringing myself to the crease. Despite struggling with an errant box as much as the Uxbridge attack (which gave Captain Carson plenty of joy on the boundary), I was able to hoick a few ugly swipes away before the opening seamer returned to mop me up. Tom Parrish then joined his namesake Lane and they both helped us finished well to get Plough up to a competitive 260 off our 40.
After Tesco meal deals were consumed at the tea break, Uxbridge were very quickly behind the required rate in their innings after an incredibly tight opening pair of spells from Fiddes and Wildig. Archie soon induced an impatient swipe from batsman 1 onto his own stumps for our first wicket. Mark then opened his own account, inducing an edge from the number 3 that was brilliantly taken at first slip by Fred to his left just inches off the turf. Skipper Silva liked what he was seeing so kept Wildig on to complete his spell, and was rewarded when Mark dismissed the dangerous opener off his final over for a tidy 31.
Captain Silva / “Michael Jackson” (that nickname still needs to be explained to me) and Hector combined first change to keep the pressure on, until the Hannibal was forced to step off the field having hurt his ankle in his run-up. Iskander stepped up to complete his over, combining with Niraj to give off-spin from both ends. The weather improving, the batsmen began to pick their rate up, using their feet well to work the spinners, and their number 4 passed his 50. Tailor finally broke the dangerous partnership, tempting the number 5 to charge at a wider one and Parrish smartly took the stumping. Uxbridge kept plugging away but also kept dropping wickets, with first Niraj taking one and then Isky Business bowling the number 4 through the gate for a fine 80.
With Uxbridge now needing well over 10 an over, the field was kept spread and the oppo comfortably under control, despite some dropped catches here and there. Iskander picked up a further wicket, and Niraj may have had a run out too had he decided to pick up and run with the ball rather than spearing it at poor Parrish’s head. Despite some panic in the last over from Captain Silva when the Uxbridge scorer cheekily changed the scoreboard to two runs to win, Archie returned at the death and picked up a wicket off the final ball of the innings, well caught by Max coming in from long-on, to complete a strong 45 run victory for Ploughmans.
The victory achieved, the Plough stayed for a few drinks with the oppo after a game fought in good spirits, and then reconvened at Niraj’s local tandoori house in West Drayton for a celebratory curry (as well as a medically recommended painkilling Sambuca shot for Hannibal Hector), both of which went down extremely well.