Last week was not an easy one for groundsmen around the country. Persistent rain every day (even at DSG!) made pitch preparation difficult and the likelihood of play uncertain. Much credit must go to Jake and John at DSG for coming through for us yet again, getting us on the field as many other league games were washed out. The only warning was about a “small puddle” in the infield, and that winning the toss would be crucial on what was likely to be a slow an uneven pitch. Sutton Challengers awaited us with memories of many close matches from past seasons.
Upon inspection of the ground, the puddle turned out to be more like a mud patch the size of two pitches just on the edge of the square. Unperturbed, I pulled my trusty Super Sopper from the car boot and we got to work. After much rolling and negotiation with the umpires, a 40 over game was agreed with a delayed start time. My horror at losing the toss turned to joy and bafflement as the oppo chose to bat first – why exactly we will never know but I am certainly not complaining.
Taking the field was quite a different and more youthful Plough side than in previous weeks. What we lacked in experience, however, was more than made up for in energy and a desire to get our first league win of the season. What followed was one of the best Plough performances in the field since the dominating days of 2018 / 2019.
Puff opened up in his 150th match for the club and showed us yet again why he has been one of our most consistently dangerous bowlers for so many years. Bowling beautiful line and length with late movement, he bowled his 8 overs through and was very unlucky not to pick up a wicket (with two gettable catches dropped). Bad luck mate, I’m sure you will be back in the wickets column this week, and I hope you enjoyed your milestone match in the meantime.
Lewis had more success from the other end, picking up 2-27 off his 6 over spell. Lewis has been outstanding this year, bowling full and straight and being rewarded for it. Most impressive has been his ability to take advice from senior bowlers and implement it immediately, as well as his bold attempt to make himself available to double head on every weekend of the season. Keep it up young fella.
Despite our good early bowling, the oppo batsmen were enjoying the ball coming onto the bat and at 50/2 (plus some dropped catches) we did worry that it was getting away from us a little. It was time to turn to spin and just “see what happens”, which is easy to say when you have two quality spinners like Pretorius and Riaz in your lineup. Duray was up first and ripped some early leggies a mile – it was like Duray circa 2018 had never left. His confidence built and soon he was nigh-on unplayable, regularly turning it from outside leg to past off stump. What a pleasure to watch, and he was rewarded with 3/21 from his 8.
From the other end, we had our first glimpse of Adeel in a league setting, and what a glimpse it was. Earlier while testing out the pitch for the umpires, to our amusement he’d attempted to fool the oppo by throwing up some loopy full tosses (helpful for assessing the wicket) and then some seam-up deliveries. Now in the game proper the oppo didn’t know what had hit them, Adeel starting with a wicket-maiden and then following it up with another wicket-maiden. With the spin twins in action, the oppo had suddenly gone from 69/3 to 77/7. For any aspiring young offies out there, come and watch this man bowl – quick enough to make it difficult to come down the pitch, but with just enough flight and dip to fool you into misjudging the length. His line and length were impeccable, his send-off death stares after each wicket intimidating (à la Ed Beesley!) and in no time in all Riaz had 4/9 off his 6.2 overs.
With Doozer and Adeel properly squeezing the life out of the oppo, they were all out for 94 in the 29th over. Our fielding improved markedly after those early drops – a really solid display full of energy, talk and effort. A special mention to Dan Rumford and Oli Lonsdale, who missed out on the opportunity to bowl but gave it their all in the field, finishing with catches and a run out (even if it was aided by the oppo bat running after hitting it straight to Oli, and then realising his mistake and finding it impossible to turn on a wet Hollies pitch without spikes…) I particularly enjoyed Lewis’ catch on the boundary to dismiss their most dangerous bat, loudly shouting “Lewis!!” as the ball came his way, despite being the only bloke around for at least 40 metres.
After a shortened tea break so we could get chasing before the rain came back, we started our batting innings with Adeel and the Mouse. Unfortunately Adeel departed early and Fred was joined by brother Max. What followed was a textbook example of chasing a low score on a difficult wicket – play very straight, on the front foot, keep out the good ones and keep the ones and twos ticking over. They also had to contend with the oppo skipper seemingly attempting to bowl every bloke on the field.
As the score ticked along above the required rate, we were all waiting for us to reach the 20 over mark before it rained and thus make it a game. The Brothers Gumpert did their best to run each other out while each trying to get the strike for the next over but by and large it was a pleasure to watch. As we neared drinks, Maxy unleashed straight down the ground with one big over that effectively killed the game off.
Despite telling each other (in German) to aim for red ink, and how good the beers would be if they saw us through to the end, both Gumperts were dismissed as we’d just about reached the target – Max painfully two short of his 50 and Fred for a well-compiled 29. Suri blocked a couple of balls and decided that was boring, waltzing down the pitch and dispatching their ninth bowler over midwicket to seal the win. Game over – a brilliant 7 wicket victory for the Plough, and many beers consumed in the sunshine post-match. Is there any better place to have a pint after a glorious win?
A special shout out to everyone on the team for offering your help to me throughout the day with ground preparation, stumps / scoreboard, scoring etc. The message from our chairman has clearly been received. It makes such a difference as skipper so thank you.
This win was one of my most enjoyable for the Plough for many reasons. Our first league win for the year after several close calls and rain washouts, as well as completely dominating for the whole day – we did not take the foot off their throat even when we got on top. The feeling of positivity and enjoyment amongst the group was infectious. If we continue with that kind of attitude this season, we’re going to win a lot of matches.
Onwards and upwards to our next league game where we can really set up our title challenge – Plough On!
Tis a.k.a. Ohhhh Jimmy Jimmy, Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Tisato.