At the Oval, as India were preparing to bowl England out in a fairly placid manner, a mere two kilometres away, a much more intense game of cricket was about to commence at the always sunny Dulwich Sports Ground.
Skippered by the indomitable Liam Gray, the majority of the Plough contingent arrived at Dulwich Sports Ground at 11:30am. It was a gorgeous day, with the sun shining and Jon Howard preparing a brand new pitch which looked tantalising to play on. Our opponents, the fearsome Spartans CC had an annual club dinner later that evening so wanted an early start to allow for an early finish. With the Plough XI arriving in tow, unfortunately a few of the spartan players found the midday start a bit too aggressive to arrive on time with play commencing at 12:15pm.
Liam won the toss and with a batting heavy lineup, opted to bat with Adeel Riaz and Ben Fletcher opening. With a watchful start in the beginning, Adeel and Ben saw off the opening bowlers before Adeel unfortunately inside edged the first change bowler. After hitting a nice boundary off his pads, Bharat quickly departed after an attempted square drive found the soft hands of gully. Suddenly the Plough were 25/2 with Ben looking steady and well settled at one end.
Enter Suri, who was watchful for his first 6 balls before he took off with a flurry of boundaries which upset the rhythm of the bowlers. A particular highlight was when one of the bowlers bowled a full toss at Suri that he quickly dispatched for 6. The bowler put up his hand and apologised which Suri rejected and said that rather than the bowler apologising, it’s actually himself who should be thanking the bowler for giving him such a freebie!
Ben, not one to be outdone, started to open up as well, and had all the makings of a compact and classy player. He favoured the region behind square but quickly showed the wide range of strokes he had, with boundaries down the ground and all around the park. Between Suri and himself, they built a beautiful partnership of 70 odd runs before Suri gifted a catch to the opposition on the stroke of drinks and departed for 41.
With the game on an even keel at drinks at 101 for 3, Rahul joined Ben in the middle with a determination to build a solid partnership. Rahul looked very solid before attempting to heave a ball to the legside, missing it and suddenly the Plough were 125 for 4 after the 25th over.
I have to add at this stage, that the pitch was playing very well and the Plough needed a special partnership to accelerate our advantage and take the game out of reach for the Spartans. Enter Umar. Umar and Fletch had excellent understanding of the game situation and recognised that we needed to keep wickets at hand but also accelerate our run-scoring.
While Umar was getting himself in, Fletch reached his 50 with a bat twirl and this was when he decided to demonstrate another gear in his game. Ben was seeing the ball like a beach ball and was putting anything wide to the fence and anything on his body over the ropes. Arguably the sexiest shot I’ve seen all season was an overpitched ball on his legs that he flicked for six over mid wicket.
Umar eventually joined in the fun with some lovely shots of his own. Their incredible intent saw more opposition bowling changes than i’ve seen all summer. Fletch finally brought up his century and was scoring at faster than a run a ball. It was a fantastic innings of two halves and set up a beautiful platform for the team. Unfortunately while trying to score another boundary of the penultimate ball of the last over, he got bowled. Umar was not out with a very handy 39 and the Plough were in a very strong position by setting the opposition 231 for the win.
The job was half done however and the Spartans, true to their name, were not going down without a fight. Liam opened the bowling alongside Mark Wildig who was still buzzing off his high of being the newest member to be annointed into the prestigious Plough Hattrick Club. While we were hoping for another hattrick today, the Spartans had other plans with the opening bowlers being bashed around the park for 10 overs leaving the score at 70 for 0.
The Plough camp was getting tense, but as Mark plugged away outside the off stump, he finally got one to come back into the batsman, and castled the openers stumps. Cricket’s a funny game and momentum is everything. Not even an over later as DNS bowed a wayward delivery, the batsman deliberated for a second too long over a quick single and the centurion himself, Fletch, made a direct hit at the stumps to run out the number 3 before even facing a ball.
From 72-0 to 73-2, the Plough were on top again and this time we didn’t let go. Adeel came on to replace Mark after he bowled his full spell on the trot, and quickly snagged himself a wicket. DNS soon followed with a wicket of his own and at the drinks break, the score stood at 102/4.
Liam then turned to the ever reliable Rahul who kept it very tight and picked up a wicket himself, before handing the ball to Uncle Nige who walked to the crease with the swagger of a rockstar. With a perfect amount of drift and guile, the batsman just couldn’t put him away.
Finally, the Earl came in for his second spell to mop up the tail and before long took 4 wickets with at least a wicket in every over. It wasn’t the best spell i’d ever seen him bowl, but boy was it effective. Eventually the Spartans succumbed to the Plough in the 35th over for 174 all out.
It was a lovely day out and the opposition were gracious in defeat. They gave their commiserations that they couldn’t stay for a pint as they had another event but promised to pay us back with interest next year.
All in all an excellent chapter in the #HotPloughSummer playbook.