Date: Saturday 25th March, 2017.
Location: Esslingen-am-Neckar, Baden-Württemberg.
Cassandra’s Weather Outlook: Fair to sunny, with a bit of wind chill.
Saturday 25th March, 2017 will go down long in the memory of those who took part in MCC’s first game of the 2017 season. Many were taking part in their first March cricket match and an early start didn’t dampen the atmosphere, despite the chilly Easterly that was swirling around at Laim Bahnhof. Bowes appeared particularly excitable, with only Gattinger showing signs of “what are we doing playing cricket in this cold”. Punctuality was well observed from all bar the ‘pro’ for the day Amith Sarma, who’s tardiness was a welcome delay for Colling and Bowes, desperate to fuel themselves for the journey ahead with a coffee and a doughnut.
The touring party departed leaving Bowes and Colling to wait for the aforementioned Sarma and no sooner had the city limits of Landeshauptstadt München been breached then the sun appeared, never to leave for the rest of the day.
After an uneventful and painless 2 hour drive through the glorious Bayerisch and Schwäbisch countryside, we arrived at the outskirts of the pretty city of Esslingen-am-Neckar, where the picturesque Eberhard Bauer Stadion would be our home for the afternoon.
After a long walk to relieve his guts, Craig Barrett, captaining an MCC side for the first time and in fact captaining his first side for seven years, found out that nothing has changed in the intervening years, and he promptly called tails, and down came heads. MCC were inserted.
Barrett decided to take advantage of the power of being captain for the first time in such a long time and promptly announced that he would be opening the batting with Sarma, who had, by now, arrived.
A woeful opening over from Stuttgart, which included no fewer than 6 wides, was followed by some better lines which delighted Billy Blocker Barrett as he could showcase his textbook forward defensive in all its glory! Fortunately for MCC, Sarma was scoring freely at the other end. Barrett’s defence was finally breached in the 9th over with the score on 38 and he departed for a predictable 2 from 22 balls. Bowes declared “it was all about the partnership”.
Wembridge joined Sarma at the crease and MCC continued at a steady rate before Wembridge inexplicably smashed a waste high full toss to square leg to depart for 16, but not before Sarma had brought up a classy 50. At 77/2, MCC were sitting pretty and were aiming for a total close to, if not in excess of 180. Unfortunately Sarma fell soon after for a well-made 52 and it was up to Ayub and Arunachalam to rebuild. The rebuilding job lasted only a couple of overs before Ayub was dismissed for 5, and Bowes, fearing the turning ball, decided attack was the best form of defence. Unfortunately he didn’t quite get to the pitch, the ball went vertical and the duck race was on!
Deverill and Arunachalam put on 36 for the 6th wicket before Arunachalam departed for 12 in the 29th over, the score 125/6. Deverill continued to look in no trouble as Khan came and went for 3, before he was dismissed for 31 sweeping the spinner with the score on 150. Deverill claiming the ball unluckily deflected off bat, glove, box, pad and foot and trickling onto the stumps.
The last few wickets of Colling, Bhat, Gattinger and Waqas put on 11 runs for MCC to be bowled out for 161. The score was less than had been hoped for, but credit must be given for some tight bowling by Stuttgart, who used no fewer than 11 bowlers! However, all thought this was a defendable total.
After a spot of picnic lunch in the Schwäbisch sunshine, MCC started their defence of the total well. Opening pair Colling and Deverill were able to extract plenty of swing from the seamless white ball provided by Stuttgart. Their miserliness led to the first wicket falling in the 7th over with the score on about 20, the pressure telling and reward for Colling as the batsman was done all ends up with a classy away swinger rearranging his stumps. Deverill, unfortunately got no reward in his 4 over opening spell and was replaced by Waqas, who continued to keep it tight, again, with no reward. 5-1-15-0 an excellent return on opening day. At the other end, Barrett replaced Colling (5-1-12-1) and relieved the pressure by bowling some liquorice allsorts. Bhat swiftly replaced Barrett and last year’s wide-boys winner, low on confidence, started gingerly, but after some on field coaching by Deverill and some encouragement from all, he got his mojo back to claim 2/19 in a 4 over spell, including the key wickets of opener Hansh, lbw for 46 and Javeen, bowled for 13. Between those wickets, there was a fabulous piece of fielding by Mudussir to run out Haneesh without troubling the scorers. At drinks Stuttgart were 95/4 and despite all in the MCC team agreeing a couple of quick wickets could break the back of the chase, captain Barrett declared it was “time to throw the ball around”.
As the sun dipped below the hills and the air became increasingly cooler, MCC continued to stick at their task with their heads held high and smiles on their faces, and with the ball thrown to a number of bowlers in order for them to gain match practice, Stuttgart’s numbers 5 and 6 knocked off the remaining runs without much fuss to claim a 6 wicket victory in the 31st over.
In the end, the result was insignificant. An excellent day out, in lovely surroundings and almost all got some good, early season practice which will hold them in good stead for the season ahead.
All in all an encouraging start to the season for MCC, a few players already showing early season form and plenty for the captains to think about. A special thank you to our opposition Stuttgart for the invite, playing hard and fair and making it a pleasure to play against them.
MCC Man of the Match – Amith Sarma for his elegant 52.
Champagne Moment – Mudussir Ayub direct hit run out.
Thanks for Coming Award (TFC Award) – Phil Bowes for kicking off the duck race.