Match Report – Speaking of friendly fire… (14 Apr 2018)

“There are many ways to win, many ways to lose and the question of who is administering the pain?”

You can take it all for granted so easily when the sun is out at the Hirsch. It’s so early in the springtime that some trees still stand bare and the air is not yet specked with the feathery down of seeds wafting across the field. How lucky we were to have the day set fair again?

We met at the new time of 11:30am to set out the facilities, including the new Flicx. How would it play? The extra half hour was a boon and we were completely ready by midday. Ten minutes later we were playing, MIC having put themselves in.

This was the return fixture of last week’s thrashing at the hands of MIC. I must admit, I was confident that we could get an early win this time. The thought was bolstered by the fact that MIC had turned up with a couple of new guys to blood and although we were missing Messrs Wembridge (Who had decided to drive to the pre-season tour to Alicante, via every UNESCO site he could find en and not-en route) and Ayab (Who had a prior commitment to play a game resembling cricket but utilising a tennis ball. Fair enough, he had committed to this in February).

The opposition scorecard read, in order of appearance 2, 8, 62, 6, 3, 0, 11, 10, 9, 9 NO & 4. Byes 4, Leg Byes 3, Wides 26 and No Balls 4. Total 159 all out.

Ignoring the fact that these figures do not add up… this look a pretty respectable on-field effort by the MCC 1st XI. 26 wides is woeful by any standard. I mean, I’ve watched blind cricket and I can tell you that they would not bowl as many as 26 wides in 36.4 overs. But I have to accept that this is a work in progress and it takes time for people like Waqas and Imtiaz to learn the control they need to reduce them. Not that they were the only offenders, but they are my front line bowlers and I know that they (like me) want better.

What the book doesn’t show is the dropped catches. The top scorer was given at least two lives, maybe three and there were plenty more besides. By my reckoning, if all chances had been taken we would have rolled them out for 60. Maybe less?

Imtiaz and Jonty were the pick of the bowlers as both picked up wickets (2 & 3 respectively) at 2.1 and 3.5 an over. Run rate really matters when you want to control the show. There were wickets for Waqas Khan – 2, Craig Barrett – 1, and Varun Deshpande – 1, but all except Imti and Jonty went at the rate of a run a ball and that is damned expensive. It’s early season and we’re all groping around for accuracy, but in the end it is the bowlers task to provide it.

A good run out from Imtiaz was the eventual undoing of the MIC top scorer.

Still, we had done sufficient damage to the opposition to feel that we had the whip hand and a first win looked ultimately achievable.

Jonty and Rahul were the first to start dismantling the relatively meagre total. Rahul’s daughter was the only one happy to see him back so soon, she’d been watching from the boundary as he tickled one down leg to the keeper. An unwelcome duck for Dad.

Mahmoud Khan looked sprightly, but was cleaned up on 12. Skipper JD joined Jonty and just as the week before, Jonty looked in good form but picked out mid-off when he looked set, falling for 21. Varun joined his captain and the two pledged to see the side home. I was particularly watchful. The flicx was playing perfectly well and Varun, who has found his rhythm early in the year, was going great guns. I only needed to stay with him.

Just as the opposition’s heads were falling the captain miss timed a simple glance to leg and offered an easy leading edge to short cover. The score was now 92 for 4 off 18.

With just 68 needed from 22 overs and 6 wickets in hand, MCC were in the box seat but winning is a habit and so is losing. Desperate to break the spell of last season Collo set about batting the distance, but was probably the most unlucky of us when the drove a straight ball that any other player on the field would have got nowhere near. As it was Mid-off was up to the task of taking a great one handed catch on the sprint, close to the ground. Still, the benefits of playing along the ground are that this can’t happen!

Obaid played his first ball with a deft late cut and picked up 2. He continued to pick apart the field with ease but inexplicably charged down the wicket and was stumped when all we needed was calm. 133 for 6 off 24. Still plenty in the tank.

Imti, who has the chance to show me that he can bat and be an all-rounder was up next and he did his side the service of playing with a straight bat. Just staying in with Varun, (who was ticking along very nicely having collected his 50) would get us home. That’s exactly what Imti was doing when Varun played what is a signature pick-up shot off his legs. We all watched as it curved high in the air only to be pocketed half a yard in from the boundary. A good catch had ended a fine innings, but we were still not home. Varun gone for 57, the score 146 for 7 off 28.

Phil Bowes took an almighty swipe at his first ball. A dead straight Yorker that saw him back in the pavilion immediately. Do not pass go. Do not collect £200.

Waqas had the chance to play a winning knock with good friend Imtiaz, but having swiped and missed one that went through to the keeper, he continued to practice the shot outside the safety of the crease. The keeper was quick to take the opportunity and this lapse in concentration saw us record the second duck in succession. I mean, you can’t make this stuff up, you have to be there…

Enter Craig Barrett. Dependable, but forlorn. He had witnessed all this from the boundary whilst doing the scorebook. I don’t think he had expected to have to bat, nor by now did he want to. But then again, this was made for him. Ten needed from ten overs. Imtiaz was doing his bit, playing with a straight bat, picking up the extras and hitting the bad one. He just had to play his game…

Even a new flicx has a nasty ball in it. In fact, even a Test wicket does. The ball pitched. Continued to pitch and never actually left the pitch. The result was that Craig was hit on the boot completely adjacent. Miserable and about to walk, he was also stumped by the keeper for good measure. MCC beaten by three runs with four ducks on the score sheet.

This was death by a thousand cuts, most of them self-inflicted. Any one of the mistakes we made would have seen us win, what was in the end a very finely balanced game. Individually none of the mistakes we made was fatal, but the sum total was. If we want to find the winning habit, it starts with doing simple things well. Keeping a clear mind and being aware enough of the game to know the best tactic to apply. Every one of us.

M.O.M Varun Deshpande. 57 runs, but more notably for not being happy with his innings because he didn’t see us home. Perfect attitude Varun.