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“What is a dead ball?”

The excitement was at an all-time high for the final friendly game of the year between MCC Gold and MCC Black. So high that most turned up late for ground prep as it appeared many had forgotten their gear. Or more likely giving extended farewells to their loved ones, after seeing Waqas’s name on the opposition’s team sheet.

Once everyone had kitted up in the new apparel and photos had been taken for the sponsor’s new media releases, Gold chose to bowl on an oh-so-moist outfield only to be reminded every over by Wembo claiming “we’ve been robbed 50 runs here”.

This day wasn’t just worth celebrating as the final game of the year, as it also coincided with Jonty’s birthday, who was honorably given the new rock by Phil. The team was behind him, as was the camera hoping to catch some glorious action shots. Keep an eye out for the 2021 Wisden Photo of the Year.

JD, charging in for Gold, dehydrated and likely frustrated by the cautious batting of the opening pair, felt compelled to add his thoughts to the spirited debate over “what happens when the ball hits the side of the pitch”? The umpires had made their decision, but that’s not what had the audience’s interest as Wembo and JD decided to eloquently articulate their wide-ranging thoughts, condensed into a few 4 letter words.

The pitch didn’t stop serving treats, as Vish’s day went from good to great. He was also able to appreciate the (in)consistency of the pitch, as he copped an ol’ flicx, dribbling into his stumps.

This was followed by a more traditional wicket as Suchit middled one right into Mucca’s chest. Somehow the ball stuck in Mucca’s hand, resulting in Suchit’s long walk to the sideline. We could hear Suchit’s thoughts ticking over on this walk- little did Gold know how Suchit’s story would end…

This brought in Ankit, who was protecting himself down the order. As the Captain and a role model within the team, he crushed a cover drive to the boundary, no doubt showing the kids on the sideline how to play. Then, after 7 balls, he decided to take a more team-player approach, chipped a dolly to the chest of cover to bring in the next bat.

This came in an intense 10 over period where around the same amount of runs were scored as both teams were all too aware of the MCC collapse. With Amol looking untouchable down one end, Wembo decided to take a quick break from his controlled 50 before coming back out a few overs later after that inevitable collapse.

To prepare to open against this stacked bowling lineup, Usman wisely chose to injure his hand with a dropped catch, ensuring he could rest up on the sideline.

A great late charge, Matt slapping a few onto the athletics track and Waqas with his head in the sky and front-foot nowhere to be seen kept spirits high in preparation for Black’s bowling innings, but not everyone was happy with how things were playing out.

After watching the previous bowlers toiling away without reward during those 10 over, Veith had had enough of “giving the kids a go”, as he ripped the ball out of Phil’s hand, waltzed in and took 3fa of his 2. After those 2, he was seen sidemouthing “that’s how ya do it” as he rolled the ball back to Phil, calling an end to his spell.

A great session of control, talent and social-hostility from both sides ended with Black posting an imposing 135. Anything is imposing to a chasing team.

Usman and Ruhel entered a pretty tough situation. Adam had the ball on a string at one end and Kunal pushing off the back fence at the other. Adam snared the first, and Kunal picked up the next two with a ripper to end Haran’s day way too early after looking solid in defence.

The collapse seemingly had begun…much to Vinny’s pleasure. After keeping to all 40 overs, Vinny was seen on his phone during the break, checking his step count and decided time on the sideline could only hurt his ambitions for Steptember. Unfortunately most of his 49 balls at the crease were dot balls, perhaps he was hoping the cameraman would snap a few front-foot defensive shots, rather than the step count.

Jonty joined Vinny as he did his best to stabilize the innings, keeping the good balls out and punishing the rest. Anything down leg was in as much danger as the Birthday frothies on the sideline as swatted a handful to the spectators well positioned behind the fence at square leg. But then came every batsman’s worst nightmare- a straight one on the stumps, birthday innings was over.

Stuff of nightmares. Ankit laughed.

JD, likely still dehydrated and exhausted from his spirited debate over dead balls, kept his head down and was also focused on stopping that collapse. He certainly earned time in the shade + water after those 30-odd balls of ‘control’.

With the light fading, Gold was beginning to fear anyone coming in from the southern end. Thinking any ball could be their last with the lack of visibility, Gold showed true bravery in attempting to see off Kunal, especially after Cameron sent one over the fence.

Not willing to see what Kunal would do in the next over, Cameron sent one straight up to seek protection in the clubhouse.

Speaking of the Clubhouse, this was the place to be on a Saturday afternoon. If the crowd wasn’t being entertained (enough) by the elite cricket on display, they also had JD’s sangria and Lilly and Lucy on the decks (Xylophone).

Steve Waugh noted that sledging was ‘mental disintegration’. That famous war-like mentality was again seen as Suchit began sledging batsmen very early- during his own batting innings. This included threatening to spoil the AFL Grand Final during certain batsman’s innings.

Suchit’s redemption arc from the C&B came true as he ripped through Gold with 5 wickets (according to the scorebook).

Tom didn’t get a chance to save the team due to the speed of the collapse, as he didn’t have a chance to grab his ritualistic chewing gum.

Gold made 110, a great effort considering how well Black bowled.

While the game had finished, there was one last element of the day that remained.

Black selfishly believed that Gold were going to keep all the packing-up duties to themselves.

Phil, seeing Black looking disappointed they wouldn’t have the chance to pack away a few moudy pads, made a selfless call and decided to share the packing up ritual with both teams, which was met with cheers from Black. A true leader.

Even though I joined the club for the final few games, the club has felt like a real comfort after moving countries. I never thought I’d be playing cricket in Munich, but cricket itself isn’t even the most important part of the club (in my opinion). Meeting great people, weekly social events, post-game drinks (MoM hazing) and tours have really made membership of this club worthwhile.

I’d be willing to put money on other new joiners sharing that opinion, and I’m sure that’s why everyone else keeps coming back.

Looking forward to next year!