Archive for June, 2013

Al-Mighty Performance Inspires Big Win

Every club has one. The archetypal number eleven. The man that loves the destructive element of the gentleman’s game. The man who, growing up, alongside images of Megadeth and Travis Bickle would have had crudely defaced posters of David Gower and Gordon Greenidge on their bedroom wall. To them a bat is merely a nocturnal creature with odd shaped wings and big teeth, while a batsman is the enemy, the object of their absolute ire. The Louis XVI to their Robespierre. Playing cricket is the chance to unleash their fury. To get even. To bloody the nose of a kind of snooty aristocracy. Having been imbued with this rebellious belief, it never leaves them.

Elstow’s member of this particular occult is Big Al Phillips, the second team captain. He’ll sit there chuntering away in the score hut as the wickets tumble. The departing batsmen will do everything to avoid eye, let alone ear, contact with their displeased skipper as they scuttle back timidly to the relative safe haven of the dressing room.
Yesterday at The Warren against Whitchurch of Buckinghamshire, the other nine members of the team kept their heads down. Number ten, James Glean’s useful stand at the wicket had come to an end. Big Al, face like thunder, sleeves rolled up, perplexed that those above had summarily failed in their duties, stormed to the wicket.

Like some kind of fellowship, it was always the way that bowlers never went after bowlers. Rough up the batsman as much as you like, but leave your colleague in arms be. Solidarity brother.
At some juncture in the last twenty five years, possibly in the Devon Malcolm “you guys are history” Test Match in 1994, this all changed. The Minutes from that particular meeting of the Fast Bowlers Union have probably been destroyed. Or they are hidden in a vault in some North Korean bank. Or maybe elsewhere shrouded in mystery. That emotive motion would’ve been hotly contested. But, just like every other controversial law anywhere in the world, once passed, there’s no going back.

Big Al’s first delivery faced was a head-high full bunger. At the non-striker’s end, Luke Griffin winced. A wince that said, “dear me, you won’t like him when he’s angry”. Thanks to Griffin’s stoicism and handy counter attacking, Elstow were in a position to post a decent score. With the riled Phillips at the other end now suitably incandescent this looked a formality.
A beamer from a brother. It was all too much for Phillips who tore into the Whitchurch attack with the kind of vengeful vigour usually reserved for Bruce Willis films. A huge six over deep, deep mid wicket was framed by an ensemble of fiercely struck fours.
At one stage, amid two batting collapses, Elstow looked in danger of not passing one hundred runs. They now had two hundred on the board and a man on a mission.

Whether momentarily swayed by thoughts of turning his back on his former life and going as a gun-for-hire allrounder or fearful of the call from the local shop steward on Monday morning demanding to know ‘just what the devil he was playing at scoring all these runs’, Elstow’s captain initially struggled with his radar. From the last ball of his first over, he thudded one into the Whitchurch opener’s pads. A lusty appeal, and lucky decision, brought the first wicket. Phillips yesterday bowled a nagging wicket to wicket line. You miss, I hit. He would hit three more times.

Whitchurch, despite the steady fall of wickets, to their credit, continued to chase the runs. No slinging out the anchor here, they fought fire with fire; their captain embodied the brave plan. His innings was brought to a halt by a full toss from Glean. Griffin backed up his growing all rounder credentials by getting among the wickets, inspired, no doubt, by teammates Nick Lewis and James Tanswell who also enjoyed fruitful afternoons with bat and ball. Elstow were in complete control.
In just the twenty second over, Tanswell bowled the last man, the eighth of ten such Whitchurch dismissals. Boisterous cheers greeted this healthy 93 run win and with it a welcome 30 points as well as a proud, almost paternal smile from the cuddly captain who had the look of a man, who, whisper it, enjoys batting almost as much as he does winning.

Horner Shearing Man of Substance of the Day: Solid displays from allrounders Luke Griffin, Nick Lewis and James Tanswell, with a nod to contributions from batsmen Guraj Galsin and Ed Wisson too, were in the shake up for the award. However, the irrepressible skipper Alan Phillips is this week’s worthy recipient.
Sammon Pie Moment of Fancy: Big Al’s gargantuan six will stay in the memory for a long time. Archetypal number eleven batsman? He’s better than Messrs Martin, McGrath and Mullally combined.
Clag Nut of the Day: Your correspondent. A first ball dismissal was compounded by an afternoon of aberrations in the outfield. The final humiliation of a day to forget was the Fawlty-esque act of drop kicking my keys into the garden hedge in a rage of visceral self hate that meant I spent what was left of the cool midsummer’s evening picking up scratches and splinters searching for them. Not quite the Saturday night rooting around in a bush I envisaged when I started the day….

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Welsh Wizardry Worries Wing With Wingrave

The on-drive. The most exquisite, authoritative shot in the coaching manual. The look of tortured anguish on the bowler’s face, aghast as he pivots his head back round to see the ball fizz triumphantly past him. The illicit murmur of approval from his colleagues in the slip cordon. The celebratory roar of the crowd. Forget the ghastly clubs and hoiks, the new fangled scoops and switches, indeed even the magisterial cover drive. The on drive is the saintliest of expressions in the batsmen’s repertoire.
Elstow’s Chris Richards plays the on drive as well as anyone. In times of desolate emptiness and heart searching darkness; along with Get Ready by The Temptations and the “Sssstttttiiiiiiirrrriiiiiikkkkkeeeeee Tttwwwooooo” baseball umpire skit from The Naked Gun, thoughts of Richards’ on drive act as marvellous medicine. Simply, it gladdens the soul like little else.

Yesterday at The Warren against unbeaten Wing with Wingrave, fellow aficionados of the great man’s great shot, against the jarring June wind would have been thoroughly spoilt. Richards showcased not just his wonderful talents but how to build, maintain and then emphatically finish an innings, undefeated, as an opening batsman.
The grey skies joined the wind in making life as uncomfortable for Elstow’s openers, before AJ Stewart, the division’s finest new ball bowler, partnered by Rob Flynn, added to the discomfort. A fabulous battle ensued; Stewart eventually prised Gary Flower after a stoical, yet slow start in searching conditions. Wing dominated. From The Wilstead Road End, experienced left armer Barry Childs, tore into Elstow’s middle order. Captain Sam Rose smothered a sharp low catch to dismiss one of Elstow’s danger men, Ed Wisson. Childs needed no help with his three other victims, only Sumit Karunakotha can count himself harshly done by with a ball that zipped, then clipped, the spigot tops. Elstow were 59-6. The scoreboard looked as miserable as the weather beaten home support.
Despite his good work getting rid of Wisson, Rose couldn’t cling on to a swirling Richards miscue that slipped agonisingly out of his hands at mid wicket. It was to prove costly. Though Elstow’s middle order summarily failed, their tail provided much needed ballast. Steve Russell ‘had a go’, before Luke Griffin and, latterly, your correspondent dug in. All the while Richards, one or two blips not withstanding, powered through the tens. His fifty was politely cheered, his hundred, when it came courtesy of a flick through square leg for four, was greeted by a guttural outburst of relief from his teammates. Through Richards’ cussedness then undisputed class, Elstow reached 180-8 at tea, a giddy looking total considering their earlier malaise.

Buoyed by their boyo’s brilliance the home side tore into the reeling away side. Russell huffed and puffed. The enigmatic Hani Thiarra had his pal Rose in all sorts of bother before claiming Rose’s opening partner Rob Crallan. Rose chipped to Ravi Kalyan at square leg. Griffin claimed the wicket, Thiarra the assist. Bonfire smoke from a neighbouring garden blew, like cordite on a battlefield, across The Warren. If this was Waterloo, Wing responded to Elstow’s mighty fusillade with light infantry. With all three results still possible, Martyn Turner and Deepak Sukhani seemed content to block out a draw. Their dismissals, via Karunakotha and Nick Lewis, brought James Tuthill (once on the radar at Elstow) to the crease.
Tuthill’s powerful striking provided a delightful counter punch to proceedings. His boundary-laden, crowd pleasing innings of 40 ended on the last ball of the match to give Al Phillips his second wicket, but, alas, not his first win. Wing with Wingrave finished 149-7, some 31 runs shy of Elstow’s total. This was a thought provoking and sometimes thrilling draw. The day’s winner was undisputedly Chris Richards and that superlative on drive.

Horner Shearing Man of Substance of the Day: Chris Richards. Two catches and his first century for Elstow. An unbeaten 113 not out that gave the seconds something to smile about after a tough fortnight. After David Lloyd George and Barry John, the epithet ‘Welsh Wizard’ firmly belongs to this man.

Clag Nut of the Day: Hani Thiarra. A decent spell of bowling and an important catch can’t mask his misdemeanours. A dropped catch off captain Al’s bowling and his role in the embarrassing administrative debacle meaning a piqued and pooped opposition in the face of the Richards onslaught had to field for one more over than they initially thought, hands this honour to Hanvir.

Sammon Pie Moment of Success: The shot, the roar, the acclaim. The smile. After several close calls and many great knocks, the elusive maiden Elstow century for Chris Richards. Syr chwarae yn dda!