A thriller in Horley
This Saturday was one of those games of cricket that you'll still be talking about at the end of the season...
The thrilla in Manila Horley! [Ed]
This Saturday was one of those games of cricket that you'll still be talking about at the end of the season, one of those games that you hope every game will be like. A game that swung, often rapidly, in favour of both teams, with all 4 possible outcomes still possible with less than 2 overs to go. A genuine thriller.
Having made the journey down to Horley, we arrived to find out that 5 of our 11 players were still on the motorway somewhere, including 4 of our 5 bowlers, raising concerns about the possibility of losing the toss and being asked to bowl first, and left us wondering who out of the 6 players at the ground would be thrown the ball to take the opening over. Fortunately, whilst losing the toss, we were asked to bat on a slightly overcast day, but on a pitch that we knew would be true and an outfield that offered maximum value for shots.
Josh and Mods strode to the crease to open up, with the remaining players at the ground either padded up to come in at 3, scoring or umpiring. A very efficient use of the available players, ICC take note. The remaining RCC players arrived just a few overs in, so up to our full compliment of 11 Josh and Mods went about building a solid if not thrilling opening partnership. Patient Horley bowling eventually did for Josh's lack of patience, which brought Sacha to the crease. Sach was quickly into his work repeatedly beating the outfield on both sides of the wicket with the ball racing to the boundary across the quick outfield. Sacha was the first to bring up his 50, and with his infamous hamstring starting to show early signs of giving way he decided it was best to get on with it, hammering a few more boundaries before eventually falling for a pleasing 58. Mods carried on at the other end in his own indomitable way, surviving a litany of chances much to the increasing dismay of the Horley opening bowler, before eventually bringing up his own 50 in partnership. His new partner at the other end, Babar Mahmood started in his usual 'positive' fashion (4 over mid-on first ball sort of thing) and continued to play freely before both he and Mods fell in quick succession, with Babar making 30 and Mods a welcome return to form 66.
With the score on 180 and with a free-scoring middle and lower order, and with nearly 6 overs still to play a score well in excess of 200 looked on. However quick wickets chasing these runs slowed the rate down and it relied on a few lusty blows and some helpful overthrows to push the Roehampton score up past 200, finally finishing on 212-9 off our 50. A good score, but no more than par on a true pitch and fast outfield.
Following a good tea, we took the field knowing that to win the game we'd have to follow the oppositions lead of bowling tight and at the stumps, and hold on to all of our catches in the field. The first part of this didn't quite get across to new ball pair Zak and Shahid, usually both effective and miserly exponents of the new ball, both struggled for line and length allowing the Horley opening pair to race to 70-0 after 9. Ron and Yasir were swiftly brought on as change bowlers to bring some control back, which they both did to great effect, with Ron finally getting the first wicket with a well disguised slower ball. Bowling in tandem for the next 15 overs Ron and Yas brought the Horley run rate back under control whilst continuing to chip away at the wickets column, well supported by good catches from keeper Josh Bloom and 1st slip Sacha. At the other end the remaining Horley opening bat continued to play nicely, with one particular back foot punch through covers bringing purrs of approval from the slip cordon. Just when it felt like the game was back under Roehampton's control, the Horley number 6 came to the crease and proceeded to smash his first two balls for a 4 and a 6, followed shortly after by another pair of well bludgeoned boundaries. The field was spread however after the fast start from Horley we knew that runs were at a premium and 20 minutes of one of their players batting like this would take the game completely away from us. Babar was brought on to bowl after impressive displays with the ball in previous weeks and with a now correctly set field started to tie their number 6 up and reduce the scoring rate once again. The Horley opening bat eventually fell for a well made 69 (if you take into account the fact he dropped Mods who made 66 on 0 [an absolute dolly and still owe him a beer for that - Ed (Mods)], that makes for a net positive score of +3 for him...), once again opening up an end for us to attack. A few more quick wickets fell as the bowlers were rotated with Zak Khan coming back into the attack alongside Ron, Yasir and Babar, and by the end of the 39th over Horley found themselves on 189-9 and with 6 overs to either bat out for the draw or to score the remaining 24 runs required for a win. As the edges started to evade the fielders and the occasional poor balls were put away the target continued to reduce, bowlers were rotated after short spells in the search for the final wicket. Eventually, in the 44th over and with just 6 to win, Yasir found the edge of their number 10's bat which was expertly pouched at 1st slip by Sacha, to give him 4 catches for the innings alongside his earlier 50, prompting scenes of relief and celebration from the 11 RCC players. Yasir and Ron ended up as the two stand out bowlers recording 5 wickets and 3 wickets respectively.
All in all an excellent and enjoyable game of cricket played in a hard but fair spirit between two evenly matched sides, in a league that is shaping up to be one of the most tightly contested for a long time.