Report/essay: Josh Wilmott
And so it came to pass, the last league game of the 2019 season, and for the RCC 2nd XI an outside shot at promotion, which all started with us needing to beat the newly crowned league champions, Horley CC 2nd XI. One other result between promotion contenders Shepperton and London Gymkhana would have to also go our way, but the first task at hand was overcoming a strong Horley team.
To celebrate it being the last game of the season, everyone turned up in good time meaning that 30mins before the start of the game we were set and ready to go, leaving time for a bit of a warm up, or in Sacha’s case, another cigar.
Josh duly won the toss, and with a strong and well balanced 2s lineup, elected to bowl first, knowing that we had a bowling attack that on it’s day is (and this is without any hyperbole) the best in the league, and a batting lineup that has consistently chased down scores for large swathes of the season.
After a typically rousing pre-match speech, and a long overdue team photo, the 2s took to the field to limit a strong Horley batting line up to as little as possible. Little did we expect the level of performance that we would achieve over the following 28 overs. Or at least, from the third ball of the first over through to the 28th over, once Harry P (definitely not Purnell du jour – for info please refer to the 1st team result) had watched the ball dribble through his legs to get the Horley scoreboard up and running.
The potent new ball pairing of Shahid and Babar set about their work quickly once again, with Babar getting up to a good pace and Shahid settling into a dangerous line. Babar got the first breakthrough with a beauty to bowl their opener, bringing to the crease their dangerous number 3 who earlier in the year had hit an unbeaten hundred against RCC. The ground fielding remained excellent with pressure built on both sides of the wicket, Fred Scowen at square leg in particular helped build the pressure patrolling most of the leg side and not allowing the batsman to rotate the strike. Babar continued to bowl well, bowling his 9 overs straight through for an outstanding return of 3-20, in all honestly on any other day and against most other batting lineups he would have picked up 5 or 6 wickets easily.
Despite Babar’s excellent opening spell, the main excitement was to come at the other end, and off the bowling of Shahid. With Horley’s number 4 looking in good touch crunching a variety of drives straight to fielders, and with RCC knowing that despite the early couple of wickets the game was still in the balance, we were looking for a bit of magic to help burst he game wide open. Up step club legend, current chairman and usually dour opening batsman Marc Moderegger to throw back the years at mid off. A pitched up Shahid delivery was hammered in the air straight back past the bowler, neither bowler nor umpire having much time to reach as it whistled past them and the rest of the fielders already setting their minds to finding the ball in the trees. Alas, for the batsman at least, Mods had other ideas. Out flew the right hand and in smacked the ball, much to the amazement and delight of all concerned (again, barring the Horley batsman who stood his ground in initial disbelief before trudging off). It was largely agreed it was one of the best catches you are likely to see on the Heath, we look forward to seeing how much Mods goes for at the IPL auction this December (who would no doubt be big fans of his strike rate - Ed.)
With that, the standards from RCC continued to rise, barring a difficult dropped catch from Stu behind the stumps ("Unsure if there is any need to mention my drop in the match report" - Stu Allen, the Monday afterwards. He did in fairness take three catches - Ed.), everything was pouched or stopped in the field. Yas came on after Shahid’s opening spell to bowl yet another outstanding 8 over spell giving nothing away and inducing more false strokes to finish with another 4 wickets, big Stu Turner bowled 3 very 'exciting' overs which had the batsman calling for a helmet mid-way through, less due to fear of the bouncer and more through fear of the beamer, before Fahad came on to clean up the tail. A truly outstanding performance from the 2s in the field and a shining example of why we’ve won our last 7 games, and since the third match of the season only lost 1.
As the Horley innings was completed before tea was ready, we turned straight around to go straight back out and chase it down. Mods fell early playing an attacking shot, realising as he was walking off that attacking cricket was a fool’s game, allowing Stu T to join Hatteea (OBE) at the crease. Unusually Sacha wasn’t the dominant batsman in the partnership as Stu took a liking to a number of the Horley bowlers crashing his way to an unbeaten 47 to see the 2s home to a resounding 9 wicket victory.
This all left us in the club refreshing the league website to see the result of the Shepperton vs. Gymkhana match. Finally, Harry P got through to a committee member from Gymkhana to find out they had beaten Shepperton, which meant that unfortunately the 2s quest for promotion had fallen short, by just 4 points. Did the 5 points we (it’s a team game…) were deducted earlier in the season for not submitting a scorecard on time come back to bite us? It’s impossible to say. Well it might be possible to say, but lets not dwell on that here.
Instead let’s celebrate an outstanding season for the 2s, losing only 3 games, drawing and winning the rest in the year. Outstanding contributions from everyone who played at some point in the season allied to the strongest bowling line up we’ve had for a number of years, depth in batting led by a mountain of runs from Sacha at the top of the order and a consistency of selection that has meant that a core of the team has played most weeks, allowing for individuals to develop and flourish in their roles. Promising performances from a number of junior players when called upon was also hugely encouraging, not just for them or the team but for the club as a whole.
If we can start the 2020 season in the same way we’ve finished the 2019 season there is no reason why the 2s shouldn’t be serious contenders for promotion. However, before that, there is just the small matter of the 1s v. 2s match this coming Saturday, where I’m sure there are more than a few points to be proved…
MOTM – some bits of cricket can change a game in the blink of an eye, this weeks MOTM has to go to Mods for that half a second of cricketing brilliance