2nd XI battle hard to secure consolation point on return to the top tier

Southgate 146 ao (44.2)

Jeremy Dangerfield 58

Acton 147 for 7 (38.2)

Ricky Uppal 3-15


Southgate returned to the top tier of Middlesex league 2nd team cricket after a decade-long absence had finally been put to bed with back-to-back promotions. If the jump in quality didn’t make life hard enough, player availability took a heavy hit thanks to the Bank Holiday weekend and assorted other reasons on which I won’t comment.

Still, the atmosphere in the captain’s car on the way to Acton was upbeat (in no small part due to the glorious weather) and the conversation was diverse, ranging from news of our Canadian guest player to Ghanaian cuisine at the Walker ground.

Bonhomie gave way to confusion on arrival, though. With Acton’s new pavilion unfinished the playing field, changing facilities, showers, catering, and car park were all in different locations. Throw in a travelling circus with very loud speakers and a dodgy playlist, not forgetting a junior Champions League football tournament watched by McNulty from the Wire; it all added up to a rather surreal setting.

Amid this weirdness, a cricket match broke out. Our newly appointed captain Jeremy Dangerfield lost the toss but was relieved to be gifted his choice of batting first as Acton elected to take the field.

On a pitch which still had some moisture from a midweek downpour, exactly ten runs were added for each of the first two wickets. Waqas went first followed by no. 3 Shiv, and both were disappointed with themselves having played loose shots, but things improved as Ali Lynch and the skipper added 37. When Lynch was trapped in front, youngster Kevin Shah batted sensibly to share another 21 with a comfortable looking Dangerfield.

78 for 3 looked like a solid platform but Kevin became our second LBW victim and that triggered a mini-collapse with the experienced lower order of Faruqi, Bellwood, and Avi Panday notching just a solitary run between them. Ricky Uppal’s hideous net form saw him come in at no. 9 but he showed form is temporary by cutting and flicking his way to a valuable 24. Dangerfield passed 50 in his first innings after replacing Faruqi as captain before both he and Uppal were bowled leaving our final pair to get us as close to 150 as possible. Ed Harvey ran his 10 runs at a good pace but he was undone by Adrian Carr’s inability, and subsequent unwillingness, to match that running; Harvey was run out to close the innings.

146 looked a few shy of a truly competitive score, but was certainly no gimme, and we resolved to make life as difficult as possible for the home side with our many-pronged spin attack.

Things started pretty well as off-spinner Uppal snared a dangerous looking opener, caught behind in just the second over of the innings. Bowling a disciplined line and length with nice shape through the air, the same bowler took the next two wickets to fall, batsmen 2 and 4, to good catches from Panday and Lynch.

At 41 for 3 the chase was evenly balanced but the home side were well ahead of the required run-rate, meaning wickets were the only way for Southgate to win. Enter Kevin Shah, the third leg-spinner into the attack after Harvey and Faruqi and the first to take a wicket. He removed a resolute-looking Acton captain, who was a little disgruntled by the decision (though with little cause from where I was standing).

A brilliant direct-hit run-out from star man/game hog Ricky Uppal made it 83 for 5 and at drinks it really was a fifty-fifty game; a swift 20-run partnership followed but there was to be another twist. Avi Panday, bowling his first ball for the club, cleaned up no. 7 and then proceeded to trap no. 6 LBW in the same over.

Fortunately for the Actonians an unfussy eighth wicket partnership saw them home. While they may have had a few overs spare at the end of the game, we had certainly achieved our stated target of making the chase as difficult as possible, and the satisfied Southgate captain had one more reason to be happy as he was rewarded for his side’s efforts with a consolation bonus point.

Ollie Bellwood

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