2nd XI vs MTSSC

Southgate 2nd XI 159 all out (47.4)
MTSSC 2nd XI 160-8 (50)

Concerns about the possibility of a sticky wicket at the Walker Ground were founded less on the performance of the ground staff so far this year, which has been admirable, less on the hot and humid conditions, but more on Eshaun Dass’s revelations about his pre-match routine.

So it was with a fair degree of relief (albeit not quite as much as Eshaun) that when the MTSSC captain won the toss he chose to field.

Everything was going swimmingly as the stand in skipper Max Joseph and his opening partner, Declan O’Leary, racked up a very encouraging partnership. Solid batting saw the first pair pass fifty before Joseph, understandably frustrated with himself, tried to cut a loose delivery but feathered an edge to the keeper.

Adeel Saeed came and went at number three but O’Leary reached a well deserved, obdurate half-century and passing the hundred mark just two down saw the hosts firmly in control. Unfortunately, that changed dramatically as Southgate’s ability to muddle the middle overs reached a new low of subterranean proportions. 101 for 2 became 109 for 8, enormously disappointing given the distinctly non-threatening combination of pedestrian in-swing up the hill and variable off-spin down.

It was left to bowling all-rounder Ricky Uppal (25) to salvage some respectability and he exceeded that remit by batting sensibly with ten and jack, Cox and Elders, to get the ‘Gate to a total of 159 from 47 overs.

It was generally felt that 159 was 30 runs below par, but with a wealth of bowling options and a stronger-than-usual fielding side the game was winnable (a sentiment that probably wasn’t shared by the opposition).

The potent pair of Elders (pulling rank to bowl downhill) and Rathod took three or four overs to find their rhythm, but were soon causing a predictable level of discomfort for the unorthodox-looking MTSCC openers. Unfortunately, fears that the batsmen weren’t good enough to edge the good balls were well founded and, rather undeservedly, it was 50 for 1 at drinks.

Our batting had left us with a major deficit in the respectability bank, but we certainly recouped a small amount of credit with the performance in the field. Once the lacquer had come off the new ball, Elders and Rathod made way for Nick Varney and the spinners, but life didn’t get any easier for the batters.

After plenty of toil the persistence told and it was Uppal again who showed the way, removing the remaining opener LBW before getting the dangerous number three and the “self-confident” number four, both caught and bowled.

Ed Harvey joined the fun and, at 100 for 5, we stood a very real chance of winning the game. It’s testament more to the resolute batting of the six/seven partnership than any failing of ours that the next wicket didn’t fall until the visitors needed fewer than ten runs to win.

Nevertheless, Nick Varney’s second spell saw him find much more sideways movement than his first and he was rewarded. What had seemed a coasting-home five-down situation very quickly became squeaky bum time thanks to a smart Saeed slip catch, an opportunistic stumping, and a comprehensive castling of number nine.

All three wickets were Varney’s and, when he struck number ten in front of all three the fielding side were convinced. Unfortunately, the visitors’ umpire did not agree and, despite taking ages, MTSCC managed to scrape home with no further scares.

It was a real rollercoaster of a game and it did not go unnoticed that the chase had taken three overs longer than the first innings. Ten more runs or three fewer overs would most likely have made the difference. Agonising stuff.

Ollie Bellwood