David and Goliath, The Tortoise and the Hare, The Crazy Gang against the Culture Club, Rocky Balboa v Apollo Creed; all immortalised examples of the plucky underdog persevering against the odds to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The match between UWMCC 4 X vs UWMCC Friendly X provided just such an opportunity to place themselves in the annals of history. While for the 4s, embarrassment and demotion to UWMCC’s 5th XI awaited.
In typical friendlies fashion, only ten men turned up in questionable attire ranging from shorts, to trackies and standard woolly jumpers. Nevertheless, the Village X were eager to get their season started as Captain Wellsy turned up on his scooter and was ordered to bowl first by an Adeel led 4th X who had started the season strongly. This failed to deter a confident bowling attack, led by speedster Splatt who proceeded to clean bowl Adeel and Stephenson in his first over- a double wicket maiden – and then pick up Cook’s wicket to make a score line of 9 for 3 off 5 overs. Confidence was high in the field as the friendlies’ season couldn’t have got off to a better start. The 4s were saved by a Larkins-Livesey coalition who rebuilt the innings with some sweet hitting to give some respectability to the score, but some solid up-and-down bowling from Shah and Leighton managed to restrict the runs. Next, on came the spins kings of the Welsh Dragon and Kimmerston. The Dragon was much improved from his seam spell on tour and provided some promising flight and guile. But it was Magic Mike with his mysterious stock-ball googly that proved the most fruitful picking up two wickets with an economy of just 3 an over, despite the fact each ball struggled to reach the batsman. This ended a well worked 40 for Livesey who along with Larkins (50, retired) were the highlights of the innings for the Adeel ‘Quack’ Haque X who set a target of 134. And an honourable mention to Otto behind the stumps who played a part in 4 wickets as well as innovating a new technique of stopping the ball with his trusty helmet.
Folowing a quick turnaround Reynard and Carter took to the crease to chase down the target. After getting off to a slow start seeing off openers Stileman and Smulian, both began to play some good shots until Reynard had a headsgone moment and was stumped off Fern’s bowling. This brought in the Dragon at number three who had continued his tour routine of practicing his leaves during his throw-downs. Bowen used this practice well and ended with a strike rate of 45 but did have the crowd on their feet after pinging Fern to the long-on boundary. Skipper Wells chipped in with a nice cameo of 14 but the majority of the batting plaudits of the middle innings must go to Carter who sent many plants and made 40 runs. After Larkins cleaned up Bowen and Carter, in came Otto and Wood with 50 required off the last 10 overs. The tension was beginning to mount, but the Villagers were still confident of a maiden win.
The tail started well but after Wood hogged the strike from Williams for 3 overs Otto forgot how to bat and gave his wicket away to Freddie Sharkins which left 38 needed off 7 overs. The tension rose as Skipper Haque gave the single to Wood to take him off strike and expose the Friendlies’ tail as Leighton came in who picked up a solid 9 runs but fell to the pace of Stileman. Later Kynaston arrived at the crease, trembling with fear at the prospect of being picked off by his ‘hit for six’ radio show co-host Stileman. With adrenaline surging through his veins, the match on the line – 16 off 3 overs required, 2 wickets in hand – Kynners put away Stileman with an authoritative whip off his pads to the boundary. However, the big man had the last laugh as Michael tried to force the ball down leg but instead left it to skim the top of leg-stump, which left Kimmerston claiming, “It was the wind!” Platt sauntered in with the team hoping he could be the hero with both ball and bat. The pressure was on – 8 required off the last 2 overs with one wicket remaining. Some suicidal running and awful fielding left 4 needed off the last with. But it wasn’t to be; a headsgone call of, “TWO!” from Wood left Platt with too much ground to make up after edging it to fine-leg. The game ended with the Friendlies X just 2 runs short of a historic draw.
An immensely thrilling and enjoyable game of cricket that bodes well for the rest of the season for the friendlies and a good showcase for Reynard, Carter and Platt in particular to give Skipper Sittampalam some selection headaches in the future.