With Jake Sittampalam’s side in fine form, they travelled the short distance to UCB for the first and only 4s away day of the BUCS season. Injuries and last-minute dropouts had decimated the team, leaving Skipper Jake in all sorts of trouble as he floundered around Flat 1, 12-13 Clarendon Square like the proverbial headless chicken on the morning of the game attempting to find an eleventh man. Bradshaw’s availability spreadsheet again proving to be of no help whatsoever. Thankfully, Michael (Harry?) Radley stepped in on short notice to claim his place on the #YOUFOURS bandwagon.
The bus journey to the game witnessed the Yeti satisfying his copious darb with a collection of Costcutter goodies, including a giant pink bottle of lucozade, an assortment of chocolate bars and a pack of Maryland double chocolate-chip cookies. Needless to say all were finished in no time. There was also lengthy discussion about the ominous-looking weather overhead, debutant Aqil Tariq’s complete lack of regard for shirt and tie etiquette (a note here that he would continue this rogue fashion trend by batting in a hideous chequered golf jumper that even had the oppo baffled), and the highly anticipated adoptions activities to occur later that evening.
Upon reaching the picturesque Sutton Coldfield CC for some reason about two hours before the game was actually due to start, a pitch inspection revealed that this was a track that looked in very decent nick. However when the toss was inevitably won by Jake, making it 3 from 3 this season, the prospect of afternoon rain persuaded him to bowl first. After a rousing team-talk which included such clichés as ‘let’s have some intensity’, ‘don’t give them anything’ and of course ‘we can win this’, the 4s took to their positions on the field. Unfortunately there were no stumps or batsmen to be seen while the umpire, who turned out to be a contender for one of the weirdest blokes of all time, informed us that he was ‘having a fag haha’ and so couldn’t really be bothered to get the stumps from the hut.
When play eventually began, Andy Davis, recalled from the wilderness of Warwick Table Tennis, found the edge of opener no.1’s bat, a chance that was greedily snaffled at slip by Aqil Tariq before he dropped the mother of all dollies at mid-wicket later in the game, citing the ‘spin of the ball’ as a rather unconvincing mitigating factor. Unfortunately the other opener, a Unicorns player, proved to be a class above the rest of the cricketers on show, sending the ball to the boundary with predictable regularity and playing a near chanceless knock. He smashed his way to a ton by drinks, with UCB on 140-2 and Warwick in need of inspiration.
However, a turnaround in the second half of the innings would see UCB slip from 190-3 to a relatively modest 248 all-out, thought to be under-par for a pitch that played true throughout. Mahir Yousuff led the charge with 6-53, joining Ben Stephenson and Jonathan Hall in the Legion of Gash 4s spinners to have claimed a baggy this season. Taking the key wicket of the Unicorn’s opener, he should also have had a hattrick but for a bizarre decision from the umpire who refused to give a very plumb-looking LBW appeal and simultaneously denied Haque’s appeals for a catch in the gully. Nevertheless, a decent fightback had given the 4s a very chaseable target.
Having spent most of tea, which included such culinary delights as a gun cake and an excellent coronation chicken sandwich, intensely debating whether the UCB female scorer was chopping one of the team (conclusion: she probably was, she must have been surely, why else would she have been there?) and discussing why you probably wouldn’t bring your one to a UWMCC match if you valued your relationship, the 4s went out to bat with plenty of optimism.
Yeti (36) and Cook (45) compiled a solid platform with some controlled strokeplay and good running that targeted one dopey-looking fielder in particular who displayed a distinct lack of basic hand-eye coordination to rival that of a seshed Henry Bowen. However when they departed, along with Sittampalam (8), it was left to Mahir ‘baggy’ Yousuff and Aqil Tariq to push the rate along, with the 4s needing six an over off the last 20 to achieve victory. A tense finished beckoned, so tense in fact that Brad Fern resorted to furiously doing some maths homework in a bid to ease his nerves.
As Aqil began to find his feet, the 4s gained runs and crucial momentum. However the lower middle-order failed to back up his fine knock, with Haque departing for a predictable duck after claiming that he would hit a heroic fifty off twenty to win the game, Sanger (1) hacking wildly at a good length ball and Davis (11) miscuing one to mid-wicket. When Aqil fell for 59, to wild UCB celebrations, the game appeared to be out of reach with 39 needed off the final five overs. Despite a marvelous 30-run cameo from Brad Fern, ably supported by Radley at the death, the 4s fell short of the thirteen required off the last over to finish eight runs short of victory. A tantalising defeat that was tough to take in the end.
Ultimately the Unicorns player was the difference between the two sides, making 130 with the bat and bowling ten economical overs with the ball. Plenty of positives for Jake’s 4s, with gutsy performances all round and individual good displays from Aqil, Cook and Mahir especially. Staff 1s next up and the bandwagon may need some repair.