One Day Competition - President Cardinals vs Merivale Papanui, Sydenham Park #3, Presidents, 8th February 2014
Now that we're into the last third of the season, and a few points off the pace, every game counts in defining our season as a good one, or an under-performance - any loss from here certainly risks the latter. This was Merivale Pap, a team that we haven't beaten for some time despite an expectation on every occasion that we should, games where we always rated ourselves with the greater ability, but equally games where MP have just simply played better as a group, and rightfully beaten us.
Marriage is a major change in one's life, children even more so as Jase will agree (that's the currently unavailable Jase that is), but for Ralphy, it has made little difference, it was business as usual, another toss, another loss - but it must be said is was great to see Jen down at the game, but Ralphy, I did detect a preoccupation with her baby niece, so tread careful there. In truth I'm not sure that the toss was really all that important anyway as in this case the pitch was a good one, the boundaries again pathetically small, and the light conditions satisfactory.
So being asked to bat first shouldn't have been an issue, but as it turned out, we were never able to really get comfortable during our batting effort despite the "A team" line up we had available this week. After Kev, who's missed the last couple of games, went in the third over, Spency and Matt nicely recovered the position and got us through to 58/1 before Spency (six boundaries in his 30 runs) made the mistake again of thinking that others were more capable than him of carrying on the innings......yes, mistake, the danger of having a really good batting line up is always the risk of a mind set of leaving it to someone else - but Matt certainly seemed determined to get a big one himself. He batted with a good mixture of cautious defense and fine stroke making until he got an excellent delivery that took him out, such is the game of cricket.
From there Yogi held the innings together with a careful 29*, an innings that perhaps only lacked an ability to turn the strike over to the others who's role it was by then to be the bigger aggressor. One of those was Sam, in his season debut match, who undoubtedly played the most attractive innings of the day by either side. His 39 came at exactly the right time and was full of successive boundaries that got the innings mostly back on track. Ralphy followed through on his outstanding innings the week before with a useful 17, but when the innings finally closed at 161/8 we had no right to feel comfortable. All agreed that the wicket was a good one, and the short boundaries had inflated the score by at least 20-30 runs... so we were going to have to bowl and field a hell of a lot better than we did against the Buccaneers the previous week to have a chance.
And that they did. Sam undoubtedly added a lot of firepower to achieve that but he wasn't the star in that regard, Kenny was (but 1/16 off 8 ain't bad). Although MP never really got on top of our bowling during their innings, we equally never got quite on top of them either until very late into it. At 79/2, and running at the required run rate, we certainly looked at risk when Ken came on, but by the time he had finished with 4/15 from his eight, MP were almost out of the match. Ken did his usual, initially stifling them for runs before frustration saw them gifting him their wickets as the innings progressed, But Ken wasn't the only one, Matt was certainly in control with his overs, and between them Sam, Ken and Matt in particular they eventually snuffed out the MP effort giving us a long overdue revenge after a number of defeats.
The other contrast to the previous week was the fielding which was impressive both in the air and on the ground. The highlight was Jeremy's excellent catch at cow-corner to a hard hit, and otherwise flat six, that he plucked out of the air, I'm sure without avoiding some pain, which was a major turning point in the match. The other equally significant event was Laught's run out of MP's threatening run scorer Stocker, and whilst it was more a case of a very poor bit of running, Laught's cool head and execution of the dismissal was something often muffed by many in similar pressure situations. Yogi also featured strongly behind the stumps. He is a quick learner in his new environment down under as evidenced by the way he turned up to the game, fully immersed in the Jessie Ryder school of pre-match preparation. In the end MP fell short by 30 when their final wicket fell, not a complete performance by us by any means, but an excellent fight back by the team in the field.
So our season remains alive for a high-end finish, even if winning seems realistically beyond us without a major capitulation from St Albans. Our efforts is the field remain our strength which provides us with the comfort of knowing that we can defend most scores above 180ish - our challenge is to get our top five batsmen to put together innings in excess of 50 against the top ranked sides to get those sorts of totals - it hasn't happened since Matt's 51 way back on 26 Oct 13.
Man of the Match: Ken Julian
Check out the scorecard from the game.