One Day Competition - President Cardinals vs Hospital, Sydenham Park #3, Presidents, 29th March 2014
Forget football, cricket is the beautiful game, we all know it. Cricket has that beautiful ability to see a great event one week, rarely bettered, and then the next week, it is. Likewise, we even more often see great events, career best efforts, followed the week with an effort that reminds you all about averages.
This was a game that we had to win to be certain to finish in 2nd place, otherwise we had to rely on Saints to beat MP. And it was against our sister team Hospital, who despite having had a tough year, retain our respect as a team who can get up and beat us when we least expect it. Fortunately Hospital won the toss (business as usual for Ralphy), and I say fortunately because the wicket did not play well. The bounce was modest, but mostly it was just plain slow ensuring that stroking making was something kept for another day. As would be expected, Hospital took us head on with their best two batsmen in Fanning and Smart leading the way as the two openers went about their task in a risk less manner to put on 65 for the first wicket. They were assisted by some initially shorter pitched bowling that was criminal on such as wicket, but nonetheless whilst we couldn't get early wickets, the bowlers did a great job in restricting the run rate, typified by Ferg's 1/10 off six. And what is it with Jeremy Brown, there is a pattern developing here ? You can almost guarantee that his first over or two will be short and wayward, but at least the skipper's got it worked out now, take him off, bring him straight back on the other end and he bowls brilliantly for you. His 3/31 ended up a fine effort.
Ralphy as usual under bowled himself, but it was he who cleaned out the key batsman in Bernard Fanning that set the rot in for Hospital. The other to impress was Yogi who variations baffled the Hospital middle order, and his 0/16 off seven was the talk on the sideline. But then Jules took the ball. Sam Martin's superb hat trick on the same wicket earlier in the season was an event that some of us hadn't seen in our careers, Jules was about to surpass it. Four wickets in four successive balls, three bowled, defeated any last resistance from Hospital as they capitulated losing their last 8 wickets for 14 runs (105/2 to all out 119). Problem was, that middle wicket, the hat trick ball, was an LBW, well at least it should have been. I suspect Jules will forever hold grudges against South African props that masquerade as umpires. Despite the full ball about to uproot middle stump, and the apology from the batsman afterwards about the decision, Sam's hat trick still formally stands alone this season .....perhaps not always the beautiful game Jules?
So only 120 to get, with a batting team that nearly put on three times that many for the first wicket the previous week, no problem. Enter "fair play" Ralphy, reverse batting order. Laughts and Wildy were rewarded for their heroics the previous week with demotions to No. 7 & 8, certainly not Wildy's place of reward. The innings then went into the 5th over before we had our first run off the bat, accompanied by ecstatic applause, and it took to the 17 over to get our first boundary (I've definitely got to make a come back as this sounds like my sort of game). But if we weren't worried when the two openers were gone at 18 with the run rate at less than 2, we certainly were when it was quickly 19/4 and then 46/5. Amongst those gone was the Skipper who has consistently performed for his team in such difficult situations this year, but he was taken out by a career best catch at mid-wicket by big Jim Boyd. But what really hurt us was Wildy. With 193 the previous week, the newspaper articles, the mobbing in the street, and the succession of media interviews, they all took their toll....193 one week, then a duck, cricket is indeed the beautiful game.
But all of our young fellas were now mostly out, and what was left at the crease was 80 years of adult cricketing experience in Geoffrey Miller and Bert Walker. Geoff in particular has been here many times in the past - the required run rate was only 4, what was needed most was a simple, solid, no risk 30/40, Geoff set himself to that task. No risks, a single or two an over was plenty, just wait for the short ball every two or three overs that could be easily put away with no risk, that's exactly what he did. The last thing a good batting side wants to do is disrespect that great efforts of their bowling team by not taking full advantage of the modest run rate that the bowlers have achieved for their batters. Geoff and Bertie did that "beautifully" with Bert eventually matching Geoff in the run making stakes as the two of them eventually got on top of Hospital and convincingly turned the match in our favour. When Geoff finally got out for an almost match winning 36, up stepped Laughts. Having strode up and down the boundary in his pads like a teetered panther for many overs prior to being needed, having "failed" the previous week in comparison to his even more lauded partner, this was going to be a slum dunk, and so it proved to be. When Laughts hit a six off the final ball for our 3 wicket win with an over to go he walked off with Bert, who had produced his best innings of the year (28*), knowing that their role in the win was immense.
Hospital could be proud of their effort - certainly they would be disappointed with their batting collapse, but not so their fight in the field. Irrespective of the reverse batting order, they made it damn hard for us to get that small total and they rightfully finished the game thinking that there might be a light at the end of the tunnel for their season next year.
From our prospective the batting effort was summed up "beautifully" by Flem (someone not short of a good comment or two) "I guess the batting trial was a success".... out of the mouths of babes.
So second place, our rightful finishing place I'd say in the context of the season, we just plain couldn't get out of a hole on a couple occasions during the season and those two losses cost us the title to Saints who deservedly won it. Saints, a team that we convincingly beat at Hagley after Christmas, a team who will know that they have a real battle on their hands next season to retain their title.
Check out the scorecard from the game.