One Day Competition - President Cardinals vs East Shirley Gold, Burwood Park #3, Presidents, 20th December 2014
Christmas wasn't looking good, a horror run of loses leading into this game had set us up for the possibility of alot of soul searching at what should otherwise be a festival of family and cricket watching. And with the skipper away, key man Ken Julian suddenly falling ill, and others seemingly "uncontactable", the omens weren't look good.
Fortunately stand in skipper Matty Loose won the toss and elected to bowl - perhaps a decision that would normally be unthinkable about at this time of year on a hot day and dry outfield, but Matt was right, our recent performances suggested that chasing a total might be the better option. The other factor, and one that did influence the match was the state of the wicket, well grassed and comfortable at the northern end, but at the other, one that seemingly that hadn't seen water in a week and consistently reared at the batsmen throughout the match.
Easts started badly with the early lose of a key wicket in Craig Gibb, caught behind by Laughts off Jules. The next eight batsmen then came and went in a steady procession with partnerships seemingly impossible to establish. The reason, this was a game were the bowlers really stepped up against a more than useful East's batting unit. East's bat all the way down to eleven, and in the likes of Arthur Daley, Howard Morel and Gary Hooper, they have lower order players who regularly get them out of such holes - but not in this case. It was hard to single out just one star performer with the ball. Jules had dismissed Gibb and gone for less than two an over off his five overs before suffering a side strain. Newcomers Phil Walker and Matt Bradley then kept the pressure on with three wickets between them to ensure that no one was able to settle. But in the end the pick of them came down to a coin toss between Flem, who easily bowled his best spell of the season, and Jeremy who more than equaled that. In fact so good was the shape on Jeremy's bowling that the umpires regularly offered him an extra all couple of deliveries in most overs.
The fielding also stepped up another notch with Laughts behind the stumps being the ring leader of that with three excellent catches. Furthermore, between the bowler, Matt and Laughts, the batsmen were generally well contained with good field placements and timely bowling changes which made life as difficult as possible for them. However after being 118/9, Hooper and Cherry did manage to put on 36 for the 10th wicket to allow Easts to finish on 154, a little more we'd have liked towards the end, but a total that we would have more than settled for at the outset in the conditions.
However, we needed a good start and we kinda got one until Laughts fell caught behind for 11 with the score at 20 - the East players overt celebrations were understandable in context of getting our form player back in the pavilion so early, but it was to be a long wait before they got to celebrate again, and by then it was a fairly muted one. Wildy and Matt proceeded to put on the partnership of the match that dwarfed all others. Initially it was hard to tell who the captain was, and who wasn't - with less than four runs per over required, one of them collected an easy boundary every second or third over, accumulating ones and twos in between, the other did the same but initially played with the gods by chasing the ball looking for harder boundaries and, except for the turning ball, should been bowled once, and caught on a couple of other occasions - it was about this time that Hooper, aggrieved at his bad luck with his bowling and team mates catching, was comforted by his fellow ex-Marist man in Wildy who quietly suggested that Hoops "should never have left Marist".
It was only an initial few overs, but then Matt settled down. With all due respect to the batting power of others in our team, no one would disagree that none put away the four ball as mercilessly as Matty, especially hitting along the ground straight. That Hooper went for nearly six an over with no wickets was a testimony to Matt's ability to quickly get on the back foot and smash the bowler straight back over his head with little risk - rarely does that happen to Hoops. Matt's innings was decisive in taking run rate pressure out of the equation and his eventual 59 further evidence of a trend to making bigger scores.
However, the anchor and adult in the partnership was Wildy. His was a riskless innings that was exactly what was required from the minute of Laught's departure. And when Wildy finally fell to an LBW, given by his departed mate where the nick was heard to reverberate around the ground, Wildy's 56 had the team score at 135/4, requiring just 20 more with 10 overs still left to bowl - a formality to finish off, well so we thought. That's when the procession started again. Between them Phil Walker, Flem, Matt Bradley, Rob Northway, and Ferg managed to contribute just 10 runs and we were suddenly 141/8 with Easts revived and in hyper drive. But with only an increasingly nervous number eleven still to bat, Brownie and Jules did the job - they firstly eked out a couple of riskless singles each, and then when Jules smashed two boundaries through mid-wicket, we had the match.
So Christmas won't be so bad after all, and as I get to say every year with a Presidents team, a chance recover from illness and from injuries - and the list is a long one; Tim, Geoff, Bert, Ken, Phil and Matt......and other much needed missing friends still to come join us.
Man of the Match: Not Named
Check out the scorecard from the game.