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April 2008

April 29, 2008

An Epping good win for Chigwell 27/4/2008

27th April 2008 marked an historic day in the history of Chigwell Cricket Club as we chalked up our first league win. (The previous week was no less historic for being our first league fixture, but as we were soundly spanked on that occasion, a lot less enjoyable).

We had a strong looking team, which made looking at the weather forecasts through the week more painful than normal, as they were unremittingly awful. It was only on Sunday morning that they began to change, and suggest there was a chance that at least some play was possible. Various members faced with long journeys contacted me to try to avoid a potentially pointless trip, but the rain held off until we all arrived, at which point it decided to get going. The weather radar at the Met. Office had predicted that the rain would be short-lived, and by golly, for once, they were right! No heavy shower was going to prevent our planned fielding practise and we went through our paces, mindful of how poor catching had stymied a good start last week.

The umpires set a start time of 2:15 and I planned our strategy, based mainly around fielding first. When the coin landed the wrong way up I feared the worst as Epping decided to let us bat. Now I know I have always preferred bowling first, even in friendlies, but the league rules really do seem to favour that strategy, especially if the game loses any time to the weather, which was a distinct possibility. On the other hand, in our previous two games we bowled first, conceded a large total, and failed with the bat, so perhaps losing the toss wouldn't be too bad….

A lot depended on us getting off to a reasonable start, and that task fell to Rob and Tim. It wasn't long before hope started to rise, both openers looking comfortable at the crease. They did a great job of keeping the scoreboard moving, mixing the odd boundary with smart running. It's not always possible to achieve, but it gives the whole innings momentum when we don't stall at the start - particularly in a 40 over game. Rob fell LBW, a tight looking decision, but one more likely to be given by a neutral umpire than the batsman's team-mate we would normally have standing in a friendly. The score at this stage was 39, Tim doing the majority of the scoring. John joined him at the crease and was happy to play a supporting role to the star turn that Tim's innings was becoming. Tim batted beautifully. I remember his big ton against North Park on the postage stamp at Woodford Wells, but this innings eclipsed even that as he combined touch, timing and power, batting like a latter-day right-handed David Gower, to bring up a majestic century to the delight of his team-mates. Eventually he was to fall - to a mistimed pull shot – in the 30th over for 113, with the score on 154. Many of the opposition made a point of shaking his hand as he left the field, and of course the congratulations from his team mates knew no bounds - or not many anyway.

The batting order was re-jigged and the more powerful stroke players were sent in. John had to retire from the fray with a pulled calf muscle and James, Oli, Dom, me and Nick did our best to keep the runs flowing. We finished on 210 for 5, a very respectable total, but with only 56 coming in the last 10 overs perhaps fewer than it might have been.

A proper quality league tea was scoffed by all as I considered my bowling options. John was unable to take the field but fortunately Charlie had been brought along to watch, and was willing to take the role of substitute fielder. The plan was for Dom's searing pace and Rob's nagging accuracy to leave Epping well behind the run rate, taking a couple of wickets or so along the way, leaving it clear for the rest of the bowlers to finish things off. I had been reckoning without the clean hitting of an outstanding opening partnership for Epping. Mr. Whiting showed particularly aggressive intent, while Mr. Singh was not too shabby either. Four overs into the innings and the score was 31 for 0. Dom had gone for 23 in 2 overs and I had no choice but to try plan B – take the pace off the ball… Nick had expressed a preference for the other end, so I replaced Dom, while Rob persevered at the other. The partnership continued apace, and now what seemed like crucial chances were being dropped. At 100 for 0 from 13 overs the game was disappearing fast, and all Tim's great work with the bat seemed wasted. The team was sick and needed a doctor.

Enter Nick. His first over saw the first wicket, as J. Whiting missed with his swipe and was well stumped by Paul. "OK, let’s turn this juggernaut around" said Dom. "OK, this is where it starts" said I. We’ve both seen the "Chigwell Burn" before and memories of miraculous comebacks against W.G. Gracefully, Brighton Beamers and Gidea Park & Romford dared to creep into my mind. Next over from Nick and suddenly Mr. Singh was gone, falling to a great catch, held millimetres from the turf by James diving forward at mid on. The juggernaut was slowing. While I toiled through the rest of my spell and gave way to Brad, Nick claimed wicket number three, Tony Clarke raising the finger to a confident LBW shout. Nick’s fourth over was merely a maiden, but he made up for it with two wickets in his next over, another LBW and a dollied catch to James off a full toss, J. Newman departing first ball. In the excitement I didn't even think to bring the field up for the hat-trick ball, although my mind wasn't too confused to realise that Nick now had 5 wickets in as many overs, and would be buying beer for us. By the end of his allotted 8 overs he had claimed another victim and his figures read 8-2-21-6. An outstanding, astonishing performance. The juggernaut was now partway down the exit slip-road, approaching junction 27.

Young Mr. Tatlow and Mr. Butt now began to dig in, and from 144 for 6 the score inched forwards, there still being plenty of time for the Epps to win the game. Brad, Frank and Rob were unable to break through, but thanks to the earlier (forced) decision to take Dom out of the attack we still had 6 overs of something fiery to offer and before long Tatlow's patient vigil was brought to an end as leather missed willow, and hit ash. 182 for 7, with 7 overs to go. The satellite navigation system in the juggernaut was giving unclear directions: "Rejoin Northbound for Epping… take the Southbound exit for Chigwell…" And then, in Dom's next over, came the moment. 199 for 7 became 199 for 8 following a concerted and upheld appeal for LBW… and we had won! Bit of a surprise to hear that Epping had not found an eleventh man, and that one of the original 10 had had to leave early due to illness in the family; I hope it was nothing serious.

So victory to Chigwell, joyously celebrated by all twelve Chigwell players, together with Owen and Nigel, who had nobly arrived to support us. Team pictures were organised, once Tim had been dragged from the toilet, and after showers, jugs and laughter filled the Epping air, while the older members thought of how far we'd come from the days of Low Hall Farm. And the juggernaut? I can't be bothered to pursue that tortured metaphor anymore. Come to think of it Dom might have said "OK, let’s turn this tanker around"…

Men of the match: Tim Mitzman and Nick Allum. Never was finer service given in the pursuit of strength and honour.

April 28, 2008

First League Win!

April 18, 2008

Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud (South Loughton 13/4/2008)

Chigwell and South Loughton's pitch were the losers as twenty-two determined men ignored all good sense and saw through a bizarre game of cricket.

"Oh boy!" we thought as the morning showers made way for a brightish start to the season opener. South Loughton won the toss and wisely decided to bat first, the odds being that the game might not go the distance. The openers hung around for quite a while, but scored at a modest pace, the slow pitch and outfield seemingly not conducive to an aggressive approach.

Although it had started bright enough one of the heavy showers promised soon arrived, and the teams left the field as heavy hail began to sting their faces. No one seemed keen to call the match off, so shortly after the rain stopped the still intact opening pair took to the field, followed by the umpires clutching a decidedly small looking bag of sawdust.

Brad and Nick bowled extremely well in their spells which spanned the hail-break. Nick bowled through his eight overs for a mere 15 runs, and saw his brother drop a tricky running chance into the bargain [It was a dolly - Ed.]. Brad went for just ten in his first five overs and took a wicket, our first of the season when Mr. Farthing misjudged a full toss, skying it to Nigel, whose safe hands held a fine catch, which was the icing on the cake of his dedicated fielding.

Brad's sixth over cost as many as his previous five, and it was clear that having preserved wickets in hand South Loughton were now poised to attack. I continued the wicket taking trend in inducing a top edge from a full toss, James holding on well at square leg.

The South African middle order, and in particular Mr. Obendaal drove the score upwards. He hit five 6's and no 4's, which showed how hard it was to score with ground shots, the wetness compounded by the lush outfield, mysteriously longer than the grass beyond the boundary.
Frank eventually dismissed the doughty Mr. Henman for 56 with, yes, a full toss - this one dipping just enough to clip the top of leg stump as Frank stifled an apology. In the last over I broke the trend by bowling the number 5 with one that pitched! The innings finished on 184, a fine total given the conditions.

Tea was well timed as the heavens re-opened and it looked extremely unlikely that play would resume. Sadly for Chigwell's dignity the sky became less grey, while the pitch was becoming Les Gray, plus all the other members of Mud.

We batted poorly, for sure, but the conditions were ludicrous. The area around the crease was awash, and foot movement, usually such a vital component of a batsman's skill, became unwise, it serving only to cause skidding and destabilisation. We probably needed tiger feet rather than spikes to bat properly on that.

Suffice to say we were all out for 63, extras top scoring with 17, me next with 16.

Was it worth it? Just about in that it was good practice in the field, and great to see some of the non-netting faces again.

So; onward and upward to league cricket. We will need a lot of strength and honour for that!