Last time we played Merrion away from home the team had an average age of about 14. This was a more grizzled and hardened outfit although there were some of the same faces. In particular their wicket keeper, Gurjit Singh and captain, Mark Rutledge.
The skipper won the toss and put them into bat. Neville was on parenting duties and so JT (3-14) had the rare privilege of opening from the River End. Not only that but Kevin Threadgold took the uphill route from the Pavilion End making it a family affair. They were soon among the wickets and Merrion were 4-15. Umer took a brilliant catch at first slip (YES, FIRST SLIP!) diving forward 2 yards to pick the ball off the ground. The batsman made a huge performance of suggesting that the ball was grounded but when you’ve seen the size of Umer’s hands you’d know that was impossible.
Just when you think that they are on the back foot along comes trouble in the form Gurjit Singh (30). A bit of research shows that he hit 80 against the mighty AIB, which should have put us on our guard. Talking of guards he didn’t need one because Mr. Slog Sweep took every ball off his middle stump and hit it to ‘cow corner’. Ahsan
(3-32) was bowling at the time and was unfortunate not to have him caught behind early on in his innings. JT was heard to say, sotto voce, that the way to get this man was to take the pace off the ball. Call it what you will but the message reached Ahsan by telekinesis and he bowled one of the best balls of the season. To use a well worn cricketing phrase ‘he done him’ with a leg break and we could breath again.
At that point they were 5-56 but Srikanth (32*) stayed around while the other batsmen came and went. Eventually they were all out for 101 after 32 overs. Looking at our bowling figures the economy rates were between 2 and 5. JT came in at the low end while Ahsan was unfortunate to have to deal with Mr. Slog Sweep but he ‘done him’ in the end.
Helen Bayer provided an excellent tea. The chicken sandwiches were pure nectar and would have been worthy of special mention on TMS if the inimical Jonners had still been around.
All we had to do was score 102 runs but it’s never that simple. Whilst they batted poorly by and large, they bowled extremely well. However, their captain slowed the game down to a funereal pace. He reset the field after every over and sometimes after every ball. You could almost hear Nimrod playing in the background and see the black charger with boots reversed. I have learned from the good cricketing brains in the team that this is poor captaincy ~ you expect the bowler to bowl to the field that has been set. Slowing down the game like this is extremely frustrating for everybody and makes us appreciate our own captain’s desire for good over rates.
Our openers couldn’t get a toehold in the game and only 3 of our batsmen got into double figures. Gunther (16) started well but didn’t go on. Michael Coyle was forceful at no.6 but it was the combination of the ‘Golden Threads’, JT (11) and Kevin (18), that kept hope alive. Father and son have soldiered together in the club and appear to have an understanding based on mutual respect and an appreciation of the game. When JT was dismissed it was 9-91. Kevin Hodson and Halverstown’s aging wicket keeper required 12 runs off 12 balls. The pavilion was hushed; the pitch conversely was a mass of hysteria with instructions and counter instructions being issued simultaneously. If it had been a fire drill everybody would have perished.
3 runs came off the first 6 balls and we were still in the game with 9 required to win. Merrion’s captain readjusted the field continually like a man with a tic while the batsmen maintained an appearance of outward calm masking inward turmoil. Sitting in the pavilion you think a 4 and a 6 will do. Out on the pitch we were looking for Divine inspiration. I am unsure of the exact sequence of events but my recollection is that we required 6 off the last 2 balls. The first of these looked as though it was going for 4 but was cut off by Bulmer for 2. The last ball was hit to the same fielder for 2 runs and we had lost by a single run. The Merrion players collectively exhaled. They had won by the narrowest margin.
Our next fixture is against Bagenalstown at their ground on 1st September.