It’s not often that I actually care about the result as long as it’s been fun. On this occasion I was probably not alone in really, REALLY not wanting to lose this match. For a lowly Junior League Division encounter, the match was slightly too salty for an old un like me. A week before, Georgio Chiellini tested Bukayo Saka’s tailoring to the point of destruction but then the stakes had been a little higher. This week saw two teams way outside the promotion race competing for the bragging rights of who was just a little less awful than the other. It was odd that such an inconsequential game managed to generate so much heat.
The President won the toss, strapped on the pads and under clear skies, took to the square with Ramesh. A slow start. A careful start. Twelve would have been on the board (if we’d had one) when our man returned with one against his name to be replaced by returnee Ali Austin, playing his first league game for ages. He and Ramesh dug in, sauntered a few singles and found the ropes to take Camden to 80 before the former was caught and bowled for 43, trying to force the pace a little.
From a promising platform, the middle overs witnessed a number of setbacks, namely not many runs and rather too many wickets falling. Half-way predictions of 160 plus were replaced with the very real threat of being bowled out inside the 40 overs. It was during this time of the match that the Champagne Moment occurred, though perhaps Hirondelle Heroics would be more appropriate. An uncharacteristically beefy boundary was essayed, the ball thundering towards to scorers’ tent. This is usually a moment of celebration but – no! – a small, cherubic child, dark curls tumbling over her innocent face, was scheduled to make an unfortunate connection with said ball. Enter Hridoy: padded and gloved, he cast aside his bat, glided across the rope like an eland escaping a lion that had missed its breakfast and plucked the ball away from danger. Crisis averted. Was he garlanded and thanked by the anxious parents? Was he jiggery. It was, by a distance, the best bit of fielding of the afternoon.
Meanwhile, out in the middle, Ramesh was finally undone by a brother-sister combination for 17. Wickets then leaked away and had it not been for a generous Girton contribution of 28 extras, the Camden final score of 135 would not have been possible.
There was, of course, optimism. It’s probably true to say that Camden’s bowling stocks were richer than their batting resources. The word was out: this was to be the Baker’s day. But first, Ritish and Liam needed to soften up the top order. The former removed their opener with a shooter for a duck (if it was straight and you didn’t play straight yourself, being bowled was always likely) before Liam enticed their number three to wonder down the wicket only to miss a turning ball which Chris gratefully snaffled to complete a classic stumping. Two down for five, soon to be three thanks to some suicidal running to the Baker. Three down and nothing on the virtual scoreboard.
With a relatively meagre total to defend, all it would take is one batsmen to stay in, keep most of the strike and hang around to knock off the runs. Such a man appeared in their other opener, who really wasn’t too troubled by what he had to offer, finding the boundary, running hard and generally causing a threat. Liam completed his spell by nabbing Girton’s second top scorer; his eventual, replacement, the Baker, was man who turned the game. I don’t know how much Martin turns the ball but he definitely gets it above the batsmen’s eyeline. He may even get up above low-flying aircraft. He gives it some air. The first to be beguiled was a young man who a few balls earlier had escaped a close stumping appeal. This was the moment when the game took on a bit of extra spice; the TV moment when the commentors say, “Well, I’m sorry about that outburst viewers – you can see that this game really means a lot to both sides,” and the stumped mic is turned off for a bit. What made the moment hilarious was that one of the people in the centre of the demotically-charged exchange was the Lower Leagues’ Nicest Man, Chris, who after all had only politely suggested to the square leg umpire that if he couldn’t see the line to give a stumping decision, might he want to have a go from point and see how he got on there? In the event, the same batsmen was out two balls later, marking his departure from the crease by throwing up his bat, kicking it and suggesting that either he or we or all of us were effing wotsits.
Meanwhile, while wickets fell on one end, their opener was gliding along. “If he’s there at the finish, we’ll lose,” we muttered sagely. Fortunately, with the Baker performing his sorcery, and Ritish snagging a low one that was dying on him, that threat was removed. Three wickets in an over put Camden on course but there was always the worry that with such a low total all it would take were a few lusty boundary blows and the game would be in the balance. Ali was given a go, his spell beginning with a beamer and ending shortly after. A small partnership was settling in. Dangerous times. Cometh the hour, cometh the President. Over came the arm, down floated the ball. It landed on a length, gripped, turned and removed the off bail. Nine down and game more or less over. When the Baker removed the obdurate Shanks (S), bowled for 16, the win was complete. 20 points in the bag, mid-table security. It was a strange game. The sun shone, we put out a full eleven and the team looked like a team. A decent effort all round.
Score Card: https://camden.play-cricket.com/website/results/4182308
Nick Austin (July 19, 2021)