Allstars hold nerve in September sunshine

Marble Hill Park, Twickenham, Saturday 1 September 2018.  St Anne’s Allstars 176 (P Kota 104) beat Crossbats 164-7 (R Asghar 2-16) by 12 runs.

By Haroon Khalid

Marble Hill

The English Heritage site, Marble Hill House, provides a picturesque backdrop to an afternoon of friendly cricket. Indeed, the north side of the house lends itself to a perfectly suitable makeshift sightscreen. On a warm and sunny autumn afternoon, with cricket taking place, it’s a charming, chocolate-box sight.

With the scene set, the game was afoot. As a result of last minute team changes and with one Allstar due to be delayed, Crossbats graciously conceded the toss and allowed the Allstars to bat first. We fielded no fewer than four debutants and one player making only a second appearance. This was our second contest with Crossbats, following our inaugural fixture last year at the same venue, which resulted in a nail-biting 4 wicket win for the visitors. This game would prove to be no less tense.

Despite losing 2 wickets for only 14 runs after 4 overs, Paul Burgin and debutant Pavan Kota consolidated adding 79. It was during this stand that Kota showed the form that had hitherto yielded him 483 runs at an average in excess of 60 for his club, the Gentlemen of West London, this season. At no time during his innings did he ever look in trouble; cutting and driving with plenty of time and without risk. The dismissal of Burgin on 93 precipitated a clatter of wickets, the following six wickets adding only 54. However, this was not before Kota had brought up a magnificent hundred with his 16th boundary, the first Allstars century in four years. A hectic tenth wicket stand of 29 between Khalid and debutant R Dharani in five overs took the score to 176 before the captain was run out to close the Allstars innings.

With conditions still good for batting (although the outfield was a little slow in places), the situation would certainly demand something remarkable from the Allstars in the field. And so it proved. The bowlers maintained a tight line and although wickets were not as forthcoming, the fielders gave their all for the cause.

After tea, Allstars started with skipper Khalid at the Richmond Road end and Farhan Aslam at the Marble Hill House End. However, so as not to bowl into the wind (and clearly showing a sign of his advancing years), Khalid brought Kota on in the 4th over from the House end to allow himself and Aslam to switch ends. The move did more for Aslam however who took the wicket of Alexander, lbw for 4.

Up to the end of the fourteenth over, the required run rate had climbed to over a run a ball.  But it was the introduction of Allstars colt Rayaan Asghar which brought the second remarkable performance of the day. Rayaan first had Carter caught by Farhan in his second over just before the drinks break. In his fourth, he had Skinner taken sharply at slip by debutant Sateesh. It was a wonderful exhibition of controlled finger spin bowling which yielded 2-16 from seven miserly overs. Just to add that, he took a catch to dismiss Wright that gave Joe Silmon his first wicket.  The fifth wicket stand yielded 33 before an excellent run out accounted for Skinner, to leave Crossbats 94-5.

With seven overs remaining, Crossbats required more than eleven an over. However, with Ross going well, the home side added 40 in six overs before Farhan continued his excellent bowling form by dismissing Sayers for nine with a clever piece of seam bowling that took the batsman’s off stump. During this stand however, the Allstars fielded superbly; Stephenson in particularly giving no quarter. Crossbats required 23 from the last over and although the first ball of Khalid’s seventh over pierced the field for four, the target proved too much with the Allstars prevailing by 12 runs.

The game was notable for an excellent fielding performance. The team chased, threw and caught wonderfully. When it comes to choosing a man of the match, it is hard to look beyond Pavan Kota’s innings. However, it should be noted that were it not for Asghar’s parsimonious spell, the result may well have been different. Therefore, on this occasion, both Rayaan and Pavan are joint players of the match.


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