Allstars shine in epic victory over Gents

Ealing Central Sports Ground, Saturday 22 June 2019.

St Anne’s Allstars 178/3 (Perera 66*, Choudhary 61) beat the Gentlemen of West London 153 (H Patel 46, Rattan 4-16, Silmon 3-24) by 25 runs to win the 42-11 Trophy.

Allstars debutants: Vikash Choudhary & Zain Shah

Words and photos by Pete Cresswell

Ealing Central Sports Ground comprises a picturesque collection of cricket pitches, well shielded from the neighbouring A40 by a substantial hedge, centred on a pretty clubhouse with a nice bar. The ground is right next to Perivale Station on the Central Line, though TFL’s weekend engineering schedule forced many Allstars to shuttle to the ground via Alperton station instead.

The Gents are one of the Allstars’ longest standing and favourite opponents, with plenty of good natured games down the years. Gents’ Fixtures Secretary Andy Burman regularly drops in on our matches against other teams, chipping in on the scorebook on occasion.

After a tough couple of weeks on the recruitment front, eight Allstars arrived at the ground for the start, soon to be bolstered the traffic-hampered Sam Perera and by Zain Shah, who found himself surplus to requirements for the league match on the neighbouring pitch – he had recruited a friend to play thinking they were short, but finding they now had 12, kindly volunteered to help us out instead.

At the toss, skipper Cresswell correctly called heads for the second week in a row, and opted to bat. He and debutant Vikash Choudhary stroud out to open the innings vs the father-and-son Snelling combination. The overhead cloud and solid cross-pitch breeze soon proved conducive to swing, as did the greenish tinge on a pitch that was a little slow and low following the rain of recent weeks.

The junior Snelling, Joel, opened up tightly on the back of some prodigious outswing, a handful of leg-byes and swing-induced byes being the only source of scoreboard relief. At the other end his father Stuart was swinging and seaming the ball back in off his Mike Procter-esque wrong-foot action. Cresswell and Vikash were watchful against the swing as three successive maidens went by before Vikash eventually posted the first runs off the bat in the 7th over. Having almost seen off the opening spells Cresswell succumbed in the 10th as Snelling Sr brought one back in to hit off stump – the 400th wicket of his long and distinguished Gents career. Both Snellings were to finish with excellent figures of 1-17 off their allotted seven overs.

Sachin Singh followed shortly after, trapped in front by Khan, leaving the Allstars reeling at 28-2 in the 12th. But this was the moment when Sam Perera joined Vikash at the wicket, and the pair built a superb 94 run stand, taking advantage of the copious green space in the big outfield to bat the Allstars into a strong position. Vikash’s precise placement & Sam’s hard hitting (as attested by the large crack on the splice of his bat) were a joy to watch.

Jignesh Patel eventually slipped one through Vikash’s defences for an excellent 61 when he returned for a second spell, which brought Ashwin Rattan to the crease. Ash was wearing his back-up spectacles after his regular pair were broken while he was goal-keeping on Friday night, but he was soon into a flow, dropping singles into the off side to keep Sam on strike early on. 28 runs off the last 3 overs helped the Allstars reach 178/3, comfortably our highest total so far this season, with Sam’s unbeaten 66 the highest individual score.

The Gents then treated us to a sumptuous tea – the Burman household’s chicken coop contributed eggs for the Spanish omelette and the cheese and onion quiche, alongside strawberries from the Burman garden, as well as some superb spinach, pine nut & feta spanhopitas along with brownies and cake. Several of our bowlers were a tad grumpy that we still had to field, meaning they couldn’t completely gorge themselves. Upon receiving our effusive thanks, Krysia Burman described us as “good boys who didn’t waste food”.

Sated, the team took to the field. Covering such a big outfield with 10 men was tricky, but with a good score in the bank and plenty of bowlers, playing spirits were high. Zain and Jagath Dasari opened up, both getting plenty of swing, though the pitch was playing noticeably slower and lower, making life difficult for makeshift keeper Cresswell.

Gents’ veteran Hemin Patel was positive early, getting the run rate going. Cavaney was more circumspect at the other end, contributing just 6 to a 36 run opening stand before being bowled by Zain in the 7th over. He was replaced by Pavan Kota, who scored a wonderful hundred while on-loan to us against Crossbats last season, and had reportedly been in prodigious 2019 form for the Gents. Unfortunately (for the Gents) he advanced down the track to a straight ball from Zain and was given out LBW – the delivery was straight, but most village level umpires would have given a team-mate the benefit of the doubt. Young Joel Snelling the umpire received a wee lecture from his father (the square leg umpire) about the normal village cricket LBW etiquette thereafter.

Gren Thompson replaced Jagath at the A40 end, and produced an economical spell, getting a ton of swing as Hemin Patel and Sudireddy built a brisk 50 partnership, with a brutal attack against Shanmugan who’d replaced Zain at the clubhouse end. When drinks were taken at the end of the 17th over, the Gents were handily placed at 98-2.

Immediately after the break the complexion of the match changed completely with the introduction of spin, on a slow, low pitch with a few cracks appearing. Joe Silmon and Ashwin Rattan both bowled superbly, proving hard to get away getting turn and drift, while the tiring Hemin Patel was struggling a little between the wickets. Sudireddy was bowled at the end of Ash’s first over, and Joe bowled Mark Sciberras for a duck the next over. Gents were 109/4 off 20 – game on!

Ash bowled Khan and Hemin Patel (for a well-crafted 46) in successive overs, and the Gents collapse was on. Joe trapped Joel Snelling in front and had Sanjay Patel smartly caught by Vikash in the next over. Ash trapped number 10 Antoine in front for a duck the next over, and in 5 overs five wickets had fallen for 11 runs.

Stuart Snelling and last man Bender managed to play out the remainder of the spin twins’ spells, leaving 37 to win off the last 4 overs. Some aggressive swinging off the returning Gren got the target down to 29 off 3, but Sachin finished the job as he got a leg break to turn from outside leg and hit middle to bowl Stuart Snelling for 10.

So the 42-11 Trophy comes the Allstars’ way for just the third time in 20 attempts. Both of our prior wins over the Gents were mainly down to one batsman playing out of his skin – Simon Begley in 2005, and Paul Bowman in 2011 – but this was a team performance which belongs firmly among the Allstars’ greatest victories.

All in all, a great day of village cricket, on a pleasantly mild summer day. The past few seasons have seen the Allstars struggle a little against our stronger opposition in May and June before coming into our own in the second half of the season, so it’s great to post our first win of the season in June, in our 4th match.

It was also great to give Joe Silmon a rousing send off before he moves to Berlin on Tuesday – Joe has been a fantastic contributor to the team over the past couple of seasons and he’ll be greatly missed. We look forward to seeing Joe again on tour in Portugal in October, and any other time we can drag him onto the field when he’s visiting Blighty.

We had some superb performances in the match, with Sam’s 66 not out, Vikash’s 61 on debut (after messaging at 4:30 am to declare his availability), Joe’s 3-fer swansong, Zain’s great opening spell, and some great outfielding by Sachin, Jagath and Shanmugan covering for our absent fielder. But the man of the match award must go to Ash, for posting a tidy 24 not out, some excellent fielding at long on and a very well bowled 7 overs, 1 maiden, 4 for 16.

Big thanks to Zain Shah for offering his playing services at the ground, to Vikash for making himself available on the morning of the match, to Haroon Khalid and Joe for kit and player shuttle services, to the Gentlemen of West London for being proper Gents during a friendly-spirited match on a lovely day, and to Krysia Burman for a phenomenally good afternoon tea. We will look forward to defending the 42-11 Trophy against them next year – but our next assignment takes us to North London on 6 July, as we defend the James Abrahams Trophy against Mighty Wanderers.

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