Allstars fight back to defeat gallant Weasels

Marble Hill Park, Sunday 9 August 2020. St Anne’s Allstars 191-2 (30.1 overs, Matt Biss 68*, Jono Beagle 49*, Matt Lo 36) beat New Barbarian Weasels 190-7 (35 overs, Asif Iqbal 71, Joe Wilson 59, Paul Bowman 3-17) by 8 wickets.

Report by Garreth Duncan – Photos by Pete Cresswell and Garreth Duncan

Even with all the COVID restrictions we’re all getting used to, after just a month it’s like cricket has never been away. Test cricket is back, albeit behind closed doors, and England are winning at home again, with the ageless Stuart Broad back to his best. On Saturday, Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes mounted an incredible fightback against Pakistan to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The following day, in a fantastic team performance in which everyone contributed, we staged an impressive comeback of our own from an unpromising position against our old friends the Weasels to record our second victory of the season.

On an afternoon with the thermometer firmly marked at “scorchio”, we arrived at Marble Hill Park to find it busy with walkers, cyclists, and even dinghies and paddle boarders. The outfield was parched and looked lightning quick, and I felt a sense of trepidation as Weasels’ skipper Omar Iqbal called correctly and chose to bat first.

Marble Hill Park and House

We were perhaps surprised to see Weasels’ stalwart Ian Regnier-Wilson, usually a middle order regular, stride out to open with Asif Iqbal (our second opponent to share a name with a Test player, after the Canbashers’ Andy Roberts). Shanmugam Sama opened the bowling and continued where he’d left off against Plastics, as an early edge from Asif flew between keeper Dharani Ronanki and socially distanced first slip Pete Cresswell. Paul Bowman was also quickly into his stride, dispatching Iain LBW with a toe-crunching yorker.

Iain’s dismissal brought together Asif and their other “gun” player, Aussie Joe Wilson. Having seen off the opening bowlers, they quickly upped the run rate against change bowlers Jagath Dasari and Ed Heelas. The boundary count escalated as a packed off-side field couldn’t prevent Asif’s cuts and cover drives, and Joe stood tall and simply belted everything down the ground. Their partnership had passed 100 by the 18-over sanitation break, with both passing fifty, and we were staring at a potential 250-plus total.

But this was an afternoon where the Allstars refused to give in. Jono Beagle, undeterred, got the breakthrough by bowling Joe off his pads. Next over, Samir Hafiz, who bowled a superb spell of left-arm spin with a lovely loop and excellent control, had Asif held by Ed with a juggling catch at mid-wicket.

Paddlers stopped play …

With the big guns gone, we had a grip on the game which we were never to relinquish. The returning Jagath began his second spell with an absolute peach of a delivery to clip the top of Nick Woodhead’s off-stump. Pagan and Joshi dug in, but the run rate slowed markedly, and I even had the luxury of bringing myself on for an over without alarm.

Shanmu returned, and grabbed a deserved wicket in his final over as his great mate Dharani pouched an edge from Joshi. Their devotion to the Allstars is so great that they’ve both been getting up at 5.30am for nets at Seven Kings, and it was fantastic to see their efforts rewarded. KP closed out the innings in style as he bowled Pagan and Frankie McIlheney with successive deliveries in the final over. The Weasels’ final total of 190-7, though creditable, was a lot less than looked likely at the halfway stage.

After our now-customary solo teas, and rehydrated by various Allstars’ trips to shop for water, Pete and Matt Biss began the Allstars innings. Weasels’ gun players Asif and Joe opened the bowling too, but the pitch was much more favourable for batting than Barnes Common two weeks earlier, and Pete and Matt got off to a much quicker start than they’d done against Plastics. Finding the gaps in the field, they ran singles with ease, and they’d put on 39 in 9 overs before Asif rattled Pete’s stumps.

Matt Lo came to the crease and instantly looked the part, seeing off the openers before tucking into the change bowlers Omar and Pagan, mixing powerful sweeps with effortless caresses down the ground. He was making it look so easy it was a surprise when Alam Saydul bowled him with one that kept a bit low (or should that be Lo?). Still, by then we were 90-2 in the 16th over and well on track for victory.

Jono joined his great pal Matt at the wicket, and it was them that saw us to victory with an unbroken partnership of 101. Even though they don’t always play together for NCI, they know each other’s game instinctively, and they continued to find easy singles while putting away the bad balls to the boundary. In a last desperate throw of the dice, Asif and Joe were recalled for one final blast. But by then Jono had the measure of the pitch, and used the pace of the ball intelligently to cut and dab for fours, and Matt reached his second fifty of the season as we eased to victory with nearly 5 overs to spare.

The winning team!

It was great to see the Weasels again, and we’re hopeful they can stay together and continue to challenge us in future years. Our next assignment comes on Sunday, as we return to Barnes to face Zambuca Tigers.

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