Allstars’ first in Cambridge classic

Parker’s Piece, Cambridge, Sunday 6 September 2020. St Anne’s Allstars 148-5 (35 overs; Sachin Singh 50 retired not out, Sam Perera 31) beat NCI 132-9 (35 overs; Samer Hafiz 2-13, Hywel Roberts 2-24) by 16 runs.

Report by Pete Cresswell – Photos by Pete Cresswell, Ashwin Rattan, Sheahan Arnott, Matt Biss, Jono Beagle and Shanmugam Sama

Over the past 2 seasons the Allstars have built a great friendship with the NCI club in Cambridge, with several Allstars turning out in league matches for NCI, and Matt Biss and Jono Beagle making regular Allstars’ appearances. That friendship led to a match between the NCI Sunday XI and the Allstars on historic Parker’s Piece in Cambridge, where Sir Jack Hobbs began his cricket career. Today “the Piece” is a verdantly green council ground, with a Thai restaurant attached to the groundsman’s shed and a fun fair on the far side of the green.

NCI won the toss, and sent the Allstars in to bat on the slow pitch (and even slower outfield). Skipper Pete Cresswell and NCI 2nd XI Captain Jono Beagle opened slowly against some accurate bowling. Scoreboard pressure told in the 6th over as Beagle was dropped at mid-on by NCI’s captain on the day, and the next ball saw Cresswell slice a rare wider ball to point. Beagle nicked off 3 overs later to leave the Allstars at just 18-2.

The first boundary came in the 11th over as Hywel Roberts played some aggressive shots on his way to 19, his highest Allstars’ score. Hywel fell in the 14th over, which brought Sam Perera to the crease to join Sachin Singh. The pair built an excellent partnership, Sachin playing some excellent pull shots, his superb eye negating the low bounce. Sam was a little hampered between the wickets by a hamstring niggle, but that didn’t stop the pair building an 83 run stand.

Sachin reached his 50 and retired, and NCI’s very accurate Johnston then accounted for Chris Gould, making a welcome return to the Allstars for his first match since our Benidorm tour in 2014. With just 4 overs left Sam holed out, caught at mid-wicket by Matt “Universe” Biss. Samer Hafiz and Dharani Ronanki then combined well between the wickets to get the Allstars up to 148-5, an excellent score given the slow outfield.

NCI’s reply saw Matt Biss and Duffy see off very tidy opening spells from Shanmugam Sama and Jagath Dasari, who both swung the pink Duke ball considerably. Samer Hafiz then continued his superb 2020 bowling form by bowling Duffy. Sheahan Arnott, continuing well from his excellent debut against Crossbats last week, picked up Duby in the next over, and the pair tightened the screws as NCI fell behind the required rate. Scoreboard pressure eventually told as Matt Biss holed out to his great mate Beagle off Samer. 51-3 at drinks meant NCI needed 98 off the remaining 17 overs, a tough task on a slow pitch.

Jono Beagle sportingly dropped Ashfield twice (tough chances admittedly) before making it third time lucky off Roberts, sparking a mini collapse as Sam Perera ran out Bragg with a direct hit, and Hywel bowled his namesake Roberts.

Johnston and Arora then built a useful 8th wicket stand that was only ended when Sam Perera got a short ball to loop over the bat onto Arora’s stumps.
Scoreboard pressure then led to a couple of run outs – one an excellent recovery from Shanmugam after dropping a catch at square leg, the other by Sachin at mid-off after a chaotic mix-up – as NCI tried to pick up the rate. Though Johnston managed to take 12 off the last over, the win was still well in hand.

The day ended with both teams enjoying some socially distanced Thai beers on the sideline, before the traditional (for NCI’s Londoners) gin tins on the Thameslink home.

All in all a great day’s cricket played in great spirit, along with plenty of light-hearted banter. Hopefully the first of many repeats for this fixture.

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