Taverners take last orders

Barn Elms, Sunday 13 September 2020. Railway Taverners 197-4 (35 overs: Chris Langley 72*, Jagath Dasari 2-32, Samer Hafiz 2-38) beat St Anne’s Allstars 149 all out (31.5 overs: Matt Lo 54, Stuart Milligan 4-31) by 48 runs.

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

It has been the strangest of years. At the beginning of the year, few would have imagined what was to follow for us all, as the COVID pandemic took its toll. But as the world locked down in March and April, few Allstars would have thought it possible that we would get in even half a cricket season. On a sunny Sunday afternoon, we had chances to finish with another win, but couldn’t quite take them as our friends the Railway Taverners ensured we ended the season on the losing side.

The lead-up to the game was a scramble to find a ground, the Taverners having lost the use of their usual one in Crouch End and many of the council pitches having reverted to football as September began. Barn Elms was our saviour again, as it had been for the opening game against Corridor. Enthusiasm for places remained keen right till the end, with 13 signed up at one stage, and I took up the scorer’s pen once again (the scoring app blowing away my phone battery before halfway). The sunny weather brought wives and families out to support, KP’s wife Jen and daughters Caitlin and Poppy and Hywel Roberts’ wife Sarah and friends joining us for the day.

First-time Allstars skipper Matt Biss lost the toss, and we fielded first on an astroturf wicket with true and reliable bounce. But KP opened with an immaculate spell, starting with three successive maidens and not conceding a run off the bat in his opening spell, as Taverners openers Dominic Ewer and their skipper Mathias Winter struggled to get going. Shanmugam Sama also began well, but without any luck as an early chance went down.

The openers had put on 68 and were just starting to up the rate when Jagath Dasari broke the stand by bowling Winter. Huw Evans also struggled to get the ball off the square, but Ewer was approaching his fifty when Jagath ended his best spell of the season by knocking Ewer’s stumps back in his final over to leave Taverners 89-2 after 20 overs. But this was to bring Taverners’ main man Chris Langley to the crease, and he quickly upped the ante with a series of crunching boundaries.

Samer Hafiz entered the fray, and continued his excellent run of form as he bowled accurately and got some turn off the pitch. Evans continued to struggle, and Samer was eventually rewarded by dismissing him to a smart catch to Dharani Ronanki behind the stumps. The dangerous Aymon Spee soon followed, as Samer turned one sharply and Spee could only poke it to his fellow Kiwi Pete Cresswell at point. But nothing could halt Langley’s progress, and he reached his fifty as the Taverners accelerated, taking 48 off the last 5 overs. Still, having restricted them to less than 200 on a pitch on which we scored (and just defended) 250-plus on opening day, we felt confident at the halfway stage.

But the Taverners’ bowling was to prove up to the task. While openers Matt Biss and Pete saw off the opening bowlers Tony Alaravanga and Mark Guggenheim, they found scoring even more difficult than the Taverners’ openers had done. Although the fifty stand was raised, it had taken 15 overs, and both went in the same over as swing bowler Stuart Milligan, in a fine spell, had Matt caught behind and Pete taken at slip. Jono Beagle was also caught behind as the Taverners tightened their grip, and with 15 overs remaining the rate was already climbing past 8 an over. Hywel Roberts departed, bowled by the talkative Dutchman Geenson, and Sam Perera, so often our saviour last season, couldn’t manage it this time as he became Milligan’s fourth victim.

Amidst the carnage at the other end, Matt Lo continued to play superbly, running hard and playing some sublime shots as he went to his second fifty of the season. But Imi Choudry settled the game with two wickets in his first over, as Matt carved to point and Dharani edging to third man. The lower order all bravely went for their shots – KP hitting a monster six over cow corner – but they’d been left too much to do, the Taverners finishing the job by bowling us out with 19 balls to spare.

An excellent game nonetheless, and the Allstars finish the season with a winning record for the first time since 2003. That season, Tristan Haddow-Allen carried all before him – but this season was much more of a team effort in which everyone contributed. We look forward to better things in 2021 – in the meantime, we eagerly await our (virtual) end of season social and the award of the prestigious Allstars of the Year awards.

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