The Mill Hill Massacre

Mill Hill Village CC, Sunday 4 July 2021.

St Anne’s Allstars 224-3 (34 overs: Sam Perera 106*, Steyn Grobler 70*, Rob Davis 3-48) beat Gradcasts 74 (15 overs: Fletcher 24, Sheahan Arnott 3-14, Shanmugam Sama 3-15, Paul Burgin 2-19) by 150 runs.

Report by Paul Burgin- Photos by Pete Cresswell and Paul Burgin

The dawning of another Allstars’ Sunday was initially met with some trepidation. The weather forecast, Covid drop outs and a new opponent at a ground where we suffered a narrow defeat earlier in the season pointed towards a difficult afternoon. The Gradcasts, a team resulting from a merger between Little Gradholm and Outcasts, were playing for the first time post-Covid. They’ll be much better for this hit out, with the makings of a very handy bowling lineup.

On top of this, my day started with a drive to Aylesbury to pick up Sam Perera and over to High Wycombe to collect birthday-boy Shanmugam Sama. Dharani Ronanki also made a welcome return to the action after making the Herculean effort of playing in the game despite living in Derby. It was great to have him back behind the stumps.

With all nine Allstars safely arrived at the venue alongside 10 Gradcasts, I took to the wicket with oppo skipper Matt and smiled as he incorrectly called tails. With a lower number of players available I opted to bat and was then persuaded by Steyn Grobler that we should swap our positions in the batting order. It was to prove a wise move.

Pete Cresswell and Matt Biss strode out to the wicket and all seemed normal as the opening batsmen saw off the opening bowlers, negating some swing and bounce well.

The introduction of Gradcasts’ Rob Davis quickly turned the tide in their favour, as he bowled Matt in his first over before adding Pete and then Sheahan Arnott to his victim list, both bowled by in-swingers ricocheting off their pads, with the score at a rather inauspicious 32-3 off 9 overs.

However this brought Steyn and Sam together at the crease and they quickly found a rhythm seldom seen amongst Allstars batsmen, firstly steadying the ship and then beginning to motor through the gears. The increasingly forlorn Gradcasts bowlers were unlucky to have both batsmen dropped in the field, off consecutive balls. Those chances could have put a massively different complexion on the game.

At 77-3 off 18 at drinks the signs were good – and by the time the rain was falling heavily at the end of the 34th over the Saffa and the Sri Lankan had taken the Allstars to a frankly unbelievable total of 224. In the process, they recorded the third highest partnership in Allstars history, an unbroken 192. Sam finished unbeaten on 106 – the first century by an Allstars regular in seven years – after peppering the boundary in the slog overs, with Steyn playing a stylish and no less spectacular unbeaten 70. The rain began to fall heavily at the end of the 34th over and we decided to end the Allstars innings at this point.

After the rain and tea break the Allstars returned to the field in optimistic mood. With Shanmugam, Sean Jun and myself not having had a bat, I was keen to give as many of us a go as possible with a defendable lead in hand.

Shanmugam struck twice in his third over, his pace seemingly too hot for either McDonald or Thornton to defend. At the other end, Sean bowled a tight pacey line but didn’t get the breakthrough that his excellent bowling demanded.

Shanmugam struck again in his next over which brought a change to the bowling attack as the Allstars were clearly in the ascendancy.

Sheahan wasted little time adding to Gradcasts’ misery though, firstly trapping Tremaine lbw before bowling both Collins and Lamb. Gradcasts were now 60-6 and facing defeat in the face.

Fletcher proved the most difficult of the Gradcasts’ batsmen to remove even though he was batting on one leg with a runner after pulling a calf in the field, which also cut short his promising bowling spell. But his luck ran out on 24, attempting to sweep me deep into the leg side, sub-fielder Matt Hazelhurst taking an excellent catch in the deep to heap further pressure onto his own teammates.

There was enough time for me to take the wicket of Rob Davis before club captain and Allstars legend Pete Cresswell stepped forward and took the final wicket of Young, a great catch held at cover by Shanmugam to bring the Gradcasts innings to an end having scored 74 runs in total.

We congratulated the opposition for the game and apologised for the nature of our victory. Gradcasts were a very likeable set of chaps who generously loaned us a fielder through their innings, and on another day I think the result could have been very different. We hope to see them again next year and support their wider venture to become a more permanent social cricket team.

What had started as a day of apprehension finished with a great celebration in the Adam and Eve. Indeed, this was a comprehensive victory – our biggest ever by runs – and a strong all-round performance. Whisper it, shhhh, we’re on a bit of a roll now gentlemen. Let’s keep it going again at Matfield next weekend.

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