The Watford White Knuckle Ride

Watford Town CC, Sunday 1 August 2021.

Edgware 143-9 (34.4 overs: Shanmugam Sama 3-19, Sam Waddicor 3-20) beat St Anne’s Allstars 142-9 (35 overs: Sam Perera 38) by 1 wicket.

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

One wicket. It instantly evokes memories of some of the greatest cricket matches ever played. Ben Stokes (and Jack Leach) performing miracles at Headingley in 2019. Kusal Perera (and Vishwa Fernando) taking Sri Lanka to victory from a similarly impossible equation in Durban the same year. Brian Lara (and Courtney Walsh) seeing West Indies over the line at Bridgetown in 1999. And, at the end of one of the most dramatic afternoons in Allstars history, it was all that stood between us and one of our greatest victories. But it only begins to tell the story of an extraordinary game of cricket which had just about everything.

Watford was a new venue for us, part of a leisure centre and park where we were far from the only attraction: another bouncy castle (they must know we love them), a candyfloss stall, and a big screen, showing firstly the Bollywood movie Munna Bhai Zindabhad followed by the Disney classic The Jungle Book, formed a lively backdrop to the proceedings. Our incredible appetite for cricket brought 14 Allstars to the ground, Sam Perera captaining us for the first time as club skipper Pete Cresswell umpired for the day and I took on the book and scoring app.

With a few players caught in traffic, we batted first by arrangement. But once again, our season of difficult starts continued as Edgware’s opening bowlers Suraj and Dip made the most of the moisture in the pitch. Sheahan Arnott, in an unfamiliar opening role, in the first over edged to slip off Suraj, who followed up by bowling Richard Slatford. Dip then struck twice in successive balls as Matt Biss edged to slip and Steyn Grobler was unluckily given out caught behind off his shirt and shoulder, and after 8 overs we were in disarray at 15-4. Edgware were cock-a-hoop and their banter – especially from their chatterbox keeper – was in full flow.

But we have bounced back from dodgy starts this whole summer, and Amit Deverathippa and Sanjay Dindyal began the fightback. The chatter was soon silenced as Edgware realised they were in a game. Amit’s impressive debut season continued as he ruthlessly punished anything short, launching Dip for a mighty six over square leg. Sanjay was initially content to push ones and twos, but then he too started to get into his stride, and they had put on a handy 39 before Edgware skipper Vid had Amit caught at mid-wicket.

54-5 was a daunting situation for skipper Sam to step into, but he quickly found his touch as he crunched a couple of boundaries before heavy rain forced us off the field. It looked like we were facing our second successive abandonment, but after 20 minutes or so the rain relented and we were back on. Left-armer Saj was looking useful and bowled a probing line, but the scoreboard kept moving, and we’d almost brought up the hundred when Sanjay was caught at mid-on. Edgware’s catching was very sharp, and continued as Roshan Herath fell to a blinding, one-handed catch at point, and with 10 overs to go we were 105-7.

On a pitch that remained difficult, it was important that we used up the overs, and Paul Burgin played himself in as Sam Perera continued to play shots. The return of the opening bowler Suraj saw the end of Sam who was well caught at cover, and Shanmugam Sama was bowled by a beauty from Saj. But, just as he’d done against Gents, Sam Waddicor provided a sting in the tail as he went after the bowling, and Paul joined in with some fine shots as they put on a sparkling unbeaten 28 for the last wicket. 142-9 didn’t look much, but with plenty bowlers in form and the pitch still drying, we fancied our chances of defending it.

Fired up by his batting display, Sam Waddicor got us off to the perfect start as he had Edgware opener Nik caught by Steyn at point in the first over, and then struck again in his second as Alpesh was caught behind by Slats. Shanmu was quickly into the rhythm he’s shown all season, and he bowled Suraj before Nanz was brilliantly held at cover by Sean Jun. Unbelievably, Edgware were 11-4.

Sean replaced Sam, and soon began to hit a good length – but we were then to suffer our first injury of the day, as Slats had to retire to the sidelines having taken a nasty blow to the forehead. Deano and Saj put on 40 – but Amit’s excellent all-round day continued as he too found his lines, and he got the breakthrough by dismissing Deano as back-up keeper Steyn held a smart catch.

At 53-5 after 17 overs, we appeared in charge of the game – but Edgware had seemingly reversed their order, as Canbashers had done in our classic encounter in 2007, and we still had plenty of batting to get through. Our club founder Maxie Allen, gripped by following the action on WhatsApp, was giving us a run rate equation every over. Skipper Vid looked a very handy batsman indeed, and he and Saj continued to tick down the runs before Sanjay got a vital break as Saj was well held by Amit at cover. Edgware were 90-6 with 9 overs to go – but what did they have left in the hutch?

Sheahan bowled a whole-hearted spell as always, and was unlucky to go wicketless – but his day was also to end in agony as, running in to bowl the final delivery of his 7 overs, he went down with a torn calf muscle. Sam Waddicor returned to start a new spell with the last ball – with stunning results as he rearranged the dangerous Kabir’s stumps. At 115-7 in the 29th, the game was on a knife edge.

Vid still seemed the principal danger, but Monk looked a very useful number 9 indeed, and with a few well run singles and the odd crunching boundary, they took their team within three runs of victory. But we just do not know when we’re beaten, and Shanmu capped an excellent performance in his final over by dismissing Monk as the returning Slats took another good catch behind the stumps. 140-8 with one over to go, and all three results possible.

Sam stepped up to bowl the final over, and Vid took a single – but, as they went for a second, Dip was brilliantly run out by a direct hit from Sean. Two to win, one wicket left, and as close a finish since our nail-biter against Mighty Wanderers all the way back in 2003. With Edgware having only ten players, lowest-scorer Nik was invited to bat again. Vid found another single to level the scores – but leaving Nik on strike to face Sam. The cricketing world held its breath … and Nik straight drove the next ball for the winning run for Edgware.

But this was a performance of which we can feel immensely proud – there is never any shame in losing such a thrilling game of cricket. Holding our own against opposition who play regular league cricket (featuring a number of 1st XI players) and running them so close shows how far we’ve come as a team, and all were in fine spirits at the end. We wish Sheahan and Slats a speedy recovery from their injuries – but next up we return to our old home ground of Barnes Common, to face our old friends the Weasels on the 15th.

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