Allstars can’t keep up as Railway Taverners live the life of Reilly

Bentley Heath CC, Potters Bar, Sunday 12 September 2021.

Railway Taverners 257-5 (35 overs: Eiran Reilly 139*, Powes 61, Nic Knight 2-13, Sam Perera 2-19) beat St Anne’s Allstars 178 all out (28.1 overs: Sam Perera 51, Samer Hafiz 42, Knight 38, Winter 3-52, Pale 3-10) by 79 runs.

Allstars debuts: Terry Jones, Mark Machado.

Report by Sheahan Arnott – Photos by Sheahan Arnott, Nic Knight and Maxie Allen

It wouldn’t be an Allstars fixture without a certain level of chaos, and our match against Railway Taverners was no exception. Our story begins about a week out, with North Middlesex Cricket Club telling us to sling our collective hook as they needed the ground we were scheduled to play at for a cup fixture. The Taverners contacted every cricket club from Marylebone to Melbourne before eventually finding a willing wicket at the quaint Bentley Heath CC.

Sunday came, and as the September sun beat down and the sheep in yonder field grazed, I lost the toss and we were invited to field. The wicket was hard and flat – a rarity this season – and the ground small, fast and hard to defend with only 10 fielders.

Samir Hafiz opened the bowling with his canny left-arm spin and began with a very tidy maiden over. But my feeling of revolutionary limited-overs tactical mastery was short-lived as Railway Taverners’ captain Eiran Reilly soon began his 35-over onslaught of aggressive batting. Our new ball was replaced about 4 overs into the innings after Reilly again dispatched his opposite number into the long grass, and the replacement ball had about as much life as Highgate Cemetery.

Bentley Heath groundsman Terry Jones had joined our illustrious number and was playing his first game of cricket in a few years, but found his range quickly with subtle (and not so subtle) changes of pace. But sadly runs began to flow as quickly as Monty Python jokes before Sam Perera broke The Tavs’ opening stand at 80. Sam strangled Ives down the legside to claim his second wicket with Nic “Hollywood” Knight completing his first catch as our wicketkeeper. It was Nic’s first foray into glovework after I identified him as having “a keeper’s energy”, but I’m not sure he’s itching to do the job again!

Sam’s second wicket brought Powes to the crease, and he soon clicked into gear matching Reilly’s heavy-hitting with some lusty blows of his own. Newcomer Mark Machado, Sanjay Dindyal, and Pablo Burgin all toiled away trying to break the partnership, but it was Nic who finally ended their stand at 135 in the second-last over with a smart caught-and-bowled. Vale survived his first ball before Nic slipped one through him to claim his second Allstars wicket.

Mark and yours truly combined to run out Ewer in the last over, as he sacrificed his wicket to get Reilly back on strike for a chance to break the Taverners’ club record score (spoiler alert – he did). That left the Taverners on a mighty 257-5 with Reilly carrying his bat for an almost chanceless 139*. I couldn’t fault the effort and energy from every Allstar in the field. 258 would be a big ask, but not an insurmountable total by any means. As I said, the pitch was true, the outfield was fast and the ground was small.

Pablo and Nic opened the innings and they did well to keep out some fairly accurate bowling, before Pablo was trapped in front by Tim. Nic soon found his range, taking 14 from Winter’s first over as he was joined by Martin Ostrowski at the crease. Nic and Martin took the score to 50, with the former looking in ominous touch. A brilliant one-handed catch at cover removed Nic for a classy 38, before Winter bowled Martin behind his legs two balls later. Sanj fell in Marcos’ first over leaving the mighty Allstars 5 down and plenty to do, still needing about 200 runs to win.

Like a drunk person watching Cheers, it was all about the two Sams, as Perera and Hafiz quickly began to tip the scales back in our favour. If you’ve seen them bat before, you’ll know neither of them waste time scoring and they were quickly sending the Tavs’ fielders diving into the long grass and hedges looking for the ball.

Matthews broke their stand as it neared 80, plucking a caught-and-bowled from another well-struck Hafiz drive on 42. I joined Sam at the crease, confident that if we batted our over we would win. Alas, I missed a straight one – something that happened far too often this season. Terry helped Sam Perera reach yet another Allstars half-century, but he was our last man out for 51 as the good guys fell 79 runs short in the end.

The margin probably didn’t reflect the difference in skill between the two teams, but I’m sure none of us who bowled to him will forget Reilly’s thumping blade any time soon. As with all great Allstars games, we adjourned to the pub to commiserate – which was far easier with Reilly buying us a pint to celebrate his achievement. And it turns out the Railway Taverners are actually based out of my local watering hole, so it looks like I’ll be spending this off-season finding somewhere else to drink!

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