The Highgate Hustle

St Aloysius Playing Fields, Highgate, Sunday 24 July 2022.

Railway Taverners 212-9 (34.3 overs: Eiran Reilly 101 retired out, Vivek Radhakrishnan 3-18, Sam Waddicor 2-41) beat St Anne’s Allstars 211-7 (40 overs: Vivek Radhakrishnan 66, Sam Macdonald 61, Sheahan Arnott 30*, Guy Gibbs 4-20) by 1 wicket.

Report by Garreth DuncanPhotos by Sheahan Arnott

So near and yet so far. By the barest of margins, Railway Taverners snuck home in the end – and their skipper Eiran Reilly, so often our nemesis, took them most of the way again. But, just like the near-miss against Edgware this time last year, such a summary barely scratches the surface of a see-sawing game where we twice fought back when all seemed lost, and we deserved enormous credit for our spirit and tenacity even in defeat.

The ground in Highgate was a new venue for us, and we had some welcome support as Sam Waddicor’s lovely lady Chloe and her parents joined us for the afternoon. With the heatwave not yet over, we were greeted by a flat-looking pitch and a parched, grassless outfield. Skipper Pete Cresswell, to much relief, won the toss and chose to bat.

Another familiar foe, Taverners’ opening bowler Dave Geensen, struck an early blow as Harshad Keskar was caught at mid-on. But this brought in our player of the day. Vivek Radhakrishnan, who had made a promising debut against Heartaches the previous week, was quickly into his stride as the boundaries flowed freely off his new bat, which he’d bought just hours before and was busy knocking in as he prepared for his innings. In no time at all, he’d reached a sparkling maiden Allstars fifty, and with Pete content to push singles and feed him the strike, at the first drinks break we were 77-1 after 15 overs and in good shape.

It was the Taverners’ Guy Gibbs who first turned the game their way, as he broke a stand of 69 by bowling Pete – and two overs later, Jibs Fardos ended Vivek’s superb knock as he was caught at point. Gibbs, bowling at a lively pace, then ripped through our middle order as he castled Paul Burgin, had Sam Perera caught at mid-on, and Samir Hafiz taken at point. In a blink of an eye, we were 120-6 and in big trouble.

Sam Macdonald has enjoyed a welcome return to form this season, and announced his arrival at the crease with an effortless pull for six over square leg. When his eye is in, there are few bowlers who can stop him, and with Sheahan Arnott providing strong support, they added a rapid 76 for the seventh wicket. Sam had reached a sumptuous fifty before he was caught at cover with a couple of overs to go. From an unpromising position, our eventual total of 211-7 gave us something to bowl at – but we knew who would be standing in our way once again.

Buoyed up by his supporters, Sam Waddicor gave us the perfect start as he wrecked Andy James’ stumps with the first ball of the innings. But Reilly went after us from the off, and with only 10 fielders (not helped by the opposition declining to lend us one) and a lightning fast outfield, runs came at a furious rate. Sam struck again as he had Dom Moger caught behind by Sam Perera, but we still couldn’t stem the flow of runs off Reilly’s bat. At the first drinks break Taverners were 107-2 off 15 and making it look very easy.

As we returned from the break, in the huddle, Sheahan fired us all up and exhorted us not to give in. Samer bowled a well controlled spell of left-arm spin, and got the next wicket – which, if we’d recorded it, would have had pride of place on many a “how village is that?” social media post, as Andy Pacey comically overbalanced and knocked over his own stumps.

Reilly continued on his merry way and reached his second century in successive games against us, before sportingly retiring. He must have thought the job was done, with his team only needing another 60-odd with plenty overs left – but suddenly, the game sparked into life as we roared back into the contest. Vivek’s cutters were perfect for the dry conditions, and the Taverners’ middle order was swept away as Matthias Winter was plumb LBW and Geensen and Fardos had their stumps rattled. Out of nowhere, Taverners had crashed to 162-7 and the game was wide open.

Chris Ives and Dom Ewer then mounted a counter-attack, but continued to live dangerously as a couple of aerial shots off my bowling just cleared the fielders. Sheahan, giving his all to the end, broke the stand as he bowled Ives. Somehow, Steve Chambers kept us out at one end as Ewer went for his shots, and the target crept closer.

With only four runs required, Harshad broke through as Ewer was caught behind by Sam Macdonald – and after the longest appeal you’ll ever hear, dragged himself from the field. We had one last chance for victory – but it was Gibbs, their other star of the day, who swung Harshad through fine leg for the winning boundary. Having thought the game gone, Reilly’s relief – as his mighty cheer on their Instagram video showed – was palpable.

But this was a terrific contest where we gave it all, and we can be proud of our never-say-die spirit. Taverners treated us to beers at the end, and we all celebrated a great game of cricket. We wish them all the best for the remainder of their season – but after a couple of weeks off, we then head south of the river to play Gradcasts at Dulwich on 14 August.

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