Allstars nick it on a Bucks weekend

Nags Head Meadow, Great Missenden, Bucks, Saturday 20 August 2022.

St Anne’s Allstars 179-7 (33.3 overs: Amit Deverathippa 50, Richard Slatford 48, Rory Hopkins 3-25) beat Corridor CC 177-9 (35 overs: Amiya Ranjan 3-19, Safwan Ahsan 2-29, Shanmugam Sama 2-37) by 3 wickets.

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

Although Corridor are still a relatively new addition to the Allstars fixture list, they’re such a good fit with us that it seems like we’ve been playing them for much longer. In the corresponding fixture last year, we lit the fuse for our 2021 season as Sam Waddicor and Jagath Dasari blew them away with 4 wickets apiece. Corridor were to prove a much more formidable opponent this time – but an excellent all-round performance, in which everyone contributed, took us to a deserved victory once again, with just 9 balls to spare.

The pitch looked dry and dusty and the outfield parched, and Corridor skipper Duncan Mallard unsurprisingly opted to bat first on winning the toss. Sheahan Arnott and Graham Bruce opened the bowling for the Allstars, giving Corridor’s opening batsmen Zorba and Damo Sherlock little to hit as they both probed away on a tight line. Both were unlucky to go wicketless, a couple of early tough chances going down, but the openers survived.

But just like in last year’s demolition, if Corridor thought the hard work was done, they were to get a mighty shock as our change bowlers upped the pace. Amiya Ranjan has enjoyed a splendid first season in Allstars cricket, improving in both pace and accuracy with every game, and he charged in with a hostile spell, getting some awkward bounce out of a seemingly dead surface and troubling all the Corridor batsmen. He got the first breakthrough by blasting out Zorba’s stumps, before quickly doing the same to the dangerous Paddy Crowley. Shanmugam Sama – finally and deservedly receiving his 2020 Allstar of the Year award in person before the game – has also got back some of his 2020 rhythm, and he kept the pressure on at the other end as Corridor reached the drinks break at 77-2.

Full and straight was clearly the way to go, and Stuart Bruce – who had taken a hat-trick last time he faced Corridor – got the next wicket as he bowled Swiss. After an encouraging debut against Gradcasts last week, Safwan Ahsan – cheered on by his watching family – made a stunning start with his left-arm chinaman bowling, his first ball turning a mile and knocking back Sherlock’s stumps. The batsman looked as nonplussed as Mike Gatting when he faced the “Ball of the Century” from Shane Warne in 1993.

Safwan quickly followed up with another as he bowled KC, before Graham Bruce returned to finish a fine spell. Shanmu and Amiya then returned to finish the job with some really clinical death bowling, Amiya grabbing a third as he bowled their skipper Mallard, before Shanmu finally getting the rewards he deserved as he had Rory Hopkins plumb LBW and Shrige bowled. Ali Stafford was run out going for a crazy bye off the last ball, and on a pitch which we’d thought 210 or 220 would be a par score, we’d kept Corridor to 177-9 and could be well pleased with our efforts in the field.

After I’d cut the tea-time cake to celebrate my 100th Allstars appearance, skipper Pete Cresswell and Stuart Bruce opened up for us. Stuart began with an effortless boundary, but then fell early as he pulled KC to square leg. But this brought in Amit Deverathippa, bang in form, to unleash a breathtaking assault on the Corridor bowling. Amit hit seven fours and three monster sixes – one landing on the railway line at one end, and another clearing the sightscreen at the other end and denting visiting Allstar legend Jon Ryan’s car in the adjoining field.

In no time, Amit had raced to a fifty and Corridor were looking shell-shocked – their skipper Mallard putting seven on the boundary in desperation. They were mightily relieved when, as Amit looked to clear the boundary once more, he picked out the fielder at long-off – but his early fireworks had made critical inroads into the target and given us plenty overs to finish the job, taking the pressure off those who followed. But Corridor were not going to give up without a mighty fight, and with Amit gone, they forced their way back into the game. Sachin Singh, making a welcome return after an injury-hit season, was unlucky to be dismissed, as a ball from Swiss popped up on him and he got a leading edge to mid-wicket, and at the drinks break we were 79-3.

Sam Perera – whom we’d presented with his Allstars cap before the game – tried to regain the initiative as he hit 12 off Hopkins’ first over after the drinks break, but yorked himself as he went for another big shot. Having watched all the carnage from the other end, Pete began to find some rhythm with two boundaries over mid-wicket, only to be pinned LBW by his opposite number. Safwan hit a boundary before KC returned to bowl him, and 65-1 had become 117-6 and the game was in the balance once more.

In previous years of Allstars cricket, our tail would have started much higher and such setbacks would have been terminal – but our current generation bats deep and with much greater resilience. Richard Slatford opened up with two crunching boundaries, and Sheahan, in excellent batting form, joined him at the wicket. With the required rate still only a run a ball, there was no need to panic, and initially they calmly pushed ones and twos as the target ticked down.

Slats perfectly picked the time to press the accelerator as the 32nd over disappeared for 19 – with another massive six breaking a storage box on the boundary. Great Missenden’s insurers won’t be thanking us. He richly deserved a fifty, but Hopkins returned for one last go to have him caught behind just two short. But Sheahan wasn’t to be denied, as he crashed two fours to take us over the line.

This was a terrific team effort, and many – including all three of the Banbury boys – were in contention for the Man of the Match award. But out of several fine performances, Slats just shades it for his perfectly judged finishing innings and his outstanding work behind the stumps which easily saved us 20 or so runs.

We celebrated victory in the excellent Nag’s Head pub, with lots of chat about our end of season tour to France. Corridor were sporting in defeat, and we look forward to seeing them again next year – but next up, we’re back in the capital as we face Crossbats this Saturday.

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