A fighting draw on Matfield Green

Matfield, Saturday 13 July 2019.

Matfield Green CC 216-4 dec (39 overs; Dann 72, E Cooper 51) drew with St Anne’s Allstars 129-7 (38 overs; Woods 30).

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

It was a weekend of sport which will be forever etched on the memories of those who witnessed it. In the greatest one day cricket match of all time, amidst unbearable tension at Lord’s, England prevailed over New Zealand in a champagne Super Over to win the World Cup. At the same time, across London, two tennis greats went head to head in the Wimbledon men’s final as Novak Djokovic overcame Roger Federer in a fifth-set tie-break. While we couldn’t match the sheer, seat-of-the-pants excitement of those two classics, on a picture postcard Kent village green the Allstars battled hard and deservedly emerged with a draw.

Despite falling agonisingly short of victory against Mighty Wanderers the week before, cricket’s feel-good factor resulted in a wave of enthusiasm unprecedented in our history. The lure of the game was so irresistible to so many Allstars that we had 15 signed up at one stage – a couple of late dropouts meant that we played with 12 and I resumed my old school cricket role as full-time scorer for the day. This gave me the chance to try out a new scoring app, which worked a treat and enabled me to send out the full scorecard on WhatsApp straight after the game.

Skipper Pete Cresswell lost the toss, and we fielded first. But it didn’t seem a bad toss to lose, as cloud cover persisted through the afternoon and gave the bowlers a bit of assistance. Paul “KP” Bowman opened up and got some movement straight away, giving Matfield opener Greg Dann a testing start. Dann might have been caught at mid-off second ball, but the fielder was a fraction late in starting for the catch and the ball landed just short. This was to typify our day in the field, as the breaks just didn’t go our way throughout Matfield’s innings.

Dann quickly got going with some crunching drives down the ground, with the lightning fast outfield meaning anything that pierced the infield went to the boundary. The moving ball and occasional shooter made it a tough day for first-time keeper Sachin Singh, and extras helped move the score on throughout. Ed Heelas also got some swing in a tidy opening spell, but without any luck. But KP continued to trouble both openers, and struck first as he knocked back Justin Bowden’s stumps.

Jagath Dasari once again worked up a good pace, and can feel especially unlucky not to get his first Allstars wicket by as the half-chances in the field continued to go against us. Shanmugan Sama replaced Ed, and started in good rhythm. But Dann was well into his stride by now, and Euan Cooper, after a slow start, also began to time the ball sweetly. At the drinks break Matfield had reached 108-1 and it was looking ominous for the Allstars.

Dann and Cooper both went to their fifties, and as their partnership passed 100 a massive score looked likely. But as we took pace off the ball, the run rate slowed and we found a way back into the game. Vivek Seth’s bowling has come on in leaps and bounds the last couple of years, assisted by weekly nets at his other club Zambuca Tigers, and he produced his best spell in an Allstars shirt as he bowled a tight line and even broke Cooper’s bat. Jimmy Scott, familiar to the opposition from his many appearances at Matfield for the Canbashers, also bowled well, and got the breakthrough as Dann was caught at cover by his old mucker Chris Woods. Next over, Vivek finally got his reward as he took a sharp caught-and-bowled to remove Sutton. Tony Grant struck with his first ball to bowl Euan Cooper, and three wickets had fallen for 11 runs. Matfield skipper Hal Cooper and Shawn Spies stopped the rot, and finished with a flourish as they passed 200. Their final total of 216-4 was a good effort, but we certainly thought it chaseable.

Matfield treated us to a fabulous tea, their scones and cream and hot sausage rolls standing out amidst an excellent spread. It was a team effort – though one of their number got some serious stick from his team mates for the lamest excuse ever for failing to help out with making tea, claiming as a left-hander he “couldn’t butter with a right-handed knife”. Suitably refreshed, we set about the chase. Openers Pete and Chris started cautiously against the excellent “Spees” – as the oppo told us he likes to pronounce it – and Craig Butfoy, as just 16 came off the first 6 overs. The score then doubled in the following over as Chris went on the attack, hitting Butfoy for two monster sixes down the ground. Both openers then went in quick succession, Pete run out going for a sharp single and Chris caught behind off Spies, to leave us 43-2 after 11 overs.

Sachin was joined in the middle by KP and both kept the momentum going. Sachin was still troubled by an ankle injury he picked up in a previous fixture, so he dealt almost exclusively in boundaries with some scorching cover drives. KP was just beginning to get going when he was caught and bowled by left-armer Lewis Overy, who then got a second when Sam Perera, after a positive start and the second broken bat of the day, was incredibly held one-handed, Ben Stokes-like, at mid-off. Sachin then fell LBW to the tall Ash from a ball which kept a bit low, and we were 87-5 with plenty of the mandatory last 20 overs still to be bowled.

At this point, we had no choice but to shut up shop, and TG and Jimmy began the resistance. It is great to see them both still enjoying their cricket so much. Despite being perhaps the oldest ever Allstars batting partnership, like the Rolling Stones they have the lust for life which would put men much younger to shame, and they defied the Matfield bowlers as they continue to defy the years. Jimmy was to get out in bizarre fashion, as the ball deflected up off his pad onto his glasses and into a fielder’s hands – only after the game was it clarified that the mode of dismissal was LBW. Vishesh Sharma replaced him, impressively reining in his instinct to hit out as he blocked out 16 balls before being taken low at midwicket off Iwan Shotton.

With 8 overs still to go, we were 112-7, and the draw still far from secure. But on this day nothing was getting past TG’s broad bat, as he continued to block solidly while still dispatching the odd bad ball for four. Ed, a mighty fine number 9, was also rock-like in defence, and the overs slowly ticked off. Spies came back for one last go, but got nothing as TG and Ed continued to stand firm. He and Hal Cooper had finished off the tail with some sharp pace as we fell just short of saving the game last year, and we were perhaps fortunate that Cooper’s knee problem meant he could only bowl two overs of spin this time – but in the end, we saw the last couple of overs out with ease to secure the draw. TG’s determined innings of 17 not out took him 57 balls, as our new scoring app confirmed, and he was deservedly our man of the match.

So the Allstars were in high spirits again as everyone celebrated a great game of cricket in the Star Inn afterwards. Matfield were generous and sociable opponents, and we look forward to visiting them again next year. Many thanks to everyone for playing, to Haroon Khalid for driving down with the kit, and to Chris’s daughter Charlotte for devotedly watching us play all afternoon.

So we move on to the highlight of our domestic season, as in two weeks’ time we all gather in Dulwich with our families and friends for the Allstars Festival. Hoping to see you all there!

Mighty Wanderers edge a one-day classic

Saturday 6 July 2019, Mill Hill School.

Mighty Wanderers 240/9 dec (50 overs: Leahy 67, Knight 53*, Thompson 2-37, Bowman 2-39, Burgin 2-42, Shanmugan 2-47) beat St Anne’s Allstars 223 (47.1 overs: Perera 55, Lo 54) by 17 runs.

Allstars Debutants: Matt Lo and Tom Abrahams

Report by Pete Cresswell

Photos: Pete Cresswell, Iain Wilson, Gren Thompson, James Abrahams & Paul Bowman

Following our epic win over the Gentlemen of West London two weeks earlier, the Allstars entered July on a high. After last year’s high scoring draw over Mighty Wanderers, where we retained the James Abrahams Trophy, both teams agreed that more time was needed to ensure a result in 2019, and accordingly we played a full day fixture for the first time in our history.


The lovely Mill Hill School ground was our venue. The Allstars were able to lend Iain Wilson (himself already on loan from the New Barbarian Weasels) to the opposition, allowing a full Allstars debut for Tom Abrahams, a couple of months short of his 13th birthday, becoming the first child of an Allstar born during our playing history to make his debut for the club.

After a slightly delayed start, Mighty Wanderers won the toss and opted to bat first. Openers Smith and Winter took the crease and began cautiously against probing seam bowling from Paul “KP” Bowman and Gren Thompson on a pitch featuring fairly low, slow bounce. They negotiated the opening 10 overs before Bowman trapped Smith LBW in the 11th, with just 33 on the board.

Leahy came into bat at 3, and could have fallen early had Sam Perera held a tough chance running around the fine leg boundary, but he then showed off some imperious drives, interspersed with a couple of French cuts passing agonisingly close to the stumps. He and Winter added 52 for the second wicket before Shanmugan bowled Winter in the 23rd to claim his first Allstars wicket on the stroke of lunch.

We enjoyed an excellent lunch – pictures shared on the club WhatsApp group so moved club president Maxie Allen that he missed the posted lunch score update, and instead spent the lunch break demanding score updates from poolside on his holiday in Spain. When we resumed, Sam also took his first wicket for the club by bowling Mathias in an excellent an 11 over spell broken only by the break. Shanmugan then grabbed a second as he bowled Wilson for 12 to reduce Mighty Wanderers to 120/4 off 33 overs.

Wilson’s dismissal brought Knight to the crease. We know from previous years that Knight is a very capable batsman, and he and Leahy attacked the spin of Paul Burgin and debutant Matt Lo. Paul conceded 20 off his first two overs, but bounced back well to take 2 wickets in his third, deceiving Leahy in flight to get him stumped by Dharani Ronanki and bowling Mighty Wanderers’ debutant Dinesh for 1. At 166/6 the match was nicely poised.

Knight and Hughes continued attacking, forcing the reintroduction of Bowman and Thompson, who quickly clamped down on the scoring. Hughes was bowled by KP for 24, and Thompson was rewarded for some tight bowling with the wickets of Tjasink and Martin before Wilson completed his 50.

The declaration came 30 minutes before tea with Mighty Wanderers 240/9, leaving skipper Cresswell to stride out with Burgin to negotiate a tricky 20 minute spell. We couldn’t quite make it to the break without losing a wicket: with 5 minutes left in the session Cresswell was somewhat ignominiously stumped off a wide from Tjasink for 90 fewer runs than he made in this fixture last year, his tactic of batting out of his ground to seamers allowing Knight a shy at the stumps from 5 yards.

At 17/1 we took tea, which surpassed lunch – the Allstars have truly been treated to some amazing teas this year – after which Matt Lo, making an impressive Allstars debut, began aggressively, well supported by Burgin in a half-century stand. The introduction of Dinesh, bowling right arm around the wicket, seam drew edges behind from Burgin and Bowman for 12 and 2 respectively to reduce the Allstars to 85/3.

Sam Perera joined Matt Lo and the pair put together a brisk 41 run stand that put the Allstars on top, only for the returning Tjasink – a stalwart for Mighty Wanderers who’s taken plenty Allstars wickets over the years – to seam one back through the gate and bowl Lo for a well crafted and attractive 54. This brought Sachin Singh to the wicket, hobbling on a rolled ankle. He and Sam advanced the score in singles and boundaries, but they still kept up with the required 4 runs an over as the game entered the final 20 overs after 6:15pm. Sachin holed out after a brave 19, before James Abrahams added another 10 with Sam to get the score to 174/6.

We needed 67 to win in 17 overs, and the game was still in the balance – but this was the point where the game swung in Mighty Wanderers’ favour. Sam was bowled by Smith for 55 – his second successive fifty – and Shanmugan and Dharani quickly fell without any further score leaving the Allstars reeling at 196/9. Wilson’s shout of joy at trapping Shanmu plumb LBW and avenging his own dismissal may have been heard in South London.

Young Tom Abrahams then joined Gren Thompson, showing a resolute defence and some shots that belied a number 11. Some lovely strokeplay from Gren at the other end, along with some more of the 28 wides bowled in the innings, kept the required run rate below 4. With 5 overs left, all four results were still on – could we snatch victory against the odds and hold on to the trophy?

Sadly, this time it wasn’t to be. With just 18 runs needed to win, Tom edged Leahy and was taken by a good slip catch after scoring four times as many as his old man. He proved a chip off the old block however, channelling his inner Stuart Broad and waiting for the umpire’s finger before walking off. Gren was left unbeaten on an excellent 19, and the Mighty Wanderers regained the James Abrahams Trophy.

All in all, an excellent day of cricket. Many thanks go to the Mighty Wanderers for being excellent hosts and genial opponents, and their tea ladies for excellent food at lunch and tea. Mill Hill School provided a lovely picturesque venue, and Iain Wilson proved a true gent in first turning up to help the Allstars, then agreeing to play for the Wanderers.

We will be back next year to try and regain the trophy – but in the meantime, next Saturday takes us to one of the most scenic venues of the Allstars season, as we take on Matfield on their picture postcard village green in Kent.

Allstars shine in epic victory over Gents

Ealing Central Sports Ground, Saturday 22 June 2019.

St Anne’s Allstars 178/3 (Perera 66*, Choudhary 61) beat the Gentlemen of West London 153 (H Patel 46, Rattan 4-16, Silmon 3-24) by 25 runs to win the 42-11 Trophy.

Allstars debutants: Vikash Choudhary & Zain Shah

Words and photos by Pete Cresswell

Ealing Central Sports Ground comprises a picturesque collection of cricket pitches, well shielded from the neighbouring A40 by a substantial hedge, centred on a pretty clubhouse with a nice bar. The ground is right next to Perivale Station on the Central Line, though TFL’s weekend engineering schedule forced many Allstars to shuttle to the ground via Alperton station instead.

The Gents are one of the Allstars’ longest standing and favourite opponents, with plenty of good natured games down the years. Gents’ Fixtures Secretary Andy Burman regularly drops in on our matches against other teams, chipping in on the scorebook on occasion.

After a tough couple of weeks on the recruitment front, eight Allstars arrived at the ground for the start, soon to be bolstered the traffic-hampered Sam Perera and by Zain Shah, who found himself surplus to requirements for the league match on the neighbouring pitch – he had recruited a friend to play thinking they were short, but finding they now had 12, kindly volunteered to help us out instead.

At the toss, skipper Cresswell correctly called heads for the second week in a row, and opted to bat. He and debutant Vikash Choudhary stroud out to open the innings vs the father-and-son Snelling combination. The overhead cloud and solid cross-pitch breeze soon proved conducive to swing, as did the greenish tinge on a pitch that was a little slow and low following the rain of recent weeks.

The junior Snelling, Joel, opened up tightly on the back of some prodigious outswing, a handful of leg-byes and swing-induced byes being the only source of scoreboard relief. At the other end his father Stuart was swinging and seaming the ball back in off his Mike Procter-esque wrong-foot action. Cresswell and Vikash were watchful against the swing as three successive maidens went by before Vikash eventually posted the first runs off the bat in the 7th over. Having almost seen off the opening spells Cresswell succumbed in the 10th as Snelling Sr brought one back in to hit off stump – the 400th wicket of his long and distinguished Gents career. Both Snellings were to finish with excellent figures of 1-17 off their allotted seven overs.

Sachin Singh followed shortly after, trapped in front by Khan, leaving the Allstars reeling at 28-2 in the 12th. But this was the moment when Sam Perera joined Vikash at the wicket, and the pair built a superb 94 run stand, taking advantage of the copious green space in the big outfield to bat the Allstars into a strong position. Vikash’s precise placement & Sam’s hard hitting (as attested by the large crack on the splice of his bat) were a joy to watch.

Jignesh Patel eventually slipped one through Vikash’s defences for an excellent 61 when he returned for a second spell, which brought Ashwin Rattan to the crease. Ash was wearing his back-up spectacles after his regular pair were broken while he was goal-keeping on Friday night, but he was soon into a flow, dropping singles into the off side to keep Sam on strike early on. 28 runs off the last 3 overs helped the Allstars reach 178/3, comfortably our highest total so far this season, with Sam’s unbeaten 66 the highest individual score.

The Gents then treated us to a sumptuous tea – the Burman household’s chicken coop contributed eggs for the Spanish omelette and the cheese and onion quiche, alongside strawberries from the Burman garden, as well as some superb spinach, pine nut & feta spanhopitas along with brownies and cake. Several of our bowlers were a tad grumpy that we still had to field, meaning they couldn’t completely gorge themselves. Upon receiving our effusive thanks, Krysia Burman described us as “good boys who didn’t waste food”.

Sated, the team took to the field. Covering such a big outfield with 10 men was tricky, but with a good score in the bank and plenty of bowlers, playing spirits were high. Zain and Jagath Dasari opened up, both getting plenty of swing, though the pitch was playing noticeably slower and lower, making life difficult for makeshift keeper Cresswell.

Gents’ veteran Hemin Patel was positive early, getting the run rate going. Cavaney was more circumspect at the other end, contributing just 6 to a 36 run opening stand before being bowled by Zain in the 7th over. He was replaced by Pavan Kota, who scored a wonderful hundred while on-loan to us against Crossbats last season, and had reportedly been in prodigious 2019 form for the Gents. Unfortunately (for the Gents) he advanced down the track to a straight ball from Zain and was given out LBW – the delivery was straight, but most village level umpires would have given a team-mate the benefit of the doubt. Young Joel Snelling the umpire received a wee lecture from his father (the square leg umpire) about the normal village cricket LBW etiquette thereafter.

Gren Thompson replaced Jagath at the A40 end, and produced an economical spell, getting a ton of swing as Hemin Patel and Sudireddy built a brisk 50 partnership, with a brutal attack against Shanmugan who’d replaced Zain at the clubhouse end. When drinks were taken at the end of the 17th over, the Gents were handily placed at 98-2.

Immediately after the break the complexion of the match changed completely with the introduction of spin, on a slow, low pitch with a few cracks appearing. Joe Silmon and Ashwin Rattan both bowled superbly, proving hard to get away getting turn and drift, while the tiring Hemin Patel was struggling a little between the wickets. Sudireddy was bowled at the end of Ash’s first over, and Joe bowled Mark Sciberras for a duck the next over. Gents were 109/4 off 20 – game on!

Ash bowled Khan and Hemin Patel (for a well-crafted 46) in successive overs, and the Gents collapse was on. Joe trapped Joel Snelling in front and had Sanjay Patel smartly caught by Vikash in the next over. Ash trapped number 10 Antoine in front for a duck the next over, and in 5 overs five wickets had fallen for 11 runs.

Stuart Snelling and last man Bender managed to play out the remainder of the spin twins’ spells, leaving 37 to win off the last 4 overs. Some aggressive swinging off the returning Gren got the target down to 29 off 3, but Sachin finished the job as he got a leg break to turn from outside leg and hit middle to bowl Stuart Snelling for 10.

So the 42-11 Trophy comes the Allstars’ way for just the third time in 20 attempts. Both of our prior wins over the Gents were mainly down to one batsman playing out of his skin – Simon Begley in 2005, and Paul Bowman in 2011 – but this was a team performance which belongs firmly among the Allstars’ greatest victories.

All in all, a great day of village cricket, on a pleasantly mild summer day. The past few seasons have seen the Allstars struggle a little against our stronger opposition in May and June before coming into our own in the second half of the season, so it’s great to post our first win of the season in June, in our 4th match.

It was also great to give Joe Silmon a rousing send off before he moves to Berlin on Tuesday – Joe has been a fantastic contributor to the team over the past couple of seasons and he’ll be greatly missed. We look forward to seeing Joe again on tour in Portugal in October, and any other time we can drag him onto the field when he’s visiting Blighty.

We had some superb performances in the match, with Sam’s 66 not out, Vikash’s 61 on debut (after messaging at 4:30 am to declare his availability), Joe’s 3-fer swansong, Zain’s great opening spell, and some great outfielding by Sachin, Jagath and Shanmugan covering for our absent fielder. But the man of the match award must go to Ash, for posting a tidy 24 not out, some excellent fielding at long on and a very well bowled 7 overs, 1 maiden, 4 for 16.

Big thanks to Zain Shah for offering his playing services at the ground, to Vikash for making himself available on the morning of the match, to Haroon Khalid and Joe for kit and player shuttle services, to the Gentlemen of West London for being proper Gents during a friendly-spirited match on a lovely day, and to Krysia Burman for a phenomenally good afternoon tea. We will look forward to defending the 42-11 Trophy against them next year – but our next assignment takes us to North London on 6 July, as we defend the James Abrahams Trophy against Mighty Wanderers.

Heartaches welcome us on Father’s Day

Aston Rowant CC, Sunday 16 June 2019.

Heartaches 243-3 (35 overs; Cohen 116*, Jordan Frieda 45*, Fox 41, Silmon 2-63, Foster 1-35) beat St Anne’s Allstars 126 (Ronanki 26, Singh 22, Cohen 3-2) by 117 runs.

Match report and photos by Pete Cresswell

The clouds (possibly briefly) cleared from the soggy 2019 English early-summer countryside on Sunday; and instantly over 1 billion television viewers globally found themselves glued to cricket on TV. But enough about that one-sided game in Manchester…

The Allstars instead made the trek through the Chilterns to gloriously scenic Aston Rowant, where we were greeted by a lush, vast outfield and a nice looking pitch. Suitably for Father’s Day, we had a selection of future Allstars from the Haddow-Allen-Foster and Chadwick-Burgin clans spectating on the sideline.

Upon winning the toss, stand-in skipper Cresswell noted the absence of regular Allstars’ nemesis Torquil Riley-Smith from the Heartaches’ team sheet, and opted to bowl in the hope that the ominous overhead cloud would provide some swing. In Sir Tim Rice’s (playing) absence Heartaches’ stand-in skipper Joe Cohen opened the batting with Adie Fox and the pair began briskly against some solid seam from Sam Perera and debutant Shanmugan.

The introduction of Joe Silmon’s wily leg spin from the western end in the 10th over slowed the scoring rate, and Joe got a deserved breakthrough in his second over as Fox skied a drive which Anthony Foster at cover held on second grab. One wicket quickly brought 2 as in the next over Stoneham drove Foster to mid-off where our second debutant Jagath Dasari took a superb catch. Big fella Wilson was troubled by Joe’s flight right from the start, and Joe continued his excellent spell by bowling him around his legs in the 16th over. At 95/3 the game was looking a bit more even.

Jagath only knew he was making his debut on Sunday morning, but he continued his fine introduction to the Allstars as he took up the attack with an excellent spell of quick bowling that forced watchfulness from Cohen and Jordan Frieda (one of three J. Friedas in the opposition ranks). They weathered this storm and built an excellent partnership, with quick 1s, 2s & 3s on the big ground pressurising the field as the local Red Kites circled above. Garreth Duncan made a welcome return with the ball, and some tidy bowling from Vivek Seth at the other end helped keep the scoring rate somewhat in check, but Cohen completed a superb ton powering Heartaches to an imposing 243/3. For the second match in a row the Allstars had no dropped chances – investigations are ongoing as to whether this is a record.

After the (as usual) excellent tea provided by Heartaches (though Maxie might be a little disappointed that there were no roast potatoes this time), Cresswell and Felix Allen strode out to begin the Allstars’ reply. Things initially looked good with Cresswell reeling off a cover drive in the first over. However Felix missed a slow inswinging yorker from Edington in the fourth, and trudged off to be greeted by his 3-year-old son Ned’s refrain of “Daddy doesn’t need his bat any more”.

Skipper Cresswell followed shortly after attempting another cover drive – but this brought together Sachin Singh and Sam Perera, who had the chance to meet Sir Tim during the innings break. The partnership was beginning to look promising as Sachin went on the attack and found the boundary with some sweet shots – but it was to end with the score at 40 when Jordan Frieda yorked Sachin for 22.

A calling mix-up and a direct hit soon accounted for Foster. The all-rounder trio of Shanmugan, Perera, and Dasari all perished trying to accelerate which left the Allstars reeling at 81/7. But our resistance was not yet broken, as Thales colleagues Dharani Ronanki and Joe Silmon set about the Heartaches’ change bowlers in fine style. They had added 39 in 38 minutes as we reached our highest total of the season. But it was the Heartaches’ man of the day, captain Cohen, who was to finish the job for his side. He brought himself on to bowl his quick off-breaks, and, clean bowled Dharani and Garreth off successive balls. Sir Viv survived the hat trick ball, but not the following one which ended the match. Joe was left stranded on a valiant 19 not out. He’s become a real fixture in the Allstars over the past couple of years, and we’ll miss him when he shortly leaves these shores to take up his dream job for Deutsche Bahn.

All in all, another pleasant day out at a lovely ground, despite the result. Thanks go out to the weather gods, who sent a lot of spectacularly dark clouds around the ground, to Nick Chadwick and Paul Burgin who cheered from the sidelines after Nick delivered 4 players and kit to the ground, Joe who got a bunch of players and kit back into London, Jagath who stepped up to play on the morning of the match, and young Amy from Aston Rowant CC who sub-fielded for the first 2 overs while Viv battled traffic – she has a handy throwing arm too. Next week sees us return to the capital, as we meet our old friends the Gentlemen of West London in Perivale.

Allstars in a Corridor of uncertainty

Great Missenden, Saturday 1 June 2019.

Corridor CC (185 all out; 34.4 overs) beat St Anne’s Allstars (103 all out; 25.3 overs) by 82 runs.

Report and photos by Maxie Allen

A lovely day out, marred only by our haphazard batting performance. The eventual margin of defeat – 82 runs – was deserved on account of our sclerotic display with the willow but gives a slightly misleading impression of the balance of power between the sides, as in truth we were pretty well matched.

This was our first ever fixture against Corridor CC (we’d hooked up with them last year on a cricketing version of Tinder) and the chief selling point – the promise of a classic semi-rural village ground – came good. This was a properly attractive venue – immaculate yet unstuffy, homely yet upmarket, chocolate-box yet unpretentious. All of this married neatly with perfect cricketing weather: sunny and warm but not too hot.

On arrival we immediately established that Corridor CC, led by the super-suave Duncan Mallard, were an awfully nice bunch of chaps and bang on our wavelength. Most of the side are VT editors who met while working at Sky Sports – which given my own profession afforded me some easy conversational ice-breakers. Their cricketing association began by playing in the corridor outside the edit suites (hence their name) using a poster-tube for a bat and a clump of sticky-tape for a ball.

We lost the toss and fielded. The innings which followed was an intriguing affair in that both sides seemed extremely well matched and at no stage did bat decisively hold sway, over ball, nor the converse. Every time we needed a wicket, we soon took one; every time Corridor needed to consolidate, they did.

What made this interesting was that while we were slightly short of alpha-grade bowlers (and Nick Chadwick had to withdraw from the attack with a twisted knee after 5.2 overs), we turned in one of our best-ever fielding performances, notching up six catches (several of which were tricky), with none dropped, plus both a stumping and a run-out.

On the wicket-keeping front, duties were shared between Dharani Ronanki and Richard Slatford (the latter making a very welcome guest appearance after a long absence): each turned in some neat and fluent glovework, standing up to the stumps, much of the time, with aplomb.

For their part, Corridor’s batsmen were all competent, at minimum, and in several cases rather stronger, but none appeared obviously out of our range.

Their innings began with a bilaterally cautious and probing approach until we struck in the fourth over, when Chadders trapped Kinnear in front. To me, it looked a mile down the pitch but everyone else seemed happy, including the umpire – at least in terms of height, as he took the unusual step of asking the batsman if he’d edged it, to which came an honest reply in the negative. I remain unconvinced that referring dismissals to the batsman will catch on, internationally, but in this instance it proved rather sporting.

The spine of Corridor’s total was provided by a nuggety knock from their other opener, the diminutive P. Smith. Or perhaps his name was Peasmith – as in, a bit like a locksmith, but someone who works with peas rather than locks. Either way, he oscillated between meaty punches and some edgier stuff which on other days might have gone to hand.

He and Sherlock had put on (roughly) seventy for the second wicket when the latter fell to a nifty stumping effected by the Dharani-Langridge axis. From this point onwards, wickets fell less frequently than we wanted but more frequently than the opposition did, and so the power-balance shifted into equilibrium.

We bowled some tidy stuff; we created and took chances at regular intervals; but we also served up plenty of hittable deliveries, which, when not biffed over the short boundary on one side of the field, usually ended up at long-on, causing a great of scurrying-about for the fielder stationed there: Jon “prince of payday loans” Hautot, another returnee, making a surprise comeback after leaving prison / fleeing to Acapulco / having faked his own death, or wherever he’s been hiding for the last seven years.

After a tidy spell from Tom Morris, Joe Silmon took over at the Pub End, his honest labours finally rewarded when Peasmith, having made a fine 57, hoiked him to square leg – the catch coolly snaffled by debutant Anthony Foster, whom I’d cajoled into playing by the simple expedient of letting him marry my sister.

Foster soon followed up his inaugural catch by taking another, and as it was off his own bowling (to dismiss Mallard, the captain) simultaneously bagged his first Allstars wicket, as part of an impressively composed debut spell. A few overs previously, Silmon had claimed his second scalp in almost identical fashion – a steepling c&b, deftly and patiently taken, off a leading edge – to account for Davies.

Meanwhile our other debutant – Andy Ireson, who seems an awfully nice chap – had come on at the other (railway) end, and his robust efforts bore fruit when Mackie, after compiling a muscular 36, prodded in the direction of silly point – whereupon Slats, who was now keeping, leapt in front of the stumps to pouch a splendid diving catch.

But our most dominant phase of the innings was still to come. Paul “KP” Bowman and Martyn “Lofty” Langridge returned at the death and closed out the final overs with precision and guile, aided by some sharp fielding. Few runs were conceded – the scorebook doesn’t reveal exactly how many – and four wickets taken.

KP bowled Ewens, then had Aggeti LBW (a bit too far forward). At his end, Lofty persuaded E. Smith to slice him to gully, where Joe took another sharp catch, then pulled off a natty single-handed run-out to dismiss Aggeti for a second time. The unfortunate chap had batted at both 9 and 11 (Corridor were a man short, so we suggested their lowest-scorer could bat again) and made a duck in both his innings.

What this all meant is that we’d bowled out Corridor for 185. During a generous and high-quality tea, we generally agreed that this was an almost exactly par total. Our XI was well-stocked with capable batsmen, and on paper, we had every chance of chasing down the target.

But then the inevitable occurred. It always seems to happen, due to some obscure physical law of the cricketing universe, that whenever we have lots of proper batsmen in the side, they all find ways of getting out cheaply. And so it fatefully proved, yet again, on this particular occasion. As our gun-bats took turns to self-immolate, our forlorn innings came to resemble a slowly deflating bicycle tyre.

Matters weren’t helped by Corridor deploying the devious tactic of bowling consistently full and straight, often quite briskly. In consequence, oppo skipper Mallard presided over a row of ducks.

After Silmon was bowled for 5, off his pads and through the gate, Morris arrived at the crease bristling with intent but with eyes bigger than his tummy, and smacked his fifth ball straight down the throat of deep extra cover, after failing to get enough middle on a wide-ish long-hop from Oddball (sic). Dharani soon followed, LBW to Smurf (albeit a bit far forward).

Next to the crease was Andy Ireson, who plies his trade in the ice-cream industry. While there was nothing flaky about his batting, he sadly failed to make 99, falling 97 runs short when Davies removed his off stump.

Standing tall amid the wreckage was Slatford, who’d opened the batting and not only survived but prospered. The only one of our recognised batsmen to make a score, he went on to carry his bat – only the second player to do so in Allstars history. He’s a proper cricketer, Slats, and at our level makes batting look easy. His eventual score of 35 saved us from genuine embarrassment.

At 33 for 4 he was joined in the middle by Foster, my brother-in-law, who insouciantly swept his third ball over the midwicket boundary to register his very first Allstars runs. It was a remarkably confident start, and suggested he has a keen eye for length – an impression reinforced when he repeated the exact same feat a few deliveries later.

Foster was no mere flash in the pan, though, and proceeded to play an equal part with Slatford in a face-saving stand of 33 for the fifth wicket. From the outset he appeared calm, authoritative, technically sound, and untroubled by the bowling. In a word, he looked experienced. Only after he returned to the pavilion (having made 18, and ending up our second highest scorer after Slats) did Anthony reveal that this was the first real cricket match he’d ever played in. In a way, that wasn’t surprising. An accomplished guitarist and songwriter, who plays golf off 16, he’s one of those total gits who are good at anything they turn their hand to.

Next to bat was Jon Hautot, who hadn’t faced a single delivery since 2012. I’d advised him to take his time, settle in, and get used to the feel of bat on ball before attempting much in the way of shots. I suspect he did not take this advice to heart, because after missing his first two cherries, he tried to smash his third out of the ground but succeeded only in lobbing it gently to mid-on.

At least we still had Paul Bowman’s batting to rely on, and as he strode to the middle we savoured the prospect of a productive partnership between him and his old mate Slats. Things did not go to plan. After facing two dot balls, KP then called for a non-existent single to square leg, from the non-striker’s end, and ran himself out for our fourth duck.

Martyn and Chadders then struck a few meaty blows, against some slightly gentler bowling, to notch up 9 and 17 respectively and add some gloss to our total. And then I shuffled out at jack with only 83 needed for victory. I handled my first delivery with skill and elan, but my second was less successful. At some point after Peasmith released the ball, I began pondering my gas bill, or the finer points of WTO rules, or something or other, and completely forgot to try and hit it with my bat. As a result I was adjudged LBW – even though I was a bit far forward.

And that was that. But we weren’t too downhearted, especially as a nice pub with a very jolly beer garden was only a hundred yards away. I’d like to think everyone enjoyed the day. And well done to Corridor CC for being excellent opponents all round. We look forward to seeing them again in 2020.

Valley End welcome the Allstars into 2019

Sunday 19 May 2019, Chobham.

Valley End beat St Anne’s Allstars by 8 wickets.

Report by Garreth Duncan – Photos by Pete Cresswell

The long wait is over. After eight months without cricket and buoyed by a record intake of new players and a great pre-season, the Allstars stepped into 2019 with renewed confidence. After a false start the previous week when our opponents cried off, Valley End, as they always do, welcomed us to their newly refurbished ground. As one of the strongest opponents on our fixture list, they were to prevail as usual – but it was still an enjoyable way to begin our season.

As the sun began to break through the morning clouds, I won the toss and had little hesitation in deciding to bat first. But the pitch, used the previous day, was to prove far from the road we’ve seen at Valley End in previous years, uneven bounce making it more difficult for batting than expected. Pete Cresswell and Paul Burgin got us under way, but both were to go early, Paul bowled and Pete feathering a catch behind. Ed Heelas, making a welcome return to Allstars cricket, stepped to the crease and made light of the conditions as he unveiled some stylish cover drives. Vish Sharma, on his Allstars debut, started promisingly but was a little unlucky to edge to the keeper to give Giddings his second wicket.

Sam Perera, the second of our debutants, counter-attacked from the off with some sparkling shots as the score passed 50. But the loss of Ed and Sam either side of the drinks break was a blow the innings couldn’t recover from. Left-armer Dale bowled both Iain Wilson and Dharani Ronanki, and the tail could only provide some brief resistance as we were bowled out for 76. With more than 10 overs unused, Valley End sportingly asked us to bat again, with lowest scorers going back in first: after a quick clatter of early wickets, Dharani took advantage of the second chance to add a few handy runs to get us to a total of 99.

Early wickets was our only hope, and Ed, opening the bowling, continued his excellent all-round performance by bowling Valley End skipper Ray Ferris with a shooter. Martyn Langridge soon found his customary accuracy and followed up by knocking back Bolderson’s stumps. Sam replaced him and bowled his seamers to good effect, and Joe Silmon continued where he’d left off last season with a testing spell of leg-spin. But we didn’t have nearly enough to defend, and Valley End got home with plenty overs to spare.

Valley End were generous hosts as always, and treated us to a sumptuous barbecue after the game. A great day out against some great guys.

Allstars launch the 2019 season!

We prepared for the new Allstars season in style yesterday, as the Allstars gathered for our final pre-season net at the indoor school at Lord’s before going for drinks and dinner at the Duke of York pub.

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The home of cricket awaits the Allstars’ arrival.

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The Allstars take over the indoor school, with an unprecedented three nets.

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Newcomers and seasoned Allstars get ready for the season ahead.

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Richard Stephenson enjoys a hydration break …

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The Allstars toast the new season.  Let’s start 2019 with a bang!