Taverners take last orders

Barn Elms, Sunday 13 September 2020. Railway Taverners 197-4 (35 overs: Chris Langley 72*, Jagath Dasari 2-32, Samer Hafiz 2-38) beat St Anne’s Allstars 149 all out (31.5 overs: Matt Lo 54, Stuart Milligan 4-31) by 48 runs.

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

It has been the strangest of years. At the beginning of the year, few would have imagined what was to follow for us all, as the COVID pandemic took its toll. But as the world locked down in March and April, few Allstars would have thought it possible that we would get in even half a cricket season. On a sunny Sunday afternoon, we had chances to finish with another win, but couldn’t quite take them as our friends the Railway Taverners ensured we ended the season on the losing side.

The lead-up to the game was a scramble to find a ground, the Taverners having lost the use of their usual one in Crouch End and many of the council pitches having reverted to football as September began. Barn Elms was our saviour again, as it had been for the opening game against Corridor. Enthusiasm for places remained keen right till the end, with 13 signed up at one stage, and I took up the scorer’s pen once again (the scoring app blowing away my phone battery before halfway). The sunny weather brought wives and families out to support, KP’s wife Jen and daughters Caitlin and Poppy and Hywel Roberts’ wife Sarah and friends joining us for the day.

First-time Allstars skipper Matt Biss lost the toss, and we fielded first on an astroturf wicket with true and reliable bounce. But KP opened with an immaculate spell, starting with three successive maidens and not conceding a run off the bat in his opening spell, as Taverners openers Dominic Ewer and their skipper Mathias Winter struggled to get going. Shanmugam Sama also began well, but without any luck as an early chance went down.

The openers had put on 68 and were just starting to up the rate when Jagath Dasari broke the stand by bowling Winter. Huw Evans also struggled to get the ball off the square, but Ewer was approaching his fifty when Jagath ended his best spell of the season by knocking Ewer’s stumps back in his final over to leave Taverners 89-2 after 20 overs. But this was to bring Taverners’ main man Chris Langley to the crease, and he quickly upped the ante with a series of crunching boundaries.

Samer Hafiz entered the fray, and continued his excellent run of form as he bowled accurately and got some turn off the pitch. Evans continued to struggle, and Samer was eventually rewarded by dismissing him to a smart catch to Dharani Ronanki behind the stumps. The dangerous Aymon Spee soon followed, as Samer turned one sharply and Spee could only poke it to his fellow Kiwi Pete Cresswell at point. But nothing could halt Langley’s progress, and he reached his fifty as the Taverners accelerated, taking 48 off the last 5 overs. Still, having restricted them to less than 200 on a pitch on which we scored (and just defended) 250-plus on opening day, we felt confident at the halfway stage.

But the Taverners’ bowling was to prove up to the task. While openers Matt Biss and Pete saw off the opening bowlers Tony Alaravanga and Mark Guggenheim, they found scoring even more difficult than the Taverners’ openers had done. Although the fifty stand was raised, it had taken 15 overs, and both went in the same over as swing bowler Stuart Milligan, in a fine spell, had Matt caught behind and Pete taken at slip. Jono Beagle was also caught behind as the Taverners tightened their grip, and with 15 overs remaining the rate was already climbing past 8 an over. Hywel Roberts departed, bowled by the talkative Dutchman Geenson, and Sam Perera, so often our saviour last season, couldn’t manage it this time as he became Milligan’s fourth victim.

Amidst the carnage at the other end, Matt Lo continued to play superbly, running hard and playing some sublime shots as he went to his second fifty of the season. But Imi Choudry settled the game with two wickets in his first over, as Matt carved to point and Dharani edging to third man. The lower order all bravely went for their shots – KP hitting a monster six over cow corner – but they’d been left too much to do, the Taverners finishing the job by bowling us out with 19 balls to spare.

An excellent game nonetheless, and the Allstars finish the season with a winning record for the first time since 2003. That season, Tristan Haddow-Allen carried all before him – but this season was much more of a team effort in which everyone contributed. We look forward to better things in 2021 – in the meantime, we eagerly await our (virtual) end of season social and the award of the prestigious Allstars of the Year awards.

Allstars’ first in Cambridge classic

Parker’s Piece, Cambridge, Sunday 6 September 2020. St Anne’s Allstars 148-5 (35 overs; Sachin Singh 50 retired not out, Sam Perera 31) beat NCI 132-9 (35 overs; Samer Hafiz 2-13, Hywel Roberts 2-24) by 16 runs.

Report by Pete Cresswell – Photos by Pete Cresswell, Ashwin Rattan, Sheahan Arnott, Matt Biss, Jono Beagle and Shanmugam Sama

Over the past 2 seasons the Allstars have built a great friendship with the NCI club in Cambridge, with several Allstars turning out in league matches for NCI, and Matt Biss and Jono Beagle making regular Allstars’ appearances. That friendship led to a match between the NCI Sunday XI and the Allstars on historic Parker’s Piece in Cambridge, where Sir Jack Hobbs began his cricket career. Today “the Piece” is a verdantly green council ground, with a Thai restaurant attached to the groundsman’s shed and a fun fair on the far side of the green.

NCI won the toss, and sent the Allstars in to bat on the slow pitch (and even slower outfield). Skipper Pete Cresswell and NCI 2nd XI Captain Jono Beagle opened slowly against some accurate bowling. Scoreboard pressure told in the 6th over as Beagle was dropped at mid-on by NCI’s captain on the day, and the next ball saw Cresswell slice a rare wider ball to point. Beagle nicked off 3 overs later to leave the Allstars at just 18-2.

The first boundary came in the 11th over as Hywel Roberts played some aggressive shots on his way to 19, his highest Allstars’ score. Hywel fell in the 14th over, which brought Sam Perera to the crease to join Sachin Singh. The pair built an excellent partnership, Sachin playing some excellent pull shots, his superb eye negating the low bounce. Sam was a little hampered between the wickets by a hamstring niggle, but that didn’t stop the pair building an 83 run stand.

Sachin reached his 50 and retired, and NCI’s very accurate Johnston then accounted for Chris Gould, making a welcome return to the Allstars for his first match since our Benidorm tour in 2014. With just 4 overs left Sam holed out, caught at mid-wicket by Matt “Universe” Biss. Samer Hafiz and Dharani Ronanki then combined well between the wickets to get the Allstars up to 148-5, an excellent score given the slow outfield.

NCI’s reply saw Matt Biss and Duffy see off very tidy opening spells from Shanmugam Sama and Jagath Dasari, who both swung the pink Duke ball considerably. Samer Hafiz then continued his superb 2020 bowling form by bowling Duffy. Sheahan Arnott, continuing well from his excellent debut against Crossbats last week, picked up Duby in the next over, and the pair tightened the screws as NCI fell behind the required rate. Scoreboard pressure eventually told as Matt Biss holed out to his great mate Beagle off Samer. 51-3 at drinks meant NCI needed 98 off the remaining 17 overs, a tough task on a slow pitch.

Jono Beagle sportingly dropped Ashfield twice (tough chances admittedly) before making it third time lucky off Roberts, sparking a mini collapse as Sam Perera ran out Bragg with a direct hit, and Hywel bowled his namesake Roberts.

Johnston and Arora then built a useful 8th wicket stand that was only ended when Sam Perera got a short ball to loop over the bat onto Arora’s stumps.
Scoreboard pressure then led to a couple of run outs – one an excellent recovery from Shanmugam after dropping a catch at square leg, the other by Sachin at mid-off after a chaotic mix-up – as NCI tried to pick up the rate. Though Johnston managed to take 12 off the last over, the win was still well in hand.

The day ended with both teams enjoying some socially distanced Thai beers on the sideline, before the traditional (for NCI’s Londoners) gin tins on the Thameslink home.

All in all a great day’s cricket played in great spirit, along with plenty of light-hearted banter. Hopefully the first of many repeats for this fixture.

Crossbats take the Bank Holiday honours

Marble Hill Park, Saturday 29 August 2020. Crossbats 207/3 (35 overs; S. Skinner 92*, Arnott 2-31) beat St Anne’s Allstars 125 (27.4 overs; Singh 46) by 82 runs.

Allstars debut: Sheahan Arnott

Report and photos by Pete Cresswell

A cool misty bank holiday Saturday greeted the Allstars this weekend on our return to Marble Hill Park – a stark contrast to the blistering temperatures when we played the Weasels there a few weeks back. The Park itself was a lot greener this time around. This fixture saw the unveiling of the new Allstars caps, with everyone looking very dapper.

The day started inauspiciously with illness ruling out one Allstar, leaving us to play with 10, and Bank Holiday roadworks and traffic meant that 3 Allstars and the club kitbag arrived at the park right on the scheduled 1pm start time, causing a scramble to get out into the field after Crossbats won the toss.

Shanmugam Sama continued his excellent season with the ball with an economical opening spell in partnership with Sam Waddicor. The Crossbats openers however were positive on their home pitch, running aggressively and taking full advantage of the gaps in the big outfield. They added 69 before debutant Sheahan Arnott skittled McAlpine for 47 in the 12th over.

Skinner joined his skipper Wright at the crease, and the pair continued tidily accumulating through tidy spells from Arnott, Jagath Dasari, Vivek Seth and Hywel Roberts. While Sam W was very unlucky to not pick up an LBW call, and a run out from a deflection onto the non-striker’s stumps during a very tidy second spell, it wasn’t until the 29th over that Jagath broke the century stand, having Wright well caught behind by Dharani Ronanki.

Carter quickly followed, well caught and bowled by Sheahan, and he and Shanmugam combined in some excellent death bowling to keep the end of innings charge in check.

207 was a daunting ask on a fairly slow outfield, but skipper Pete Cresswell and Jono Beagle strode out purposefully to begin our reply. The other Skinner brother picked up from his brother’s batting, bowling accurately and generating significant outswing, and picking up Cresswell who gloved a lifter through to the keeper in the 5th over, before yorking Jono in the 7th to leave us 19 for 2.

Sachin Singh and Hywel Roberts steadily rebuilt, Sachin playing some lovely aggressive shots (https://www.instagram.com/p/CEgVbHZhmGA/?igshid=kwqsfl57zihb ) until Hywel fell to the economical Humphrey. Sachin and Dharani added another 22, running quickly between the wickets before Dharani top-edged a pull shot to leave us 75 for 4.

The returning Skinner then found some reverse swing, yorking Sachin for an excellent 46. From then on the Allstars’ lower order went for their shots, with Sheahan compiling a tidy 18, and Jagath, Shanmugam and Sam all looking to score quickly, but they’d been left too much to do & our innings was wrapped up when Vivek holed out for us to close on 125 as drizzle again threatened.

Overall the margin might have been a lot closer had some luck run the Allstars’ way, but we can look forward to challenging the Crossbats harder next year. Next weekend, the Allstars travel to Cambridge for our inaugural fixture against NCI.

Tigers tamed as Allstars win Vivek Clasico

Barnes Common, Sunday 16 August 2020. St Anne’s Allstars 167-6 (28.5 overs: Matt Lo 56, Matt Biss 51) beat Zambuca Tigers 166-8 (35 overs: Samer Hafiz 3-19) by 4 wickets.

Allstars debut: Hywel Roberts.

Report by Garreth Duncan – photos by Pete Cresswell

After the heatwave came the cloud and rain. At the Ageas Bowl, farcical scenes as rain and bad light led to the least amount of play in an England home Test for 33 years. Down in Kent, our old foes the Rain Men lived up to their name as only two overs were possible before their game was abandoned. But we were to have much better fortune with the weather, as the showers only briefly touched Barnes Common as we avenged last year’s defeat against Vivek’s Zambuca Tigers, putting in another excellent team performance to win for the second Sunday in succession.

The post-resumption clamour for cricket reached new heights, no less than 15 being signed up at one stage. Indeed, one of our finest, Sachin Singh, was to end up starring as a guest player for the Railway Taverners as we couldn’t quite fit him into our side. 13 Allstars arrived at Barnes to face 9 Tigers, and so Vivek Seth captained his other team and Tony Grant also became Tony the Tiger for the day.

The Barnes Common pitch did not look in good condition, and after winning the toss Vivek, no doubt with the Plastics game still fresh in his mind, opted to bat first. Gren Thompson and Shanmugam Sama opened the bowling, and it was quickly evident that the pitch was misbehaving even more than we’d thought – one ball rearing off a length, the next scuttling low. The oohs and aahs were coming more regularly than an Eric Cantona appearance. Somehow, Tigers openers Elsom and Richards survived Gren and Shanmu’s initial burst – but critically, the first 10 overs had yielded only 20 runs.

Samir Hafiz replaced Gren at the Railway End and continued his superb form from the Weasels game, getting the first wicket by bowling Elsom as he tried up the rate. Samer then grabbed a second thanks to a smart stumping by Dharani Ronanki, who excelled behind the stumps in the difficult conditions. Apu Chauhan, who’d been the difference between the sides in the Tigers’ victory at Brighton last year, came in and looked threateningly at ease – but Jono Beagle dismissed him off the faintest of gloves to Dharani. Seemingly everyone heard it except Chauhan, who wasn’t too happy with being given out – but he’d gone for 14 and the Allstars remained in control.

Samer took a third as he bowled Craddock, completing another excellent spell, prompting Pete to give my leg-spin a try. After a nervous start, I found better rhythm in my second over and dismissed left-hander De Silva, superbly caught by a diving Neale Adams at slip. It’s great to see Neale back with the Allstars, and his enthusiasm and joie de vivre remain undiminished as ever.

After a cautious start, TG began to find his touch with the bat as he drove powerfully down the ground and through mid-wicket. Hywel Roberts, on his Allstars debut, took on the tough job of bowling from the Vine Road end and produced a useful spell of left-arm spin. Majithia was also getting into his stride, and the rate began to climb. But Gren and Shanmu, having been luckless in their opening spells, were to be rewarded on their return. Shanmu ended TG’s fun as Neale took his second stunning slip catch of the day, and Gren had Majithia trapped plumb in front. Shanmu finished his spell in style as he clean bowled “Pele” Styles, and the Tigers’ eventual score of 166-8 looked chaseable – if the pitch permitted it.

The rain began to fall at the end of the Tigers’ innings, and continued as ours began. Vivek, who knows how to bowl at Barnes, opened the bowling for the Tigers and quickly bowled Pete Cresswell. Hywel began positively, but Vivek got him too courtesy of a smart catch from TG – an all-Allstars dismissal, but perhaps not one we would have liked. At the first sanitisation break we were 25-2.

This was to bring together the partnership of the day as the two Matts, Biss and Lo, continued their fine form from the previous week. Matt Biss belied his own self-declared reputation as a nudger and nurdler as he unleashed some fine shots and Matt Lo played the shot of the day, a sumptuous six off left-arm spinner Ryan. It was perhaps not the day to be looking for the ball in the undergrowth, as always seems to be the case at Barnes Common – though we were fortunate that lost time was our only problem, as it was subsequently reported by the BBC that a 5ft boa constrictor was captured that day, less than a mile from the ground.

At the drinks break we were 93-2 and seemingly cruising to victory – but the Tigers are most dangerous when cornered, and they wouldn’t go down without a fight. Having reached his third fifty of the season, Matt Biss was bowled by a shooter next ball to end a stand just one short of our second hundred partnership of the season. Jono Beagle was unlucky to be given out caught behind shortly after, the ball deflecting off his wrist and helmet and lobbing into the keeper’s gloves. Matt Lo also reached his fifty, but then was lbw to another unplayable shooter in Richards’ first over, and Gren was bowled the same over. 122-2 had become 142-6, and suddenly the Tigers smelt blood.

But we needn’t have worried as Samer and Shanmu, having already starred with the ball, finished the job with the bat. Deciding that attack was the best form of defence, they both hit out, Shanmu crunching three boundaries in an over as we went to victory with more than 6 overs to spare.

The Tigers are always sporting opponents, and they joined us in the Sun Inn as we celebrated another excellent game. Quarantine permitting, we hope to see them next in the South of France – but next up we return to Marble Hill Park to play Crossbats on Saturday 29 August.

Allstars fight back to defeat gallant Weasels

Marble Hill Park, Sunday 9 August 2020. St Anne’s Allstars 191-2 (30.1 overs, Matt Biss 68*, Jono Beagle 49*, Matt Lo 36) beat New Barbarian Weasels 190-7 (35 overs, Asif Iqbal 71, Joe Wilson 59, Paul Bowman 3-17) by 8 wickets.

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

Even with all the COVID restrictions we’re all getting used to, after just a month it’s like cricket has never been away. Test cricket is back, albeit behind closed doors, and England are winning at home again, with the ageless Stuart Broad back to his best. On Saturday, Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes mounted an incredible fightback against Pakistan to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The following day, in a fantastic team performance in which everyone contributed, we staged an impressive comeback of our own from an unpromising position against our old friends the Weasels to record our second victory of the season.

On an afternoon with the thermometer firmly marked at “scorchio”, we arrived at Marble Hill Park to find it busy with walkers, cyclists, and even dinghies and paddle boarders. The outfield was parched and looked lightning quick, and I felt a sense of trepidation as Weasels’ skipper Omar Iqbal called correctly and chose to bat first.

Marble Hill Park and House

We were perhaps surprised to see Weasels’ stalwart Ian Regnier-Wilson, usually a middle order regular, stride out to open with Asif Iqbal (our second opponent to share a name with a Test player, after the Canbashers’ Andy Roberts). Shanmugam Sama opened the bowling and continued where he’d left off against Plastics, as an early edge from Asif flew between keeper Dharani Ronanki and socially distanced first slip Pete Cresswell. Paul Bowman was also quickly into his stride, dispatching Iain LBW with a toe-crunching yorker.

Iain’s dismissal brought together Asif and their other “gun” player, Aussie Joe Wilson. Having seen off the opening bowlers, they quickly upped the run rate against change bowlers Jagath Dasari and Ed Heelas. The boundary count escalated as a packed off-side field couldn’t prevent Asif’s cuts and cover drives, and Joe stood tall and simply belted everything down the ground. Their partnership had passed 100 by the 18-over sanitation break, with both passing fifty, and we were staring at a potential 250-plus total.

But this was an afternoon where the Allstars refused to give in. Jono Beagle, undeterred, got the breakthrough by bowling Joe off his pads. Next over, Samir Hafiz, who bowled a superb spell of left-arm spin with a lovely loop and excellent control, had Asif held by Ed with a juggling catch at mid-wicket.

Paddlers stopped play …

With the big guns gone, we had a grip on the game which we were never to relinquish. The returning Jagath began his second spell with an absolute peach of a delivery to clip the top of Nick Woodhead’s off-stump. Pagan and Joshi dug in, but the run rate slowed markedly, and I even had the luxury of bringing myself on for an over without alarm.

Shanmu returned, and grabbed a deserved wicket in his final over as his great mate Dharani pouched an edge from Joshi. Their devotion to the Allstars is so great that they’ve both been getting up at 5.30am for nets at Seven Kings, and it was fantastic to see their efforts rewarded. KP closed out the innings in style as he bowled Pagan and Frankie McIlheney with successive deliveries in the final over. The Weasels’ final total of 190-7, though creditable, was a lot less than looked likely at the halfway stage.

After our now-customary solo teas, and rehydrated by various Allstars’ trips to shop for water, Pete and Matt Biss began the Allstars innings. Weasels’ gun players Asif and Joe opened the bowling too, but the pitch was much more favourable for batting than Barnes Common two weeks earlier, and Pete and Matt got off to a much quicker start than they’d done against Plastics. Finding the gaps in the field, they ran singles with ease, and they’d put on 39 in 9 overs before Asif rattled Pete’s stumps.

Matt Lo came to the crease and instantly looked the part, seeing off the openers before tucking into the change bowlers Omar and Pagan, mixing powerful sweeps with effortless caresses down the ground. He was making it look so easy it was a surprise when Alam Saydul bowled him with one that kept a bit low (or should that be Lo?). Still, by then we were 90-2 in the 16th over and well on track for victory.

Jono joined his great pal Matt at the wicket, and it was them that saw us to victory with an unbroken partnership of 101. Even though they don’t always play together for NCI, they know each other’s game instinctively, and they continued to find easy singles while putting away the bad balls to the boundary. In a last desperate throw of the dice, Asif and Joe were recalled for one final blast. But by then Jono had the measure of the pitch, and used the pace of the ball intelligently to cut and dab for fours, and Matt reached his second fifty of the season as we eased to victory with nearly 5 overs to spare.

The winning team!

It was great to see the Weasels again, and we’re hopeful they can stay together and continue to challenge us in future years. Our next assignment comes on Sunday, as we return to Barnes to face Zambuca Tigers.