Allstars dig for victory over Gardeners

Greenwich Park, Sunday 25 September 2022.

St Anne’s Allstars 143-3 (22.5 overs: Sam Perera 41* ret, Rohan Vodapalli 38, Stuart Bruce 3-17) beat Salmagundi Gardeners 142 all out (32.4 overs: Stuart Bruce 30, Vidhu Singh 2-17, Gren Thompson 2-22, Vivek Radhakrishnan 2-31, Samer Hafiz 2-38) by 7 wickets.

Allstars Debuts: Vidhu Singh, Rohan Vodapalli, Conor Aspel.

Report by Garreth Duncan – Photos by Pete Cresswell

Although it’s only our second season playing the Salmagundi Gardeners, we’ve made such good friends with them, and so many of our players have made guest appearances for each other’s teams, they’re already firmly well bedded down in our fixture list. In our inaugural fixture last year, we mowed them down for 75 to win easily. This year, on an equally difficult Greenwich Park pitch, they dug in for a much greater fight – but we ultimately coasted to victory once again, with more than 12 overs to spare, to finish our regular 2022 season in fine style.

With an ever-growing list of injuries, we only had 8 Allstars available, and we were grateful that the Gardeners had grown a surplus and lent us Rohan Vodapalli and Conor Aspel to become Allstars for the day. On a cool September afternoon, and a pitch as green as the opposition’s fingers, Allstars skipper Pete Cresswell had little hesitation in asking the Gardeners to bat first on winning the toss. Gren Thompson quickly settled into a superb line, so fine that our friend Stuart Bruce could only watch in frustration as he couldn’t lay a bat on many of them. But it was Sheahan Arnott who struck first, as he drew an edge from Dave Hollingsworth for our third debutant, Vidhu Singh, to take a stunning, and most un-Allstars-like, catch at slip. Mayank Kalbande looked dangerous as he crashed his first ball for a boundary, but Gren then justly got his reward as Kalbande edged to Sam Perera behind the stumps. After 10 overs Gardeners were 17-2 and stuck in a ditch.

Stuart and Tim Richards upped the ante, dispatching Samer Hafiz’s first over for 10 – but Samer quickly found his rhythm and bowled Richards as he attempted another big mow. Stuart continued to mix swishes with shots of real authority, and planted the roots of a good innings together with their skipper Richard Higginbottom. Gardeners had taken the score to 82 – but it was one of their own who dug Stuart out, as he shovelled a full toss from Conor into the leg side, and Vivek Radhakrishnan took a stupendous, running catch at mid-wicket. A moment of that old Allstars controversy threatened, as the square leg umpire initially thought it a no-ball for height – but the bowler’s end umpire was unmoved and Stuart was on his way for a well made 30.

Brother Graham was next in – and the Australians amongst us would have been disappointed that we didn’t get the chance to see Bruce batting with Bruce – but Vidhu’s fine debut continued as he bowled Graham with a ripper. Higginbottom still looked handy, but Vivek ended his resistance with a peach that moved in and hit the top of middle stump, before Vidhu grabbed a second as Bob Hillman was caught by Rohan at cover. Nick Duckett was aptly named indeed, as he put up little resistance as he missed a straight one from Samer, and Vivek quickly dispatched David Guy. Shubham Kasar provided some late fireworks, bravely supported by Jason Amesbury – but it was Gren who returned to deservedly finish the innings as Kasar skied to Vivek at cover.

After a splendid tea – including some delicious home-grown grapes, we faced a target of 143 – but even with a decent Allstars batting line-up, it looked far from straightforward on a pitch that still had a lot of variable bounce in it. But Rohan, delighting in batting against his own team mates, gave us a rocket of a start, blasting Kasar’s more than useful left-arm seam back over his head for two fours in the opening over. Pete was content to nudge singles and feed him the strike, and the fifty came up in the 8th over. Stuart Bruce was not going to die wondering, and he bowled both openers in his first over to leave us 59-2, but with plenty overs and batting in hand we were still in control.

Vidhu plays for the same Paddington Rabbits CC as Sam, but far from digging a warren, they both continued to attack in a stand of 49. Stuart got his third wicket of the afternoon as Vidhu charged at him and was stumped – but it was still a very polished all-round debut for Vidhu, and we hope to see more of him next season. Stuart still had more Allstars in his sights, but I kept him out as Sam made the final push for victory. He gracefully retired to give Conor a go, and it was the Irishman who struck the final boundary.

It’s great to have found such a friendly opposition as the Gardeners, and they will no doubt have their day against us. We both celebrated a great season in the Plume of Feathers pub, and we look forward to seeing them again in 2023 – but for us, a 3 year wait is nearly over as the Allstars head to France. Can we emulate the heroes of our last Gallic tour in 2010 with another overseas victory?

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.