Sunday 20th - Turney Road
GCC fall short in strong chase
For those of us who favour the baggy green and tomato, a look back through the historical archives of encounters between GCC and Strongroom makes for grim reading. There was the ignominious 103 all out chasing a paltry 105 back in 2013, the 86-run drumming in 2014 and the 8-wicket shellacking we took inside 17 overs at Gallery Fields last year. But the winds of change starting blowing in last year with a bad-tempered victory at Highgate Woods with another winning away performance in June largely on the back of Saj and his little-celebrated century.
So we emerged from our traditional mid-season break, refreshed, resplendent in our new wool jumpers and raring to resume battle. The possibility of a third win in a row against our old North London nemesis seemed more likely than not. On paper we looked strong enough to deliver that victory: pace and spin options aplenty, guile and bludgeon in the batting line-up and youth and experience in the field. Unfortunately, at 12.30 on the lush green grass of Turney Road we didn’t look quite as strong, mostly because there were only nine of us out there, we’d lost the toss and we were fielding. We jest about and tease the perennially tardy – this time it was nothing to do with Saj, who wasn’t even on the team sheet - but really can we stop the joke, can everyone please just turn up 15 minutes before the start rather than 15 minutes after it?
Stroom had turned up on time and in force, strengthened by the backbone of the Gaieties batting and bowling line up. To be fair they only had six players three days before the game and the assembled All Star cast was more random that planned. On the other side we were bolstered by the inclusion of our own Sunday Times All Star contingent and we had somehow also managed to recruit one of the Village People to sweep the cover boundary. And there was plenty of sweeping to be done.
Stroom opened up with Mitch and Schneider T. Mitch, is an easy-going Aussie who plays with the elegance and power of a youthful Steve Waugh. Schneider T usually plays in the colours of the Gaieties and finished our match against said opposition this year unbeaten on 123. It was an ominously powerful opening pair.
They started steadily pushing singles and twos with frustrating ease and ruthlessly dispatching every bad ball - and a few good ones - to the boundary. The departure of Schneider T for a breezy 24 in the 7th over, replaced by Schneider J, did little to stem the flow. The pony-tailed Mitch eased to 50 inside 12 overs, the 20th time he’s passed the mark in 37 innings for Stroom and he seemed set fair for his seventh ton. The prospect of having to chase 300-plus on a bumpy pitch was very real.
Fortunately, the Highlander back to his 2015 best, forced a rare loose shot and a thick edge from Mitch which was magnificently picked up by Olly diving forward from the rarely positioned deep slip, or was it short fly-slip? With Schneider J running himself out with the score at 150, there was some respite and a chance for leg spin at both ends with the Chancellor and Wood M each opening up their box of tricks. There wasn’t much turn but the Chancellor’s slow, loopy flight seemed to bamboozle the middle order producing false shots and two excellent running catches from Cunners. There was a very brief interlude when we thought we might be able to keep them inside 250 but some late order slogging from Dixon and Mellor and some hideous dropped catches brought 70 from the last eight overs and a hefty total of 272 to chase down.
The casual observer might look at that score and point the finger of blame at a particular bowler or fielder. That would be unfair, strange as it might seem, we did well to hold them to just 272. It could have been so much worse. Yes, there were a couple of catches spooned but also five taken that on another day could have been dropped, a very sharp run out and very few extras. In the field we saved far more runs that we gave away, nobody bowled badly and it was notable that there was only one LBW appeal from the single time the ball hit the pads rather than the middle of the bat. A special mention should go to Ed, who was admittedly late and ridiculously dressed for the whole game, but did some manful work on the (very) short cover boundary cutting off at least 20 or 30 extra runs.
Curiously, we came out to bat thinking that seven an over was achievable. After all we had put on 288 against the Bengal Troopers earlier the season, the opening combo of Woodhouse and Cunningham O are consistent scorers, Wood and Seaton have both scored centuries this season and Cunningham N and the Highlander can both hit a long ball. Even the Stroom opening with leg spin at both ends didn’t seem too troubling as Woodhouse cut two of the first four balls elegantly to the boundary. The fifth ball yorked him and while we were on the run rate, we were probably behind on Duckworth Lewis, which with clouds gathering overhead was something to consider.
Is it better to set or chase? It’s the endless conundrum for captains in Sunday Leagues up and down the country. For certain you would rather be defending 272 than chasing it and scoreboard pressure has an impact. Cunningham Senior and Wood the youngster didn’t seem to be bothered by it and Olly in particular played with uncharacteristic control to see off the opening bowlers. At 99-1 after 19 overs it felt like we were behind the rate but still in the game. Seven overs later it was 139-6 and despite Wood’s excellent 50, the game was up. All five of those wickets were caught out trying to push the pace along. While there was always time to play yourself in, it never seems that way when you need nine an over.
There was some spirited late order hitting form Fraz, standing in for Saj in every sense, who along the way to his maiden club 50 produced the Al Desco sandwich moment(s) of the match with three lusty blows for six. It was a toss up for man of the match between Fraz’s hitting and Matt’s all action bowling, batting and fielding display, all watched on by his proud parents.
Despite our mid-innings optimism, you very rarely chase down 272 in 40 overs against a side as lively in the field and with as deep a bowling line-up as Stroom. But we didn’t give up and with 212 all out we can hold our heads up and look to close out the season. We need one more win from the next three fixtures to secure a winning season. Like victories against Stroom that doesn’t often happen.
We play most of our games in Dulwich and net during the winter at The Oval. Send us an email at email@example.com
Oliver Cunningham (life)
Jamie Elliott (life)
Hugo Nisbet (life)
David Woodhouse (life)
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