Australia England, Headingly 1981
South Africa Australia, World Cup 1999.
England West Indies, T20 World Cup final 2016.
The list could fill the page because cricket offers no shortage of teams capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Our own recent addition to that illustrious list will surely be the GCC Brockley encounter from August 2020. It was a game we could have won, should have won but somehow managed to fashion into a defeat.
On paper it all looked so promising. We arrived in East London with one of our strongest teams: a mix of longstanding veterans and a few newbies. There was batting aplenty, an abundance of bowling options and even a few arms that might get the ball in from the boundary without help.
With the good fortune of losing the toss Brockley elected to test the strength of that batting first. The pitch was difficult, green and soggy in places with an unpredictable bounce. Brockley’s opening bowlers were anything but unpredictable. They had that rare ability in a Sunday friendly to bowl six balls in roughly the same place outside off. The result was plenty of cautious defense, three opening maidens and going as heavy as the clouds above. Given that our opening pair of Olly and Matt Wood are never shy about launching the kitchen sink at any loose stuff, that was no mean achievement. Even with Matt Wood starting to find the boundary at regular intervals in the next few overs, the first ten produced a curmudgeonly 27 runs.
The first wicket when it came, was a controversial one. Olly’s edge was taken low by the wicket keeper or at least that’s how it appeared from afar. The finger went up, Brockley celebrations followed but Olly stood his ground, insistent that he’d seen the ball bounce into the wicket keeper’s gloves. The wicket keeper continued to claim the catch, neither umpire was certain and after much argument Olly finally trudged off the field ready to blow his top.
With the arrival of Jake Pittman, undoubtedly our find of the year, the score started to tick along but wickets started to fall. James Bradley, another excellent addition for the GCC line-up, steadied the ship with a fine partnership that saw Pittman pass 50 before they too departed in quick succession followed by much of the middle order.
Very quickly we went from 108-3 to 155-9, with only Cunners and Greg left to play out the final seven overs and achieve some level of respectability. They did more than that, running hard and hitting long and putting together an unbeaten 51 run partnership to see us finish the 40 overs on 206.
Momentum was with us. With the depth of our bowling, which has traditionally been our strength, it felt like a defendable total. Glancing around those bowling options, it looked like we had four candidates for the new ball and another three who would be reliable and consistent in the middle overs. Olly would probably not have not have been amongst those seven, so it was something of a surprise to see him sharing the new ball.
On his day he can be a surprise package. The surprise on this day was for anyone sauntering around the boundary unaware of the missiles flying in their direction.. Harper, the Brockley opener, dispatched seven of Olly’s first ten balls to the boundary and what momentum we had at the break had quickly turned the other way. James Bradley at the other end was more economical producing a maiden in his second over, but Brockley still had 35 on the board after four overs. At the same point in our innings we had managed to score just a single.
Olly was quickly replaced by his younger brother who wrestled back control conceding just a single from three overs of left arm hostile. With Bradley at the other end tightening the grip, the dangerous Harper fell to an audacious Bradley moon ball that landed on the top of off stump and the squeeze was on.
Hatcher and Struthers continued to give little away in the middle overs with Struthers in particular proving hard to play and unlucky to finish with only 1-25 from his eight. With 12 overs to go Brockley were four wickets down and struggling and we were definitely in the ascendency as the run rate climbed up above six an over.
That changed when the next six balls went for 18 with Sanoar, the Brockley number three, still going strong and quickly passing 50 and then 60. When he ran himself out and the returning Cunners picked up two quick wickets following by another sharp run out, Brockley suddenly were down to their last two batsmen with the light fading and still needing ten to win.
As neither seemed comfortable with the bat it looked like our game. But after a couple of near misses, a streaky edge and hoik to cow corner, it came down to the penultimate ball. A wicket and we tie, a run and they win.
The ball connected with bat and flew agonizingly close to the diving cover fielder on its way to the boundary.
While Olly is probably still grumbling about that ‘caught behind’ we can’t complain about Brockley’s sportsmanship, giving us four LBW shouts and a couple of tight run outs, which is unheard of in a Sunday friendly.
That defeat was our third in a row and a disappointing end to the truncated 2020 season that finished with a losing record. It was, however, an excellent game and more than worth the journey to the depths of East London.
We play most of our games in Dulwich and net during the winter at The Oval. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Oliver Cunningham (life)
Jamie Elliot (life)
Rob Navratil (life)
Hugo Nisbet (life)
David Woodhouse (life)
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and may involve some poetic licence. GCC cannot be held liable for any misrepresentation in these articles.