Chiba Sharks vs YFK and Go Go Ken.
By Anton Lloyd-Williams & Richard Dixon
The Sharks arrived in Kashiwa with a big crowd for the evening’s double header; 8 players including new guy (all the way from the USA) Charles Steinhardt and three spectators; Shafi, returning to the game after a 20 year break and two young ladies, Yuka and Aya, who came along to see what this cricket lark was all about. It was to be an evening when the Sharks showed all facets of their play, good and bad (and downright woeful) so they left with a pretty broad idea of our great game.
First up then was the tricky looking YFK. A smattering of Japan National Team players provided the spine for this energetic and nimble side while Vicky(C), Anshul, Nick, Richard, Anton and Taka stepped up for the Sharks.
YFK won the toss and chose to bat first. Anton opened the bowling and got some instant dividends, getting a run-out after some hesitancy from the batsmen. Nick and Richard took the next overs and despite some tidy bowling, the Sharks bled runs everywhere due to the gazelle like sprinting of the batsmen. Any nick, edge or fumble found the batsmen crossing to keep the scoreboard ticking over at an unhealthy rate. The Sharks kept focused though and were rewarded when Anshul executed a pinpoint run-out before Vicky saw off the first pair who managed to accumulate 38.
The Sharks hoped to tighten things up for the second pairing but YFK were reading from their own script and continued to punctuate swift, opportunist running with hefty strokes down the pitch. Anshul got sent to the back wall from what was a great delivery and even the Dixon Express came off the rails, spilling a bevy of wides. Nothing seemed to be working right and consternation began to mount in the Sharks ranks as the 2nd pairing sat down again with the score at 83.
Taka, Nick and Anshul managed to rein in the final pairing to an extent but the Sharks really needed wickets to bring the score back down and they just weren’t coming. For the final over, Vicky selected fifth gear to summon up some of his blistering extra pace but with it came extra width and another hatful of wides saw YFK close on 105.
So the Sharks had it all to. The batting would need to be aggressive and the running swift if such a total were to be chased down. Taka began the Sharks reply well with a stream of doubles and his partner Richard bagged himself a punchy looking 4. Sensible hitting and running saw the Sharks at 25 off the first 3 overs before an unfortunate run out in the last pegged the score back to 24. Nonetheless, Taka and Richard, who made his best score of 17, did a good job in laying a solid foundation for the batters to come.
Anshul and Nick entered the fray and immediately looked for big shots but infuriatingly found big edges instead. Mention here should be made of the quality of the bowling. YFK served very few pies and those that did find the middle of the bat were often quickly gobbled up by the hungry fielders. With straight shots hard to come by, Nick and Anshul had to really work, cutting and pulling into the nets for their runs, finishing with the score at 53.
So, another 53 required from the final pairing of Anton and Vicky. Unlikely, yes, but by no means impossible. What followed however was nothing short of a disaster. Looking for runs, Vicky batted gamely and ran hard but all too often found himself a foot short of the crease. With the score going ever more pear-shaped, Anton threw to the wind all caution, technique and any ability that might have been there and paid for it with a nightmare innings; caught, run out, bowled and even playing on to his own stumps to ensure a heavy defeat that is simply best forgotten about. A sorry-arsed 55 all out.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with losing but the manner of the defeat left the Sharks with a bad taste in the mouth and some urgent work to do in the nets. “We didn’t play well” offered Richard. ” We didn’t even play f**king Cricket!” retorted Vicky. Too true.
Luckily, we had an hour’s break before our final game during which Shark spirits were restored by the boundless enthusiasm of Shafi, the charming chat of Yuka and Aya, a Mild Seven or two and Dave’s usual stoicism. We also had the chance to meet Taka’s growing family as his wife came along with their new baby girl. She’s a real darling with the most lovely smile. Baby’s nice too.
After the bitter disappointment of the evening’s first match, it was fingers, arms, buttocks crossed for the second match against a feisty opponent Go Go Ken. Anticipation pervaded the air as the boys limbered themselves up and tried desperately to expunge the night’s earlier catastrophe from their memories. Go Go Ken is a team who exemplify courage and tenacity. A pugnacious outfit with a seemingly impervious pain threshold, their panther like fielding and running between the wickets is a threat to any opponent brave enough to take them on. Colonel Kilgore from Apocalypse Now would be proud to share his canteen with these girls. “Damn I love the smell of Chanel No.5 in the evenings, smells like victory”.
The Sharks fielded first with Anton and Anshul thrown into the initial attack. The girls batted and ran well throughout, nevertheless, the Sharks still managed to get three run-outs. Anshul’s magnificent leg breaks were a joy to watch. Anton bowled a good length and also fielded with a determination cultivated on the great cricket grounds of England. After 4 overs the girls had amassed 48 runs. That’s a lot.
New Sharks Charles and Nick took the next overs and bowled very well to keep scoring opportunities to a minimum. Charles showed no sign of nerves despite a long hiatus from the game. He quickly found his rhythm in the field with some acrobatic fielding and accurate bowling. Nick bowled some mesmerizing seam smashing the stumps on 2 occasions. It was then up to team captain Dave and natural born speedster Vicky to keep the final score within reach of the Sharks. The girls took advantage of every chance and ended up with the commendable score of 111.
Anton and Vicky opened the batting in what really was a big score to chase. The lads faced an early bowling and fielding onslaught to score a decent 23 runs. What came next defies description as this author was in total awe of the heroic performances put it by Captain Dave and new Shark Charles. On display was some genuine big hitting and the kind of flamboyant contempt one usually reserves for Kevin Costner films. Balls were dispatched to the boundary like tracer bullets piercing the night air with a sickly yet commanding majesty. It was in a sense the perfect storm. The relentless bravery of Go Go Ken meeting the awesome power of 2 dedicated batters determined to smash them back to the Stone Age. Man against woman in the primitive battle of the sexes. The breathtaking spectacle finally ended with the lads building the score to a respectable 78 with Charles top scoring on 28.
With the weight of expectation pressing down on their rugged shoulders, Anshul and Nick stepped up to the crease. With 34 runs needed for a win, victory was about as certain as REM making another decent album. The pressure was well and truly on. The boys came out with all guns blazing. The sound of ball on net signaled the end for Go Go Ken as the realization of imminent defeat began to sink in. The final balls were delicately prodded to ensure escape from the calamity of losing a late wicket. Sharks triumphed on 113.
Good work Anshul and Nick for handling the pressure, and for batting so well. It was a sweet victory for the Sharks. Man of the match Charles had the dream debut. A swashbuckling performance Douglas Fairbanks himself would have applauded. All in all, a good display from the Sharks that was a joy to watch. Well done Lads!
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