JCL1 Sharks vs Wombats, Fuji 1, 11 July, 2015
By Kris Bayne & Scott Musgrave
If there has been a better or closer or more dramatic JCL game played it must have been … a lie. You couldn’t have scripted this. First there is the long Shark-Wombat rivalry. Then magnificent individual heroics on both sides. An amazing comeback from the Sharks. Throw in an off-field human drama. Then the final few overs. Almost impossibly the Chiba Sharks finished on top.
We belted the Wombats in our first meeting this year but we have a very long way to go to even the ledger, however, and they would not have liked the loss. Both sides had some personnel changes for this meeting and in the clubs there were a lot of new guys. Some players have been butting heads for a decade, though. It’s not for nothing that it has been called ‘the Japan Ashes’.
The Sharks were led by Dhugal with, in batting order, Karthik, Paul, Takady, Asala, Yosuke, Vicky, Wakita, Tomizawa, Vivek and Scott. A big contingent of young Japanese talent and six 1st yr Sharks! A winged KB filled in late as 12th man and it ended up an important role.
Sharks won the toss and Dhugal decided to bat first under fairly clear skies with a breeze coming in off the ocean. Fuji was there, allegedly. The field was cut short with thirty concentric rings of dried grass clippings. We also had Seiko, Yuka with kids and her sister as support.
In a bit of an order shake up, Paul accompanied Karthik to the wicket to get us going. With no Jimmy James or Rony we were only familiar with the deceptive Koolhof. Both batsmen took their time but in the 4th Over Karthik played all over a dipping delivery to give the Wombats joy and Koolhof his first of four. 1-7.
Dhugal joined PG to make it a Melburnian pair but it was tough going with plenty of dots and LBW shouts. PG was settled in nicely and was starting to get into the runs with a 3 and cracking 4. With the score on 26 PG’s pads interrupted a significant edge which sent the Wombats up nonetheless. PG and Dhugal could only watch in horror and disbelief as the nervous umpire’s finger did likewise. 2-26. Well you win some and you lose some.
Takady joined Dhugal. The latter had swung one 4 across the square-leg boundary and greeted Takady’s arrival with another. He then rather lazily picked out Koolhof in the covers to be sent on his way. As you can imagine the Wombats were suitably impressed to have him gone with only 30 on the board.
Asala made his way purposefully to the middle. He has had a number of useful knocks this season and we really needed both him and Takady to get us out of a hole. They did. In his first 23 balls Takady only had 3 scoring shots and had worn a beauty on the inside thigh which had him doing a sort of an improvised Jitterbug around the crease. Asala poached seven runs in his first 5 balls and it stayed pretty much that way for an 11-over 58-run partnership. Takady defending, Asala playing attacking shots. They ran beautifully for 2s and even 3s. Takady crunched a pair of 4s past square-leg but was out to a great catch by Shearer moving in and down low at point. 4-88 but looking a bit better.
Yosuke had batted well the previous week in the 2nd XI and he joined Asala in the middle. His first ball was a cracking drive through cover for 4. Wides were helping us out a bit while Asala was still taking the long handle to the Wombats and the hits were getting longer. He set sail on Ragamuthan with billowing back-to-back 6s and had pounded 24 in the space of ten balls. Yosuke added a 2 then dotted a few before giving Koolhof his second catch. 5-111 and a mini collapse.
Asala got fooled by the reintroduced Koolhof and got bowled for a hard-hitting 45. 6-112. On paper to come, however, the only ‘known quantity’ was Vicky – a sort of petrol-like quantity. Petrol can drive a car a long way or it can blow up in your face. He does hold the 2013 Sharks Batsman of the Year title but he also invented the “lofted forward defensive”. If he was ever to reprise his greater deeds, today was the day. Wakita came in, nudged a few runs and went. 7-118 and this was definitely looking like so many Wombat games gone by…
At No. 9 Tomizawa (Tommy Mark II) joined Vicky, who had been quite calm. Tommy got right behind each ball, defending like Dravid, Boycott and Gavaskar all rolled into one, while Vicky found some runs including a trade-mark 6 into the reeds. Vicky lashed another boundary and some change but was then Alex K-ohed. 8-135.
Still to come were Viv and Scott. Two great contrasts: Viv was bound to hit something for a very short period of time while Scott had shown limpet-like qualities before. Tommy was still knocking them back up the pitch though and these three had ten overs (yes 10) to do what they could to get us back into this game.
Viv’s first 5 balls yielded 6 runs. Ball six went up and slightly right. He was caught quite brilliantly by ‘keeper Patmore who, anticipating his fielders to perfection, ran 20 metres to calmly complete the catch popped up by the anvil-handed fielder at cover. 9-141.
Scott urged Tommy to stay around and that they did, accepting any wides offered and adding a couple off the bat. From Over 31 and Over 35 they moved the score up by 3, 2, 2, 2 and 2 respectively. They were still there, Tommy’s first 13 balls for 1 and Scott’s for 2. With 5 overs to go, Scott said “Go”. Tommy knocked in a 2 and the pair then shredded Sharma for a 15-run over (x611.x14)! Scott, in probably the best and definitely second most welcome smash of the day put a huge on-drive into the nets for 6 while Tommy celebrated with a cut for 4! Patmore ended the fun the games though with a smart stumping, cutting off 3 overs. All out 167 in 37 overs.
Interestingly no-one made a duck! Asala’s rollicking innings was our anchor. We had cameos but we were in a LOT of strife at 7-118. The last three wickets added 49 runs and ‘invaluable’ is an understatement. Try ‘priceless’, as we shall see.
The task in front of the Sharkies was to defend a decent (in the end) but very gettable total of 167. With a team stacked with bowlers it was certainly within in the realms of possibility to take a win. Viv and Vicky took up the new ball against the Wombats and both looked fiery in their opening spells. Viv’s pace and bounce was a joy to behold while the tried-and-tested Wombat Tormentor in Chief, Vicky, kept his end.
It wasn’t too long until after the first bowling change that Paul took the first scalp and threw in a fiery sending off to get spirits and hopes high for another win over our arch-rivals. At 1-23 things were going as they should have been.
With the introduction of a new batsman to join the very in-form Patmore, the Wombats began to start re-building. Slow to start thanks mostly to the gallant bowling of our 3 Japanese pacemen in Yosuke Higashimoto, Kouhei (Wild Thang) Wakita and Nozomi Tomizawa, the score eventually started to blowout as Gilliat in particular started to find his range and effortlessly began lifting the ball over the boundary rope.
Dhugal had a spell with the red to try and break the partnership but to no avail. The score was now at 1-117 and with only 51 more to get and more than a few overs in hand things were looking very dire, very down and out. Any hope of a victory at this point was slipping from our collective minds. Dhugal tossed the ball back to Vicky for his second spell.
Keeping the Wombats honest and trying to do the best we could was the order of the day. With that in mind, Vicky was able to go quite a bit better by taking the pivotal wicket of Gilliat, knocking his stumps out. 2-117. One wicket does not, of course, make the match, but with that it brought extra confidence to the team and a bit of energy knowing we were back in with a sniff.
Vicky turned that sniff into something a bit stronger up by cleaning up new batsman Eyes. Now able to tie down an end thanks to the free-scoring Wombat leaving, pressure was created that lead to a run-out care of Viv’s quick thinking and Asala’s good keeping. 4 down in a flash!
Takady was now brought on at the other to bowl his bouncy, quick, and quite frankly, amazing off-spinners. Takady had made his name as a skiddy line-and-length quick. Injury has curtailed that this year, however the Japanese national team starlet showed that the future is bright for the Sharks and Japan with a brilliant spell of spin that ran through the Wombats line-up.
Vicky had made the incision on the Wombats – Takady reached in and ripped out their beating heart!
The Japanese Neo-Spinner claimed 3 wickets in his game-changing run with the ball that included a dismissal where the nervous batsman forewent offering a shot only to allow the ball to clatter into his off-stump giving Takady a chance at a hat-trick. It also involved a name familiar to Sharks in Shearer, also for a duck. 1-117 became 7-135 and the Sharks had their tails up. The Wombats opening talisman Patmore could only watch in horror from the bowling end.
Trying to drive his team back toward what seemed like a certain victory must have been frustrating. He was restricted in strike opportunities as the tactical genius that is Dhugal kept him guessing with field placements and just damn good fielding often keeping the less dangerous tail-ender up the other end. As has been the case this season, when the Shark machine finds its gears, it is formidable.
However Patmore is experienced and in-form so a small partnership developed between him and the dogged veteran Alex Koolhof. Runs were coming in scraps but coming nonetheless. Paul was reintroduced in the 36th for only a single. The 37th Over however yielded 7 runs and that looked like the game-breaker. PG again (maybe should stand for ‘Parental Guidance’ because he plays on a knife edge!) and again just a single. 7-164 at the end of the 38th. Viv with the ball for the 39th. With only three runs to get Koolhof’s bloody-minded, gutsy 23-dot-ball stay ended as he found himself trapped in front. 8-165.
3 runs. 2 wickets. 1 over. 6 balls.
Who would crack?
With tight line and guile, Paul is able to push Patmore to take incredible risks. Three dots. In order to retain the strike Patmore sends his No. 10 partner on a suicidal second run. A combination of Nozomi, Paul and Dhugal removes the bails. 9-166.
Two runs or one wicket. Two balls.
A tight line keeps Patmore at bay.
Last ball. 2 runs for the win and 1 for the draw for the Wombats.
Paul runs in to bowl for the last time to Patmore on 73. Surprise! It’s short!
The cross-bat swat is missed.
Wombats must run.
Asala takes the ball behind the wicket.
He runs at the stumps.
A Wombat is careening down the pitch.
SMASH! Asala takes bails and stumps on the way through.
The Wombat is short.
There is unbridled elation in the field with the boys not knowing what to do with themselves. Cheers of joy, embraces and with a circle forming in the middle to celebrate. The Wombats are despondent and dazed. Patmore is understandably distraught. How did it get away?
In two pumping games the Sharks have achieved a miraculous double over the Wombats this season for only their third win over the Tokyo-based club in their history. Amazing scenes. What a day for cricket! And just look at some individual efforts:
Asala – 45 runs, two catches, one run-out assist and that run-out at the end.
Takady – 17 runs, 3-23 off 8 overs.
PG – 1-14 off 7 overs, including just a single run in each of his last 3. Ice-water for blood.
Vicky – 17 runs and 2-24 off 8 overs
Tomizawa/Scott – 26-run partnership for the 10 wicket
Koolhof – 4-28, two catches, an almost game-clinching 23-ball duck at No. 9
Patmore – carried his bat for n.o. 73 and a catch and stumping
Gilliat – 2-36 and 40 runs
Thanks to the Wombats for a great game. Takady was awarded the Player of the Sharks for his bowling spell. Alex Koolhof, the best Wombat player for 4 wickets, two catches and an almost game clinching duck. In the end it came down to about a metre and a half of green carpet. Unforgettable game.
Sub-text: The Off-field Drama
Vicky was ailing. He came into the game with a bad chest. KB was nursing “Paddy’s Folly” – an indented shin bone and Horsehead Nebula bruising. Dhugal had asked him to be ready to give Vicky a rest so he was kitted up. Around the 10th Over Asala’s wife asked KB to take her and her daughter to hospital as it seemed the little tyke had a dislocated arm. So off they went. Asala saw this but only found out what was up at drinks. He was, of course, terribly worried and he would not have been blamed for being distracted or even taking leave. It took a while to finally get a doctor. The arm was fixed in ten seconds and then back in the car to the ground. Yuka checked the scores at this point. Photos came through of the scoreboard. 8-163 with 3 overs to go! KB stayed on the road and under the speed limit. As they turned toward the grassy knoll, 8-165 with 1 to go. When they hit the gravel road it was all over! KB hit the car horn and scared to Hell out of the baseball oyajis. The on-field celebration must have been even more deafening than last time!
PS: KB still remains the only Shark to be in all winning teams against the Wombats, and I believe that Alex K is the only Wombat to taste those three defeats. The one today was not because of his lack of effort – he played a mighty game!