Chiba Sharks 2nd XI vs Fuji Far East
Fuji 1, 12 June, 2016
By Chris Molloy
The Sharks 2nd XI made the journey down to Fuji 1 to face off against Fuji Far East on Sunday, June 12th. Captained by Chris Thurgate, the team also included KB, Rui, Marcus, Dave “Limo” Limin, Terry, Molloy, Mairaj, Kavin, manager extraordinaire Anton, and also in the ranks was Cathy Grant, making her debut for the club under the watchful eye of brother (and Sharks 1st XI regular), Paul, who served as 12th man for the day.
Opting to bat first, CT sent in the formidable pairing of KB and Anton to open the innings. The ground trembled. Coming off consecutive personal bests of 16 and then 17, Anton in particular strode to the crease with confidence, possibly eyeing a three-card straight with a score of 18. Both batsmen, given the chance to put the cart before the horse, were cautious initially, employing solid defensive shots and leaving the ball where possible. Anton was quick to punish anything full on his pads through midwicket and long on, and got things moving with a lofted 4 through cow corner, one of a number vintage cross-batted meaty swipes.
The outfield was somewhat lush in parts, so shots that initially seemed destined for the boundary would sometimes pull up short, invariably robbing an account-opening KB pull of two more runs. But, KB expanded his range of statuesque leaves to include some Courtney Walsh-esque flamboyance, nudging the odd single and accumulating wides, abundant in supply. The veteran pair laid a surprisingly solid ‘thou shall not pass’ platform with a 40-run partnership at about 4 per over, before KB was dismissed chipping a ball that swung sharply onto his pads to a shortish midwicket.
That brought Rui to the crease. Looking in fine touch he shared in a handy 21-run partnership with Anton, striking one firm boundary down the ground. In a fine display of sportsmanship, Rui walked after feathering an edge through to the keeper with his score on 7. Anton, meanwhile, was given a standing ovation upon reaching a third consecutive highest score with his score 18, but greeted this with scant regard, his mind clearly set on bigger targets.
Lord L-W had been given a couple of reprieves through dropped catches, but his luck eventually ran out, along with his puff, when he was well-caught at deep midwicket for 24 in the final over before drinks. This drew mild bewilderment from Limo at the non-striker’s end after Anton had just suggested playing it cautiously through to the drinks break. You just never know what that man will do!
After fluids Marcus and Limo then shared in a fruitful stand of 43 to build on the solid foundation. Marcus was particularly strong on the cut, employing one delightful late cut to the third-man boundary. The pair also brought some new urgency—aka youth—to the running between the wickets. Limo as always was quick to pounce on anything short, striking a couple of fierce boundaries with his pull shot of choice. The cut shot, however, eventually brought Marcus’s downfall as he lofted a short ball that stuck in the pitch slightly to point.
Debutant and newly capped ‘international’ Cathy Grant was next out to the crease and looked confident, apparently coming off a recent innings of 82 in Australia. It was at least two overs before she actually faced a ball, though, as Limo maneuvered singles through traffic off the final ball of the over several times. He stalled slightly around the 20-run mark, but shifted back into gear with one of his fierce pulls. For her part, Cathy was solid in defense, and timed the ball well with attacking shots, but often ended up picking out the fielder.
Their stand of more than 30 runs ended when Cathy was bowled by a sharp full ball from Tsutsui. Her dismissal for 4 triggered a gradual collapse through the remainder of the Sharks’ innings. Like Anton, Limo had benefited from some dropped catches in the outfield, but his petrol ran out on 36, as he became the second of Eguchi’s five wickets.
The procession continued as CT was excellently caught at square leg (albeit with some initial confusion as to whether the ball had carried) after hitting a solitary boundary; Molloy was given out caught behind for having a creaking-helmeted swoosh two balls later; Mairaj was caught at mid-on for 1, and Kavin was run out off a wide without troubling the scorers. Amongst this Terry was left stranded on 9 not out, having played and anchor role that included strategic nudges and an excellent flick to fine leg for four.
All told, the Sharks finished all out for 172 off 36 overs. At 52, wides were the top scorer, followed by Limo (36), Anton (24), and Marcus (21). It was significant that we actually put together some good partnerships, which is not always our strong point.
Our 172 represented perhaps a middle-of-the-road score—defendable but by no means imposing. While the depth of FFE’s batting lineup seemed questionable beyond former hard-hitting Japan National, Takahashi, there was also some concern that the Sharks’ bowling lineup might lack some penetration.
Rui and Molloy opened up, the latter turning back the years with his high-armed medium pace offerings.
Rui bowled with his usual rhythm and pace. The pitch offered good carry for both bowlers, but both struggled to find their radar consistently. Rui drew considerable movement off the seam, which at times drew the ball past the wide line. For FFE, opener Takahashi took guard a solid meter outside his crease and also some distance outside leg stump. He was solid in defense and quick to pounce on anything overpitched—basically everything he middled reach the boundary. At the other end, Matsunaga was less imposing but provided a good foil. Takahashi, very experienced milked the strike with great effect.
FFE had seen off the Sharks’ opening bowlers and were progressing well, hovering between 5 and 6 per over. The ball was tossed to Cathy, who after some excruciating close misses clean-bowled Matsunaga with one of her dipping medium pacers with the score on 58. This paired FFE’s key pair of Takahashi, who looked ominous, and the crab-stanced Tsutsui. She struck again a couple of overs later with the score on 74, with Molloy claiming a comfortable catch at point off an aggressive swipe by Tsutsui. At the other end, Kavin, meanwhile, was generally accurate with his darted off spin, but felt the wrath of Takahashi whenever he dropped short and was pulled through brutally through midwicket.
With the score at 92 for 2, and the run rate around 6 per over, FFE (i.e., Takahashi) looked to be in command. Advantage Fuji Far! KB was introduced and saw his first five deliveries disappear via square for 16 care of Takahashi. The final ball provided the crucial breakthrough when it trapped rampant danger-man Takahashi plumb LBW for 51 off just 46 balls. His battle cry of “For Goth!!!” showed what it meant. With Takahashi emphatically and para-linguistically sent back to the shed, the Sharks went into the 15-over drinks break with some sense of belief that they could pull themselves back into the match. Advantage Sharks!
FFE’s batsmen continued to play aggressively in the face of very tight bowling, however, whenever the ball was in their hitting zone, but this brought chances in the field. Rui very nearly claimed a stunning reflex catch at short cover off Cathy with the ball smashed straight at his head. He did very well to retain the latter in the process. He did, however, break a threatening 30-run partnership by trapping Ito LBW. This brought the score to 122 for 4. With the required run rate only around 2 per over, wickets were clearly the key. Advantage Fuji Far! KB claimed the next one when, after a chance went begging, Kamoi struck a deceptively juicy long-hop firmly, but directly located Limo, who was parked and idling at midwicket.
From about this point, FFE started to adopt a more cautious approach and the field closed in as ball after ball was defied by wood. With only 40 more runs needed and plenty of overs remaining, the batsmen, with a variety of stances, were content to just nudge singles and wait for the odd loose ball or wide. Deuce!
The tension began to mount, especially whenever the Sharks failed to clinch half-chances, of which there were several: a mistimed lob back down the wicket just evaded the desperate hands of a stretched Limo; an outside edge off KB’s off spin squirted between keeper Marcus and first slip Rui; and Limo was denied a close shout for LBW with his high, loopy off spin from round the wicket. Limo proved somewhat of a surprise package with the ball, managing to tangle batsmen up with a mix of prodigious flight, gentle turn, and accurate lines and lengths. Welcome to the 2nd XI spin bowlers cartel!!
A burst of three wickets for two runs put the Sharks firmly in front, leaving the score at 141 for 8 with FFE still needing another 32 runs for victory. The first of Limo’s three wickets was a tidy stumping by Marcus off a ball that spun past the edge of the left-handed Eguchi. Another notch in his stump belt this year. The second was a comfortable catch for Cathy at mid-off, which was followed very next ball by a simple caught & bowled. Advantage Sharks!
FFE’s pairing of Ouchi and Imamura then provided stern resistance, though, and tension again mounted with each wide or single contrived. Strike bowler Rui was brought back for a final spell and eventually drew blood via an outside edge through to Marcus off the bat of Imamura. FFE were now 161 for 9, needing just 12 more for victory. With numbers 10 and 11 at the crease and plenty of overs still remaining, they genuinely shut up shop, batting away any balls on the stumps and waiting for wides and loose balls to see them through.
With Rui now bowled out, the Sharks had only spin options left and employed fields with almost everyone in close. Limo and Kavin kept asking questions, (KB had done himself a mischief in pursuit of leather and PG entered the fray!) The batsmen at times seemed paralyzed and an unconvincing prod would tantalisingly loft just short of a fielder in close. But wides also kept trickling in and a couple of speculative carves could do us in. Scoring had slowed to a crawl (the tension in the shed was extreme!), but FFE seemed to be inching gradually toward victory with what was probably a very sensible approach. With the score on 169 for 9, all that was needed was one bad ball to be put away to the fence. The target was 173. There were plenty of balls…
In a bit of a gamble, CT brought back Molloy for some leg spin this time. Molloy, bang on the money, flirted with both the outside edge and the wide line a couple of times, but was unable to create the breakthrough. He did, however, manage a sphincter-tightening maiden at least. It was then back to Limo for his final over, in which he nearly drew a catch at short square leg and was denied what seemed a certain LBW. He ended up conceding one crucial wide. Three needed. Molloy then spun a couple of deliveries past the outside edge of number 11 Nakano, who, while yet to score a single run, had played a resolute hand supporting Ouchi. On the fourth ball of the over, Molloy drew a thickish outside edge from a tentative prod that lobbed out on the off side. At short cover, CT waded frantically backwards, thought about going with his right hand, changed his mind and went with his left hand, and somehow managed to pluck the ball from above his left shoulder to clinch the match for the Sharks!!!
The Sharks burst to CT to congratulate him for the catch, and were euphoric to have clinched victory in such a tight, fluctuating match. On the other hand, FFE were desperately unlucky to have fallen so narrowly short, especially after two determined partnerships for the 9th and 10th wickets. They stuck it out for many overs.
In a slight twist on our usual pattern, fielding was a major factor behind our win—we didn’t drop any comfortable chances and Rui nearly managed a stunner (stopped a certain 4). In contrast, FFE were left to rue their generosity in the field. Extras were an issue as always and we conceded a total of 37 wides. But again, this was fewer than the 51 conceded by our opposition. We could call on a number of efforts to save runs, but very late in the game, one sticks in the mind. A very firmly struck drive was hit to covers where Terry summoned all his energy and goal-keeping nous, keeping a certain 2 to 0.
Cathy played a key role with the ball, finishing with 2 for 26 and a catch to go with it. Limo nailed a Shark PB with 3-22. Rui and KB got 2 each.
With the bat Limo was again the driving force behind our middle order, along with Marcus, and Anton continued his downright baffling recent form with the bat. A few key partnerships were critical.
All in all, this was a thoroughly enjoyable match that was well worth the long haul down to Fuji. Many thanks to Wombat umpires Alex Patmore and Yusry Mohideen, who had front row seats, and to 12th man Paul Grant.
Another great Sharks win and a beauty for the 2s!!