JCL: Sharks vs Adore, Fuji 2, 21.07.12
By Kris Bayne
Finally! Finally! Finally the Sharks get back on the winning list, but not before dealing with a fighting effort from Adore in a game where there was a lot on the line. In what was in effect a relegation playoff, we also took a big step towards ensuring we remain in JCL 1st Division in 2013. There were some wonderful individual all-round performances but it was also a grand team effort in a tight game.
We have had a rough season to date. The weather has not been kind to us (to cricket in general really) but mostly we have been mostly woeful. Coming into this game we were staring relegation to Division 2 in the face. But, we did have the opportunity to affect that as it would most likely be us or Adore, our opponents, going down, so today’s game was a ‘must win’.
This was our first trip to Fuji in some time. We met at Shinagawa as usual and renewed acquaintances with the many sights along the way. The team for the day was: Dave L (c), Chris T, Sumon, Prashant, Navin, Sagar, Tommy, Sayeed, Anton, Kris B, and into the IX came Charles, who replaced an ill Vicky on the morning. Rain on Friday had made us nervous but it was game on under grey, threatening skies with a stiff, chilly breeze. More danger of windburn and frostbite than sunburn and sunstroke. The outer grass was long and the ground was damp with a generous coverage of greasy wakame-like algae. We started well with Dave winning the toss and we bowled.
Without our strike bowler Vicky, who would have been invaluable on a skidding pitch against Adore, the bowling would have to be shared around and we were in for some surprises.
Sagar and Prashant opened the attack and they and the field did a great job in restricting the scoring. Prashant showcased his new ‘action’ to good effect, beating the bat regularly. In the field Tommy led the way with some excellent efforts (his sole blemish being a chance that probably surprised him somewhat). Sagar got quite a number of gloves and edges from the two left-handed openers but they eluded fielders. By the first bowling change after 8 overs we could have had a wicket or two but Adore had crawled to 0-28. Dave pulled his first innovation of the day and Chris T handed the ‘keeper duties to Sayeed and send down the first of what would be a full complement of overs. Dave himself came on from the other end.
Overs 11-20 (Drinks)
If in the first ten overs we got a good grip on the batsmen, in the next ten we squeezed very hard. It was a view of the game of the game not seen by Chris in quite a while but you wouldn’t know it as his deceptively quick wobblers created trouble for the batsmen. A number of times the batsmen could only just jam down to protect their furniture or were taken on the pads. At the other end, Dave’s first three overs yielded 1-M-M. A tough chance went down behind the stumps off Chris and the field lifted their game further, cutting off singles or limiting the runs as the longer grass helped us out. As a pair, their first spell went for only just under 3 an over. As we approached drinks Dave brought on Sumon with immediate success. Perhaps benefiting from the pressure built by Dave and Chris, the opener tried to lift Sumon’s fourth ball down the ground only to find Dave at mid-off who took a good catch low to the ground.
We went to tea (and I mean ‘tea’ – served in Spode Blue Italian Chinaware, silver spoon and a biscuit for Chris who loves a dunk) having Adore 1-70 off 20 overs. We were quite satisfied with the effort and we knew that a couple of wickets would put the tail in. Chris returned to his customary position behind the stumps.
Things did not go as we hoped in next session. For a while it looked as if it would. Sumon continued where he finished. In the 21st over he bamboozled the solid opener, Hayashi, finally catching him on the back leg, plumb LBW. He backed this up in his next over, removing the new batsman as he played a bouncing ball onto his body only for it to continue on to the stumps. In between wickets was one over that was critical, considering the way the match went. Sagar returned after drinks but two no-balls, the second disappearing to the boundary, saw him banished by the umpire. Kris finished off the over but his first ball also followed Sagar’s last. In all 21 runs came off the over and momentum started to move to Adore. Sumon continued his work but wides started to hurt. Charles was given a chance for three overs. He beat the bat of one batsman regularly, however the other found the middle of his. In fact, we suffered at the bat of one batsman, Takano, who frustratingly tee-ed off on everything toward the legside while the other batsman just dropped anchor. Prashant came back on at the 30th and was immediately welcomed with a 6. In all, Adore racked up 76 runs in ten overs and we desperately needed a wicket, preferably Takano and his nine-iron.
We had Sumon, Prashant, Dave and Chris to bowl out their overs and they started to put the clamps back on the batsman, but on the scoreboard the runs still ticked over and the wickets remained the same. Sumon in his final over finally rectified that as the batsmen had decided add quick singles to their game. One adventure down the pitch too many by Yamanouchi ended up with Chris swiftly removing the bails. Chris ‘Mr Incredible’ Thurgate then gave up the gloves to Prashant to put an end to Takano, nailing him flush on the foot and plumb for a 9-under-par 60. We then frustrated ourselves in the last handful of overs by giving up wides and extra deliveries but the field put in to the last. Adore added 53 in the last ten overs to reach 5-205.
We fielded very well. Everyone did their bit to limit the runs and support each other. Despite Takano’s effort, which included more than a few balls landing short of or between fielders, the bowlers did well. Congratulations to Sumon on his PB of 4-36 as a Shark. However, we gave up 33 runs through wides/additional runs which also means probably at least four extra overs. It is an unflattering feature of our games this year. And 205… Seeing our 40-over efforts this year have returned 206 (of which 121 were Dave’s), 87, 84, we would need to focus. Adore are triers and they have no stand-out bowler, but 200 is still 200.
This was our make-or-break innings. If we could not muster a little over 200 against Adore in a game we must win then we probably deserve to be in Div. 2.
Dave and Sumon paired up to meet the opening challenge. Our first ten were very much like Adore. Both batsmen played cautiously, trying to gauge the still windy conditions and an accurate attack (only 15 wides from Adore in almost 40 overs). As is usually the case, the Japanese players are quick in the field and some possess deadly arms. Dave and Sumon went in ones and twos except for one typical Lollback six over square. Sumon was looking very smooth but the conditions did not suit along-the-ground stroke-makers such as he, good shots pulling up short in the damp, long grass. By the end of the 10th over we were 0-29. It may not sound much (and 12 behind Adore at that stage) but it was a darn sight better than recent openings. It had also started to rain, which would be a huge factor.
Over 11 spiked the rate as Dave clobbered a huge six followed by a four, but the rain also started to get heavier. This sent the scorers, Kris and Tommy under the tables to keep the books dry as Sharks gathered up or covered the teams’ kit and gear. The umpires took the players from the field and we started to do the math. We needed to bat at least 20 overs to get a result and it worked out our first target was 105. What was very clear was that if and when we got back out there we would need to put the foot down and hit. The rain eased enough to restart play. The scorers table looked like a riverside homeless shack, covered in blue tarpaulins and large plastic umbrellas.
On resumption, Dave set the bat to high, belting another 6-4 combo before finding a fielder in the deep, out caught for rapid 43. Sumon continued his cautious stay to support Prashant. If we needed him to find his early season form again it was now. He looked very determined and focused from the outset and you could tell he was middling the ball well. The rain made scoring across the ground even harder but we were scoring off most balls in each over. In the 20th over Sumon played all over a ball as he tried to force the pace and was bowled for a determined 15 and he and Prashant had pushed the score up to 92.
It was in these overs that Adore got away from us so it was vital we continue to move the scoreboard. Prashant was looking rock-solid and showed great touch. When he gets his on drive going you can tell he is in a good place. Chris joined him at the fall of Sumon’s wicket. The question was, how much petrol left in the big Thurgate tank after 8 overs (into the wind) and ‘keeping duties? Answer – plenty. It was an uncharacteristic Chris innings but you felt that these two Shark vets understood the gravity of the day. There were no massively big scoring overs. Both batsmen played each ball on merit (Chris had only two scoring shots in his first 10 balls – both 4s, mind you) and they took a lot of singles. Prashant was playing some glorious shots down the ground, but the grass came into play. Same for Chris’ power shots, except for one Popeye-esque scoop-de-square drive effort that rocketed to the boundary. But he is also svelte, with a ‘flat-bag gay dab’ even making an coy appearance. By the 30th the score was up to 158-2. We were on target and the rain had stopped.
We needed 48 off the last 10 overs. We had a lot of batsmen to come. Probably the calmest people on at the ground were the batsmen. Dave mulled over the best options for the batting order as he alternated walking in small circles and removing most of his clothes. I think he was considering using himself as the sight-screen to help the effort. Charles slammed out calculations when asked and sharpened up his shot in the nets. Kris fielded articles of stray Lollback clothing and contemplated days of former glory. The lads from South Asia sang snippets of songs in nervous bursts. Sumon, as usual, looked ready for the pages of a fashion mag. Anton worried about his china. It was agreed that this indeed was a cricket match. We had been helped by some dropped catches by the Adore filed but Chris’ stay finally ended in the 32nd over, out caught for an invaluable 30 (3-171). A nervous Nav joined Prashant with the mission to support him and let Prashant make the play. By this point Prashant was scoring at will and good support for him would see us home. Nav (7) helped with a delightful, effortless flick for four and some singles before he was runout, sacrificing himself to help Prashant retain strike. 4-187. Sayeed was promoted and swaggered to the middle. After some big airy swishes and probably some words of wisdom from Prashant (not the new Hindi one we learned – but maybe) Sayeed (7 n.o.) then helped himself and the score to some runs down the ground. Over 38 saw a great effort by the pair as they banged out 2-1-2-2-3-1 to leave us with just 5 to get in two overs. And Prashant saved his best for last. A delicious four through mid-on for 4 tied us up at 205 and the towering six to the same spot next ball put us home in great style. Prashant 88 n.o. off 74. Sharks 4-211 in 39 overs.
|D. Lollback||c. Yamanouchi||b. Hayashi||43||38||3||3|
|S. Haque||…||b. Shimada||15||49||0||0|
|C. Thurgate||c. Kurihara||b. Yamanouchi||30||42||3||1|
|N. Jinasena||run out (Ito)||…||7||15||1||0|
|Extras||…||nb2 w13 b1 lb0||…||…||…||…|
|Total||211||For 4||…||…||Overs 39|
This reporter hasn’t seen the Sharks smile as they leave a cricket field in quite a while.
This was a very enjoyable game, especially since we won. There were some notable all-round cricketing efforts:
Prashant 88 n.o. & 0-33
Dave 43 & 0-27
Chris 30 & 1-41 plus a stumping
Sumon 15 & 4-36
But it was also a good team effort and everyone could say that they contributed to the win with some act in the field. Tommy, Charles, Anton, even me all showed commitment to winning. We had a record three ‘keepers (and actually three more on the team who have ‘kept this season – amazing stat!) We have areas to improve, of course, but we were a VERY happy bunch of Sharks at the end. Adore played well and are a nice bunch of guys but I guess better them to lose than us! We still have Sano (weather gods willing) in our JCL games this season and with people finding form and morale lifted by the win we may even give the Japan Cup a shake.
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