High Drama in Higher Heat: Shark 2s vs Alpha Quasher

JCL Div. 2, Sano 3, 29 August 2020

It has been very hot since we started cricket in 2020. It has also been a hard, rugged road trudged already by the 2s. Seems each time we look up from our path there is a higher, heat- hazed mountain to climb. Today, it was the blinding-banana-yellow kitted Alpha, and extreme heat, the brutality of which only Tatebayashi can mete out.

Having played there many times, I have to say this was probably the hottest (and veteran, Rony, our ump, concurred). When, at 9:30 am, it is 35C by the station thermometer, you know you are in for a hard day. Mercifully we were not at Sano ‘The Wok’ 1. Sano 3 actually gets a breeze, but even the breeze seemed to decide to stay quietly huddled in any shade that could be found.

It could have been worse. We are spared having to share any JCA tents because we have two Shark-owned tents. Two full Quasher teams (Div. 2 & 3), Adore and all umpires had to play musical chairs in the one JCA tent still standing. Bit of a cluster in more ways than one, that.

We were politely and sympathetically shooing desperate dehydrating Quashers out of our’s all day (and like a boorish party guest, I thought their scorer would never leave!). The key thing on everyone’s mind, though, was THE TOSS. This could, literally, make and break a team. We have been ‘home’ team in every game so far. We lost the first two tosses and melted. We won last week and did much better. As ‘visitor’ today it was our first chance to make the coin call. A group consensus in the car went for ‘Heads’, and heads is what KB called. We invited Quashers into the field of fire.

Along with some now familiar faces in the 2s we welcomed two players of quality in for a game. Ash Thurgate and Arjun Gautum joined Erika, Adit, Mairaj, Sunny, Ammar, Santosh, Deepak and KB as captain again. Unfortunately, Umar was a late withdrawal so we were ten.

Our approach was for the stoic regular 2s bats to keep our wickets and eking out some runs, trying set up some chance for big-hitters to lay down a target against a wilting Quashers attack. With other regular opening options not available, Erika was joined by KB, who, legend has it, has opened before. Well, that worked a treat. ‘Barnacle’ Bayne showed that if his nose
was not straight, his bat was, and his eye for a good ‘leave’ was a fine as ever.

Erika continues to improve and grow in confidence. She got through her nervous stage and settled. Now she has started to attack. In one over she went over backward point to the rope and followed up with a crunching square cut – one of the shots of the day. Two pair soaked up the opening bowlers as you could actually feel the heat rising.

You could sense the fielders draining. Erika (12) departed to a good C&B. KB inexplicably endured. Deepak had a short stay when run-out spectating, and then we were into the A-Team of Ash, Arjun and Aditya. Unfortunately our main guns, too, succumbed far too quickly and cheaply. KB eventually was on his way after a lot of bloody-minded overs and with Mairaj straight behind him we were a bit shaky at 6-40.

Adit swung hard and with Santosh and Sunny we added some to that number. Alas, it was only a matter of time and we were all out (= 9 down) in the 29th for 73. It may sound strange to say but there were some positives in that as each week we can see players growing in confidence and learning how to stick around and now tap out a few runs. In time, with that, more will come runs, I am sure.

By now it was ridiculously what-the-hell-are-we-doing-here? hot. There was no sound. No insects, no birds. No annoying buzz of model planes. Only subdued cricketing sounds and a god-awful hacking cough from a suffering Quasher.

We took the field with some optimism, though. We had some good bowling and if things went our way, who knows? It would also be quite interesting because without regular ‘keepers Ajeet (being injured) and Hamdan (being educated), Deepak was wearing the ‘keeper gloves for the very first time. In his second game for the Sharks. Deepak had switched from baseball to cricket some time back. He was a catcher at a very high level in India, I think national. He was brave enough to agree to ‘give it a go’ – very much part of the Sharks 2s DNA.

He did have some more DNA by his side as Ashley Thurgate, of the International Thurgate Wicketkeeping Company, gave him many useful tips on what to do.

We were only a few overs into the innings when the dramas really started to unfold. The wailing of an ambulance grew and the flashing lights sped towards us up the road past Sano.

At about the same time, a helicopter appeared and started doing laps of Sano 3. Nothing unusual at Sano 3 except for its massive size. As the ambulance arrived, over the rise came a full sized fire-engine, which parked itself behind the bowler’s arm, set up a huge windsock and
announced the emergency services, including ‘Doctor Heli’, were here! We were waved off the field and Doctor Heli landed next to the pitch in a whirlwind of dirty, grass clippings and bails. The stumps had never known such abuse.

Image result for tochigi doctor heli

Many numbers of heavily uniformed professionals sprang into semi-action. An ailing Quasher was stretchered into the ambulance as the cameras went wild. As these things take a while we watered up and cooled down. So did Alpha. With both games stopped, curiosity drew many little Adores from the adjoining field to the chopper at a shyly Japanese distance.

Adit quipped, “We can have helicopters land on cricket fields in India, too. Difference is everyone thinks it is THEIR helicopter!” In the tent, we debated whether the very heavily-equipped firemen, who were spread out around the field to kept the Adore at bay, have cooled vests. Sharks in the know said the vests have little fans about the place and can be had on Amazon in a range of exciting colours for ¥6000.

A one burly fireman edged closer to us. So we asked him. No. Many layers of fabric and rubbery things. He can stick three big ice-blocks inside his gear, but not today.

Says he has to be able to run 10km in his gear with a backpack. I tell him we are one short and could use him on the boundary. His son plays premier league soccer in Brisbane. He gave us several Doctor Heli fans. Cheerful fella.

Finally, with great fanfare and more wind and dust, all the machines of rescue departed bearing Uday the stricken Quasher, with waves from the, well, adoring Adore. It was like a Thunderbirds meets Thomas the Tank Engine.

And now – back to the cricket. Bowling again…

Whatever ‘advantage’ we had set up by batting first was gone with the break. Adit and Arjun completed a set of three overs each. We were able to send one Quasher packing for zip when a leading edge flew off Adit toward mid-on/off. Ammar and Arjun converged. Under great duress from Ammar, Arjun clung on to a fine catch.

Still, some top edges and agricultural hitting had taken a decent bite out of our total. Ash and KB took up the challenge and slowed things right down. Tight lines and a very supportive field saw no wickets and mostly scrambled runs with an occasional whoosh to the rope.

Ash got us our second wicket with some great thinking and bowling. Coming around the wicket he pitched it on leg and clipped the top of off. Warnie would approve. We were unlucky with some balls falling in space or just short of fielders. We could have have 2-3 more wickets, I think. But the Quashers crept up on the required total. Toward the end Ammar was given his chance to show us his stuff with the ball, and despite a bit of shortness he did okay.

Quashers in the meantime made it to their target of 74 for 2 but took the 16th over to do it.

So another day, another loss. But, again, it was encouraging to see improvement in players and our enthusiasm cannot be doubted. What makes a team is not only winning. There are always smiles and laughs in the Sharks tent. Encouragement. Praise. Questions. Advice. Jokes. Even language lessons. We may not be winning, but we have the best tent in Div. 2.