JCL2 vs Adore at Sammu, 1st Sep 2019
By Anton Lloyd-Williams
The 2019 season will not go down as one of the Super Seconds best. We were verily smashed around in the opening matches and only picked up points from a couple of rained out cancellations and a win over Adore that was so unlikely that still, nobody really understands how we did it.
And so to the final match of the round stage. The struggle for a semi final place had long since passed us by and instead we found ourselves in a bottom of the table relegation scrap with Adore, once again. The maths was fairly simple: If we won then we would stay in JCL2 and Adore would go down to JCL3. If Adore won (with a bonus point) then our fates would be reversed.
For reasons that we need not go into, we began this critical match with just 9 players: CT, Mairaj, Ash, Deba, Tetsuo, Anton, Leon, Adit and Ishaan. Hamdan arrived later in the morning to make 10. Thankfully Marcus and Neel came along as non batting/bowling subs and inevitably made a big difference.
Under pleasant skies, CT calmly lost the toss but Adore put us in to bat anyway. Young guns Deba and Ash to open.
We’ve really missed the presence of players with the ability to hang around in the top order this season. Gone are the days when we could sit around watching Sankar and Murad cut the ball away for hours. Distant are the memories of Kavin and Dave settling in for a morning’s work while the middle order lounged over a sandwich or two in the tent. These days we start with #5 padded up, nervous about facing the still new ball.
Both Deba and Ash have shown us tantalizing glimpses of their true batting qualities and thankfully these burst, spectacularly, into full blossom today. They both looked like real opening batsmen: The technique, the patience, the shot selection and the results.
Both started reasonably circumspectly, showing a straight bat to the quality balls of Tsuchiya and Ichiki, both handy bowlers. Most importantly, neither felt the need to swing rashly at the bad balls. Wides were allowed to accumulate and there was a growing feeling in the tent that these two knew what they were doing. Ash dispatched anything woefully short to the square boundaries but then immediately got his head down to keep out the next ball.
New bowlers, Umair and Okajima could find no way through and inevitably, the Adore body language began to wilt as it became clear that the usual Shark train of cheap wickets would not be stopping at Sammu today.
Deba’s defence was pristine and he chose to carefully pierce the gaps in the field rather than blast his way through it. Nonetheless, the run rate slowed to an alarming degree when the spinners came on as they offered more control than the seamers had been able to.
It took a while for the set batsmen to start moving their feet to engineer scoring opportunities and it took the pair almost 30 overs to register the 100 partnership. But while the wickets column remained at zero, our position was always a healthy one. Ashley passed his half century with a swaggering drive over the covers for 4 and that was the cue to get the fireworks out. Cuts, pulls and forceful drives became the order of the day, backed up with relentless sprinting between the wickets. It was a grand sight.
Deba’s half century brought a mighty cheer from the tent as we threatened to gallop over the hill. However, Ash was the first to go in the 33rd with an overly ambitious swipe at an Umair straight one for a superb 75. The remaining batsmen were lined up with one thing in mind. Hit it. Tetsuo obliged with 11 off 7, Adit put on another 5 in no time and Ishaan and I saw out the innings (including running 3 – don’t do that again Ishaan) after Deba’s wicket went for 67. Final score – 196 for 4. Our best in a very long time.
Adore’s reply would be predictable enough. They would need to blast their way to 197 in 32 overs (at about 6/over) to win and get their crucial bonus point. In Umair and Hashiba they had the players to do it as well.
Adit, in his first game of the season, opened from the road end and Leon from the tennis court end. Both hit their straps very quickly, Adit offering movement into the right handers while Leon’s blistering pace had the batsmen twitching at air.
The ever dangerous Umair soon took a liking to Leon’s straighter balls and dispatched him to the boundaries on a few occasions including a 6 that landed, rather ominously, right in the far tennis court. Umair’s wicket would be key. If he got going then 6 an over would a comfortable afternoon’s work for him. He was using the bowlers’ pace well to batter the boundary rope so CT switched to the spin of 1st innings hero Ashley. If Umair wanted boundaries then he’d need to get the ball there by himself. The trap worked. Ash bowled straight and full, Umair’s eyes lit up, his shoulders expanded and ball boomed out of the graceful arc of his bat. Up it went out towards the long on boundary.
Marcus is there.
A soft pat as the ball goes into his cupped hands.
A mighty roar from everyone as the ball stays there.
The relief was palpable. The Adore gun bat was back in the shed for a bargain 13. We then set about the remaining batsmen in an almost festival mood. The talk in the field was light and constant. The banter close in with the batsmen was friendly. The sun was shining and wickets were falling.
Ash picked up the other opener with one that moved off the deck to dislodge a wicket while Tetsuo mopped up the middle order from the other end taking 4 scalps with his accurate tweakers. The fielding moment of the day came from Adit who, back pedaling furiously, caught one out of the sun over his shoulder at mid off. The 2nds just don’t take those catches normally but when everything is going your way…
The fielding was also bewilderingly good. Deba covered half the ground on the off side while Hamdan and Mairaj chased down anything that managed to get by them. Neel was scampering around as usual clearing up the crumbs and I don’t think I saw a single wide escape CT’s clutches behind the pegs.
As spin had calmed the atmosphere, Leon came back on to wake it up again and went clean through the woodwork of Takase who was probably happy to walk away unscathed. It was very, very quick.
The experienced Hashiba had been watching the carnage from the other end. In between advising and encouraging the incoming batsmen he showed his evident skill with some masterful pulls along the grass to the boundaries. Here was a true danger man but with far too much to do by himself he would need to take risks. When he fell to a plumb LBW courtesy of Ash, we could feel the foil start to peel off the champagne corks.
The tail refused to budge though. They weren’t scoring but they weren’t going home either. Dare I say, the bowling was too good for them to hit anything, and get caught. Cue another masterstroke from Captain Thurgate. So often in JCL2 where quality has failed, filth has flourished.
I was tossed the ball and sent down some absolute muck. One of the balls that landed on the pitch, pinged off the dangled bat of Watanabe into the safe mitts of Ishaan a couple of metres away at silly mid off.
Tsuchiya looked to leave where possible and dutifully left an absolute pie onto his leg stump. I ended with 2 wickets but should never be let near a cricket ball again. Regardless. We had persevered and won! Adore done for 112.
So joy and celebration for the Sharks and resignation and consolation for Adore. There are still some shenanigans and permutations in JCL3 that might see Adore remain in the second tier but it’s not looking rosy. It’s a great shame as we always look forward to a closely fought and entertaining duel with this long standing club.
We wish Adore all the best of course and thank the Rising Stars for their expert umpiring of the game. That’s all from JCL2 2019.