JCL1, Sharks vs Tokyo Wombats at Sano International Cricket Ground 1
Sun 25th May – By Kris Bayne

The Sharks 1st XI took on our perennial rival, Tokyo Wombats, with an unsettled team. Us, I mean. Dhugal was down in the nets with the Japan U19s. Clampa was a calamitous Friday withdrawal. Muneeb was in the middle of Ramadan so would need managing. Our Mystery was missing. We only got an XI when a jet-lagged Maxi showed up. We only got a team at all by ‘smuggling’ our key U19s off the training track and because KB thinks he still IS 19… Beside the latter and Asala, the team was under 25, including five mid-teens. That the Wombats lurked in the JCL cellar meant nothing. They always want to knock us off and play accordingly, and opener-anchor, Patmore, was in fine form.
Takady lost the toss but we were put in to bat, allowing the Wombats to chase on what was to be an un-seasonally hot day (the mercury would hit 35C in mid-afternoon and emotions a bit higher than that…).

Rui and Neel scooted along quite nicely, with Neel reeling off a couple of lovely driven boundaries after getting a very generous ‘life’ early on. Rui holed out, however, and this – wait for it, waaaittt for iiiittt – ignited a top-order collapse to have us 3-35. Takady and Marcus set about getting us back on some kind of track against a now confident, focused and whooping Wombats bowling attack. While mature in approach and with a brace of boundaries each, the runs did not come easily. Takady played a shot he would rather forget and Marcus was adjudged LBW. 5-69 with a lot of overs left. Must have felt like ‘old times’ for both teams…

But the Sharks don’t have the best juniors in the land for nothing (and they don’t have ‘old times’ with the Woms)! With a rejuvenated Asala continuing his fine 2019 middle order form, he and Deba and then Max clawed us back into the game with finesse and power. Asala clobbered four to the rope with fine support. Still, at Deba’s fall we were 119-7 and Wombats were in full marsupial yodel. Muneeb, now quite experienced at playing during Ramadan, quietly prepared himself and joined Max. No-one could have expected what was to come.

With good running and placement by the tall, lanky pair we moved to 145 before Maxi was back in the shed. Muneeb and Yugi knuckled down in authoritative defense but ran (but did NOT bat) like rabbits – see hole in the field, run!! When Yugi smacked a ball off his nose square for 4 it set off Muneeb, who started lacing them to all parts as they went through the gears into the 170s, 180s and into the 190s.

At Yugi’s demise, 9-196, KB strode out to join Muneeb. Some judicious C20th defense and a sneaking push past the bowler gave Muneeb the strike and he took full advantage, crash one through covers and then getting to his well-deserved 50 on the last ball – a new-age reverse paddle thang over his shoulder for 4. On the crest of Muneeb’s rapid 52 n.o. and solid lower contributions we remarkably ended up batting out our overs and posting a defendable 209-9. It put the Wombats back on their heels. And we knew what, or rather who, we had to do with the ball.

We did not lack for firepower, options, variation nor guile with the ball. We did not lack for the leg speed and sharpness in the field. What we did lack for was ‘luck’, on occasion also known as, ‘rub of the green’.

While Rui opened somewhat waywardly, the nicely-calculated master-stroke was Takady’s decision to throw Yughander ‘The Teen Wizard’ Retharenkar at Patmore. On the spot immediately – what else? – he claimed first blood, bowling the aggressive Bracewell. The experience pair of Patmore and Mee set about laying a foundation against quicks, Neel and Maxi. At 1-88 and needing a wicket Takady had another flash of ‘genius’ – he threw the ball to KB. It ensured both his ride home to Tokyo and a break-through. Mee was on his way LBW third ball and we knew we were in with a chance. Nothing would remove the ball from the old bloke’s hand as he sent down eight stingy overs on the trot. With Yugi almost unplayable at the other end the ‘brakes’ were applied. Unfortunately the definitive ‘breaks’ went the other way. An all-up, all-knowing, all-joyful, all-powerful appeal went up for a catch behind by Patmore off Yugi. But the breakthrough which probably would have won us the game was denied us.

It was a bitter bitter disappointment, but there was nothing to do but get on with it. And that we did. The runs had dried up somewhat in the Yugi-KB tandem, and Yugi hit back in the best way by removing the stubborn Abbot. This sparked a steady flow of Wombat wickets. Yugi almost immediately again. Then a brilliant run-out by Neel, gathering at cover and throwing down the bowler-end stumps to nail the frantically back-pedaling non-striker.

Then Neel stepped up to grab two of his own with the ball. We were getting back in it!! Patmore realized this also, and that if the runs were to be got he was going to have to get them himself. While wickets fell, we did not help ourselves by feeding him regularly on his pads, which resulted in us picking up the ball from over the boundary rope… Try as we might the score sheet tells the final story.

It was a hard loss to take. Twice we fought our way back from the edge of a thrashing.

At 5-65 we got to 207 off all our overs. It was an enormous effort by Muneeb, but also a lots of guts and good temperament were shown by Deba, Maxi and Yugi. At 2-138 the Wombats must have felt quite comfy but we never wilted and definitely had our chances to take the game away. Yugi was magical, Neel, as usual, never goes away, and KB’s epic spell was enough to get the Wombat’s nod for their game award (the issue of a bottle of wine to a feisty, fuming minor, or someone on Ramadan maybe helped him?).
But cricket, as does life, throws us challenges and sneaky punches that are neither expected nor welcome. (Using the Aussie vernacular, sometimes they are ‘king hits’…) We just have to take them on the chin, learn and move on. We should be really proud of our very young team on this day, not only for the cricketing efforts but also for their recovery and temperament. Actually, I don’t think in any game this year that we have rolled over easily. We have always hit back somehow. Let’s hope the latter half of the season sees us to be the last one standing!!