Report by Daniel Mortlock:
We'd already played NCI twice this season, winning in May and then losing in July, so this evening was the rare chance for a season decider.
NCI, upon winning the toss, unsurprisingly chose to bat first, and looked set to establish an early ascendancy: their number one played a series of effortlessly correct drives against Joe White (1/31), and then their number two punched his first ball from Daniel Mortlock (2/18) straight down the ground for a completely risk-free boundary. Joe's frustration only increased when an outside edge somehow flew over the short square boundary for six, although he did get a measure of revenge when an essentially identical mis-hit by the left-hander was well-held by John Young at deep point. Still, with NCI on 65/3 after 7 (eight-ball) overs, even a modest acceleration would be enough to get to 150-odd - hard to chase at the best of times, but surely unassailable with the likelihood of gloom before match's end.
Fortunately, salvation was at hand in the form of some slightly slower bowling that, it turned out, was better suited to this pitch. Naveen Chouksey (0/23) overcame the handicap of being recorded in the scorebook as "B3 (LEFTY) NAVIMO" to bowl the first two boundary-free overs of the innings and then was decidedly unlucky to have a stumping denied when the square-leg umpire said that the batsman's foot was "on the line", only to then revise his opinion when it was pointed out that this initial assessment was inconsistent with his "not out" decision. Needless to say the thus reprieved batter hit Naveen's next two balls to the boundary, although his luck ran out when he was bowled first ball by Anand Kairamkonda (1/26) after some apparent confusion about whether the bowling action had been announced correctly. Having thus clawed our way back into the game, we finished things off with John Moore (0/19) bamboozling the NCI middle order with his lobs, which induced a series of ugly toe-end mis-hits and the possible highlight of the evening, when one batter charged down the wicket only to realise he didn't have any better plan than to shoulder arms and let the ball hit him. This induced perhaps the most ambitious LBW appeal in club history from some of the more distant fielders - it was possible that the ball would have hit the stumps, but far less likely that it would have done so with sufficient speed to dislodge a bail.The bowlers also got more material support from the fielders in what was a top team effort in rather difficult conditions, with lots of inconsistent bounce and long chases required with the ball repeatedly pulling up on the longish grass. Moreover, we didn't drop any catches for once, the only two chances being snaffled: John's skier; and a brilliantly sharp take by 'keeper Marcus Baker standing up to Daniel (although it's possible the reason the ball stuck is that Marcus didn't realise the batsman had hit it). Perhaps the one area where we let ourselves down was with our run out attempts, which could have been edited together into a solid comedy reel: it started when Naveen ran in at full speed in an attempt to prevent a quick single, made a great pick-up and, with a massive grunt-cum-scream, hurled the ball off-balance towards the stumps, only for a launch failure that meant the ball never even made the minimal distance; Seb Hammersley, in a similar situation, managed a much harder throw, but from point-blank range and with the batsmen already home, the result being that the bowler could only palm the ball away, resulting in an easy overthrow; and Ben Hammerlsey finally got it right, rifling a hard flat throw straight at the one stump he had to aim at . . . only for the bowler, John Moore, to inexplicably intercept the ball about a foot from its target. Still, such mishaps notwithstanding, NCI didn't even manage to double their half-way score, a fantastic comeback by us, even if their eventual total of 132/5 meant they were still probably marginal favourites . . .
. . . a sense which was only strengthened when the first over of our innings yielded more wickets (one) than runs off the bat (none). But that all changed when Cam Petrie was fed a few leg-side deliveries that he effortlessly swatted to the boundary with such speed that the square-leg umpire, who'd been peering into the setting sun, moved across to point for his own safety. And even though Seb Hammersley wasn't timing the ball quite so well - he seemed to spend much of his innings running between the wickess while berating himself for mis-hitting shots that he felt should have been going to the boundary - we were soon trotting along nicely at 10 an over. In the good old days that would have meant a chance for everyone else to kick back and watch these two knock off the rest of the runs but, as has generally been the case this year, we were playing retirements (negotiated up from 25 to 30 at the toss), so some other contributions would definitely be needed sooner or later.
In the end it was sooner, with Cam called in having reached 32* off just 16 balls, after which Seb joined him upong reaching a more sedate 31* off 26 balls. NCI grabbed their chance, as they took three wickets in the next few overs; but, critically, while none of John Young (3 off 5 balls), Marcus Baker (8 off 10 balls) and Pete Ames (13 off 11 balls) lasted long, they all kept scoring at near enough the required rate - it's not wickets but dot balls which are fatal in twenty/20s, and we didn't allow many of those. That meant that new batters Anand Kairamkonda (16* off 15 balls) and Daniel Mortlock (6* off 7 balls), faced with the task of scoring 20 from the final 3 overs, weren't subjected to the pressure of having to hit boundaries, so they just played "tip and run". With the help of some kindly donated wides (all of which were outside the return crease, so unarguable), we started the final over needing just 2 for victory . . . which came rather anticlimactically with a no ball that induced some mild chuntering from the fielders (the strange implication being that the umpire should do something other than call it as they see it).
As Dave was otherwise engaged there were no post-match beers . . . so instead we had post-match mayhem as members of both teams struggled with the apparently complicated task of covering one of the wickets with a tarpaulin. After a scene which resembled gendarmes trying to wrangle the traffic around the Arc de Triomphe - and at least one desperate phonecall to Dave for instructions - we were eventually able to leave the ground in the desired state (ironically so that NCI would have playable pitch for their Saturday league game).