Relegations come in many forms, they can be the culmination of years of abject mediocrity (Norwich Championship to League 1 2009). Some relegations are the result of catastrophic loss of form (Norwich PL to Championship 2020), others come after spirited fights and a bit of bad luck but ultimately not enough good performances (Norwich PL to Championship 2004, Highgate MCCL Div 1 to Div 2 2021). Ultimately relegations are never nice whatever the circumstances, winning always feel better than not and so I arrive at the first game of the MCCL 1st Teams Division 2 2022.
Highgate would start the season at home to Eastcote, described by the MCCL season preview as a “team in flux”. A good opportunity then to establish our season and get a feel for the league.
Captain FB won the toss and after some overnight rain elected to bowl with two 1st team league debutants opening the bowling in Tom Newell and Ben Donkers. The first 4 overs didn’t exactly go to plan with Eastcote moving to 37-0 but 2 quick changes were made with Thaxo coming on from one end and Freddie picking up the first wicket at the other. 2 wickets each and some good bowling from Thaxo and Uzzi saw Eastcote tied up and after 21 overs they were 98/4. Part timer Foster bowled a token over before drinks and picked up a wicket and at drinks Highgate were thinking another wicket or two could result in a below par score to chase.
Unfortunately that was not the case, wides, no balls and free hits pushed Eastcote to a total of 277-9. The less said about the 2nd half of the innings the better but a target of 278 is always chaseable at Highgate…
Jake and Callum opened up and immediately set about the task with Jake playing some excellent drives and pull shots with Callum ticking along nicely. Eventually Cal (24) fell but Donkers went in at 3 and supported Jake ably until drinks when we were very nicely poised on 117-1. Unfortunately Ben (16) fell immediately after drinks, Danny the next man in looked to continue his pre-season form.
At this point we have to talk about Jake Sharland, on 78 at the beginning of the 26th over. 6, 6, 4, 6 took him to his hundred just 4 balls later. It was an imperious knock which punished every bad ball and when he was out for 114 he had got us to the point of being favourites in the chase.
Danny (18), Dilshan (10) and Foster (4) fell relatively quickly but it did little to slow the flow of runs and only brought Sachin and FB (22*) to the crease. This pair picked up singles with ease and continued where Jake left off by punishing the bad balls. In seasons gone by we might have continued to collapse but Sach (52*) took responsibility, led us home and hit the winning runs with 4 overs to spare.
Immediate promotions back to a higher tier don’t have to start with a win (Norwich 1 Colchester 7 2009) but a quick return to winning ways always improves the atmosphere and tends to be the best way to do it. Bearing that in mind the 10 points immediately on the board is exactly what we needed.