Du Toit and Blackett star in Bushey runfest!
As is often the case at 3rd and 4th team level you may find yourself playing a team some distance from their home patch. That was again the case this weekend as we travelled not to the leafy surroundings of Brondesbury but to Bushey in Hertfordshire a place best known for being the birthplace of George Michael.
Through a mixture of road, tube and national rail we met in the shadows of the Theatre of Nightmares TM (Vicarage Road) to survey the impressive facilities at the Metropolitan Police Sports Ground. Unfortunately it seems the boys in blue has spent a lot of money on the bar but hadn’t found any spare cash for a hose or a roller. The pitch was simultaneously tufty, patchy, bumpy and dusty, 4 words only normally found together when etched on the personal tankards at the nearby Three Crowns.
The oppo captain won the toss, looked down, looked at his team and then elected to bowl first despite starting with 9 men, a decision which seemed to be back up the visual impression that this might be a challenging pitch to bat on. The away captain suggested to the top order bats that 180 might be a winning score and that a mixture of graft against the straight ones and calculated aggression against anything loose would be the way forward.
The next 8 hours (not an exaggeration) would prove many of those suggestions to be some way off the mark.
Initially though, it was a challenging first hour with Chintan and Subhodeep digging in impressively as the ball shot and leapt. Chintan headed a couple of length balls away and both openers played some lovely shots when the bowlers strayed. Subhodeep looked in good touch after his 99 last week and was very unlucky to see a ball deflect off two parts of his body before dribbling back on to the stumps. Batters got one that stuck in the pitch to be caught first ball and there was some scrambling for kit as Price had to be relieved from umpiring duty hastily to get the pads on, expecting to be back in the action fairly quickly.
Again this was not the case.
Daniel joined Chintan and immediately got into his work with some pleasing drives straight and through mid-wicket along with some trademark urgency into the running between the wickets. Chintan departed for a very important 36 and Blackett strode in with the prospect of 40 overs to build an innings. Andy’s approach to that construction involved immediately creaming the ball to all parts, swivelling to sweep the spinners behind square leg and tormenting the boundary riders with a succession of powerful drives.
Daniel reached an impressive run a ball 50 and was quickly joined on that landmark by Andy off a mere 26 balls.
The chat on the benches in the first few overs involved some discussion of Subhodeep’s 99 the previous week. Having been out on the same score some years ago I was empathetic, Blackie remarked that he hadn’t got more than 80 so had no experience of the torment of struggling through the 90s.
The electronic scoreboard whilst not displaying the team score was showing the batters personal tally in crisp LED lights so when Blackett moved from 88 to 92 with another sizzling biff through long on we speculated whether he may choose to nudge the ball around to get to the landmark.
Of course not. A thumping drive and another of those swivels through square leg brought up the landmark in rapid fashion.
Daniel meanwhile progressed in chanceless fashion, running hard and rotating the strike well to allow Andy to continue his personal rampage. Daniel’s own strike rate didn’t dip below 100 and he also brought up his ton before we had reached the 35 over mark. This was an excellent knock with lovely strokes all around the wicket and exploitation of the many gaps that started to appear.
The partnership of 241 was eventually ended as Blackie fell to the Unsure brothers for 156 (81) including 30 boundaries of which 4 were maximums. The rate never dipped as Price (25 off 15) and DDT kept us pushing towards 400. Daniel eventually departed for 111 (99) to record his top score in senior cricket for HCC.
Having suggested anything over 180 would be competitive, the away captain was quite pleased to have exceeded his poorly estimated par score by 216 runs. The declaration at 396/7 at 46 overs removed the possible awkwardness of trying to calculate the winning draw total.
Talk turned as we waited for tea to be served about possible records set in the batting innings and the challenging of bowling when the abrasive surface has stripped the ball down to its corky core.
The oppo openers started with some bristling aggression against Thexton and Hodgins before the latter picked up 3 wickets. When Tej was brought into the attack he made immediate impact by befuddling their number 5 and getting a wicket with his first ball.
Brons 4 and 6 bat then came together and batted with plenty of aggression to put the home side temporarily up with the rate. With the ball now resembling something that might have been dug up from an allotment, Price entered the attack. David got a lot of fizz on the ball and snared their dangerous number 6 and then quickly added their 7 and 8.
When Rehan was eventually rewarded with a wicket to a sharply turning and bouncing delivery we had 8 overs to pick up the last two wickets. All five members of our attack tried their best but were kept out by their impressive no 4 and a resolute no. 10.
A wicket that looked like a ploughed field had delivered almost 700 runs. Tired and slightly frustrated we all headed back into London. Ultimately the winning draw itself may not live long in the memory but the two exceptional innings we witnessed today certainly will.