Match Report 1s v South Hampstead 14/05/22

Revenge is a Dish best served cold

It’s been several seasons since your writer last put pen to paper. At one point a prolific contributor to these pages, enthusiasm for writing about each weekly tussle waned along with his love for the beautiful game. Approaching one’s twilight years as an amateur cricketer can be a strange experience, each game a blessing, each wicket a privilege. Every time you cross the white line you know it might be your last. It is only when you recognise that your time and contribution to a club as proud and illustrious as Highgate is fleeting and ephemeral, you realise you need to wring every last ounce out of each appearance. And so, it is with that renewed sense of vim and vigour that I once more pick up the quill in the hope of doing justice to that which has come before.

Obviously with any relegation comes the heartache and the finger pointing, and ultimately the rebuilding. Fortunately, the dark Winter months provide ample opportunity for this and so thoughts can turn to more pressing matters – which MCCL legends will you once again get to lock horns with in the division below?

South Hampstead has long been a club blessed with such characters. Does Karthik still play? Will the Kirk of Swing come out of retirement for one last clash with Highgate? Whatever became of Keith Piper? And of course, is league favourite Shepherd still plying his trade at Milverton Rd? All excellent questions and the talk of the various Whatsapp groups in the run up to KO on the Saturday morning.

Having set a renewed commitment in 2022 to turn up early in order to quash any murmurs that he might be in either 1) Crewe, or 2) a doorway in Balham, your writer arrived at the ground at circa 10:45, well ahead of the advertised meet time of 11:15ish. This had the added benefit of allowing a quick 20 minute nap on the benches in the lovely May sunshine / inspecting the wicket and visualising the next 7 or so hours [delete as appropriate].

South Hampstead won the toss and duly inserted Highgate on a track with plenty of grass coverage. A glance at the team sheet confirmed our worst fears – none of the aforementioned old timers were still around, Messrs Patel and Ahmed the only veterans from our last clash seven years ago.

Fraser (4) fell early, then Jake (55) did as Jake does – steady accumulation of runs through a blend of the languid and the brutal. A partnership of 91 with Director of Cricket Mr de Silva (38) put Highgate in a strong position – even when both fell in quick succession. Importantly though, much like the previous week in pursuit of 270, Highgate managed to keep ticking over.

Donkers (28) was the main provider of that ticking, and when he clubbed one out to deep mid-wicket (aka cow) it looked for all the world like six bits. This was confirmed as the fielder concerned, Dishen Patel, subsequently trod on the rope with ball in hand. Sadly for Highgate, for Donkers and ultimately the game of cricket, a catch was claimed and despite a quick VAR check from the umpire, the catch was given. Incidents like this always threaten to boil over but needless to say, Highgate took it with expected good grace, knowing that the Gods have a funny way of getting you back when you disrespect them in such a flagrant manner. For ‘Dish’ out on the boundary rope, a nervy afternoon looking over his shoulder now awaited.

From there on out, Highgate continued towards 200 and beyond. Rawson Jnr with a run a ball 37 once again in Sharland’s substantial shadow as understudy in the Early Season Purple Patch Stakes. He was ably supported by Thaxton (14*), whose batting should only ever be accompanied with the Benny Hill music. Imagine what he could do if he opened his eyes while he was out there…

217 from the allotted 45 overs was at the upper end of par on a wicket still offering assistance and large boundaries. Still, work to do for HCC after the break. Highlight from tea was a delicious pickly coleslaw – hats off to the chef.

Newell (1-15) kicked off proceedings for the second half with an LB of Ahmed. I would advise appealing in future, young man. At the other end, Foster (2-42) found himself in fairly unchartered territory taking the new ball and the edge of Dishen Patel’s bat not once but twice in the early exchanges. Karmic retribution not yet forthcoming, choosing instead to buy its time.

A now familiar rhythm took over. Early overs of seam were soon replaced by Thaxton (1-35) and Amjaid (3-22) to stem the early flow of runs. This really is no country for old men (or indeed seam bowlers after the driest April on record). Thaxton understood the assignment and quickly removed Mohammed (9) and went about the business of the rest of his spell in his usual professional and frugal manner.

The two Patels were able to build a partnership without ever really getting away from Highgate, who continued to create chances. Fraser shuffled his pack regularly and eventually alighted on Blyghton (2-37). The young all rounder quickly settled into his work, extracting turn and bounce from the surface and 9 overs on the spin changed the complexion of the game. In his last over he lured King (19) into an expansive drive straight into the obliging hands of Amjaid on the ropes.

At this point in the game it looked like a tall task for the South Hampstead boys. Foster came back from one end with his usual medley of slower balls and drag downs, Amjaid from the other with exemplary control and guile. The final nail in the coffin for the Milverton Road outfit was for barnacle-like opener Patel to round out his up and down day by chipping one straight to Fraser. The away side wasted no opportunity in letting him know exactly what they thought about him, his morals, and his technique as he departed.

So it’s two wins from two for Highgate, who face the Titans next (the artists formerly known as The Tamils). Lots of grit and a little bit of skill on show so far this season. They’re still searching for the complete performance, but they know tougher tasks await – it’s 16 cup finals from here on out.

I opened with ramblings about the twilight years of an amateur’s career. Of course the other thing that you also gain with the passage of time is a deeper understanding of the game and its rules and conventions. Some of these are obvious and easy – never cut the off spinner, never run off a misfield. But some are unspoken and become clearer the more cricket you see – namely, karma is an omnipotent and at times brutal force.

Love the game, and it will love you back.