Saturday provided the great Highgate 3s with sunny spells, scattered clouds and no chance of rain in sight. The only factor taking away from an otherwise perfect day for cricket was the return to Gunnersbury Park, the pride and joy of Acton CC and, in particular, Mushi Rauf.
Once the team had confirmed that Acton’s groundsman had preserved the short hedge that is still standing next to the wicket, Jon went out for the toss, which Acton promptly won, choosing to bat first.
Acton’s openers might not have been best pleased with their skipper’s decision, as they came out to bat with frowns etched upon their faces. In fairness to them, if I knew I was coming out to face the bowling partnership of Blyghton and Boardman, I’d probably share their expressions. Highgate got off to an economical start, with Steve and Alex hampering any hopes of runs through meticulous line and length. The batsmen could only attempt to survive as the run rate remained steadily low for the first spell of bowling. Alex was incredibly unlucky, beating the outside edge on multiple occasions, needing realistically a better batsman to be able to get a nick. Steve similarly worked away at the other end, finding the outside edge on multiple occasions, but each dropping short before reaching Arthur at gully. Eventually, it was Steve that broke the opening partnership, forcing the better of the two batsmen to chop on to his own stumps.
With Acton’s number 3 finding his feet, Kush came on as first change in around the 18th over, offering very little to the batsmen. Arthur took on the other end in the 23rd over after Steve finished up his spell with an economy of just 1.50, and paid true homage to the man he had just swapped with by opening his account with 2 maidens and some close shaves past the outside edge. Whilst the number 3 settled, the remaining opener struggled and was desperate to rotate the strike, until ultimately he chopped on thanks to an unfaltering attack from Kush.
It then became apparent that the rest of Acton’s batting line up was not as keen on survival as their predecessors. Whilst their number 3 steadily built his innings, those who came to provide him a partner were a bit quicker in their exit from the crease. With batsmen already under pressure from near run outs thanks to Nikhit and Salman, Kush added to his wicket tally by claiming the number 4 for no runs, who managed to pull the ball to mid off, where a surprised Columbus was able to cash in on a catch. Kash ‘Money’ took over at Arthur’s end and took it upon himself to break down the rest of the line up. After bowling a couple of tight overs and claiming a stumping, he gave the Highgate 3s a showing of a triple wicket maiden, through a mixture of outfield catches, caught behinds (via an excellent snatch from Cummo) and LBWs (given by their own team, so it must have been out). This included the wicket of the Acton number 3, who finished on 58, thanks to a smart catch by Abdul. Acton ended up finishing on 176/5 from their 45 overs.
A short tea break ensued, in which I received the best tea I’ve had in years - the finest mixture of mini snacks that Tesco has to offer. Covid really does lower your expectations.
A dominant pairing of VC Everett and young Coleman went out to take on the pick of Acton’s bowlers, an opening pair made up of the feared Mushi Rauf and another (slightly worse) bowler. The two bats looked steady with a nice boundary being found for each through the legside. The pair defended well, and saw off a few overs from each end, taking us to 23-0. However both fell eventually with Arthur being caught at mid-off, looking to attack Rauf, and Columbus leaving one pitching on leg stump, only for it to jag back and nab him plumb LBW. The beauty of the Gunnersbury Park wicket.
The wicket continued to play its part as Kush was bowled by a roller and Nikhit caught, bringing Captain Cummings to the crease to accompany an established Salman. This partnership offered the strongest fight from Highgate in their desire for victory as Salman chopped through gully and Cummo played around the park, taking Highgate to 54-4. Both were looking good when Acton decided to take a bowling change, who would spell the demise of the next few HCC bats. Salman was first to fall with a ball that jagged away from him and took his off stump. I shortly followed suit to an LBW call that would become the talk of the club that evening. Abdul kept Cummo company for a short while longer until he also fell to the same bowler, with Acton’s penultimate change claiming two quick wickets in Kash and Alex, leaving us at 84-9. The last stand of Steve and Cummo lasted for a hopeful few overs until Acton’s number 3 bat enacted one final blow on the team, bowling Cummo, ending his captain’s knock on 30, and leaving Steve not out. Highgate finished on 98 all out; an unfortunate result to say the least.
A difficult batting day shouldn’t mean we overlook an excellent team effort in the first innings. Supported with loud chat and strong fielding for the most part throughout the innings, Steve finished with 5 maidens and an economy of 1.50; Alex with an economy of 3.33, including some overs at the death; Arthur and Kush with 2 maidens apiece and Kash with a triple wicket maiden to account for 3 of his 4 wickets (POTM). We remain in the top half of the table and look forward to a W next week.