9th-placed Highgate 3rd XI travelled to 8th placed Uxbridge fully cognisant of the importance of this fixture. So aware were the team that all were promptly present at 1130.
Stand-in skipper Harris made perhaps his largest contribution of the day by calling tails as the coin duly landed, and, in time honoured Middlesex league fashion chose to bowl on a flat pitch with a short and fast outfield.
Newell and Cooke took the new ball, a new ball partnership with an age range of 52 years. (For me, this is one of the delights of club cricket. In what other sport would such a situation arise?). Showing Cookie due respect, Tom exerted early pressure with a maiden first up, allowing Cookie to reap the spoils, bowling the Number 2 round his legs to give us the perfect start - Uxbridge 0/1. Tom and Nick continued to keep the pressure on, Uxbridge having just 1 run from their first four overs, 18 from ten, and four of Cookie’s first five overs being maidens. In fact, Nick was quite outstanding. A mammoth 20 over spell yielding seven maidens, to end with figures of 1/65 when he was finally removed from the attack (a stretcher fortunately not required - though I believe I might need one when his wife catches wind of this spell). Without his contribution, we could have been chasing 366 rather than 266!
Once Tom finished his initial six over spell, we struggled to stem the tide at that end, with a succession of dropped catches (6? 7? Who’s counting...) not helping our cause. After 40 overs, Uxbridge were looking to cut loose at 196/2. Tom and Hassan returned though and bowled superbly to keep Uxbridge to, a still sizeable, 266/6, aided by a magnificent run out from James Savundra. Throwing from long off to the keeper’s end to run out the man on 96, surely taking a fair few off our potential target. Already with a large chase ahead of us, these contributions were vital.
Tea: It was Uxbridge! Excellent fayre. Standard.
Having kept for 50 overs, and provided much support to his skipper, Rags was raring to face the first ball, with George Potter at the other end. From that point, there wasn’t an anxious moment. Pots was fluent from the start, and once Rags hit around 20, a couple of team-mates sagely remarked: “Rags is in. Watch his feet.” And in he certainly was. The openers matched each other run for run, and it was PROPER batting. Technique and class. 20 overs down, 90/0 (perfect!). The 100 came up and both men reached 50, Pots with a beautiful six over extra cover. A highlight from Rags’ innings would be watching him dance down the track to hit a sumptuous straight drive early to a new bowler. We passed 150/0, then 200/0. With Rags on 99, and George just behind him, Ian nudged to extra cover, took off, and the pavilion (that lovely little one on Uxbridge’s second ground) erupted. Rags’ delight was clear, and it was shared by all watching (also noticeable was the number of Uxbridge players who approached Rags to shake his hand upon reaching that milestone - nice to see). We sat back, looking forward to giving George the same reception. Alas, it wasn’t to be. On 98, with the score on 212, he was dismissed. It brought to end a splendid, classy innings at the perfect tempo, which was a true joy to watch.
Savzy was promoted as ‘finisher’, and he duly obliged, finding the boundary with ease, putting on the final 60 with Rags in just four overs. Fittingly, with 20 required from the last five overs, it was Rags who decided he’d had enough, clearing the mid-wicket boundary with three elegant and beautifully timed flicks, to complete the chase with four overs to spare, finishing with a magnificent, and unbeaten, 139.
This was the best chase I have been a part of (to the degree that I was part of it!). Watching Rags and Potter go about their business was a pleasure shared by all of us batting below them. I’m not sure I’ve ever sat with my pads on for 46 overs before, and I loved every minute of it. Thanks too to all the team for carrying out all chores with such good humour. Cookie, Horse and Smithy did all the standing end umpiring between them, and the left-right hand batting combination meant plenty of people were employed as sightscreen movers, including Mr Rob Newell (Tom’s Dad). A big thanks too to Zoe for her loyal support and also scoring. If she hadn’t, I think we might have actually run out of bodies for chores when drinks were required too.
So... a fantastic win for the 3s, lifting us out of the relegation zone. A trip to Teddington awaits...