On the penultimate match of the season, Beckenham had but a short trip to the magnificent home of HSBC, former employers of this scorer and a venue to which he enjoyed a pleasant stroll through Cator Park with the journey still taking 15 minutes!
The pitch was as hard as a rock and looked good for some runs, the scoring position established, lunch taken and umpires and scoring colleague greeted. Now for the toss which skipper Alex Senn won and opted to bat first. As ‘Disco Dan’ was gallivanting somewhere, the skipper sallied forth to open the innings accompanied by the extremely promising Rithik Hari who is growing into a splendid 1st XI cricketer with every match. The Bank opened with the bustling seamer Ishmail September from the tennis courts end and captain Sadiq Hassan’s off-spin at the other. The opening exchanges saw the Beckenham skipper batting busily and looking to push the score along at every opportunity while his partner took the more sedate view and assumed the anchor role. The runs flowed and Beckenham’s highest opening partnership of 45 came and went with the home attack struggling to contain the Beckenham pair and running up a series of wides in the process. Both batsmen played splendid shots with Hari even venturing the occasional reverse sweep. An excellent century stand arrived with both batsmen reaching well-earned fifties shortly afterwards. Finally, with both Senn and Hari looking to reach hundreds and the 150 partnership safely in the locker, an excellent direct hit ran the Beckenham skipper out for a superb 87 in the 37th over.
A re-jig in the batting order to counteract the potential loss of the injured Stuart Binny from the bowling line up saw Alex Blake sent in to light the blue touchpaper. Which, of course, he did in the manner so few players are capable of doing. A crisp four, a few dots and he was off, dispatching the Bank attack to all parts and, when safely held by Luke Remice, he had blasted 55 in 28 deliveries and shared a quickfire stand of 85 with his young partner visibly enjoying his time at the crease with the Kent man who encouraged him throughout. Will MacVicar kept up the momentum but then Hari’s dream of a maiden Premier hundred disappeared when he tried one reverse sweep too many and was bowled by Bank captain Hassan for a glorious 97. In time, young Hari will begin to appreciate the values of playing the percentages at crucial times and this scorer wasted no time in imparting these pearls of wisdom later on. MacVicar and Johan Malcolm took the score past 300 before the former holed out to Matt Abbett for a fine 36. With Ross Piller strangely run out from the last ball which was missed by both scorers who were, no doubt, discussing something completely different!
HSBC, in reply, faced a stiff task but started promisingly as Shojib Ali suffered radar problems. It all went wrong though in MacVicar’s first over with Perks edging to Johan Malcolm at slip and then George Hutton pinned bang in front second ball. From 11-2 a brief revival ensued with skipper Sadiq Hassan taking the fight to the visitors with some good aggressive batting while partner Wajid Shah seemed to struggle to get going. Nevertheless, a useful stand of 35 developed before Hassan holed out to Calum Lennox off the bowling of Shojib Ali. Worse was to follow as MacVicar continued to steam in and ripped the middle order out by trapping Alan Slater in front and then having Shah held by Mahi Mahfuzul to put the Bank in desperate trouble at 53-5. Matt Abbett tried to get the innings back on track but fell to Rob Clements’ left-arm spin.
The arrival of September (no pun intended!) proved to be the real bright spot of the innings. Having studied Blake’s demolition of his side’s attack and having filed the knowledge away in his memory banks, he obviously decided he’d have a go himself. And have a go he did in the company of his trusty partner Luke Remice who played second fiddle. Wielding his bat like Thor’s Mjolnir, he launched a thoroughly entertaining assault on the Beckenham spin attack which had fellow scorer Andy murmuring, “He’s never done this before!” as September sailed past 50 in 30 balls. The stand was just shy of a hundred when Malcolm managed to restore some semblance of order by having September held by skipper Senn for a brilliant 67 and then luring Remice to his doom to present ‘Barney’ Balmforth with his second stumping in successive weeks. The tail wagged a little before Mahfuzul applied the coup de grace by bowling Caunce to end the innings on 172 with Tom Hutton unable to bat though injury.
This week’s bowling award again went to the indefatigable MacVicar passing 40 wickets for the season and Beckenham now look forward to a momentous day at Foxgrove next week with four points needed for the championship which, again, is a tribute to the way Alex Senn has brilliantly steered the ship throughout the season and, again, will strike a blow for clubs without massive wage bills, a thoroughly reprehensible and damaging practice which has no place in the wonderful world of recreational cricket.