Guildford 4s continue their consistent start to the season, coming narrowly second in a game in which they played much of the better cricket. One of the most unreliable pitches your writer has ever seen combined with an ill timed injury to tilt the balance of a game we nearly had in the bag. At least it wasn't dangerous (except to those with exceptionally brittle toes), with very little popping off a length, but it routinely threw up deliveries that shot through barely an inch off the deck. Despite bowling better and straighter overall than the opposition, we unluckily copped 4 wickets to straight shooters to our adversaries 1, and that was enough to kibosh an innings that had threatened to overhaul the total at the half way stage.
We lost the toss and were asked to field, consigning us once again to a run chase on a tricky pitch with a shortage of lower order biffing. Despite excellent availability, a mysterious drought of seamers this week left us bereft of front line pace bowlers on a wicket that just required the ability to plonk the ball straight on a length. Ali had deservedly won a call up to the 3s, so we fielded our emergency backup Afghan Refugee, Hikmatullah, who looked ready to explode in excitement after finally making his debut. To everyones great pleasure, the little bloke had a little blinder, bagging 4 wickets with his surprisingly tricksy medium pace and a stump to stump line that was just what the conditions required. To cap off an all round effort that could make him this weeks hottest Fantasy Cricket transfer, he got the ball rolling with a dead eye pick up and throw that found one of the opposition juniors well short when he was caught napping by his skippers call for a quick single.
Dhanush took the new ball from the other end and offered superb control, perhaps stung by the skippers offer of 4 fine legs after a slightly erratic debut the previous week. Deprived of the gloves by Liam, Oscar got his first match trundle in quite a while. Rusty doesn't quite cover the aleatoric nature of his first over, but after locating his radar bowled a really nice testing spell, and managed to be one of the few blokes all day to get lift from the pitch. Ashok, our pioneer Dad Returning To Cricket, got a little outing for his off spin, and although he initially found the pitch to be several yards longer than he remembered, he eventually managed to loop them up enough to land them in the batsman's half and won a palpable lbw with a ball that turned appreciably.
With the run rate well under control, it was time to deploy the real strength of our attack, the twin leg spin of a rejuvenated KK and budding organ scholar McDevitt. Both bowled beautifully, with a fine quick loop and lavish turn extracted from the mossy pitch. McDevitt bagged one (a pinpoint wrongun) and KK a brace, but on another day could have run through a far better batting line up. Unfortunately as cricket writer Martin Johnson put it, a Michelangelo can be overkill in circumstances in which you basically just need to get the ceiling emulsioned, and the quality of their bowling was not fully rewarded on a pitch that flattered the mediocre dobber. Despite baffling most of their line up, we were thwarted by a gutsy little cameo from one of Woking and Horsells burly u15s. Undaunted by regularly missing leg breaks by anything up to a foot, he nonchalantly carried on whacking everything pitched up, and contrived one of those maddening knocks in which regular mishits looped just out of reach of the fielders.
121 is not much scoreboard pressure, but on a treacherous pitch and a slow outfield, it was enough. Liam had an early let off when he somehow top edged a full toss that by his own assessment should have been put out of the ground, before coming undone in familiar fashion when a well timed but slightly uppish drive was held at cover. KK ignored the captains exhortations to rein himself in and play a long innings, and was probably right to do so, given a ball with his name in it could have come along at any moment. A couple of long hops from the opening bowler were brutally dispatched through square leg, and had their skipper seriously worried about the run rate. But with him looking far too good for the bowling he was castled by a shooter that somehow crept under a forward defensive. Rahul also looked in command and hit a superb cover drive along the ground for 4 (no mean feat on the slow outfield) before another shooter deflected cruelly from outside leg stump via his pads. Akshay then fell for a duck to one of the few dismissals that owed nothing to the pitch, playing all round a hooping in swinger.
Despite these setbacks, we were miles ahead of the rate as Dhanush and Vishal calmly rebuilt, only for another crucial piece of luck to go against us: Vishal pulled what was probably the third beamer from a somewhat erratic young seamer and got a top edge straight into his unprotected face. Although thankfully nothing was broken, he was forced to retire hurt with blood pouring from a considerably swollen nose, earning a post match visit to A&E. Puskraj bravely hung in to help Dhanush push the scoreboard into the 70s, almost within touching distance, before Dhanush essayed a rather ambitious sweep at a gentle but straight ball from one of W&Hs returning veterans. He missed and in a sligthly painful champagne moment was hit low in front of middle stump on his own middle stump. No dissent was offered at the decision, but it did take him rather a long time before his eyes stopped watering enough for him to vacate the crease.
That left one end open, and the opposition skipper (who had confessed in time honoured 4th/5th XI captaincy fashion to not knowing half his side) discovered he possessed the quickest bowler in the match, and just the chap to run through the tail. Puskraj and Marcus showed plenty of class but were cruelly yet almost inevitably undone by quick, straight shooters. With youthful exuberance failing to make allowances for advancing years in calling Ashok for a quick run, and Oscar shot out for a duck, the skipper joined Hikma in the middle with the target tantalisingly close by most peoples standards but quite possibly in excess of his career runs to date. He kept out a series of fast straight shooters but with little point in prodding around tried one of the very few shots in his armoury, running the ball down to 3rd man, only for his opposite number to take a reflex catch in the gully to end the match.
Man of the match: Himatullah. Blinding debut, feller!