Contrary to Priory’s previous matches which have been littered with wars of attrition and rivalry, today’s match was more of a war of Teflon. Both teams contrived to create what can only be described as one of the more amateur fielding performances of the season, scathing criticism yes but for the youth being deployed in the St Albans team this was most certainly not the best illustration of how to conduct your fielding skills
The game began with a thorough inspection of the ground which for council standards was a revelation after several days of heavy rain. The Geoffrey Boycott’s or Tony Greig’s in us wanted to get out our car keys and start digging into the pitch. The pitch was soft, the weather was unpredictable and therefore the decision at the toss was very much a gamble.
Batting first has been the method of success for Priory this season and again the gods were in the favour of the home team as Priory’s little master and skipper paired up for what looked to be on paper a fearsome opening partnership
As St Albans warmed up it was very evident that they were looking to their future and building a team of youthful exuberance. Priory was as professional as ever and early on it was very obvious that looks can indeed be deceiving. St Albans opening bowler who was probably no taller than 4.5 ft charged in and bowled at a pace some of Priory’s livewires would be pleased with. It was certainly an education for St Albans youngsters and the test of bowling at the in form Tejas and Priory’s attacking skipper were going to be a much tougher assignment than their GCSE’s.
The opening stand for Priory was electric as every poor ball was banished to the boundary, the luscious straight sixes from the middle of both the openers bats was a delight to watch for the larger than expected crowd in attendance. A dominant opening stand of 63 ended when Priory’s skipper skipped down the wicket and was bowled
This brought another of Priory’s in form players to the crease, Hambo. The hitman has been in glorious touch recently and he showed the makers name to several deliveries using his power to deliver some hard hitting straight drives off the change bowlers. Tejas continued to defy the laws of chance as one tremendous boundary was often followed by a miscue to a baffled fielder who duly dropped the ball allowing the little master to continue his march towards yet another half century. This was the master’s fourth 50 of the season and such consistency has seen his average move beyond the magical 40 mark with only Priory’s brigadier block Vijay for company at the top of the averages tree
The day was almost going too smoothly for Priory who at 117-1 were looking at a score close to 250 with wickets in hand. The next half hour saw Priory lose 5 wickets for 40 runs as Tejas luck finally ran out literally, as he was run out for a high scoring 89. This was by no means his best innings but it takes character to score runs whilst not playing your best and to hit 89 and not be at your best shows just why the man is called the little master
At 150-6 Priory were now in danger of not reaching the psychological score of 200. Priory’s answer to St Albans abundance of youngsters was Anish, although at 6ft tall he dwarfed all of the St Albans players in height. He played some nice strokes for a promising and crucial 11 runs including a wonderfully executed slog sweep that his father would struggle to play. Anish was joined at the crease by Vasa who used his run scoring feats of last year to hit a quick fire 25, some lower order hitting had taken Priory just beyond the 200 run figure. With very few demons in the pitch however this was only just above a par score for Priory, the bowlers had a job to do
Sabs was unlucky to be caught and bowled as probably the only difficult catch taken in the entire innings, he did however make up for it by providing a delicious tea (courtesy of Mrs Sabs) as Priory were well stocked before taking the field to defend a good if not match winning total
Tinkering with the bowling is much less likely than the batting for Priory’s skipper Sandeep and what you can certainly put your house on is Priory’s big allrounder H taking the new ball. I dread to think of the moment the skipper will tell him that he is on first change, the ball will literally be grabbed from his hands
Opening up with the new ball alongside H was Priory’s Mr reliable with the ball Junior. Pace and aggression from one end backed up tight line and length with movement at the other. It proved a strong combination as St Albans plummeted to 36-4 in the first 10 overs, both opening bowlers sharing the wickets. I will divulge on the wicket of the opener P Pey who was looking to be aggressive from ball one, after some rough treatment in the first over H settled on a line in his second and third. He then showed he has brain as well as brawn by bowling a couple a quick short balls. This had the batsmen on the back foot and the third ball of the over H bowled a full quick delivery which the batsmen expecting a short ball played back too and was castled
Junior finished an immaculate spell of 7 overs for just 19 runs picking up 2 crucial wickets and H was sent to boundary to have a long break, one that would see him warming up waiting for the skipper to call him back for his second spell for the remainder of the game
The change bowlers Vasa and Kuni also picked up a wicket each however St Albans had their own answer to Tejas as their number 3 batsmen stood firm hitting at least one boundary every over. Much to the dismay of Kuni and Vasa 5 good balls was followed by 1 slightly short or full which the number 3 latched onto and smashed for a 4 or 6. The issue St Albans had was the lack of support at the other end and with the run rate pulling away even 1 or 2 boundaries per over were not sufficient
Priory had also caught St Albans penchant for fielding calamities however it was the most they caught all afternoon as 6 or 7 chances were spurned. 4 of these were whilst the number 3 was batting and a quick win and jog across to Venue 5 was halted by Priory’s ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by dropping catches. Some of these were half chances and the sight of Sandeep diving full stretch showed that it is not through a lack of application that these chances were being dropped. The skipper certainly had everyone’s homework assignments ready for the next game as I suspect the Lankians will not be as forgiving as St Albans if they are given second chances
As the sixth wicket fell the game started to meander out with only personal statistics as a live goal for the St Albans batsmen as their talented number three continued to accumulate runs. As the game was almost in the bag Priory’s skipper decided it was time to get some overs from various bowling options as his fifth bowler and Sid, Anish and Ganesh shared 9 good overs between them. Anish’s potential with the ball was there to be seen as he bowled an accurate nagging line outside off stump and Ganesh was the surprise package with his Ravi Ashwin like spin bowling. He genuinely turned the ball and in the absence of MP3 Priory may have finally found the back up spinner they crave to compliment and balance their squad
The game petered out as St Albans were looking to bat 35 overs and their number three had one eye on a three figure score. Priory were determined that he would not make it to ensure Tejas remained the game’s top scorer. After 35 overs St Albans reached 147 – 7 so a comfortable afternoon’s work for the men in purple. It all seemed very anti climatic as after last ball victory’s, 1 wicket and a few run margins, flared tempers and match abandonments this was a pleasant victory achieved with relative ease without any controversy. Relief I sense for the watching chairman and committee men of Priory Park CC
You sense however that today was the calm before the emerging storm of next week’s game against perennial rivals Lankians.
Man of the match: The really great players make their own luck. I am a strong believer that a certain quality of player has a presence about them, a presence that makes it difficult for the opposition to knock them off their perch. In this case the sheer weight of runs that Priory’s little master Tejas has made this year and the aura with which he starts each of his innings makes the pressure of getting him out all too difficult for the opposition. What would normally be a routine catch is suddenly a catch that is a game changer and the added pressure that puts on a fielder is intangible, Tejas has built this up for himself, lady luck has just supported him in today’s construction