Start as you mean to go on. Build momentum, a statement of intent, a message to our rivals.
Priory achieved all of these ideals on what was a momentous day in the club’s great history
It was a glorious summer’s afternoon, set fair for a great day’s cricket as Priory’s march into unchartered league territory began in due course
Last minute team changes including players, batting order and indeed captain did not fluster Priory’s newly appointed Vice Captain Vijay Jani. He was appointed to ensure continuity, authority and help bring a balance to the assembled stars of Priory
A quick check of the rules, a deep conversation with the umpire and finally the toss, the game everyone was waiting for was underway. A good toss to lose as Priory were put into bat in an alien format, a maximum of 55 overs or in what could otherwise be termed as a one innings test match
The new format certainly seemed alien to Priory’s champion batsman Tejas Thakkar. The little master continued his mastery from his century the previous week as he attacked the Burhani bowlers from the first over. The bowling was of much better quality and pace than what was offered up by MTSCC however Tejas thrived on this, executing his trademark leg side flicks and cover drives that left even the veteran umpire speechless
Burhani were indeed a strong outfit in the field as their disciplined bowling and professional ground fielding showed Priory the standards they were to expect in the league format. Tejas opening partner Gaurav respected the opposition’s strength and played against his normal attacking instincts to make a composed 16 runs. He demonstrated maturity in shot selection that has perhaps been lacking in the past for a man blessed with such natural talent
Playing against instincts was to become a theme of Priory’s innings as after Tejas was dismissed following some luscious strokeplay for 22 the batsmen knuckled down to some old fashioned hard graft. The test season is upon us and Priory’s batsmen had clearly watched more of the test match than the IPL as Abhi, Vijay and Rajiv stabilised the innings. The runs were not flowing however on another difficult Harrow Rec pitch 10 runs seemed like 40, anyone scoring above 20 felt like a half century
Burhani possessed an attacking weapon in their first change bowler. He bowled aggressively and with no shortage of skill to keep the runs down and take wickets. We are very much accustomed to Tejas demoralising the oppositions best bowlers however we were in for a pleasant surprise when Rajiv approached the crease. He played two of the most technically adept cover drives you could wish to see off a fast bowler, balance, footwork and timing all clearly honed during the winter nets
Wickets continued to fall as Burhani capitalised on a pitch offering movement and a great deal of uneven bounce. Priory’s tail needed to wag and with plenty of overs left the team illustrated two traits that will stand them in good stead for the duration of the league, grit and determination.
The lower order batsmen did not give in, withstood the pace barrage in a courageous spirit that is often termed the Priory Way. Junior, Humayoun and Shakeel hung on and their defensive displays allowed Rama to smash the frustrated Burhani bowlers at the other end
Rama’s quickfire 25 runs were crucial in the final outcome of the game. It gave Priory confidence and momentum, Burhani who had assumed they would be chasing a low total were left red faced, as red as some of the bruises later displayed on the brave Shakeel’s chest
There was a moment at the end of Priory’s innings that may have gone unnoticed in the analysis. Kuni strode in at number 11 and nonchalantly flicked a quick ball into the leg side for a single. It was a sign of things to come…
Defending 143 was always going to be difficult, however buoyed by a difficult wicket and knowledge of Burhani’s collapse the previous week Vijay used this as an anecdote in his inspiring speech to his men before the went out onto the field. Little did the players know that when they watched Kuni eating his paneer roll at the interval they were watching a man about to bowl the spell of his career.
Kuni and Humayoun opened the bowling for Priory. The skipper learnt quickly from his observations of the opposition and cleverly placed his fielders with an in out field on the leg side. The protection received for anything short of a length seemed to have buoyed Kuni as he charged in with confidence and gusto. This was a day for bowling an attacking length, simple line and length bowling would not work with so many overs to chase the runs, Priory needed wickets
Kuni has recently stopped measuring his run up with a string and this to me suggested he was comfortable with his pace, action and most importantly his approach to the crease. There was no hesitancy; it all looked smooth as he released unplayable delivery after unplayable delivery. Priory sprung into life as a ball that moved away from the right hander was pounced upon by Rama full of confidence after his lower order runs. There was a sense of anticipation amongst the fielders; it was as if we knew we were about to witness something special
Humayoun did not want to be left out of the action, he bowled with pace, hostility and accuracy from down the hill. His accurate length tested the patience of Burhani who were clearly not blessed in this area. As they attempted to attack his bowling they lost wickets at will with Humayoun moving the ball away prodigiously from the right hander and into the left hander. One such delivery bowled their number 5 round his legs, much to his own astonishment
Kuni continued his assault, bowling flat out and refusing to be taken off. The beauty of this longer form of the game is a bowler and batsmen can truly capitalise on their good form. Unlimited overs meant no such worry for Vijay as long as Kuni could maintain his rhythm. He certainly mixed it up, catches in the slips, at gully, clean bowled and an excellent caught and bowled meant no matter how the batsmen tried to play him Kuni had an answer
It is easy not to dwell so much on the missed catches during such an epic performance however the opening bowlers could have had even more impressive figures had these been taken but they were quickly forgotten about with excellent catches from Rama and Gaurav. Kuni decided to take matters into his own catching hands with a good reaction catch from his bowling. It was very impressive to see that after every disappointment be it a boundary or dropped catch Priory responded with a wicket. Much like the disciplined batting Priory just knuckled down and got on with it
It should have been a lesson for Burhani Guards as after losing their 4th wicket they seemed to have given up and decided to flay their arms rather than accumulate. They were intent on hoping that Priory had some easy and cheap offerings. There were no buy one get one free’s from Priory as the opening bowlers that Burhani hoped were Aldi and Lidl were indeed Waitrose and M&S, no freebies and full of quality
As Kuni snatched his fifer he danced away and I am sure I saw something that would rival the ‘champion dance’ in the ‘Kuni dance’. His celebrations were as emphatic as those from the Caribbean Islands although Kuni’s rhythm on the bowling crease was much better than his rhythm on the dance floor!
After 15 overs of pace the captain decided to conjure up some more magic by bringing on some spin. A good move to increase the over rate and give the fast bowlers a deserved break after such wonderful spells. Rama simply picked up where Humayoun and Kuni had left off and 5 balls later with two wickets to his name he had finished off a game of many many triumphs for Priory Park CC.
The final wicket sparked wild celebrations amongst the Priory faithful. You could see how much the first ever league victory meant to the team and everyone associated to the club, this was the culmination of weeks of practice and years of progression. After the formalities were completed the party continued on into the night in what the club hope to be the first of many celebratory victories in the quest for league glory