Batting: Nitin 49 Not out, Mo Ali 27, Hambo 12
Bowling: Dave 5/33, Hamayoun 3/11, Vasa 2/19
The Times described it as more than a game
The Mail on Sunday said a Billion people would be glued to their television sets
The Telegraph said the result of the game would change player’s lives forever
Of course this was not India v Pakistan but the off the field soap opera style drama that had ensued in pre-season gave this match the same significance for a bunch of Saturday league cricketers desperate for a positive result. A grudge match…
The controversy was almost inevitable but it was not inevitable that it would start before the game even commenced. Kerala did not receive the memo of having to provide an umpire so after much debate diplomatic Dave agreed to allow one of their players to umpire for an hour before another individual arrived rather than have Kerala forsake 4 penalty points. A generous offer from Priory’s captain but it was generosity that would soon be forgotten.
Kerala’s umpire arrived 3 hours into the game (43rd over to be precise) and it began the first of several hotly contested decisions in the game.
To the Cricket itself and what a game we had in store for us as a fired up Priory side tore through the Kerala line up with some of the most disciplined and attacking bowling seen in the league.
There has not been many times this season where Dave has had the luxury of being able to open with H and Hama with the new ball, not to mention a string a ready-made options to follow in the form of Mo, Vasa, Dave, Junior and Sabs. A potent relentless attack that was ready to deliver
Hama bowling up the hill generated pace, bounce and movement off the pitch. A theme throughout Priory’s fielding display was the clever and subtle field placings and by each individual bowler and captain Dave who is now clearly growing into his role from both a tactical and leadership perspective. Hama was most notable as he moved his field around identifying each batsmen’s weakness and exploiting it beautifully.
Priory’s old guard who had made the transfer to Kerala had previously been very vocal about noting down dot balls and placing a huge emphasis on run rate. This mantra seemed to have been jettisoned as Kerala crawled along at 2 runs per through most of their innings. The bowling pressure generated by H at the other end gave Hama some of his wickets, it emphasised the fact that bowling partnerships are just as important as batting partnerships.
3 wickets down with very few runs on the board and Kerala started to feel the pressure. Ganesh was playing nicely at one end as he attempted to hold a derailed innings together but even he felt the pressure of dot balls however luck was on his side as he was repeatedly dropped on his way to a measured half century. To his credit he weathered the storm of Priory’s attack and smartly flicked, cut and nudged his way to the highest score in a low scoring game.
Dharmesh provided some resistance at the other end before he too perished as Dave simply would not allow him to free his arms which were desperate for a release. A wise choice had been made to by Dave to bowl down the hill and allow the quicks to rotate from the more amicable up hill route which was providing bounce and movement. His zip off the pitch and accuracy suited the end and he made use of it by picking up wickets at regular intervals.
As each ex Priory batsmen arrived a sub plot within the game was formed. Priory’s ex skipper Sandeep arrived at the crease at a lowly number six, conscious perhaps of the pressure of the game and hoping that he could capitalise on Priory’s change bowlers. His innings was a mixture of confusion and anxiety as he did not know whether to attack and risk exposing the tail or defend and further worsen an already low run rate.
Eventually Sandeep perished as Dave induced a leading edge beating the batsmen in flight. The one individual to whom the Priory catching disease has missed is Sabs and luckily the ball landed to what can only be described as his large bucket like hands. To Priory’s credit the celebrations were professional and not overt, the team realised there was a job to do and the focus remained. The concentration in all 11 eyes was palpable.
At the other end Vasa was bowling with pace and accuracy and complimented Dave’s control as Priory continued to seize the initiative. Vasa added to his list of dropped catches off his bowling as Ganesh and Tejas were felled. The drop of Tejas could have been crucial, a game changing moment. The Kerala skipper had placed himself perhaps strategically at number 8 and with Priory’s knowledge of how he bats the field was placed perfectly to frustrate a player who loves to be aggressive.
Not fazed by the dropped catch Vasa trapped Tejas plumb with a full leg stump Yorker. For a man who regularly smashed him in the nets this wicket was all the more sweet and the celebration was one of relief at the dismissal of Tejas and the fact that a further 5 overs of him batting could have taken Kerala close to 150. Vasa was inspired by hearing Tejas tell the umpire that he could not be given out to a left armer as the ball would be pitching outside leg stump. He was clearly wrong!
Once Tejas fell there was not much further resistance as Ganesh seemed to be playing a lone hand in reaching his calculated but charmed half century. Dave continued his immaculate spell and wrapped up the tail with disdain. As the final wicket fell Priory rejoiced, a proud captain gathered his troops together in the middle of the pitch and whilst praise was poured over the team like a cold pint of Cobra on a hot summers day he emphasised the need to focus and not be complacent.
There was a brief period of serenity as H served probably the best tea in the land on the day that would have been the envy of teams nationwide. Priory’s players were quieter than usual as they tucked into the delicious biriyani and reflected upon what they had just delivered on the field
Dave went with a tried and tested duo to open Priory’s innings, Hambo and Sabs. Knowing it would be competitive and with a pitch playing more difficultly than thought a steady and positive start was needed. The roar could be heard in Venue 5 when Hambo cracked his first delivery through midwicket for four. He looked in great touch but Sabs unfortunately perished to Dharmesh slingly skiddy seamers. A bowler very much known in Priory quarters and he justified his reputation of being unpredictable by bowling searing Yorkers followed by short balls pitched outside off stump.
Hambo followed shortly after and within no time Abhi found himself at the crease with Priory’s Mr Dependable, Nitin. Piyush was getting considerable carry at one end and Kerala persisted with a pumped up Dharmesh at the other. Abhi was undone by a good length ball that moved slight away from his body as he fended off to Sandeep. The chatter was loud, the tension was high and the heat was like a pressure cooker.
Vijay joined Nitin at the crease and Priory were hoping for him to perform like his idol Boycott whilst Nitin scored the runs at the other end. Luck was not on his side as he called for a second run to Tejas. Perhaps not knowing where the ball had gone too he called for the second as Tejas unleashed a flat throw which was accurately gathered and stumped by Dharmesh. Panic ensued in the Priory ranks as a buoyant Kerala scented victory.
Surely captain Dave would save Priory yet again and after his 5 wicket haul it seemed to be his day. Just as he and Nitin got going and after a beautifully laced cover drive Dave perished to Piyush and Priory slumped to a slippery 27-5 as Mo Ali joined Nitin at the crease.
These two are Priory stalwarts, they understand what it means to play for the club, play for the badge and the culture. Mo was returning after a time away from the club and he impressed several onlookers with his controlled bowling, very little however was known about what he could do with the willow in his hand.
Someone needed to stay with Nitin and luckily for Priory, Mo was the man. Nitin looked like he was playing a different game of cricket to everyone else. Whilst every other batsmen batted like they were playing at an overcast Headingley in May against a swinging ball, Nitin made it look like a summers day in Mumbai on a pitch as flat as a pancake!
He punished the bad deliveries to the boundary and runs were accumulated off good balls much to the infuriation of Kerala.
Whilst Nitin was calmness personified the fireworks were happening at the other end as Mo wreaked havoc against Kerala’s change bowlers. Tejas had brought himself onto bowl but could not offer any penetration, Dharmesh playing his first game of the season was not quite as effective in his second spell. There were moments of magic, Mo smashing the ball to the square leg boundary, pumping his fists and pointing to the boundary.
The runs were now flowing in a potential match winning partnership. There had not been any further controversy in the game since the umpire debacle and it was almost inevitable that an umpiring decision would become a turning point in the game and a topic for intense discussion.
Mo it seemed had edged a ball to one of the close in fielders and was given out by the oppositions umpire. Mo was adamant the ball had hit the ground first and was backed up by our under pressure square leg umpire Kuni. Kerala’s captain echoed the opinion and too his credit he called the batsmen back. Common sense and sportsmanship it seemed had prevailed.
There was a sense that both teams needed to be vigilant to avoid conflict and Kuni was very generous in ensuring wides were not given and generally umpired impeccably throughout the game.
One moment however defined the game, the character of the opposition and the frailty of playing a league game without a neutral umpire. With the game as good as won for Priory Mo had a very close LBW call given not out by Kuni. Now we are all aware that in games where there are no neutral umpires the consensus has always been that the batting team’s umpire will err on the side of caution and give the batsmen not out. It is almost an unwritten rule that all members of each playing XI would have experienced at some point in their cricketing careers.
Kerala were incensed at the decision, the first real decision that had gone against them and perhaps with the game already gone their wicket keeper Sandeep decided to walk off the pitch.
Emotions can run high and often spiral out of control however it is important the spirit of the game is maintained and to the credit of Kerala’s players the rest of the team stood their ground and did not follow off the pitch. They too would have been incensed but understood the wider implications.
I go back to the pre-season drama to try and understand the players frustration and I can begin to understand the pressure he would have been under to perform and the emotion that resulted from what was perceived as a bad decision.
Luckily there were some experienced heads on both sides and the game was completed to a close, despite Mo getting out for a wonderful 27 Hama joined Nitin at the crease and displayed a calmness and maturity that complimented his aggression as a fast bowler, a perfect combination.
The final runs were completed without too many issues and as the final winning runs were hit you could hear David Lloyd shout ‘start the car’. The game was over, Priory had won and you just knew that with social secretary H at the fore a party would soon be started.
Nitin finished on an agonising 49 not out but did not care, this was about the team, about Priory and winning not just a crucial game of cricket but a mental battle of attrition. I am convinced that the two previous games prepared Priory for this dogfight and ultimately PPCC prevailed.
I don’t want to focus on some of the actions at the end of the game but would rather focus on the victory and the feeling of camaraderie that followed the win. H had made some welcome refreshments (with some added juice) and at the victory parade at V5 our excellent Chairman Rajiv captured the moment with a huge bottle of champagne to toast one of the most joyous days in recent Priory history