This Summer football very nearly came home. For Priory’s cricketers the balmy day of Saturday 21st July will go down as the day cricket came home.
Passion, confidence, pride and no amount of skill returned to Priory’s players, the captain, coach and most importantly the great club itself.
In the aftermath of what was probably one of the greatest games played in PPCC history you almost have to take a deep breath and step back to actually reflect on just how epic a win this was.
* Chasing 236!
* Winning with 1 wicket in hand
* Winning with 1 ball to spare.
* Winning runs scored at 8:10pm with every player having given 110%.
* Winning at what has now become our greatest rival’s home ground.
I now know what Arsenal’s players must have felt like when they won the league at White Hart Lane.
Down to the game itself for which eulogising about will be a greater challenge for me than actually playing in it. We lost the toss and in 30 degree heat were sent out to field on what can only be described as a dry Colombo like dustbowl. A little bit in it for the bowlers early on but if you get set as a batsmen a feast of runs were there for the taking.
We opened up with our tried and tested combination of Hama and Dave. Pace and fury at one end, line and metronomic length at the other.
It was length that was crucial to Dave’s bowling as he ousted Tej Jnr for a duck.
An intriguing passage of play followed and portrayed the ebb and flow of the entire game. With an early wicket gone Priory had their tail up and WL had to consolidate. Their number 3 blocked at Dave’s end whilst Tejas went on the charge against Hama. This was a 50/50 contest with both teams battling away to take the initiative away from the other. WL seemed to be doing an intelligent job of it as they doggedly took the score to 44-1 after 11 overs, seeing off 6 very quick overs from Hama.
Dave eventually broke the shackles with what only be described as a half volley on leg stump that the batsmen flicked to short square leg. The excellent Sachin took a splendid catch that got the team going. The skipper will tell us all night that he meant that delivery!
With so much bowling and variety at his disposal Dave made the first of several excellent decisions on the field (taking into account the conditions and contest I thought this was his best captaincy display). The heat meant the fast bowlers needed shorter spells and Dave brought on Rohan for his Priory debut.
Anyone thinking he might be nervous or might let the occasion get to him were quickly proven wrong as he charged in with beautiful rhythm and guile. A sight that will hopefully grace many PPCC games to come was Rohan’s aggressive follow through. There were no words just a glance at the batsmen which said ‘I am in charge’ and you are not good enough to be on the same pitch as me. I believe no words ignite the fear in the batsmen more than verbal banter and Rohan’s non verbal follow through reminded me of the great Curtly Ambrose who inspired fear into every batsmen with no words, just a wide eyed follow through.
Ball after ball beat the bat with each delivery thudding into Maurice’s gloves. The talismanic Rohan eventually got the wicket he deserved clean bowling their number 4 who like all his predecessors offered stubborn resistance but little else. 73-3 after 19 hostile and competitive overs, the game was finely balanced but the next mini chapter belonged to WL and their attacking but often fortunate opening batsmen Tejas.
Priory bowlers will have known all of his strengths and indeed many of his weaknesses. Today was Tejas day as he rode his luck when the bowlers got it right and when the ball was in his arc he let fly with his array of leg slide flicks and slogs over the long on and mid wicket boundary. Anything short of a length was pulled dismissively for four.
At 140 off for 3 with Tejas in full flow he mistimed one of his trademark flicks to the leg side boundary. With perhaps the pressure of the man on strike and the crucial period of the game Vasa inextricably dropped it.
Only Priory’s spirit and the brand of cricket that we play can turn what could have been such a shot in the arm into a positive. Even Rohan who had been steaming in and putting his heart and soul into probably one of the quickest spells seen had kind words to say. In matches gone by Priory have become serial catch droppers and it has in the past got everyone’s heads down. Today not only did the indomitable spirit continue but after that drop every catch thereafter was snapped up in anger.
The first turning point mid innings was the introduction of spin into the attack. Sachin was unlucky as he encountered Tejas in full flight and his confidence was undone by his first over. However when he did land them as he intended the batsmen were totally baffled. The youngest member of Priory’s playing squad has raw natural talent, as his confidence grows I can see him bamboozling batsmen for years to come. Where he was unlucky with the ball he truly shone in the field and his and the rest of Priory’s ground fielding was exceptional which meant WL could never really take the game completely away.
Maurice (AKA Lever) benefitted as the wily jovial spinner brought out his full box of tricks (on the pitch as well as off it) and got the crucial wickets of Nishant who looked like one of their more accomplished players followed by what proved to be the decisive wicket of Tejas. Tejas had rode his luck but had managed to stroke his way to 99, if he had continued batting for another 10 overs then WL could have pushed their score closer to 300 and taken the game beyond Priory’s reach. Maurice coaxed Tej onto the back foot and to the home umpires credit he gave him out with the ball hitting him on the back foot in front of the stumps. The young at heart Guyanese has a bit of Shane Warne about him insofar that his personality alone can get him wickets.
Priory were slowly clawing the game back through sheer belief and effort. The wickets brought former PPCC captain Sandeep to the crease. He has always wanted to succeed against Priory more than anything else and perhaps it was his eagerness to dominate the bowling that led to his ultimate downfall. Vasa was brought on to redeem himself for the earlier dropped catch and bowled 3 tidy overs that included to his delight the much desired wicket of Sandeep.
The by play was that after several dot balls Sandeep stepped out and drove a full pitched ball down the ground for four. Not to be outdone Vasa decided to change the angle and dropped his length slightly with the next ball, predicting that Sandeep would want to play a similar shot. He mistimed his drive and the ball was taken quite brilliantly by Hama. With that catch Hama’s game has now truly become multi-faceted, we all know about his supreme ability as a front line bowler but he has now added athletic fielding and accomplished stroke play consistently into his game.
The joyous celebrations at the fall of Sandeep’s wicket were short lived as WL continued to eke out 20 run partnerships with their lower order. The contest was not over and immediately after the fall of Sandeep’s wicket captain marvel Dave brought back his big guns Hama, Ali and Rohan to polish off the tail. Second spells in the debilitating heat were tough but Priory’s group of lively quicks continued to give it their all inspired by the efforts of the fielders. Sid Pandya (who often claims he is better than his namesake Hardik) moved in quickly to take a good running catch off Ali. Some observers said that he chased that ball down as quickly as he would chase the waiter for a portion of paneer. Ali deserved that wicket having been the only bowler to really contain Tejas leg size run fest.
WL continued to bat out the overs, the run rate had noticeably dipped but there strategy was clear, keep Priory out for 55 overs which would generate if nothing else a psychological and physical advantage. Captain Dave loves bowling to the tail, his wicket to wicket, length and pace variations are a minefield for lower order batsmen who generally do not have the skill to play straight, it also bolsters Dave’s statistic’s and he once again delivered the final blow to take the last wicket.
52.4 overs of hot, humid, high tension action ended with WL scoring 235 all out. There was an underlying feeling however that Priory had the momentum…
As the second half of this Mahabarat epic commenced WL definitely had the better of the conditions. The heat had relented, the skies were a little overcast and the pitch was slightly deteriorating. Runs on the board always creates pressure and it was whether Priory’s new look batting line up could handle the pressure of not only the match situation but of the occasion itself.
Another Dave masterstroke was to open the batting with Hama and Chibbs. The opposition were not expecting this and it clearly put their opening bowlers off their lines as they gave away several wides which propelled Priory’s score to 23-0 off 5 overs. Whilst not quite the calypso start that modern teams now frequently make it was a start and I believe it gave the rest of the batsmen confidence. Despite Hama falling early he had done his job. It was to become symbolic of the entire innings, every batsmen had a different role to play and each completed it to the best of their ability.
Priory’s gifted young gun Sachin joined the fray at number 3. To bat that high in a game of such magnitude shows just how much he backs his own ability as a cricketer, it was wonderful to see Priory give confidence to the youngster and these experiences will benefit him for years to come.
Whilst he didn’t make many runs he stayed with Chibbs and they put together another 20 run partnership against some very accurate bowling from Piysush.
He was by far their best bowler and bowled tirelessly throughout the innings testing every Priory batsmen’s technique and mettle.
There simply cannot be a game between these two teams without some controversy. I am almost disappointed at having to put such farcical nonsense into a match report about a wonderful game of cricket however I believe it had an impact on the game and I believe if anything WL’s tactic of excessive appealing backfired on them as it inspired the Priory batsmen waiting to come out.
Sach had edged a moving ball from Piyush to the keeper and after a moment’s haste he began to walk demonstrating exemplary sporting qualities that all his seniors on the day can learn from. Not to be outdone
unfortunately WL demonstrated the opposite, demanding that Priory’s resolute and calm umpire Kuni (A.K.A Walsh) raise his finger and give him out. After lots of gesticulating and jumping up and down Kuni calmly told the opposition that the batsmen had walked and nothing further was needed.
After such a distasteful episode it was great to see Priory debutant Rohan striding out the crease with supreme confidence. Captain Dave had excitedly told us that his latest recruit was not only an opening bowler but a genuine number 4. We waited with abated breath…
Chibbs was going well at the other end with his usual array of strokes although for once we did not see too much pre-meditated. Chibbs played the ball and game on merit realising the need to keep his wicket intact and his famous forays down the track which often prove fruitful were put back into his locker until he was given out LBW with the ball pitching on leg and moving even further down the leg side. A difficult decision but one Priory felt aggrieved with nonetheless.
WL celebrated Chibbs wicket like it was the end of the game. They knew just how critical he is as the mainstay in Priory’s batting line up. What they did not bank on was what to come next.
Priory’s number 5, the marauding Maurice who has the nonchalant laid back charisma of a man from the Caribbean but with the batting talent to back it up. What we witnessed next was the point in the game where the pendulum swung back towards Priory.
A swashbuckling 63 run partnership in a mere 9 overs at an exceptional run rate of 7 an over. Even a former PPCC captain who was ‘infamous’ for his focus on run rates would have been satisfied with this. Maurice has virtually every stroke in the book and plays his drives, cuts and pulls with an air of West Indian flamboyance. His no fear cricket started to give Rohan the confidence as he himself embarked on what might be the innings of his life.
WL may have considered themselves unlucky as Rohan was dropped a few times through the duration of his monumental innings however in Cricket as in any sport you make your own luck.
Rohan buried the poor deliveries and often stroked good balls through the covers for singles. He kept their outer ring fielders on the offside very busy indeed. Rohan played some of his more extravagant drivers very straight with a still head and a checked follow through to ensure he controlled the shot. The amount of times these checked drivers dissected the mid-on and mid-off fielders was incredible. Most spectators could see from the boundary that all WL had to do was position their fielders straighter to take the catch however the ‘infamous’ cricket brains of some of the WL senior leadership team could not quite work this out.
If Christmas presents are ever to be exchanged between these two fierce rivals then perhaps Dave could lend his copy of ‘the art of captaincy’ by Mike Brearley to the WL leadership.
50-3 after 12 became 113-4 in 21 overs after Maurice had departed for a quick fire 28. The game had ebbed and flowed again and at the fall of Maurice WL would have thought they were in with a chance however I did notice a cursory glance by the WL skipper at the batting still to come. Sid/Ali/Sabs/Dave/Hambo/Vasa, a bottom six that in any other game could easily have been a top six. With Rohan powering away with a glint in his eye which said he was going to be there until the end the rest of the batting only needed to provide a supporting cast to what was becoming the main attraction.
Sid entered at 6 and after playing a couple of nicely timed drives was undone by one of Tejas skiddy deliveries. I haven’t spoken at length about the WL’s bowling, Piyush was at his accurate and dangerous best, we all know what to expect from Tejas and WL seemed to have unearthed a bowler that can only be described as a mix between Murali, Shoaib Akthar, Sunil Narine and Mohammed Hafeez. I will let your cricketing knowledge decipher what I am referring to!
With Sid gone at 124-5 WL the bookies would have probably made WL odds on favourites.
In at 7 was PPCC all-rounder Ali who realised that he hasn’t been in the best of form with the bat so adapted his usual shot making style to a more methodical approach. His 8 runs formed part of the bigger picture and
a 40 run partnership with Rohan who continued to smash every WL bowler around the park. They took Priory past the 160 mark with the game once again back on an even keel, finely balanced like an Olympic gymnast walking across their balancing beam.
Off the field it was getting just as hot, the beer was flowing in the stands and it seemed that some of WL’s players could not take the banter being directed at them from the crowd. It was not quite the Western Terrace at Headingley or bay 28 at the MCG but it did feel like a home game for PPCC as several die hard members came along to support the team.
The next move, was it a masterstroke on the vice captain’s behalf or a stroke of luck, either way it gave the team great confidence to see regular opener Sabs enter the heat of the battle at number 8. He was carrying an injury but prior to his brief sabbatical he had been in the runs and just needed to carry that momentum with him in what would be yet another critical partnership that would define the outcome of this riveting game. Sabs had an immediate impact, off the mark with a trademark square cut to the boundary he immediately exuded confidence and had WL on the back foot. 35 runs were blasted in just over 5 overs between Rohan and Sabs as the WL bowlers had no answer to the attacking approach being undertaken by both Priory batsmen. Rohan was scoring at such a rate that new PPCC scorer Hama (is there anything that he can’t do!) could not keep up.
WL had one last throw of the dice and they knew they could only really turn to Piyush for wickets at one end with Tejas bowling accurately at the other. They bowled 62% of all WL’s overs and perhaps some further variation might have changed the game. Piyush continued to bowl his heart out and took the crucial wicket of Sabs who was looking in great form, which brought Priory’s skipper and reluctant batsmen Dave to the crease. The skipper who had been immense with the ball and a revelation as a captain in the field suddenly felt the tension. Holding in his natural attacking instincts he played the match situation perfectly occupying the crease with Rohan for a further 6 overs and yet another crucial mini 26 run partnership. Dave subsided to another ripper from the impressive Piyush and 221-8 now looked perilous for PPCC.
Tejas was keeping things very tight at the other end and the tactic was clear, keep Rohan off strike and blast away at the other end. The tactic appeared to be working as Hambo was undone by another good ball that moved into Hambo’s middle stump. 229-9, so many outcomes and so many scenarios. If Priory blocked out the next 2 overs we would have gained a winning draw, a wicket for WL would give them the game, 6 runs a very possible tie, 7 runs and the unthinkable…
Vasa arrived at an unfamiliar number 11 however he has had many experiences being there at the end of the game most recently against Burhani Guards in May. Whilst panic was painted all over various faces Vasa knew all he had to do was play for Rohan. The first ball from Piyush was another in ducker which was turned to the leg side for a single. Rohan had 1 more ball to face in the over, WL thinking he would want the strike and tap and run for a quick single brought the field in. Rohan had other ideas knowing a boundary would mean only 2 runs required in the final over laced an extravangant square cut/drive over the point boundary for 4 invaluable runs.
So to the final over of this see saw battle for bragging rights until 2019 and of course 10 crucial points. In sport so many final ball/last set/penalties etc are decided not by skill but by character. It was almost a game of chess, who would blink first.
Vasa facing in his head believed the first two of Tejas ball would be his quicker skiddier ones that he would look to block and wait for the third slower delivery to score off. The prophecy was correct, a block off the first however the block off the second ball went to mid-on and the pressure told as the fielder mis fielded and allowed Vasa and Rohan to scamper a single. Rohan on strike with 2 runs needed to win and 4 balls to spare, surely there was only outcome. Just to add to the drama of this contest Rohan did not score off the next two deliveries as Tejas still gave it his all knowing only he could now prevent his team from falling to defeat. With two deliveries to go Rohan walked down the track and said to his partner that he was going to tap it and run.
Whether this was a deliberate ploy for the fielding side to hear or not we will never know however the 5th ball of the over was slightly over pitched on off stump and ferociously driven over extra cover for the winning boundary.
Rohan’s scoring was not just slog’s and lustful swipes but a combination of power hitting and orthodox batting. His first four scoring shots were boundaries and 3 of his last 4 scoring shots were boundaries. In the middle he only managed 6 boundaries which shows you the intelligence of this innings. Like a boxer he came out firing looking for a quick win, chalked up several point scoring rounds in the middle and when his opponent tired he delivered the knockout blow in the 12th and final round, or in this case the 47th and final over.
Cue pandemonium and wild celebrations. There was the customary arguments and words exchanged at the end of the match with players not able to hold in their emotions any longer. The after party certainly did justice to the win as the squad enjoyed some champagne from our generous chairman, fine dining and some nice ‘scenery’ next to the bar.
To quote Priory’s ‘infamous’ spirit I would like to detail how every player contributed to this win and indeed how it demonstrates that Priory spirit is alive and well
Chibbs: Excellent 20 runs seeing off the new ball
Hama: 12 tireless overs, a well deserved wicket and a wonderful catch
Sachin: Best fielder on the park, incredible catch and promising innings
Rohan: NEED I SAY ANYMORE
Maurice: 28 quick runs and 2 wickets including the big wicket of Tej
Sid: Excellent in the field and a brilliant running diving catch
Ali: Solid all round performance with a wicket in his 9 overs and dogged resistance with the bat
Sabs: Ever dependable in the field and 14 crucial runs in a quick partnership with Rohan
Dave: Captain fantastic, 3 wickets in 12 overs of accurate bowling and crucial lower order runs
Hambo: Excellent keeping on a hot tiring day, invaluable advice to the skipper
Vasa: Crucial wicket of Sandeep and not out to see the game through
Now that’s the INFAMOUS PRIORY WAY!