It was a fine day – even the traffic wasn’t too bad. The pitch, as featured in this month's Wisden Cricketer, was perfect to behold. As the sun headed toward the yard arm Dick Slaney appeared armed with the finest steak and snags, and a warm smile that suggested that Friday night was not yet over. The game was on…..even with nineteen players one of whom was lost in traffic.
After much theatre in the middle, Indies batted, and started well. Matt was merciless on anything short from an unusually hospitable Dede (1-23) and Richard started smoothly as though he intended to bat all day, until his innings was rudely terminated by Tim. Marty (who really did bat all day once) then fell cheaply to Lawrence (2-16), but after 8 overs the Indies had a sound platform at 59/2, with Matt having retired on 35*, after timing a maximum to perfection.
Cue James Waite, who suddenly posed as much threat as Joel Garner armed with cruise missiles, if only in East Indian minds. Suddenly Piers and Dave were gone and the Indies were tottering. Piers’ wicket – eventually out stumped was a great piece of work by Houlding, who let only one bye all day. With the damage done James (2-16) relieved himself and passed the ball to Mike Jones.
Baldy pressed on gallantly without much in the way of long term support. Lawrence picked off Danny and Jonesy (1-21) soon had the ebullient and rehydrated Slaney out to another fine stumping in the 15th over as the Indies were crumbling at 102-6. Your correspondent thus found himself in the middle with Baldy rather sooner than expected.
Baldy retired on 30* and Matt returned to join Will. The next few overs proved fruitful and the pair kept the score moving quickly, but with the score in the 18th over, Phil Houlding tore out Matt (for a powerful 50) and Baldy (32) to leave the Indies all out for 133, or were they?
Cleverly disguised as Anthony Cottan, who was still lost somewhere in the Ciawi traffic, Dave rejoined Will and the last pair eschewed risks as they tried to eke out a few more runs. Accurate bowling from Tim and Phil gave little opportunity but the pair got the score up close to 150 in the final over before Dave took Dede on and perished for 7 in the cause, leaving Will unbeaten on 20. Still 147 looked twenty runs short of par.
Much of the Kiwi bowling was excellent and Phil 3-2-6-2 and Tim 4-2-13-1 exploited the pitch particularly well and controlled the game at the death. The high class bowling and keeping meant few wides and just a bye as X. Tras (9) failed in East Indies colours for the first time.
James and Tim opened very brightly against Marty, who was unlucky all day and Richard, who struggled to find his usual line. Will almost managed to catch James in his “midriff” and as his agony/laughter subsided turned to Anthony (1-19), the real version having arrived heroically moments after his impersonator had been dismissed. Anthony responded immediately by snaring the Kiwi skipper for a well-constructed 10.
Nonetheless at 61/1 after 7 overs the Kiwis were in control. A brilliant catch on the fence by Matt off Baldy removed Tim (26) and a second wicket in the over as Baldy castled Lawrence with a well-disguised faster ball for 13 gave the Indies a real sniff. But the later Kiwi batsmen all contributed something and the infamous Xavier Tras turned in a good performance (24!) as Indies gave away too many wides and byes.
Piers bowled Dede with a beauty for 24 and Matt (1-30) caught the return catch of the season to send the incendiary Deevs back, and hopes were still alive as as Will gave himself a bowl with the last throw of the dice. Marty had a huge lbw shout turned down and Will (1-11) added to his bruises as he tried to catch Phil with his shin; he eventually had the sense to allow a skier from Phil to be caught by Marty for an excellent 26.
With the top Kiwi order finally gone the more optimistic East Indians sensed a final last opportunity for heroics (how nice those extra twenty runs have been?) but it was all far too late and Phillip (13*) and Tony saw the Kiwis home with three wickets and five overs in hand.
Connoisseurs of fine batting will not be especially devastated to hear that Jonesy did not bat and nor did Justin, who fielded well in his first ever game, get the chance to commence his batting career. Baldy was the pick of the Indies bowlers with 2-17 off 3 overs of left arm spin.
After the game the skippers thanked everyone for coming and for Baldy for prearing the ground. Matthew Hoare was presented with the “Schick close shave moment of the match” award. Dick Slaney went back to his wonderful steaks and snags and I’m relieved and proud to say he didn’t drop any of them..