Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Maddogs Vs Westchester 9/17/06 By Neil Harrison

Do you believe in miracles?

The members of the Mad Dogs CC Super Sunday Extra Occasional XI obviously do. This time last year, a severely under-strength MDCC team came up against a solid Westchester CC squad and chased a score of 230, with a big innings from Tom Haydon and some classic late-night heroics from future State Senator Frank "the Yank" Farricker, as Herman Smith and your correspondent watched from "The Hill" while supping on VB left over from the Ashes game.

But, I digress. This weekend, Westchester came to town once again, and with all the posh players resting deservedly after their fine win over Columbia in the League, it was once again left to Neil Kimberley to cut and paste a team from the back pages of his address book.

The team sheet had a delightfully unpredictable air on Saturday morning - young guys, old guys, and some new guys nobody had ever heard of. Surely, lightning couldn't strike twice, could it??
The day dawned, as most do, with the sun coming up over MDP, revealing yet another damp, slow, pitch and long outfield.

Neil Harrison won the toss and inserted Westchester, mainly due to the fact that only 5 of the oppo had got their arse down to the field and it was already 1pm. With the Dogs lacking their first seven choice wicket-keepers, Parag was elected keeper and he proceeded to do a very tidy job, prompting us to wonder if he might be able to hold a bat. But more of that in due course. WCC began steadily against accurate spells from Aussie guest Ron "Thumper" Wolf and Wian Oosthuizen, who was relieved by Herno Smith. The younger Springbok made the first breakthrough at 33-0 after Wolf had been unlucky to have a difficult chance spilled at mid off (sorry, mate!). Praveen had changed bats twice and inspected the ball in an attempt to understand his inability to time anything, but now he misplayed Herno's trademark in-swinger and was trapped in front for 17.

Anand replaced Wolf and began an excellent spell of bowling, allowing little width and changing speeds well to keep both batsmen under wraps. Sudhir joined Upul in a watchful partnership of 36, finally broken by a lovely slower delivery from Anand, bowling Sudhir neck and crop, a just reward for his best spell for the club. Oscar came on at the pavilion end, and got a bit of tap, although he was unlucky as one of the fielders crept in and had the ball bounce behind him for 4 - a massive no-no - leading to a team lecture from the stand-in skipper. Jimmy, a guest from Yale, took over with some very slow left arm spin and immediately bowled Upul - one of nature's opening bats, whose innings had exhibited all of the sparkle of Chris Tavare at his finest, or John Parnell on an off day. At 96-3, WCC were still going well, and Dushyant came in to cream Jimmy into the dumpster a few times, prompting some impromptu coaching sessions from the skipper, who is familiar with being hit into the dumpster. Anand's fine spell ended and Sukesh then bowled tidily from the top end, removing Prashant courtesy of a nice catch at deep cover by Herno. At 113-4, big tonka Sachin entered, wearing brown pants and he and Dushyant proceeded to treat Jimmy rudely.

Harrison finally entered the attack at 132-4 after 25 overs, and removed Dushyant with a one-handed diving caught and bowled, mere nanometers from the turf, that was eerily reminiscent of John Moore's effort at Hoboken, except that this catch was actually difficult and athletic rather than merely comedic. The batsman thought about questioning the catch but fortunately went on his way and world peace was therefore maintained. Sachin promptly smeared a couple of fours with shots that were really good for a guy in brown pants.

Two less than classic hoiks off a length from Sachin then somehow eluded the mid-wicket fielder, eliciting several muffled expletives from the skipper, who then proceeded to bowl the always vicious and frequently deadly "you're not f***ing going to hit me for four again today, you ******* in brown trousers" quicker ball. This is a close relative of Prasanna's "I didn't make many runs today so I'm going to stuff this ball right up your nose" ball, but of course it is nowhere near as good. Still, Sachin was completely stuffed and 100% plumb LBW, complete with the usual war dance, leaving WCC at 165-6.

Ben and Vikram were then removed by Harrison (caught and bowled) and Smith (nice catch by Ron Wolf in the deep), while yet another massive tonka Saad played some great "shottis" as the innings closed on 196-8 at the end of 35 overs. The Dogs fielding was creditable given the warm weather and the bowling was also good in an "everyone gets a couple of overs and you get an extra one when your mum shows up to watch" kind of way, (or your Dad, in the case of Sukesh..)


WOLF 6-1-24-0,
OOSTHUIZEN 4-0-14-0,
SMITH 4-0-36-2,
ANAND 7-1-16-1,
OSCAR 2-0-22-0,
JIMMY 4-0-35-1,
SUKESH 3-0-12-1,
HARRISON 5-0-35-3.

Gypsies guests and top batters Sukesh and Mahesh got the Dogs off to a breezy start, at about 4 an over, chasing a target of about 6.5/over. But Sukesh departed to a catch for 14 after playing a few lovely shots, and Mahesh followed for 19, victim of the first of three direct hit run outs, as WCC fielded remarkably well throughout. Kimberley made 4, but unluckily perished in similar style (mine actually wan't my fault - ed) to leave the Dogs on 59-3 after 15 overs. Anand played two great shots but like Sukesh popped one up and was gone for 11 at 68-4 off 17 overs. At drinks, the Dogs needed 125 off 17 overs - a tall order.

Harrison joined Parag, and uncharacteristically went for his shots. After being dropped twice, the two settled into a pattern of pushing singles off the accurate spin of Saad and a variety of other bowlers, using three MDCC approved methods - the Palmer (a gorgeous cover drive that gets stuck in the long grass), - the Quirk (a sort of scoopy shovelly chip between the fielders on the leg side), and the Moore (dangle the bat outside the off stump and dobb it down to backward point), together with a new variant, the Harrison (bunt it sideways between wicket-keeper and bowler and dive in at the other end. This all worked remarkably well, and the score ticked on to 107-4 off 25, still 90 needed off 10, but no panic as yet.

At this point it became apparent that Parag is, in fact, useful, as he added a couple of pulls for 4 before launching a signature MDP six over the trees at the top end, and with a bit of tip-and-run, suddenly the runs were coming at about 9 an over!! But the partnership ended at 128-5 as the pair attempted one audacious single too many - Harrison was thrown out for 21 by a whisker as he launched himself desperately into the end zone. One wonders on occasion if he is playing the same game as the rest of usÅ  At this moment an executive decision of masterly proportions by Kimberley pre-empted Aussie star Wolf and brought Aussie-American Jimmy to the wicket. The first ball was crunched through mid-off with authority, as they say, prompting a couple of raised eyebrows back in the pavilion. 65 needed off 6 overs. Do you believe in miracles? Herman Smith was taking no chances and immediately located all the beer that remained in the cooler Sukesh's Dad and Wian's Dad Andries seemed to have the scoreboard updated on every ball.

The sense of anticipation was palpable. At this point, Parag unloaded off Sachin, cracking three excellent fours. 51 needed off 5. The next over from Praveen went for 5, as Jimmy and Parag hit some long singles. 46 off 4 required, with the light fading rapidly. Too much to do, surely? Dushyant returned from the bottom end and Jimmy promptly put him over the cage for 6 with a stroke of considerable power, and some solid umpiring by Neil K helped move the board as the bowler produced three wides and a no-ball, all totally legit guv'nor, same for both sides and no whingeing please -14 off the over! The watching Dogs smelled an upset, as Herman guzzled yet another defenseless tinnie as the pile of beverage carcasses behind him grew steadily. 32 off 3 now, with Parag hitting selectively and surely now seeing the ball as big as the harvest moon behind the church. (I made that up, but it is rather atmospheric).

Praveen's next over produced a splendid 4 from Jimmy and a massive 6 from Parag over the bowler's head. Classic hitting. Only 19 required now off 2 overs, surely??

But Dushyant's next over was solid, clamping the batsmen to three runs and a bye. One over, 15 to win, well, close but no cigar, right? Praveen's off spin provided the last over, first ball - amazingly - a dot ball, then a single by Parag. 14 off 4 balls, then Jimmy creamed a 2 and a 4, 8 from 2 balls. A single left MDCC needing 6 to tie and 7 to win off the last ball. Perhaps a series of wides, or overthrows might save the game? Surely not. For some odd reason that he will never understand, Praveen grooved one right down Main Street, that Parag hit straight over mid-on for a massive six. Game tied!! Pandemonium.!! Parag finished with a magnificent 73 not out, and Jimmy with 28 not out, for an unbroken stand of 68 off 43 balls. Unf***ing believable.

I looked around for a beer, but Herman and Andries had drunk each and every one of them. We stuffed the mat in the hole, and vanished into the darkness - and no-one slept a wink that night, reliving every ball, every catch, every shot.

Do you believe in miracles??


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