Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ashes Report – Mad Dogs and other Englishmen v New York Aussies, July 14, 2007 by Neil Harrison

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This year the annual Ashes to Ashes game moved from September to Bastille Day, and the Midsummer Classic lived up to its billing with perhaps the best game ever between the two traditional adversaries. A magnificent game of cricket was enjoyed by both sides

and their supporters, ending in the last over, with all four results being possible as the over began. A high quality match featured classy batting, powerful hitting, accurate bowling and some great catches and run outs.

A beautiful summer’s day welcomed both teams to Mad Dog Park in Greenwich where the news that John Cronin would not be playing elicited expressions of profound regret from the English bowlers. Nevertheless, the Aussies had assembled a powerful side blending experienced cricketers with young athletic players. The English, as usual, featured a blend of the overweight and the under-exercised, and Jonas Wilson.

Drew de Carvalho won the toss by calling “Don” with his Bradman coin and the little man from Bowral elected to bat. Ollie Kinsey and Simon Hill opened with some classy shots off Haseeb Sherriff before Kinsey (5) inexplicably scooped a half-drive off Richard Coates to his erstwhile team-mate Neil Harrison at mid-off, where the skipper accepted the chance in his usual low-key manner. The shy and retiring Darren Nicol then joined Hill at the crease and the pair added runs confidently until an aggressive call resulted in Hill being run out for 19 by a laser throw from James Thornton to Jonas Wilson.

Anthony Hendrie came to the wicket at 36-2 and the biggest partnership of the day ensued between Nicol and Hendrie, with steady accumulation being punctuated by a few classy big shots by Darren off John Moore and Jonas Wilson. These two batted until the 21st over when, with the Aussies in command at 110-2, Hendrie was run out for 36 by a smart throw from Thaker. Jerome Whalen came in but was quickly undone by flight and guile as he holed out to Knight at mid-on off the bowling of Harrison, and then shortly afterwards Nicol top edged one to Goodier off Ash Thaker to leave the Aussies at 119-5 after 26 overs.

The remainder of the Aussie innings owed much to Tim Irwin who came in at number 7 to anchor the effort and produced some terrific shots, including a cheeky step-away and hit to square leg off Harrison that evoked memories of Sir Vivian at his best. The English bowlers meanwhile whittled away his partners, Thaker continuing a fine spell by having Wolf caught smartly by Jonas at square leg for 4, and Harrison trapping Saywel lbw for one. Coundrey was then run out and De Carvalho top edged a skier off Wilson that was caught by Harrison coming in from the deep, ushering in a cameo from Frank the Yank Farricker, who remained 2 not out at the end, with Irwin completing a vastly entertaining 40 not out from 24 balls.

Wilson and Haseeb closed the innings with three excellent overs, conceding only ten runs to leave the Aussies at a respectable but by no means unassailable 173-9 off 35 overs. The English bowling and fielding was tidy and accurate throughout, with a special mention going to Ash Thaker for a superbly accurate spell from the “top end” from which he conceded just one boundary. Only five wides were bowled, two byes conceded by Jonas and Robyn Hounsell, and only one catch and one run out were missed in the innings.

Hasseb Sherriff 5-1-21-0;
Richard Coates 4-1-19-1;
John Moore 7-0-35-0;
Jonas Wilson 6-0-32-1;
Ash Thaker 7-0-24-2;
Neil Harrison 6-0-37-2.

Coates and Neil Kimberley opened for the English and began brightly against steady bowling of Darren Nicoland Simon Hill, who drew first blood at 21 when Kimberley popped one up to Drew who took the dolly catch with enthusiasm to dismiss Neil for 6. Coates and Knight then came together at the wicket for what promised to be a crucial stand for England, but the Aussies struck again as Coates was adjudged out lbw for 21 on the front foot as Darren made a polite enquiry to the official. At 36-2 England were in a little bit of trouble and the Aussies were smelling blood, but Thornton joined Knight and runs accumulated steadily as James hit some “handy” fours until Thornton (14) shoveled one from Ron Wolf round the corner but directly at De Carvalho, who took a sharp catch to the amazement of his delighted team mates. Aussie jubilation was unconfined when the next ball from Ron to Robyn Hounsell was hammered back at the bowler who took a splendid reaction catch to dismiss the crestfallen Robyn, who returned to his adoring fan club on the boundary.

At 64-4, England were again on the ropes, but this England team bats long and deep, and 20 overs remained to score 110 for victory. Plus, we have Jonas - so, no problem! Richard Knight and Wilson then pushed the score along to 99, with Knight stylishly contributing a powerful 4 and 6 off Wolf, before Anthony Hendrie’s slow left arm provided a breakthrough with one that kept low and pinned Knight lbw on the back foot for 30, to leave England now 99 for 5 in the 21st over, and Australia seemingly in the driver’s seat.

Moore joined Wilson and this pair steadied the ship, with Jonas hitting a fine straight 6 off Hendrie, before John went for a heave off Irwin and was caught by Hendrie for 9, with England at 127 for 6 off 27 and the Aussies in control as the run rate edged up to 6 an over. Richard Goodier came to the wicket for his first innings in 5 years, and the run rate slowed, prompting Jonas to drive uppishly at Hendrie only to be dismissed by a sensational diving catch from Irwin at cover for a valuable and composed knock of 35. 133 for 7 from 30 overs, leaving a target of 44 from 5, and Goodier was joined by Harrison, not a bad batsman at #9 in a tight situation, but things were nevertheless looking a bit dire for the English.

The next ball from Hendrie was a full bunger, hit for a massive six over square leg by Goodier, before Harrison smashed his second ball through mid wicket for four. 11 off the over and things looked brighter; 31 off 4 overs now. Simon Hill was recalled to the attack and pinged one in short to Goodier who smashed another huge maximum over square leg, but the next ball was a full length ball that removed his leg stump, to Aussie delight. Thaker, another good batsman, duly arrived and he and Harrison traded singles to leave the score at 153-8; 21 off 3 required.

Darren Nicol came back as the other Aussie “death bowler”, and conceded a wide and a single before being hit over his head for a straight 6 by Harrison. But the Aussies struck again the next ball as an acrobatic diving stop and perfect throw by Kinsey produced a stunning run out of Harrison at the bowler’s end.

163-9 as Haseeb Sherriff came in at number 11. Of course Haseeb is a very very experienced cricketer who has opened the innings on many occasions, and he confidently struck his first ball for two. Hill steamed in, and Ash and Haseeb squeezed out some singles under a lot of Aussie pressure as the crowd looked on with mounting excitement. 169-9 off 34 overs, 5 to win off the last over. Darren’s first ball produced a huge shout from all the Aussies, but the umpire’s finger stayed down, and Ash survived to poke a single from the next ball. 4 runs needed from 4 balls… the next ball was missed by Haseeb as Darren roared in from the “Pavilion” end with the game on the line. 4 from 3.. and the next one was dug in a little bit short of a length, and Haseeb swung almost instinctively to leg and the ball took off into the trees at square leg to give England the narrowest and most exciting of victories…

The difference between the two sides on the day was minuscule, the Aussies bowled 12 wides to England’s five, for example, as England executed a difficult run chase with tremendous composure from top to bottom of the order, in the face of some accurate and hostile bowling and fantastic fielding from Australia. A few decisions could have gone either way, but these things all tend to even out over time. It was a great game, played in a generous and sportsmanlike manner by both sides.

Darren Nicol 6.4-0-37-1;
Simon Hill 7-0-32-2;
Tom Saywell 4-0-16-0;
Ron Wolf 4-0-31-2;
Anthony Hendrie 7-0-32-2;
Tim Irwin 6-1-20-1.

Man of the match for England (Tea and Sympathy award) was Jonas Wilson, and Man of the Match (National Australia Bank and Milo Moment) for Australia was Tim Irwin. Richard Goodier (“haven’t played much recently but I’m all right”) was excellent value for the Ploughman’s Pickle award for the most quintessentiallyself-deprecating English performance.

In the end it was a fantastic match, one that neither team really deserved to lose. In fact, it was the game of cricket and this year’s charity recipients that were the real winners. The trophy was presented to Neil Harrison as England skipper, but in view of the closeness of the contest, the big jug will spend half of the 2007-2008 off-season at 8 Mile Creek on Mulberry Street. But first there is a little engraving to be done…