Crouching Tiger, Wandering Whale

Winchmore Hill Tigers CC vs Whalers CC, 13th September 2020 @ Winchmore Hill Sports Club.

Usually September marks a change in many things. The end of summer, the return of school and the beginning of the end of the cricket season. However, in this year during which humanity had to adapt to so many new habits, the world would also have to face up to the fact that the Whalers didn’t know how to lose a game anymore. With now just two games in front of them, was the Whaler’s invincible season more a reality than just a dream?

To find out, the Whale was embarked on an away trip to the lush green suburban utopia of Enfield to face the Winchmore Hill Tigers. Here the Whalers were keen to practice this new habit of winning (and fielding full teams). However, a very late drop out meant that a last-minute substitute bowler, Kurt, was graciously donated by one of the home club teams to make it up to a full 11-man strong line up.

On what turned out to be a very balmy Sunday afternoon, with a noticeable breeze, skipper Will won the toss and the Whale were betting first. The opening pair, which included skipper himself and Al strode out onto what looked like a good surface and a fast outfield.

Both openers got off to a steady start and Will looked in good nick as he played flurry of drives. Al also got in on the act and between them made a steady start to give the Whale a good foundation.  There was a drop in the field as Al was handed a life line and the runs began to trickle through. However, as the run rate was starting to pick up Al was dismissed for 9, bowled out on a ball that just did enough.

Next man in was Fraser who after feeling his way into the innings and seeing off the opening bowlers, started to loosen up and was looking to hit the ball sweetly. Sixes were being hit cleanly well over the boundary rope. However not all the balls followed the laws of physics and one sweetly struck shot got caught in the wind and a gob smacked Fraser could scarcely believe his eyes having to dawdle for a single. Will too tried to get in on the act but soon fell for a respectable 27 being caught out on a half volley that found a man in the infield.

Kev who was currently multi-tasking between being an England youth prospect coach (i.e. teaching his son to bat) and being Whalers middle order batsman, was dropped into the thick of it. He quickly hit some handsome shots to the boundary and found his form. Fraser was in a mood, a good mood, and continued to strike the ball with venom. The ball seemed to crack off the middle of his bat and found their way briskly to the ropes. A fifty came up and the Whale was looking at a decent score at the very least.

After a much deserved/needed drinks break in the September sun, Kev soon managed to get bowled after a quick fire 24 off 7 balls (which included 2 huge maximums). It was now the turn of Whaler debutant and gloveman Kishan. Armed with a brand new MRF blade, Kishan was hoping to prop up one end and give Fraser the stoke to stack up the runs. However, this was not to be as after a couple of singles and a well-placed 4, Kishan was caught shuffling on his crease and was given LBW as he missed a shot across his line.

Next man in was Rahul who was sent straight back to the shed after a 3-ball duck, undone by a ball that was dead straight and dead low. Geoff was next up and after a couple of encouraging singles was caught behind with ball snicking past his outside edge. Was this an ominous sign for things to come or just a few bad minutes?

Matt Lucas was now making his way on to the 22-yard strip and try and stop the middle order rot. Playing a range of elegant (and not so elegant) shots he managed to keep the score board ticking. Fraser meanwhile was edging ever closer to the magical 3 figure score and was still striking the ball cleanly. Whilst the heat was evidently causing his strife when running between the sticks, he continued on his swashbuckling manner and got the Whale close to 200.

As the remaining overs started to dwindle so did Fraser’s chance to convert his ninety score into 100. The Whale was now urging him to get over the line. With one over remaining Matt Lucas fell for a gallant 18. Now Fraser was running out of time and batting partners. Kurt was in next with the Whale urging him to get Fraser on strike. In the final over with Fraser on 98 Kurt was unable to rotate the strike and was bowled out for a duck.

Suhaib now had the unenviable task of getting a single. And never has getting one solitary run been so painful. Suhaib on his first ball at the crease played a glorious straight on-drive that could only have been a boon from the cricketing Gods from above. Never has there been a more tumultuous mix of ecstasy and agony as the boundary was met with sighs of disbelief and a smattering of applause.  

There were now only 2 balls remaining and thankfully somehow Suhaib managed to dig one out to scamper through for that much yearned for single. Fraser was on strike with the final ball to come. All Fraser needed was bat on ball and he managed exactly that, butchering the ball with a solid amount of brute force. The ball was hit with power and velocity – destined for the boundary. However, the cricketing gods were not looking down on young Fraser this time. An outstretched foot/big toe from the opposing fielder managed to halt the ball (and probably left a decent bruise). Fraser could only manage a single and he finished his innings on 99*. The Whale finished on a very respectable 225-8.

Cricket can be a cruel mistress.

It was now time for tea and to take stock of what just happened. After being reminded that the club house kitchen was open for business the Whale enjoyed their well-deserved half time nutrition and had a spring in their step as they looked to defend the total. There was no sight of any pressure of as they were now only 10 wickets way from being own step closer to unbeaten immortality

But when the Whalers took to the field, there was a noticeable difference as Will started to marshal his troops. There were only 9 fielders with sub Whaler Kurt and man of the hour Fraser missing in action.

After a few shrieks and hails it came as a nasty shock that Fraser was still getting is was through his tea. A tuna mayo sandwich had taken Frasers attention away from the task at hand and refused to step onto the field. A tuna had trumped the Whale. After a sensible amount of muttering and sighing the umpire signalled play on and Nick was ready to open the bowling. The bad luck that finished the previous innings continued in full fashion as Nick was hit for 3 consecutive fours in the first 3 balls. It seemed that troubled waters lied ahead for the Whale.

Kurt now managed to get on the field but Fraser was still AWOL.

Suhaib was into the attack and tried his best not to replicate the previous over’s inauspicious start. After a couple of wayward deliveries to start off with he found his stride and the squeeze on the free-flowing runs had begun. With now 11 Whalers and no more tuna sandwiches to distract minds and tastebuds Nick manged to find his line and length. The tide was beginning to slowly change. From the other end Suhaib bowled a beautiful delivery to get the opener Read out for 6.

The tight bowling continued as the Tigers were not able to maintain their blistering start as pressure from both ends meant that after the first 16 overs the opening blowers only gave up 56 runs between them.

Skipper Will than handed the ball to Matt Lucas to replace Nick and he followed the fine bowling from the far end. Kurt replaced Suhaib at the near end and picked up where Suhaib had left off. The pressure was now starting to mount for the Tigers and a few swings and missed meant that Gloveman Kishan was in action, taking some (overly) dramatic diving takes on the leg side. The pressure soon turned into chances and a swooping shot down the ground was headed Al’s way at long off, who managed to spill it. Another lofted shot was skied to Will who also managed to fumble the ball. Respite for the Tigers, frustration for the Whale. The Tigers took a liking to Kurt’s medium pace straight bowling and batsman Ganeshalingam hit one towards Fraser at the long on boundary. A good accurate throw coupled with quick hands by bowler Kurt knocked off the bails and the Tigers were 2 down.

From the other end, opening bat Ranger had found his way to a very patient fifty but Matt Lucas struck in this third over with a good ball undoing him. Geoff was asked to come into the attack and he too would stick to the status quo. The Tigers were managing to find the odd boundary by now as the fielding effort started to dip for the Whale.

Going into the final 10 overs the equation was simple. The Tigers needed 100 runs and they now had two reasonable set batsmen. After Kurt finished off his bowling with a very respectable 29 off 6 overs it was the turn for Rahul to turn his arm over. Whilst the bowling was never threatening, audible grunts and expletives from the batsmen were evident as they were unable to put him away. He even managed to create half a chance a thick outside edge meant that Kev shuffled back with outstretched arms only for it to evade his fingertips by the barest of margins.

A tactical change from the skipper brought Matt Lucas in to bowl from the near end whilst Geoff would keep bowling from the other. However, dots now turned into easy singles, singles were converted into twos and the ball was starting to find 4’s and 6’s. No. 3 Batsmen Greenman scored 50 and with 5 overs to go the score was 164-3 the game was in the balance. After a tidy 36th over by Matt Lucas only giving 6 runs Geoff was looking to maintain this good death bowling.

The Tigers had other ideas. Batsman Hodges was looking to tee off in a manner that would have impressed even his teams namesake on the back 9 at Augusta on a Championship Sunday. Four boundaries and a 6 into the leg side was a sucker punch that the Whale did not see coming.

With 18 balls to come the Whale needed to defend 32. Matt Lucas then bowled a reasonable over allowing 11 runs. The tension was now unbearable. A tidy penultimate over would mean Matt would have a better chance to defend in the last over with two batsmen both well in and Hodges had also gone past the half century mark. The skipper now placed the ball into Rahul’s hand. The weight of the Whalers invincible season on his shoulders. Could he deliver?

As he shuffled in to bowl the first ball he was flicked onto the leg side boundary where after some pedestrian fielding the ball rolled over the rope. Next a loose ball way outside the off stump was again, unbelievably, flicked off into the leg side for a 6. Torrid bowling, his head was down. With a short inhale and a focused mind, he bowled one straight and full for a dot and the Whale roared it on as if it was a wicket. Same ball again but this time the batsmen heaved it to cow corner where ice man Matt Lucas took a great pressure catch. Greenman finished on a handsome 80.

The game again might now have tipped in the Whalers favour. The batsmen had crossed and in form batsmen Hodges ran 2 off the penultimate delivery and then managed a single on the final ball keeping him on strike.

The final over. The bowler Matt Lucas. The equation simple. 10 runs needed. 9 for a super over. The first ball was dug out for just a single. de Crescenzo was the new bat in and his first ball faced again was looking like just the one run. But a very eager throw by infield Suhaib at the bowlers end meant that the batsmen ran for an overthrow. Pressure has been the undoing of even the greatest. But Matt Lucas dug deep and bowled a peach of delivery to hit the top of off. 3 balls remained and 6 runs to win. Sikander strode onto the field and at the crease. He refused to even take a guard when prompted by the umpire. Was this the cornered Tiger of 1992 or a charade to cover his nerves?

Another good ball by Matt was met with a swing of the bat but only manged to trickle for a single. The runs kept being ticked off but so too the balls. Two balls 5 runs. Matt made his way to his bowlers mark with Hodges staring back at him with a steely look in his eyes. Matt bowled another good ball and was met with a heaving swipe of the blade. The result – a scamper for two.

Final ball. The sun had now began set over the Western treeline. Was the sun setting over Whalers’ unbeaten run or was it the twilight to signal yet another success on the field? Matt Lucas lined up one final time. 3 to win, 2 for a super over. Time stood still as Matt hurled himself as he bowled his final ball. The ball transcended through the air and pitched just in front of the batsmen. The field on the haunches was prowling and ready to snaffle the ball should it come near them. Anything was possible at the moment. No easy runs and no silly overthrows. The dream was still alive.

Hodges on the other had other plans and he bludgeoned the ball onto the leg side for a sweet boundary and to take home the spoils. The Tigers quite literally roared the ball as the Whale was left aghast. Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

In the battle of the mighty mammals the stealthy Tiger had outdone the wandering Whale.

Despite 450 runs across the day, the Whale left the field leaving behind only dreams and the lingering smell of an overpriced tuna sandwich.

Whalers innings: 225-8 (40.0 overs)

Fraser 99*, Will 27, Kev 24.

Winchmore Tigers bowling:

Webster 8 1 39 4
Greenham 2 0 18 2

Winchmore Tigers Innings : 227-5 (40.0 overs)

Greenman 80, Hodges 70, Ranger 50.

Whaler’s Bowling:

Lucas 8 0 45 2
Suhaib 8 2 30 1

Winchmore Hill Tigers win by 5 wickets.

Man of the match: Fraser.

Muppet moment of the match: Fraser missing two overs of play so he could eat his sandwich. Champagne Moment of the match: Frasers 6’s all over the park

Opposition report: HERE