Whalers win in high scoring thriller

Salix CC vs Whalers, Barn Elms Sports Trust, 16th July 2023

It was a (mostly) sunny if extremely windy day in Barnes as Suhaib and his merry men travelled to Barnes to meet regular opponents Salix. With 15 minutes to go until the toss, matters weren’t looking particularly promising. There were just the three of us in the changing room and the tactics board was looking suspiciously blank. The said toss did however take place shortly thereafter. After recently winning the toss and putting the opposition in (a not universally popular decision by all accounts), the decision was taken away from the skipper as Salix guessed correctly and decided to have a bat. On a more positive note, everyone else (bar Al) started to arrive and we were able to begin pretty much on time.

A fired up Nirmal was handed the new ball and he certainly gave the opening batsmen something to think about. The pace was rocking, the accuracy at times less so. It quickly became clear, as is normally the case, that bowling short is less than ideal, and there were some early boundaries due to some aggressive pulling and thunderous drives. A non-fired up Raman opened up from the other end, after getting caught in the rain on Friday he was feeling under the weather and his opening two overs also gave Salix the opportunity to create some scoreboard pressure. It should be said at this point that the scoreboard was also feeling pressure from another source- the wind. Getting it to stay up was a struggle in itself, let alone getting the numbers to stay in the correct place. After some early slightly loose bowling and accompanying misfields, the Whalers’ had to find a way of drying up the runs. Roland’s answer to this was putting his foot in the way of a well struck cover drive- saving four in the most heroic of ways. It was a mighty blow and he hobbled off to find use the deep heat that no one had any idea was contained within the team kit bag.

The first wicket fell shortly thereafter, Nirmal hit a good length and their opening bat miscued one slightly to a grateful Suhaib at mid-off. The second wicket followed a couple of overs later in very similar fashion, this time Suhaib was the bowler with Vishal taking a smart catch in the same position. Further wickets followed for Nirmal and Suhaib, both of them bowling the batsmen clean, again showing the value of bowling full and letting the ball do the work. It was after this that things began to get a bit loose. The Salix number 4 was looking settled and in expansive form and was beginning to put on a good partnership with his batting mate. Saurabh was brought on and despite hitting some reasonable lengths was being dispatched to the boundary fence on a less than ideal regularity. He also wasn’t getting any support at the other end, Josh (top wicket taker in 2018) was having real issues with getting the ball anywhere near where he wanted it and his rather pathetic 3 overs were dispatched for 32 runs. Thankfully for all concerned, Josh is now based some 200 miles away and these slow medium trackers will be offered up no more than one or two times a season.

Vishal, also a former top wicket taker, was brought into the attack and he fared much better, a tidy length and some good zip. He produced a lovely delivery to break the partnership that was threatening to put the game out of sight. The next wicket to come with in less orthodox fashion, a top edge went up towards Al at square leg, he wasn’t able to take the catch but caused enough confusion to get the ball back to wicket keeper Dean who was duly able to complete the run out. In fact, Dean had a busy couple of overs, with a stumping off Amit and then taking a catch off of a Raman wide delivery. By this point, Salix already had more than 200 on the board and their number 4 edging over closer to a century. Thankfully Vishal was able to stop this happening as he bowled him for 90 and then immediately follow it up by also bowling out their number 11, in the penultimate over of the innings. It was an up and down effort, some good bowling, some not so good bowling, some good catching, some not so good fielding. However, the bounce was relatively consistent and the outfield clearly fast. A chase of 240 was not going to be easy, but there was a healthy looking top and middle order in attendance.

One thing that was obvious, is that we had to make a good start. The Salix opening pair looked useful, that combination of reasonable pace and accuracy that we all dream of. Al seemed to be enjoying this extra pace and he got the ball rolling with a couple of lovely drives through the covers. Dean was looking slightly more circumspect, not being provided with anything short for the first few overs but then things loosed slightly and he was able to crash some balls to the fence. The run rate continued to increase and Dean seemed to go from 20 to 50 in a very short space of time, helped in part by a glorious six straight down the ground. Unfortunately, he departed not long after, bowled for a very useful 53. Al also crossed the 50 threshold, before he too was dismissed, caught for a very respectable 58. Fraser was in at 3 with a limping Roland in at 4. Josh had kindly offered to be his runner, but this arrangement wasn’t a successful one and he had to limp back after being cruelly run out for 2 runs. 

This brought Amit to the crease with the game very much in the balance. Fraser has been in fine form all season and we know what Amit can provide- both with the bat and in terms of camping equipment. We needed runs and we needed them relatively quickly. Fraser became the third Whaler to 50, I don’t have an Andy Zaltzman esque knowledge of stats, but there can’t be many times the top 3 have all reached that figure. Fraser was not quite able to see it through and this brought back Josh to the crease once he was able to find a helmet that was big enough both literally and figuratively for his head. There has been much talk of his finishing abilities in the past, mostly it has to be said by himself. After failing miserably with the ball and copping a bit of flak for his generosity with wides whilst umpiring, it was time for him to give something back and see it home for the boys. With a deep field set, his approach was to get off strike and let the set batsman do the necessary. This worked- Josh and Amit were able to push the ones and two hard and then a 6 from Amit put us ahead of the run rate with barely two overs left. Amit was also the man to hit the winning runs, a miscued shot over the keeper which ran away to the fence, not the prettiest way to end proceedings, but a 4 is a 4 and a win and a win!

All in all, it was a really good effort from the Whalers to come back after conceding more than we would have wanted in the first innings. We did bowl impressively in patches, Suhaib and Vishal were impressive and Nirmal took a couple of lovely wickets. The top 3 all contributed with the bat and set a good foundation for Amit and Josh, unfortunately Roland missed out, but he was hampered by one of the most purple looking feet I have ever seen and having Josh as his runner. Next up is the Captains v Presidents on Friday!

Whalers 241/4 beat Salix 239 a/o by 6 wickets

Man of the match: Fraser- top scorer with 60 runs

Champagne moment: Fraser- straight six down the ground just missing the scorer’s table

Muppet: Dean- losing his hat to the wind and throwing his glove after it to try and stop it

Match Report finished by Josh Curtis