Whalers find the right length to just see off Lionels

Whalers CC vs Lionel Length CC; Sunday 28 July 2013; King’s House Sports Ground

Whalers ( 155 all out) defeated Lionel Length (146 ao) by 9 runs

The Whalers scraped home to another “too close for comfort” tight win at Kings House, this time at the expense of a South-African infused Lionel Length. With neither side gracing the former Civil Service Ground with classic stroke-making with the bat, it proved to be a battle of the bowling attacks, and ultimately the Whalers’ strength in depth was the difference. That, and a decisive innings from Channa.

With some overnight moisture still in the pitch and a short shower before the start, both sides were clamouring to bowl first. Dan lost the toss however and the skipper was thus resigned to putting his faith in his “powerhouse” batting line-up.  The Whalers innings did not begin well, losing Pip to a fine delivery on the second ball of the day. Kev soon gloved one through to the keeper from the same opening bowler, Cochrane, walking despite umpire Luckett being oblivious to the glove. Both Cochrane and Pretorius at the other end were proving hard to get away, and although Sandy and Matt Boucher were able to take the score up to 26, a change of bowling provoked the Whalers’ batsmen to lose their way again. Matt B and Al were dismissed in successive deliveries to Mandarata and the Whalers found themselves in that all-too-familiar “powerhouse batting line-up” scoreline of 26-4.

But cometh the hour, cometh the Channa. At the other end, Sandy was ticking over nicely and he and Channa took the score up to 49, before unluckily dragging a full-toss onto off-stump. Paul “dragon-slayer” Luckett strode out to the crease and paid heedful attention to the advice offered by Channa and umpire Kev. However, after a couple of overs, Kev advised him to take a new guard and he was promptly bowled for 2.

At 56-6, the Whalers were now in pretty deep trouble, but there then followed a fine partnership between Channa and Rich to get the Whalers out of gaol and up to the realms of respectability. Channa was particularly brutal when Matthews and the other Lionel change bowlers dropped short, but also drove with confidence. At the other end, Rich kept the scoreboard and strike ticking over and found some nice boundaries of his own. The two managed a partnership of 71 before Rich was bowled by McCarthy. Channa continued the good work with Khalil and reached a fine fifty, not without its lucky moments, but an important and responsible innings nonetheless.

Unfortunately however, the Whalers innings subsided rapidly once Channa had been caught off McCarthy for 58. Dan missed a straight full toss first ball and despite being a little way down the pitch was given out LBW by Umpire Bhogal, and Kamal was controversially given out LBW the following over, prompting looks of derision from the batsman, and a disappointed Whalers finished on 155 all out with 5 overs still left to bat.

As fortune would have it, another rain shower preceded the start of the Lionel response, ensuring batting conditions were comparable for both sides. Khalil and Rich opened the bowling and Khalil especially bowled with fire and accuracy, using the added bounce from the pavilion end to great effect. McCarthy and Visser were both induced to nick behind to give Khalil his just rewards and wicketkeeper Kev the first of a record haul of “assisted” dismissals. Khalil could have had more too, but ball-magnet Dan could not hold on to two more edges at first slip. Lionel Length thus recovered slightly as their innings began to mirror that of the Whalers, with the score reaching 28-2 before the introduction of Kamal brought two more quick wickets: the first a fine delivery to trap Van Royen LBW and then Pretorius inexplicably decided to bat outside his crease with Kev standing up to the stumps. Inevitably, he eventually missed one and Kev concluded the formalities of removing the bails before he could get back. With their other opener being run out soon after, the Whalers found themselves right back in the game with the opposition on 35-5.

As with the Whalers innings however, Lionel fought back into the game as Whelan and Cochrane took the fight back to the bowlers, launching a few lusty blows off Kamal and the “dragonslayer” that kept them well up with the required run-rate. Luckett though was getting some good lift off the pitch and eventually induced Cochrane into a big top-edged swipe to leg. As the ball ballooned high in the air, most eyes looked to Gilo at square-leg, but not willing to be kept out of the action for any length of time, Kev made the executive decision that as the man with the gloves, he would go for a catch that the Whalers really needed in the circumstances. Kev slightly misjudged just quite how far towards the boundary he needed to run to reach the rapidly descending ball, but around three-quarters of the way to the deep backward square-leg boundary, he sprawled forward and grabbed the ball in the mits a couple of feet from the ground. A vital wicket that broke a dangerous partnership and left Lionel in a position where they had to look at preserving wickets as well as maintaining the run-rate.

Matthews provided good support to Whelan for a while, while the Whalers kept things quiet and slow with Pip and Luckett bowling in tandem. The score trickled up to 102-6 before Paul and Kev combined to have Matthews stumped (perhaps controversially). The game was still in the balance however as Lionel Length looked to use the full 35 overs to chase down the modest 155 target. And when Jones joined Whelan at the crease it seemed as if the balance had swung towards the visitors. Giles and Osgood were returned to the attack and the ball began to come off the bat a little quicker. However, with the knack of taking wickets at crucial times, Rich trapped Jones LBW for 21 and Lionel length needed 25 to win off about 3 and a half overs. Dan was then able to use pace, lift and greater accuracy to bowl a succession of dot balls that put the Lionel tail under more pressure than they could handle. . A tight penultimate over from Rich left Lionels needing at least 2 runs a ball off the last over and with Dan’s pace too much for the tail-enders, two suicidal runs were attempted – one to Kev at keeper, who is still trying to claim it as a stumping with the batsmen half-way down the pitch. The final run-out was with 2 balls remaining and left the Whalers victorious by 9 runs.

Another tight match – we do love tight matches – but special mentions to Channa for his crucial runs and to Kev for a record-breaking performance behind the stumps and a particularly fine catch. However, the batsmen will need to find their form if we are to win matches without giving the Whalers’ fans as many heart palpitations as this match.