West XI C.C. – 119 for 7 from 35 overs
Whalers C.C. – 122 for 8 from 30.4 overs
Whalers won by 1 wicket
With the annual trek to deepest Surrey cancelled at late notice, the Whalers juggernaut was redirected to Gunnersbury Park. With the M4 elevated section in the eye line and Geoff still hell bent on securing his ‘most sixes in a season’ title, we could all see the potential for chaos. However, one look at the pitch told us this was unlikely to be a batsman’s paradise. With the start delayed whilst they mowed and marked the strip and the comments from the opposition revolving around how this used to be flat until the held a concert on the square, the Whalers started scrabbling for the only helmet.
However, with Ad at the helm we need not worry and he soon lost the toss and off we went to field. The pitch proved to be as interesting as it looked with a pick and mix of balls lifting off a length and then running along the floor. Survival was going to be key to success and the West XI openers starting slowly but steadily.
With Dan in fiery form then this was not to last long with two wickets in two balls to get us going. With good support from Khalil and follow up bowling from Clippy and Jeff allowing little room for attack, West XI had to wait until the 18th over for their first boundary, courtesy of a leg side, Meat and Potato effort from Mike. Wickets tumbled regularly with Geoff going for only 6 runs off seven overs (including a wrongly scored leg bye!) it needed a late flurry from their last minute ringer to bring them past 100 to a very respectable 119/7 off 35 overs.
So, after a small delay for tea and the usual batting order chaos, the Whalers walked confidently to the crease knowing that a run rate of 4 an over and some level headed batting would see us walk home. However, from the moment Dario ran himself out 4th ball, we knew things would never be that easy. Mike and Will offered some good stability but with once Will was bowled around his legs and Gibbo triggered first ball, Whalers were 32 for 3. Little resistance was offered from the middle order with Osborne, Hanmer, Osgood and then Dennis all departing in quick succession, the seemingly easy target was now looking ominous with Whalers at 59/7. With tight bowling from both ends, it would need a heroic effort from Geoff and Khalil to bring us home.
Then controversy. Khalil edges one onto his pads and is triggered by Dario. With a look that could kill from 22 yards and Dario fearing for his life, Khalil begins a slow walk back only to be called back by the opposition who had heard the nick. Great sportsmanship, especially as they knew we only had Clippy back in the hutch, and Khalil restarted his innings quickly slapping a four through midwicket to add salt to the wound.
Geoff and Khalil then controlled the innings from here on and as the West XI tried all bowling options, we neared the a magical Phoenix from the Flames effort only for Geoff to try one heave on the leg side too many and get caught with 14 still required. In steps Clippy, at the non-strikers end as the batsman crossed, with one ball of the over left. Khalil hits to a fielder and Clippy sets off, with Heathrow air traffic control on stand by, for a four-yard swan dive to keep Khalil on strike. From then on, Khalil moved the ball around and Andy got his first runs of the season off the bat to complete a memorable comeback. Praise must go to the West XI team for their sportsmanship and choice of after match pub, both of which I am sure will warrant a rematch next season.
Man of the match – Geoff Judd 7 overs for 6 runs and a crucial 30.
Champagne moment – Clippy’s match-saving dive.
Muppet moment – Dario firing Khalil LBW when he clearly got an edge.