Exiles v Brown Bears, Honor Oak 20 September 1998

The final game of the season is always a bitter-sweet occasion and the weather was just perfect for this grand finale against the Brown Bears. A weak Exiles side had been put to the sword by the Brown Bears back in June after their amalgamation with The Victor Trumper Memorial XI on an un-prepared wicket. The Exiles were keen to redress the balance. Honor Oak looked a picture, the outfield green and flat, the wicket a paler green and still holding some morning dew, the oak trees beginning to hint at Autumn. A One O'clock start was almost achieved, Waseem Khan acting Captain in the absence of Tony Brook, once more doing his bit for the trade defecit working abroad. He lost the toss and was asked to bat, this gave time for Effie and Faizal to turn up, claiming not to know about the early start and having spent a few hours sampling Tooting's culinary delights. Soumitro Nagpal and Sean O'Connor coped with the early challenge as the ball seamed and swung a little as was to be expected, but both despatched the bad ball effeciently. Soumitro was dropped on the long-on boundary by Prendergast and later off his own bowling by the same man, and Sean edged through slips for 4, but 30 runs came in good time before Sean was bowled by Ray. James Booth continued the good work and Soumitro started to play some of his hallmark drives. Lacking depth in bowling the Brown Bears gambled on bowling out their opening pair, but in spite of some near misses no more wickets fell. Prendergast's leg breaks occasionaly posed problems but after getting a fingertip to a Soumitro drive he had to leave the field for medical attention, leaving someone else to finish his over.
Without the scorebook for reference I cannot accurately remember the fall of wickets and how many runs were scored, but James, Wayne and Naem all contributed. Soumitro top scored again with 46. The red-bearded Miles was particularly harshly dealt with, much to his audible chagrin. Only John Morgan seemed to struggle and fell to an edged cut-shot for 4. After complaining bitterly that the rate was too slow Effie eventually got his chance to join in and he and Faizal made hay in the last few overs to take the score beyond 200 to a respectable 207 for 6 off 40 overs. Lee Marvin Look-a-like Peter took a fine catch at Long-On but staggered back a full six paces until he stood on the rope, six runs thank you! This looked like being enough but if Miles gets into his groove as he did back in June then any total is possible.
After tea Paul Shorrock and Ian Barker opened the bowling with a new ball. Both got swing and cut, both hit middle stump pretty soon, Shorrock once and Barker three times. It was beginning to look supernatural as yet again the umpire was called to repair the timbers with only the middle one disturbed. Miles was batting at number 5, whether by choice we don't know, but certainly those who preceded him were no better with the bat. He would have probably hope for the score to have been beyond 20 for 3 when he arrived at the crease. Almost immediately Shorrock had him playing and missing as late swing snatched the ball from under his drives. Waseem, never one to go on the defensive, had three slips and a gully in waiting for the nick, but when it came it fell tantalisingly close to the gloves of John Morgan. Miles took his guard a yard out of his crease in an effort to counter the swing but only succeeded in giving himself less time to pick the line. A few optimistic lbw shouts were turned down and a caught behind shout had the slips excited but not the bowler who saw it loop off pad alone. Only when a ball was angled in from wide did Miles manage to sweep for four, and that was the end of experimentation. Again and again the ball slid past the outside edge of the bat, and for his last five overs Shorrock bowled at Miles alone, Barker happy to bowl at the less gifted batsmen. Shorrock's final bowl seemed to have done the trick, a nip backer taking the inside edge onto pad and squeezing past the stumps but not carrying again to the keeper. Nonetheless the openers had all but won the game by the end of their eight overs apiece off the reel. Ian finishing with 3 for 26, Paul 1 for 16. Today The Exiles had plenty of depth in bowling, unlike that day in June, so Effie and Naem weren't about to let things slip, Naem soon joined the middle-stump club with a very fast yorker but Effie couldn't resist spoiling things, and after getting a tongue lashing from his Captain for bowling repeatedly outside leg with four slips and a gully in place, he only went and bowled the left-hander leg stump!
Then in the only controversy of the match Naem had Miles caught and bowled with a one handed catch at full stretch. Everyone appealed and ran to congratulate Naem for removing the danger man, Miles stood and shook his head, the Exiles as a man turned to the non-striker's umpire in appeal, he claimed to have been un-sighted so he refered to the square leg umpire who said it "looked okay to him" so the finger went up, but still Miles remained planted, The Umpire gave him out again and rather theatrically Waseem pointed the way and eventually he dragged himself away cursing. Much kit-throwing and further cursing within earshot of the umpires let alone the Exile's womenfolk left no-one in any doubt as to his opinion of the decision. I was at cover and had a good angle, the opposite angle to the Square leg umpire and it looked out to me, otherwise I wouldn't have appealed. Naem was sure he had caught it, and no Exile expressed any doubts about it. We thought it was out, we appealed and the appeal was upheld, so it was rather a surprise to hear Miles views on the incident later.With the backbone broken there was only a mopping up operation to do, which was accomplished with minimum fuss, wickets for Waseem and the last one for Faizal. Prendergast was unable to bat, or at least thought it unwise with 146 runs still required. The Exiles happy to have exorcised the heavy defeat in June by an even bigger margin. Brown Bears all out for 62.
In the bar the two camps mingled very little, The Exiles a happy, unified bunch looking forward to the party, the AGM and winter nets, enjoying the golden sunset. In contrast the Bears were a mess of bickering and schisms. Miles could be heard explaining why he "wasn't out", and how he "always hated playing this bunch". I stood to shake his hand as he was leaving amidst all the usual "well-bowled/pity you couldn't nick one" banter, and he asked me if I thought he was out. I replied "yes or I would never have appealed", with that he turned his back on me and said supercilliosly "well in that case there's no point playing you lot again". He took his cloud out with him and I carried on the conversation briefly with some of the more level-headed protagonists, Ray the non-striker was convinced the ball had been "scooped" I agreed to differ on that, the square leg umpire stuck to his opinion in spite of the fearful brow-beating. We have no third umpire or benefit of super slow-mo replays, just our eyes and the opposition umpires; we appealed, he was given out and he stood around arguing with his team mates. If it had been a league match he would have been severely censured, probably fined and suspended, Waseem may have had a talking-to for pointing to the dressing room but I can see no reason for questioning the Exiles' inregrity, we pride ourselves on it. I doubt you could find a more honest bunch of cricketers in a month of Sundays. If the prima donna batsman wants to take his bat home then the Brown Bears will be a weaker side without him, but I suspect they will enjoy their cricket more.
To me it is just one more reason to consider joining a league, with neutral umpires, a ready made fixture list, and something to play for other than "fun" which can be a slippery beast at the best of times.

PS

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