The Sopwith Camels v Exiles, 30 August 1998

Sopwith Camels crash and burn!

All the Exiles arrived safely at the ground in a public park behind swanky restaurant Belair House, Dulwich in plenty of time for the 2pm start, and had a good half hour's practise in the sunshine as the sound of al fresco dining drifted on the air. No sign of the Camels though, and by now it is nearly half past two and certain Exiles are twitchy that maybe they are in the wrong place, or on the wrong day, or maybe the opposition had decided to spend an afternoon at the Oval, watching England on the rack against Sri Lanka. Eventually a female ambassador was sent forth with the message that the home team were "still in the pub" ...and I thought a Camel could go for eight days without a drink! By now the Exiles had tired of retrieving balls from the other side of the fence at long on, where the boundary was only 30 yards from the square and most were predicting a high scoring game; bowlers were bracing themselves for for a rough ride, batsmen were rehearsing their lofted drives. The home team finally assembled, pulled their shorts(!) on, won the toss and elected to bat, I don't know what tactical reasons the skipper had, but certainly some of his team had yet to finish their drinks. Indeed one umpire brought his can with him to the wicket. The game had already been reduced to 35 overs to allow for the late start. The Exiles were resentful of being robbed of ten overs of Cricket by their hosts' lack of manners and felt they had been poorly treated, and there is nothing like a bit of righteous indignation to spice up this ageing attack.
Paul Shorrock and Naem Khan opened that attack and soon had the batsmen swinging at air as the umpredictable bounce typical of park pitches allied to good length gave the Camels no easy runs. Paul struck first, the finest nick to the keeper causing no problems for John Morgan. The score progressed at around two an over, largely from extras and inside edges. Waseem Khan replaced his brother from the restaurant end and sparked a repeat of the "batsman nicks it to the keeper , waits for the umpire to give him out, umpire waits for batsman to walk, neither does, bowler turns purple..." story that has become a leitmotif of this season. Captain Tony Brook has seen it once to often and protested vocally bringing an instant rebuke from the square leg umpire. Waseem fell back on the "bouncer with full follow through and glare" method and upped his pace a notch or two.
Meanwhile Garry Heaton, former Exile regular, returned at the short end. His first over cost 10 runs, and it looked like his lay-off had affected his nagging accuracy but he bowled his next six overs for only one more run and two wickets as the Camels convinced themselves that they were on a minefield, without a map, caught in a crossfire, out of ammunition and low on fuel. Perhaps the crucial moment was when Garry got one to lift from a length, the batsman flinched and gloved a looping catch to John Morgan, which he pouched it to make up for an earlier spillage. At the other end things were a little more gentle as John Shorrock returned to the Exiles after a two and a half year break with debilitating Arthritis, even so his slow breaks were quite a handful for the nervous Camels. His rustiest long-hops were swatted away for welcome boundaries but he induced a lofted drive in an allegedly solid batsman that Naem gleefully caught at midwicket. He also induced an unlikely lbw decision and then had that umpire caught behind trying to cut one too close to off stump to finish with 3 for 30 from 7 overs. Paul and Waseem returned to the attack. Waseem picked up a couple of wickets in two balls as the lower middle order realised the end was nigh and attempted some acceleration. Naem replaced him and bowled quicker than ever and grabbed the penultimate wicket, bowled with a beautiful slower delivery that deceived the batsman completely. Captain Tony Brook had either mis-counted of if you believe him had planned to save the last over for himself from the short end. Two short balls gave two singles then a length ball produced a return catch to justify his self-belief. The Sopwith Camels all out for 79 in the 35th over. It was a pitiful total, probably half of what was needed considering the short boundaries although the Camels made encouraging noises to each other about it being a "difficult wicket".
After sandwiches battle recommenced with Sean O'Connor and Soumitro Nagpal both in good form opening the batting. The first over from Smith was negotiated safely by Sean without scoring . The next from Bresman was a different story, the fifth ball was nicked to the keeper who spilled it and a quick single was taken whilst fine leg tidied up, for some reason he threw to the bowler's end where no one was backing up and it went to the boundary, five runs to Soumitro! The next ball Sean pulled away for four and the Exiles were off to a flier. Smith's second over was also a maiden but Sean drove Bresman back over his head for a six to gasps of admiration. Two balls later he was caught behind on 13 and the Camels celebrated hoping for an unlikely collapse, but Keith Marchbank was in no mood to be charitable and together with Soumitro they accelerated towards the total as the Camels fell apart. Soumitro cracked a straight six and even managed a seven when Holmes attemted to throw down the wicket on the third run, he missed and it went to the short straight boundary. Soumitro is in a purple patch and at the moment runs seem to fly to him and stick. Keith managed a few punchy short-armed shots and sucessfuly kept out the occasional problem delivery. As the total was within grasp the Camel's giddy ineptitude seemed to infect the batsmen and a couple of heart-stopping singles were snatched when the rate required was down to a decimal point, but by then it was all over, Exiles 80 for 1 in 14 overs. Soumitro's contribution 44*, Keith's 16*.
A victory for the old fashioned virtues of turning up on time, pitching the ball up, wearing long trousers, backing up the throw and leaving the celebration drinks until after the game! It was good to see those old Lancashire war-horses Garry Heaton and John Shorrock back on the team, and their experience and tenacity helped balance the side that has so often this season been lacking another seamer and a slow bowler who can turn it a bit. This was arguably a bigger win than that by 179 runs over Watermill and was no doubt "too easy" for Soumitro who is looking forward to the last two games of the season for a chance of revenge against The Occasionals and The Brown Bears (a.k.a Victor Trumper XI).

Next week the Luddites at home.

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