The Exiles got their season off to a respectable start by rolling over The Gentlemen of West London, but true to their name "The Gents" took it in reasonable spirit. The early season wicket was damp and semi-prepared at that, so new skipper Paul Shorrock was relieved to win the toss with his lucky Eastern Caribbean Dollar and had no second thoughts about inviting GWLCC to have first bat. To say they got off to a slow start is a bit like saying the arctic is a "bit nippy". Aging seamers Shorrock and Ian Barker got out the wheel clamps and bolted them onto to the Gent's openers. Bicknell got off his duck in the 16th over(!), but his partner Buck never got that far, being bowled by Barker in the second over. The entirety of Shorrock's first spell of 5 overs yielded no runs off the bat and but a single bye. Barker was so much in the groove that his eight overs off the reel cost only 7 runs. When drinks were taken after 20 overs the rate had not risen much above 1.0 per over.
Waseem Khan took over from Shorrock and Naem Khan replaced Ian and gradually the score Total began to get ahead of the "overs bowled". Waseem managed to induce a mistimed pull from one of the Patel's and Guy Sneesby made good ground to snaffle the looping deflection. In fact for a man with no Cricket for over a year and straight after a morning game of Football, Sneesby acquitted himself admirably in the keeper's gloves. The situation was under control enough for Ashad, a friend of Faisal Ansari's making up the eleven to be given four overs, and he tested out every length before he settled into a rhythm, but a rank long-hop brought his first victim caught by Naem at point. Ashad bagged another victim as The Gents belatedly threw the bat then Faisal had a go from the pavilion end and his short run-up and whippy action gained a victim second ball. Shorrock returned and his sixth over was another maiden, his seventh yielded five runs but also a wicket, an lbw that was so plum you could have served it with custard. Faisal grabbed a second and also got involved in the fielding action striking the stumps with a direct throw from long on, but only striking the stump that Naem had inadvertently nudged a bail off in taking his position to receive the throw, the batsman and the umpire didn't notice but the scorer's did so Captain Shorrock called the fortunate batsman back for a second life. Naem has a had "a cold" all week, but by the end of his second spell the diagnosis had risen to "the Flu" as the number 10 batsman punished his wayward deliveries which were mixed up with a series of wides on both sides of the wicket. Naem is a GP so we must trust his medical judgment, but any Exile could see he was "out of sorts". Captain Shorrock prescribed a rest and replaced him for the last over with Faisal, who gladly snapped up the number eleven by pitching up a straight one to finish with 3 for 6, good figures to go alongside Ian's tempo setting 1 for 7 from 8 and Paul's 1 for 8 from 8. Waseem's analysis was bodged and Naem's and Ashad's were adequate in the circumstance. The Gentlemen of West London were all out for exactly 100 in the fortieth over. B. Murphy top scored with 15, unless you count "Mr. Extras" with his richly deserved 32.
Whilst The Exiles weren't exactly quaking in their boots over tea at the thought of chasing 100 at a rate of 2.5 the thought remained that the pitch was a bitch and we had never seen their bowling. By the time Captain Snelling had finished his first over we realised that we had never seen an action like his, He bowls off "the wrong foot" in a windmill of independent moving parts although the resulting trajectory is orthodox enough. Openers Tony and Guy ( neither a hairdresser) had just convinced themselves that they knew how to play him when Guy half-left a straight one that hit off stump. Next over Tony fell to S. Patel bowled off his pads and suddenly the game was wide-open again on 6 for 2. Faisal and Andy Brook plugged the gap admirably and were the backbone of the Exiles reply, although Andy allowed himself to be psyched out by Snelling in his final over, attempting to smash a straight six and losing his middle stump in the process when two defensive prods would have deflated the bowler more . The Patel brother's bowled with a lot of variation but little luck or support. The field left a few vacant spaces for Faisal to snick and chip into and he found them all, he was never dropped but he must have given five "chances" before he found the pace of the wicket and a little control, thereafter he was awesome, but often aerial, he managed three sixes and four fours on his way to a match-winning 67* and Phil James even managed to get in on the act with 10 that included a straight six over the site screen before he fell to a catch off D. Patel. By then Faisal had reached his 50 and the winning total was very close. Naem managed a 1* before Faisal finished it all in high style with his third six over long-on in the 21st over. Exiles win by 6 wickets with loads of time to spare. Faisal Ansari was "Man of the Match" by a long chalk!
In spite of the early finish most Exiles scooted away without joining the vanquished Gents in the bar for post match beer, which is a shame, and something that needs to change. The GWLCC generously donated towards the cost of hiring the pitch which was a nice gesture considering how little joy the pitch had given them. We have no away fixture with them but certain members will no doubt crop up in the West XI and New Barbarian Weasels games. I look forward to bowling against S (Stonewall?) Bicknell again!