Exiles v Occasionals, Honor Oak, 7 June 1998

Heaviest Defeat Yet!

This match report is a painful task, but perhaps it will prove cathartic and thereby beneficial, for the Exiles plumbed the darkest depths of ineptitude yesterday and no one on the team can fail to have been cast down by it. Forget burning the bails, if there had been a bonfire handy some may have thrown their bats on it, and some may have added their own bodies to the ashes! However the hardest steel is forged in the hottest fires and we must bounce back from this Black Sunday and promise ourselves never to shoot ourselves in the foot with ridiculous run-outs, after digging a hole for oursleves with poorly directed bowling backed up by sloppy fielding. So the image I am painting is of a team in it's own grave, bleeding from both feet, the kit bag a funeral pyre.

From Wednesday morning it was clear we would have an uphill struggle, key players in form being unavailable. Normally by this stage in the season home games are over-subscribed and the Captain has a degree of flexiblity in picking a balanced team, but to date this year every match has needed non-members to make up the numbers and some of the old campaigners who played more games than they missed have been conspicuous by their absence. Compounding that pre-match warm-up injury to wicket keeper Dave Middle who was unable to bat, and a migraine affecting opener Tony Brook, who was forced to go down the order to No.5 piled on the agony.

After a delayed start due to rain and late arrivals acting Captain Paul Shorrock won the toss and elected ball on the damp wicket. After that the game went rapidly downhill for the Exiles. The first ball was edged to fall just in front of Tony Brook at first slip, yorking him and going through to the short third man boundary for four. A third man was placed and the rest of the over Shorrock got it in the right area and beat the edge to defensive and attacking shots and was licking his lips in anticipation of the heap of wicket that must surely come soon. Waseem Khan opened from the far end but struggled to gain any line and length into the wind. Marvellous bowler though he his Waseem always seems below par when asked to open, he is much happier coming in first change and at the death. His brother Naem is fast becoming the player who can dictate which end he has (with the wind) and when he bats (middle order) and he rarely fails to replay the faith in him. His last three innings have produced 90 runs without the loss of his wicket. He replaced his brother into the wind (not too much complaint) and Phil James replaced Paul Shorrock with the wind to assist his failing pace. Unfortunately the wind doesn't blow strong enough to give Phil the pace he used to have when he regularly took five wickets and he was rested after two wayward overs, to go and contemplate his new role as late order batsman. Steve Howard took the scoreboard end and soon got his risky leg-breaks in the right area and Steve Sorba in particular was lucky not to fall attempting ambitious sweeps. It was the vociferous Richard Strange who fell first though as he swept as was bowled for 23, not bad for a man without an effective attacking shot in his armoury! By then the score was in the eighties. Naem was rested and Tony Brook was given a rare chance to show-off his bowling, and his competitiveness was enough for him to hold on to some sort of control after a shaky start, and he was unlucky not to have Steve Sorba l.b.w and hold onto Carrington's sharp return chance. Sorba reached his fifty as the Occasionals pushed on with nine wickets in hand and the field became more defensive.
Paul replaced Steve for a two over burst from the scoreboard end and had Sorba caught at cover when he skied a slash to Naem who pouched it jogging backwards. This brought Jerry Slora to the wicket who got up to speed pretty quickly with some sweetly timed on-drives and when Soumitro, the debutante Exile member was given an over out of a mixture of curiosity and desperation Slora hit him out of the ground, over the oaks and the ball was retrieved from the gutter on the far side of the South Circular! I expect Soumitro will bowl again for the Exiles (when he recovers from that shot), but his strength is his batting and he was going to need to do a lot of that today if we were going to stay in touch. Waseem came back with the wind and bowled a better spell but still found the wicket too soft for his liking, unusually for him he finished wicketless but comparatively unscathed. Naem replaced him for the death and picked up the wicket of Carrington caught at cover by Shorrock of a skier to return the favour, only for Doran to continue the mayhem, and with score past 200 Shorrock gifted two wides, one of which went to the boundary (past James Booth who had taken over the gloves for the hobbled Dave Middle) to finish with a horrible last over that dented his mediocre figures yet further. Occasionals 219 for three.

After a tea that was slightly extended to take in England's second innings at Edgbaston on the large TV in the bar the Exiles set out to conquer Everest. Soumitro Nagpal and Keith Marchbank opened as Tony Brook searched for some pills to calm his migraine. Progress was glacial and not without shocks, wides contibuting as much as the bat in the early overs. Keith worked singles to fine leg and Soumitro guided the ball into the spaces for twos between swinging wildly at half volleys and missing. He had not played much cricket on turf wickets, having learnt the game in Indian Unviversities and American Club Cricket, where matting is the norm, but the kernel of a working technique was begining to show itself before he connected with a half volley and drove it back at the bowler Des who took the catch. Keith managed a couple of thumping drives to long on and long off before getting too far across and losing his leg bail behind his legs as again attempted a fine leg glance. 28 for 2 in the eleventh over and a long way to go. James Booth and Dominic Wood slowed the rate still further, failing to come to terms with the nagging accuracy of "Dixie" Stainer who bowled off breaks to finish with the notable figures of 8 Overs, 6 Maidens, 3 Wickets for 2 Runs.
James was the great hope for the Exiles who had seen him turn into a run-machine if he could just settle in. The Australian pace-bowler Lyle who bowls in his cap even though the sun was behind him and the clouds had an expensive first over and Exiles' hope of a revival began to flicker, only to be needlessly snuffed out in one of the daftest piece of running you have never seen. Dominic cut a ball to the gully who dropped it at his own feet, whereupon Dominic, no doubt shocked to have finally middled a ball called for a run, maybe James is too polite to decline an invitation, but this was definately a case for a resounding NO! as he discovered as the wicket was broken while he was five yards short. Much head-shaking and one thrown bat in the scorers hut; the score on 42 for 3 and half the overs gone already. Run rate required 18.7 an over! Tony with a migraine was unlikely to be at his best after the busiest week of his life, and when he fell for one, chipping an easy catch it couldn't darken the mood any further. Dominic fell soon after, when it would have been wise for him to stay at the crease for a year or two until the run out had faded in James' mind. Naem managed to keep his personal pride intact with an aggressive 25 not out that included some vicious pull shots off Lyle. Unfortunately the tail could not stay with him, Phil James ending a miserable day with a first ball duck, to become Stainer's third victim, Shorrock hung around for a few overs to scrape 7 in a stand of 17 with Naem before playing back to Lyle to lose his off stump. Waseem likewise managed 6 before being bolwed by Lyle. Steve Howard enjoyed himself for a brief time in the late sunshine, knowing that he had nothing to lose before he added his own name to the list of unecessary run-outs for 2, which brought proceedings to a close with 8 Overs unbowled, 127 runs needed and Dave Middle not wanting to risk his injured foot on a hiding to nothing. Cynics might argue he was protecting his average which stands at an above par 4.0 at the moment! Naem wasn't pleased to run out of partners but finally had to concede that it was all over now.

Easier Opposition next week in the form of the Victor Trumper Memorial XI to whom we have never lost. Will they feel the backlash or have the Exiles started a decline that is irreversable? Tune in next week to see what the fates have in store.

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