Match report by Stephen O'Connor (capt)
A few clichés to see in the new season, for the oft remodeled 'beware the ides of March' read May, as was Caesar's want, the warning and the Brutus among us were blithely ignored.
Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory, it's a game of two halves (note to diary, pitch up for the second), scorecard? More like a duck pond, and so it was but let's not get ahead of ourselves, a few introductions are in order.
Once again the Exiles are bolstered by men from down under this season with leg spinner and middle order blaster Ian Craig joining us from (cue name of small outback town population 10 blokes, 3 sheilas, 1 outdoor dunni and a dingo) …Clapham. Adam Kiil also from oz (the surname's Estonian we are told), left arm medium and bat, along with Cameron Mitchell and Matthew Thompson a couple of all rounders who thought they'd missed the cut having not turned up for the Oval nets. Flattered as we are for appearing to have a no-nonsense selection policy here at Exiles, if you're keen you're in lads and turning up in newly purchased whites n' spikes with subs in hand will do you no harm at all, nice one. Fresh in from, the name escapes me but it is round the corner from Hermanus in the Cape is Riaan Malherbe, bustling medium and excitable bat, also just about straight off the Piccadilly line from Heathrow is Vijay Kumar, top order hitter and surprising nip off a 3 stride shuffle, he hails from….name escapes me but it is near Ahmedabad, I think, definitely 400km from Mumbai. Not with us on Sunday but turned up for the last match last season and joining us at the Oval net sessions was Andy from New Zealand, fast(est) bowler and another middle order man who likes to play himself in, for all of a ball that is before launching a savage attack on the Ken Barrington ceilings and Paul Stocker who showed up to the Saturday nets at Chiswick Community School, flighty slow medium and bat. There are a number of others who showed up for a net or two or have e-mailed us and are keen, though it seems to be one or the other at this stage so those that showed up at the Oval, e-mail us, those who e-mailed, let's be having you.
So to the action. I don't have the scorecard in front of me so let's not quibble. Happy to lose the toss as the Pretenders elect to bat, with what seemed a weakened or untested attack skipper here thought we'd be better off setting a target on the soft early season wicket and chasing. Rob Anderson got us underway and it was immediately apparent that it was keeping low and shooting. After the obligatory opening no-ball O'Connor got the Pretenders' left handed opener rocking back onto the back foot and allowing it to shoot under the bat to take the lower half of off stump, one down. Note to diary, it's keeping low, stay on the front foot. Two balls later the No. 3 attempts a similar shot off the back foot and takes a thin edge to Dax, the brand spanking new bright orange super sticky Gilchrist autograph gloves stuck, two down.
Anderson kept one end quiet though Dax needed the odd reminder he had pads to go with the night glow gloves allowing a few to skid under him for byes. Otherwise it was a tight opening spell that soon lead to a third O'Connor wicket, this time the second opener latched on to a juicy long hop only to have Adam Kiil dive slightly forward and to his right and snaffle it one-handed. The standard was set and the fielding remained enthusiastic and sharp bar the odd over throw and one chance to first slip, better to get that ball in hard and get hands to chances than not.
Cameron Mitchell was introduced at the pavilion end and showed some good better side of medium pace, and, bounce. The little extra bounce produced another couple of chances at slip, in fairness only one carried, but carried to vacant second slip, Vijay having been moved to 3rd man by the skipper in response to some lofted slicing again coming off the extra bounce. Meanwhile Riaan Malherbe took over from O'Connor at the scorer's hut end, a tad shy of the pitch to begin with he eventually got his reward for his bustling enthusiasm forcing a faint inside edge to clatter on, 4 down for 40 odd (was it?) Cameron's efforts started paying off at the other end as well taking the top of middle on one occasion and finding Dax's gloves on another, 6 down for 50 odd. With the Pretenders tied down and wickets falling regularly another double change, Matthew Thompson had a go after Cameron, similar action, maybe not quite the nip, but similar line and length, similar DF whites and spikes, so similar it seems the old boy scoring for the Pretenders didn't notice the change of bowling at all. Similar outcome, two wickets taken and both coming the ball after being taken to the boundary. We like that, vengeance best served cold and all that, by this stage served in the cold as the clouds began rolling in and the wind beginning to bite.
Thompson's two were taken either side of one for spinner Eddie 'da Musta' Fuller who bowled the tightest spell of the match carrying over some good work in the nets. Eddie's got the flight just right at the moment and his victim noticeably shuffled forward then back and got lost somewhere in between, bowled. 9 down for 90 and by captain's agreement number nine is allowed another go in the absence of an eleventh player. Ian Craig was operating in tandem with Eddie at this point and was getting his leg spin to break across the batsmen quite nicely, unlucky not to find the edge of the second lifer's blade a number of times.
All very sporting stuff until the Pretenders captain at the other end took his opportunities just beyond the extent of his welcome and started finding a few too many boundaries. O'Connor puts himself back on and puts an end to it but not before Pretenders have snuck up to 129. Nonetheless all beautifully timed as the rain came down at the stroke of tea and stopped just as Dax had polished off the last of the sandwiches. The tenth wicket and extra 30 odd runs a sporting gesture rewarded from up on high?
Tea was taken in the rather grand Durrants clubhouse, an impressively well maintained club and grounds from the trimmed hedges to the atmospheric bar, the product of which was sampled by Rob 'I work nights bru' Anderson before taking the new ball. With everyone having put their hands up as batsmen chasing 130 appeared a simple enough task, the problem was what order to put out.
Lots of middle order types, a number happy to take the first drop slot, but of course many unknown quantities. In the end skipper and Guy, impromptu no-nonsense selection panel, go with a blend and opt for O'Connor and new signing Kumar to open followed by Thompson, Malherbe, Anderson, Hatton, Craig, Kiil, Mitchell, Holling and Fuller. Talk was of 20 odd overs and pints as the Exiles took to the field. The Pretenders opener should have sown the first seeds of doubt, tall and angular he found bounce to go with some pace, though a lot of it quite straight and to leg side however and should have been comfortably been dealt with by O'Connor who had been reminded enough times in the nets that this requires deflection off the face down leg, not deflection off rump jumping to leg. Reverting to type a couple of thunderous boundaries were taken before gathering his thoughts, getting in line and forward and getting bowled.
First down for 10 brings Thompson to the wicket who shapes up nicely before being inexplicably given out caught behind down leg. Never mind, Riaan Malherbe's hustle and bustle and Vijay's thunderous drives soon settle things down towards what would surely be an early finish. An interesting partnership this was, Vijay clad in black jeans and trainers shattered his bat at one stage at which point he simply commandeered Riaan's blade in preference to the lighter club Slazenger. Riaan in turn decided the Slazenger wasn't up to much and turned to Dax's GM Maxi with shiny 'well matured' super slip grip which was promptly handed over to Vijay in return for his own bat about an over later. There were periodic shoe lace stops for Vijay and most of all plenty of animated double and triple calling with some not so animated running. Whatever the case it was definitely entertaining standing at extra cover as substitute fielder for Pretenders. This lively partnership saw Exiles through to somewhere in the region of 75-2 with about 22 overs in the bank, cruising.
Riaan then got himself out, skied a catch I think, or was it bowled? I don't know it didn't seem to matter too much. Anderson swaggers to the middle, has a look at a few, sternly sends the still animated Vijay back a couple of times, then, skies one. After what seemed like an age the ball is dropping between point and the cover fielder, 'et tu Brute', indeed, despite the pretend calls of the point fielder I had no choice but to cling onto what was clearly mine, the ball and my sporting honour. Oh well, Vijay's still going good guns and who better to block a few than Guy Hatton who recently discovered his doggedly defiant side in the nets. In the nets. Two balls later having glanced one to the slips he's on his way bringing Ian Craig to the crease, he of the brand new V1200. Much like Anderson he has a good look, sends Vijay back a few times from certain suicide and then, well yes he top edges straight at me. No time to weigh up the consequences this time, straight at me, chest height. Held.
Still, 80 odd for 6, 50 to make, 18 overs to make them, 4 batsmen who reckon they could all have been well up the order. Here comes Kiil, couple of boundaries, there goes Kiil. In comes Mitchell, drives one crisply to yours truly at extra cover, runs, Vijay says nooooo, nooo, noo, no. Cameron's standing next to him, Vijay's not moved. What choice but to throw to the keeper? Run out. Two held, one run out, skipper's on his way to Pretenders man-of the-match nomination. Right Dax, let's be having you. Golden duck. Bowled. Eddie? Anyone? Steady Eddie is just that for a while, all the while Vijay attempts to put each and every ball either North of the Watford gap just a few km up the road or South of the Thames, skies a couple which are dropped, dispatches a few before the opener comes back and takes the top of his middle stump. 94 all out.
Man of the match...? Got to be Vijay without whom it could have been curtains a lot earlier, but then we might have got in before the bar closed, hhhmm.
Next up Twickenham at Twickenham Green