Strongroom CC v Exiles CC, Highgate Wood 29 May 1999.

Sean demolishes Strongroom bowling. Exiles denied victory by "biblical flood".

The hottest day of the season so far, Captain Paul Shorrock won the toss and had no second thoughts about batting first. The start had been delayed by that perennial problem, the four Strongroom guys with the kit bag arriving 40 minutes after the scheduled start! At least this year they brought some stumps. A further five minutes were lost as the groundstaff had made holes for the stumps too far apart. The game was reduced to 35 overs per innings. Eventually play began and immediately there was a flurry of activity. With only a single leg-bye scored Guy Sneesby was plum lbw first ball by Mark Mellor. Sean O'Connor began brightly but James Booth was still not settled in when his stumps were rearranged by Glover in the sixth over for three with the score on 17. Tony Brook continued his poor scoring run with a second ball duck, gloving a ballooning catch to slip that your Grandma could have caught in her pinny (the only sort they hang on to!). The Exiles were rocking on 17 for 3, but it was too early to panic, there was a lot of batting to come. Ian Barker was just the man to plug the breach, his disarming grin easing the tension almost as surely as his elegant shots. Ian's batting has been a rarity for the Exiles, batting as he normally does in the "nine-ten-jack" slots reserved for opening bowlers but today freed of bowling duties due to his healing hamstring. The two Exiles began to build the partnership of the match, Ian playing singles into the many gaps and clipping a four off his pads to square leg that was the shot of the day for me. Sean was more savage, pulling and driving the numerous bad balls with murderous intent. Soon the Strongroom lost their early spring and were openly berating each other for poor fielding. By the time Sean posted his half century (his second in two innings) they were in no mood to join in the applause from his team-mates. After Mellor the bowling was second rate at best, Adrian the Captain received particular punishment one over when Sean hit him for 16 in a single over, including a straight six over the longest boundary, a mighty hit! Ian's positive running belied his suspect hamstring and was probably just what his physio ordered, it certainly helped the Exile's run rate. Remarkably the breakthrough came in the shape of the new slimline Richard Boote, sans beard, although he was instantly recognisable in his one-step delivery. In his first over he landed one on Ian's foot that would have gone on to hit leg stump, out lbw for 33 valuable runs out of a partnership worth around ninety in eight and a bit overs!

Ian Barker, back in the hutch a happy bunny after his quick fire 33

Faisal Ansari then joined Sean and proceeded to give the Strongroom some much-needed catching practise. I'm sure his first five scoring shots were all either dropped or not attempted, including a couple of skyers to long on and a drive to cover. Sean meanwhile continued his murderous assault and The Strongroom fielders were sensible enough not to try too hard to stop his rockets. Faisal then gave Adrian a moment of joy when he swung across a straight one and was bowled for 9. Naem Khan marched out looking like he meant business and for some odd reason the field was brought in as if he was some prodder and nudger coming in down the order, not the first time he has been mistaken for his brother Waseem! Obligingly the bowler dropped in a long hop that Naem carted to deep mid-wicket, nearly decapitating the flinching Captain Adrian glowering at short midwicket. This was the old Naem we knew and loved, scoring freely down the order with a few overs left. Soon he had the fielders back against the fence and took singles into the gaps and a few crashing boundaries but giving Sean every chance to close in on his first Exiles' century. Unfortunately Sean failed to reach the landmark as Adrian returned and bowled him on 96. The tail came and wagged briefly in support of Naem as Mellor returned to bring a degree of control and grab a couple more wickets to finish with a creditable 4 for 15. The Exiles all out for 199, quite a total off 35 overs.

Sean applies the"long-handle" on his way to 96.

 Batsman  How Out  Bowler  Total
 Sean O'Connor  bowled  Adrian  96
 G Sneesby  lbw  Mellor  0
 J Booth  bowled  Glover  3
 T Brook  caught (slip)  Mellor  0
 I Barker  lbw  Boote  33
 F Ansari  bowled  Adrian  9
 N Khan  not  out  20
 J Singleton  bowled  Raj  7
 P Shorrock  bowled  Mellor  4
S Scheepers   bowled  Raj  0
 W Khan  bowled  Mellor  0

 Bowler  Overs  Maidens  Runs  Wickets
 M Mellor  7  1  15  4
 Glover  7  0  27  1
 Adrian  7  0  44  2
 Alex  2  0  17  0
 Raj  6  0  44  2
 Boote  7  0  40  1

Paul Shorrock and Naem Khan opened the bowling, the latter due to his pressing engagement at a wedding on the other side of town. Shorrock was tidy enough but Naem was obviously in the mood for giving gifts! He was more his usual self when bowling Ru Pays (?) for a duck attempting to pull a straight fast one. After that Naem was unable to control the swing under the darkening sky. He cut down his run-up and tried out a new line in slow inswingers. The net result was that his third over went for 13 including four wides. Shorrock picked up the wicket of Captain Adrian who stretched to scoop an outswinger back to short extra cover where Stephen Scheepers swooped in slow motion. Adrian glowered at the umpire as if to imply the ball was bumped but failed to convince anyone. As all this was happening the thunder was getting nearer, and it was pretty dark when Stephen replaced Paul. His first ball was glanced to Naem at shortish fine leg and a run was called for, his team mates shouted for him to attempt the run out, Justin was over the bails ten yards away, Mellor was struggling and Naem let go a rocket of a the vacant bowler's stumps 35 yards away...missed, mid-off had no chance to cut it off and five runs were credited to Cusack .Then Naem finally gained some control of his new weapon and collected that rarity an lbw decision in a Strongroom innings. Cusack out for 16. The Umpire was changed next ball! Stuart McLellan managed six runs off Naem before the rain started in earnest. Within ten minutes it was clear there was no chance of a restart. To say the rain was biblical is in no way to imply that Strongroom were the beneficiaries of Divine Intervention but man did it pour down! With Faisal , Waseem and Ian still held in reserve the Exiles were confident that they had the measure of the game. The required run rate had already climbed to nearly 7 an over in spite of Naem's generosity. Strongroom were saved by the rain. The only problem remaining was how to get home without drowning or being hit by lightning!

 Batsman  How Out  Bowler  Total
 J Cusack  lbw  N Khan  16
 Ru Pays  bowled  N Khan  0
 Adrian  Caught Scheepers  P Shorrock  7
 M Mellor  Not  Out 10
 S McLellan  Not  Out  6

 Bowler  Overs  Maidens  Runs  Wickets
 P Shorrock  5  1  8  1
 N Khan  5.5  0  28  2
 S Scheepers  1  0  9  0

Tony (*not), Guy, Paul, Ian, Faisal, James and Stephen *taking cover from the torrential rain that saved The Strongroom from defeat!

Digital Photographs by Justin Singleton.

Next week The Occasionals at home.

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