Exiles v West XI, Honor Oak, 9 August 1998

Tension at Headingly mirrored in Dulwich,

As the England team stretched the nerves of every Cricket fan in the country, the Exiles had their own thrilling match at home against West XI on the first really hot day of the season. Winning the toss and electing to bat the Exiles openers Soumitro Nagpal and James Booth soon had the West XI bowlers struggling on an easy paced pitch and a lightning fast outfield. They put on 44 before James slapped a wide long hop straight at Mid Off having previously been dropped at Mid On to one of the easiest chances you will ever be offered in a month of Sundays. If James Booth could follow Soumitro's example and play everything "on the carpet" he would make a lot more runs, as it is now, no matter how well set he looks he is always likely to chip a catch. James had made 15. Rohan West was playing in his last match for the Exiles before returning to America to complete his studies. He looks as though he studies baseball, with his trademark cap and ritualistic taking guard, today however his home-run hitting deserted him and he never seemed to be in touch. He did stay with Soumitro for a 75 run partnership to which he contributed 12, before falling lbw to the off-spinner Hill. Tony Brook was a little more fluent and he collected 24 valuable runs before falling to a blinding catch with the score on 183 . By then Soumitro had passed the century landmark. Andy Brook, "The Big Tapper", playing his first game of the season, fell to a good catch before he'd opened his account. Keith Marchbank also fell for a Duck, although judging from the bangs and expletives emanating from the hut he felt he had been unlucky to have been given l.b.w by new guy Stephen Brown. Naem Khan then joined Soumitro, and after his usual lusty air shots began to connect, but then Soumitro was caught to another fantastic catch by Vine having reached 118, a new club record for the Indian who played a lot of his Cricket in Salt Lake City, Utah. His innings included 17 boundaries and lasted 35 overs. Phil James, on the cusp of retirement (?), came back with a typical cameo of hits but after running a three it was obvious his endurance was failing and the next ball from Vine was too good for his lead footed flail and he was bowled for 10. South African Stephen Brown, also an internet "find" then had the briefest of cameos, a four through the vacant slip area, and then another bowled victim for Vine. Waseem joined his brother Naem who made the most of the few overs remaining to take his personal score to 18* whilst Waseem managed just a single. The Exiles 229 for 8 in 40 overs. A good total but maybe 20 less than it should have been, given the conditions.

Tea was taken and a chance to catch up with the drama from Headingly. After the restart Paul Shorrock was strangely out of rhythym, and served up a series of full tosses and half-volleys with only the occasional good ball, so West XI got off to a good start. Naem too was dealt severely with by the Australian Vine, who was soon showing his status as "Star Player", his three wickets and two(?) catches had kept West XI in the game, and now his clean striking was penetrating the leaky Exiles field. Tony Brook had the first real chance to remove him but he dropped him on the Long On boundary off Keith Marchbank, just beneath one of the shady Oaks. It was to prove costly as he went on to make a century, with a little help from the umpires who he was tutoring as they went along regarding what was a wide and more crucialy what the ball may have hit other than his glove when he was given not out to a caught behind shout off Shorrock that had Rohan close to boiling point. The event was similar to the event against the Antelopians two weeks earlier from the same bowler. In Test Match Cricket batsman have been fined large amounts for a silent shake of the head but it is surely turning the game on its head when the batsman tells the umpire that he is "not out"! Keith Marchbank bowled a long spell and had one wicket to go with the dropped chances. And Tony Brook bowled himself after replacing Phil James who's one over was considered more than enough. Strange to recall that only two short years ago Phil was a major wicket taker; 26 wickets at a average of 7.08. Take note kids, the drugs don't work! Tony mixed the rough and the smooth and managed to bowl a left-hander from around the wicket. Shorrock returned from the pavillion end for a much improved spell, grabbing one wicket, bowled off the pads not playing a stroke! An lbw shout against another left-hander was turned down with the explanation the bowler was "getting too close to the stumps". The Khan Brothers drew upon their Pathan warrior ancestry and turned righteous indignation into wicket-taking deliveries, sweeping away several lesser batsmen, and Naem grabbed the prized scalp of Vine with a lightning delivery that he nicked to Rohan who made no mistake and left no one in doubt of his satisfaction. But by then only four an over were needed and the front-line three were bowled out. Tony bravely returned with Keith and with a four byes and an overthrow the total was reached with two wickets in hand and two overs remaining.

Soumitro having made more than half the runs should be given great credit. I'm not sure he is familiar with the tradition of "The Jug" for 50 runs or 5 wickets, but he stole away after the match in fading light to cycle back to Kensington without lights but clearly visible to oncoming traffic because of his broad grin, without putting his hand in his pocket. It is doubtful on first impressions that Stephen Brown will join him in the Exiles hall of fame just yet but his keenness in the field and proximity to the ground should see him playing again before the season is out.

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