After the rain had washed out their 1st XI counterparts the previous day, a young Elstow Developmental XI side took to The Warren eager to get a full game of cricket under their belts against a slightly more experienced – yet no more talented – Blunham side.
Luckily, the weather today was not to be an issue, a pleasant June afternoon and the club’s dedicated grounds men ensured a hard, solid wicket was prepared for the coin toss. After winning the toss (take note messrs Stevens and Wisson) and electing to field, Elstow came out looking to exert early pressure with the ball; with Hikmut Waqar causing problems with his raw pace and bounce and Ajay Paul backing him up by providing good, tight lines with the new cherry.
After Waqar disturbed the stumps for the first wicket, Elstow took to spin, with new-boy Hardev Sanghera replacing him from the top end and immediately finding his lines – bowling an attacking line and length with his fizzing off-spin, collecting figures of 7-1-16-3 throughout the day. With wickets falling to “Sanghy’s Spinners” at the top end, Cain Hamilton-Boyle came on up the hill and into the wind – which any bowler will tell you isn’t their idea of fun – and after slightly struggling to find his radar in his initial over, came back to bowl well and finish his spell by taking the wicket of Blunham’s dangerous number 5.
Another newcomer, Ashmeet Chana replaced Hamilton-Boyle from the bottom end and after starting well, committed the oldest of tricks; bowl a bad ball, take a wicket – his wide long-hop bamboozling the batsman into a horrific pull-come-hook-come-mess, taking the catch off of his own bowling.
Gurraj then came on and immediately impressed, bowling a very economical spell – including a wicket maiden – and was backed up by Luke Griffith’s 3 overs from the top, in which he snared an important wicket for the side, growing in confidence with each over.
Elstow continued to be on top until an excellent display of counter-attacking from the young Blunham number 7 – his 50 coming in seemingly no time at all – forced them onto the back foot, with bowlers losing their lines and the score ticking along quite nicely for the visitors. This is a classic cricketing situation, and one in which Elstow will learn from as a team – you’ve got to play cricket at full intensity for 40 overs!
After Ajay returned to the attack and took the wicket of Blunham’s undoubted Man of the Match, the last few overs were bowled very well, with Gurraj, Hikmut and particularly Ajay Paul impressing with their “death-bowling”.
With Blunham finishing on 190-8 from their 40 overs, Elstow couldn’t help but feel they should have maybe restricted them to somewhere around 150 – however, this was a 200 run pitch, yet again a credit to the hard work put in by the grounds staff, and 191 to win was a target in which Elstow felt was perfectly achievable.
… It wasn’t.
After a re-jigging and re-shuffling of the batting line up, Elstow opened with Cain and wicket-keeper-for-the-day Jacob. After a quiet first 2 overs, Cain kicked into gear, hitting 3 classy boundaries before he was bowled for 12. Jacob quickly followed to the Blunham opener – the fact that he was their most senior player spoke volumes of how seriously Blunham took to their task – and suddenly Elstow were reeling at not very many for 2.
This brought Ajay Paul and Ashmeet Chana to the crease, however, both fell victim to some questionable bowling – Paul being clean bowled by a waist high full toss, a delivery which also claimed Chana’s wicket, as he holed out to mid-wicket from a carbon copy delivery.
Young Sumit Karonakotha impressed as he came to the crease, both solid in defence and showing a remarkable temperament for someone of only 13 years old. The youngster was then joined by skipper-for-the-day Tebs, whom after promoting himself to number 7 amidst the cluster of wickets to “steady the ship”, holed out for a duck after playing an inexplicably poor shot while yet to get off of the mark.
With the fall of their 6th wicket, the young Elstow side were 46-6. Sanghera came and went in quick fashion, being bowled for 4 by Blunham’s impressive young seamer and was followed into the hut by Sumit, who can be proud of the guts and determination he showed in a belligerent innings.
This brought Hikmut “The Whacker” Waqar to the crease…
After humbly informing his captain before the game that he “bat’s okay.”, Waqar strode to the crease, quietly took his stance without taking a guard and awaited his first delivery. A solid forward defence – one of only two dot balls in his innings.
The very next ball, this very same shy young cricketer danced down the pitch quicker than Mark Ramprakash – for those of you who like a combination of cricket and dancing – and bullied a perfectly good ball through mid-wicket.
“He can’t do that every ball!” cried the opposing captain.
Oh how very wrong he was.
This shot was just the first in a long line of incredible examples of power-hitting; when all the dust had settled Waqar had blitzed a whirlwind 45 off of just 15 balls – including 3 huge consecutive sixes in a stunning display which gave Elstow’s score some respectability. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and he was bowled just 5 short of his maiden Elstow 50, however exciting things are certain to come from this young man with bat and ball!
Gurraj was unlucky to be dismissed only a couple of balls later, which left Mahi and Luke Griffith as the last wicket stand. With the last hopes of an unlikely win fading, the batting collapse was completed with the sin of all sins: a run-out. A frustrating way to end what was a very positive day for the young Elstow Development XI, particularly pleasing was the fielding performance – you can all be proud of yourselves lads!
Back to the training field we go then, knowing that with each and every performance and each and every minute spent working on the basics of the game, the future looks bright at The Warren.
M-O-M; Tough to call, Sanghera’s spell was a joy to watch as he gave control and also attacked (dare I say much like an English off-spinner?), while Jacob did very well behind the stumps after suffering a damaged finger. However, just shading it for his excellent bowling and jaw-dropping batting, Hikmut Waqar takes this week’s award. Well played lad.
D-O-D; Yours truly. Promoting yourself to number 7 to stabilise an innings, patiently leaving 3 balls and then following the perfect forward defense with a straight drive that was uglier than Ryan Sidebottom. D’oh!