What can only be described as a C-side turned out for the Dogs in a rare Sunday fixture on a double-header weekend. The opposition was a pleasant enough side that clearly expected to win. This expectation might have been more justified had they turned up with 11 players, but their numbers fluctuated between 8 and 10. The Dogs, on the other hand, accidentally fielded 12 players, something neither side even noticed until the 24th over of the Westchester innings when one of their batsman finally decided to count white-clothed bodies. Skipper Harrison’s excuse was that he’d never needed to do any complex statistics to be a neuroscientist, and besides, counting is the sort of thing best delegated to others.
The opposition took this faux pas quite well, considering, and probably took into account that 3 of the fielders were aged 12-15, the club finally moving towards a youth policy after years of picking aging superstars like Boyke and Lawrence.
Westchester won the toss and batted against Haydon and Dey, and got off to a decent start by batting solidly. Dey was struck for three meaty leg-side sixes as part of the traditional welcome to bowling at Mad Dog Park. But he bowled with pace and some nice movement when he got his line right and avoided leg-side wides.
Haydon took the first wicket, when Prashant (13) drove a comfortable return catch. Dey then had Ben (3) gloving very obviously to Farricker, although the batsman had to dragged from the crease by means of a meat-hook.
The third wicket was a stroke of good fortune when Dey’s full toss was top-edged by Gautam (24) high to square leg, where young Warner judged a nasty catch very nicely. The batsman remonstrated with the umpires, not entirely without justification, that the ball was easily high enough to be a no-ball. But when your own team-mates give you out………. (it was noticeable that when Gautam came out to umpire, every ball that didn’t actually bounce was called a no-ball). The Westchester scoring rate was hovering around 6 or 7 an over in these early stages of the innings, thanks to wides and some big hits, but the bowling was solid enough.
Moore came on for Dey, and immediately, and rather luckily, dismissed key batsman Sudheer for 32, a ball that almost bounced twice due to a mechanics’ problem was hoisted straight down Wong’s throat at mid-wicket. Moore then fell into the trap of liking the way he was swinging the ball, to the extent of swinging just about every ball for a leg-side wide and then over-compensating, necessitating his replacement by the steadier Wong.
At the other end, Herno Smith bowled three really nice overs for only 12 runs, beating the bat a couple of times. Warner came off less well, dropping a bit short and getting pulled for a few sixes and fours. But Wong’s steadiness kept the scoring rate in check, and Harrison brought himself on, despite an aging shoulder, to provide some control at the pavilion end. Wong took the next wicket, Afa (22) driving high into the covers where Harrison judged the catch with his usual skill. Harrison then bowled Jasjit for 49 though a vicious but fruitless drive as the batsman tried to bring up his 50 with a boundary.
Wong seemed to tire, so Moore replaced him to bowl a much steadier second spell, bowling Bhaskar (2) with one that nipped-back as the batsman drove airily. At this point, the 7 wickets taken appeared to spell the end of the Westchester innings, but a pre-arranged codicil then kicked in to allow the last man to continue batting (after all, we did have 12 fielders on the pitch most of the time…..). Jitu then added another twenty or so runs on his own, brutalizing Harrison for some leg-side boundaries, on his way to 41. But off the penultimate ball of the innings, a sharp and accurate return from the ever-energetic Dey allowed Farriker to remove the bails with the runner just short, ending the innings on 232 for 8, from 34.5 overs. Obviously, that was a competitive total, perhaps not surprisingly given the rather raw bowling attack. On the other end, the youth of some of the fielders did allow for greater mobility than is often the case. And we did have 12 of them……. Dey, Wong, Warner and Malhotra stood out in the field, and Farricker kept classily, as always.
Getting 233 to win was obviously going to be tough, particularly considering that: a) three of the batsman were 15 and under; b) of the adults, 4 were playing their first games at MDP, making it a tad tricky to judge their ability levels.
Things were sufficiently desperate that Harrison put himself up the order to open with Wong. Wides kicked in with a vengeance early on, allowing Harrison and Wong to put on 16 for the first wicket before Wong was LBW for 0 (13 balls) from a very rare straight one from Bhaksar. At the time, Harrison was on 1.
Haydon then joined Harrison to put together a wonderful stand of 137 in 19.2 overs against some decent, although perhaps not too threatening bowling. Harrison played what he said was “the Palmer role”, which he interpreted as meaning he didn’t actually need to play any shots, but would deflect the ball to fine leg and third man as often as he could (some observers feel that Eddy might have a solid case for slander). Haydon was more attacking, as one would expect, but both batsmen played really sensibly to push the score along at the 6-7 an over rate required. It helped, of course, that Westchester only had between 8 and 10 fielders at different stages, due to the early departure of some of their players, compensated in part by the donation of a young fielder or two.
So there were gaps, and Haydon showed himself to be particularly adept at spotting them and placing the ball into them, to reach an excellent 50 from only 45 balls. At the drinks’ break (17 overs), the score was 116, exactly half-way, so we were clearly in the game. Haydon then opened up, picking off several more fours and get the scoring rate in our favor. Harrison, meanwhile, continued to deflect the ball to third man or fine leg, sometimes to fine leg or third man to provide a little variation. But with the score on 153 in the 22nd over, Haydon drove early at Jasjit to lob a return catch that ended a terrific knock of 76 (66 balls, 7 x 4).
The thin nature of the Dogs’ batting order was then made obvious by the appearance of Moore at #4. But he and Harrison then did what Harrison and he do, run ones and twos with speed by virtue of placing the ball into the gaps (or in Harrison’s case, deflecting the ball to third man or fine leg). Moore also contributed one firm leg-side 6 onto an overhanging leaf. The Westchester bowling was also tightening up by this time, with Sridhar bowling a particularly good spell, so the scoring rate was only just hanging in the required range. Harrison was clearly tiring at the end of his marathon knock, and finally moved across too far in an attempt to deflect Sudheer to fine leg, losing his leg-stump behind his legs. He dragged himself off, with 33 (25 x 1, 4 x 2) important runs to his credit from a marathon 80 balls. It may not have been pretty, but this knock was pretty effective and important for his team.
The Dogs were still in the hunt at this stage, but needed 50 from about 6-7 overs with Sudheer really keeping it tight at one end. It didn’t help that the flow of wides had dried up by now. Nimmagadda contributed 4 from 8 balls, heaving away until he nicked one to the keeper off Sudheer. Moore fell immediately afterwards, a useful innings of 24 from 23 balls (1 x 6) ending with a sliced catch off Sudheer to point.
With 40 still to get, and only 4 overs to go, and with the light really, really fading, it looked a tough ask for the middle order (particularly since most of the middle order had batted at the top of the innings). But in strode the Dogs’ last hope, Frank the Yank Farricker, resplendent in a blue T-shirt, to play the innings of his career.
Accompanied by Malhotra, 9 runs were taken from the 32nd over, Farricker slogging a four. Jitu then made the classic mistake of giving Farricker too much room to swing his arms, and was mowed (there is no other word) for a 6, a 4 and 2. Two more wides, overthrows and leg-byes made the 33rd over worth 18 to the Dogs, changing the equation back in our favor. Harrison noted that, with 13 needed from 2 overs, “they could now get them in singles”. Yes, but this is not, in fact, Franky’s game, Neil.
So, another 4 was mowed away to midwicket, and Frank’s second string scoring shot came into play – the booted leg-bye off the mow-that-misses. Malhotra was also chipping in useful runs, and both batsman were haring for every single, sometimes even both at the same time (there were a few farcical moments……..).
One way or another, 6 more runs came from the 34th over. One over to go, 7 runs to score, and the light was fading fast. The tension was high. Fielders went into huddles (small ones, as there weren’t all that many of them left, as the kids were all padded up for the Dogs, and no longer available as substitutes). Jasjit bowled to Farricker, two leg-byes were scrambled, then Farricker mowed a 2 to leg.
Only three needed from 4 balls. A run was missed next ball as the keeper dropped the ball but the batsmen didn’t run. Three needed from three balls. Farricker then booted another leg-bye far enough to draw a throw at the stumps which went for an overthrow as he and Malhotra hared up and down.
The scores were level, with two balls left. Another leg-bye was attempted as Farricker again swung and missed, but this time a direct hit on the stumps ran the diving Malhotra out by a yard (6, from 6 balls).
Still one run needed, from the last ball, with the diminutive Herno Smith walking to the wicket, under instructions to “get something on it and run like the hounds of hell were on your tail”. Sensibly eschewing advice on running between the wickets from Franky, Herno settled in coolly at the crease.
The last ball was bowled, it hit something, cannoned somewhere, Franky raced down the track, dived, Herno pounded up to the other end and made it as the ball rolled around near Franky’s prostrate form.
What really happened? Nobody was sure. Umpire Wong said he called a wide, but nobody noticed. The ball hit a pad, but was it Herno’s, or was it the keeper’s who was standing up? In the end, who the #### cares? One way or another, an extra came from the last ball, whether it was a bye, a wide, or a leg-bye.
The Dogs had won a pulsating, last ball victory, with an American and a 12-year old kid at the crease. Classic stuff. Westchester were disappointed, but they took it in good spirit in the end. The final score was 233 for 6 off 35 overs, with Farricker 24 not out from 15 balls (3 x 4, 1 x 6) and young Smith on 0 not out (1 ball). Willy Wide-Ball contributed 47 to a tally of 58 extras, which was a great help.
A tremendous win, one made possible by some classy batting from Haydon, gutsy knocks from Harrison and Moore, and some lusty smiting at the death from Farricker. A team performance if ever there was one, and a game that long live in the memories, even when Smith and Warner are as venerable and rickety as Lawrence and Boyke.