But opposition claim pyrrhic victory in unfolding match fee non-payment scandal
Boomeranging Darjeeling alumnus Brad Wissink shone with a fine all-round performance, helping his erstwhile club defeat ‘needle’ rivals Dubai Superkings in a tense last-over finish.
Wissink’s 50, 5-fer and two catches were instrumental in the win, which looked unlikely the night before when CD pulled out with a late-night email, leaving the already-depleted side a man short despite young Jake and Ben already having been conscripted to the cause.
The Chairman may have to send out an email to rouse long-absent members to show up and play in Brian’s farewell match next weekend, but I digress, so on to the events of the day.
By 1:45 pm, 9 men and the 2 boys were all present (your correspondent replacing the absent Restauranteur-Publican), trading the usual pre-match banter while Pete K. shook off the hassle of moving house and the rust of being away from the cricket for countless weeks with a good hit-in courtesy the enthusiastic nippers, who were looking forward to their outfield sprints.
Match Manager Nick Harvey had appointed Noel the Skipper of the Day by then and was frantically calling the oppo to inquire if they were likely to show up anytime soon. The Superkings dribbled in over time from their previous match in Al Quoz and a spot of lunch thereafter, meanwhile the toss was negotiated over the phone and won, and the 2 pm match finally got off to an unusually tardy start at 2:38 with the Club batting first (of course!).
Not without incident though – despite having been informed via email, the Superkings’ Nasir claimed no knowledge of the match fees they owed us, and for a while the game was in jeopardy as negotiations played out. Finally a verbal IOU was tendered and accepted and the Club’s men heaved a sigh of relief as they repaired to the grandstand with cool beverages in hand to help alleviate the heat and humidity.
The oppo took to the field in richly diverse multi-coloured kit, all set to bowl with one of our Dukes generously supplied by Nick, and we opened with The Domminator and the by-now in-form Pete Kes-bashky as the Raymond Family settled in with the scorebook to further the boys’ cricketing education while Nick and Pete ‘The Pilot’ Foley headed in to umpire in shorts.
Shoaib Akhtar-like, Tipu steamed in from the Water Tank End, chucked it in and moved it out, snaring Chris nicking behind in the first over, the Club’s innings off to a less-than-ideal start. But in strode the Man of the Day, and Brad and Pete K. then set about smearing the bowling to all parts, hitting 4s and the odd 6 and running good 3s, putting on a major partnership (okay, I forgot to pick up the scorebook!) and coming in at drinks early after 8 overs with the scoreboard reading 70-odd/1 (I think), with steam emanating visibly from their faces in the 43-degree weather with near-50% humidity.
So good were our Aussies that an Ashes call-up might be imminent as the worst Oz side in living memory is about to take up arms against the old enemy.
Brad was out shortly after the drinks break, bowled off the bat for a fine 52 with two 6s and a few 4s, whereupon Mohit, promoted up the order, proceeded to the wicket. Several expansive but fruitless shots and a couple of nurdles later, Mo was back for 2, with fears of a Darjeeling slide beginning to take root in the grandstand where the usual lubricated banter was somewhat sub-par because the batting on display had been stellar and appreciated vocally.
Nick ‘The Harvester’ Harvey was in at 5, and continued the carnage with a fine 43 off 15 balls, while Pete K. got to his 50 as well before being caught behind off the back of the bat looking to paddle-sweep. By then the score was looking quite good, the Club going at 8 an over through the post-drinks sub-session as Andy at 6, then Pete F. at 7 contributed rapid single-digit cameos while Nick blazed away.
Meanwhile the Superkings looked like Superchuckers with 3 being called for bent elbows, including a bloke who seemed to bowl out of a virtual handbag in the crook of his right arm and another who managed to chuck down leggies!
Noel and yours truly were in for the last two overs, the Club ending up with a respectable, par-ish 174/7 off 20, the nippers still scoring only with pen and paper back in the hutch.
Armed with the DSK-supplied Pakistani 5-1/2 oz. ‘Bouncer’ in hand, we opened with Nick from the Water Tank End and Jake from the University End, and the SKs got off to a decent start with Shehzad looking dangerous, carting well-timed straight hits for 6s off Nick and pulling some short stuff from Jake for 4s through square leg while the other bloke struggled against Nick’s off-stump-and-away line and against Jake after he sorted his line and length.
But the SKs hadn’t accounted for the keen-ness of our Aviator Petes (both playing after a while, but you couldn’t tell) – first Purser Pete dashing in lightning-quick to effect a fine run-out with a direct hit from short mid-wicket, then Pilot Pete snaffling a good catch at slip off Nick (albeit on the second attempt after some turbulence), the SKs 30-odd for 2 after 5 overs, palpably off the pace of the chase and looking distinctly not-so-Super.
Noel was in his usual ‘inventive skipper’ mode, shuffling the bowling around, placing good fields and rallying the troops vocally in the field, consequently the opposition batsmen never quite settled despite their odd hits for 4 and 6 off length balls. At drinks after 10 we were well in control having kept the oppo to 70-odd for 4, and with around 100 needed off the back 10 and the spinners beginning to weave their webs of deceit and chicanery, Mo the standout spinner. Meanwhile the sprinklers came on during the break, the outfield was watered well, and the lads contemplated a turn at Swanny’s Sprinkler Dance before wiser counsel prevailed.
After the break it all went a bit farcical when one of the umpires looked to replace the ball without consultation, claiming “the batsmen think it’s too heavy.” We weren’t having any of that and the game continued with the aforementioned ‘Bouncer.’
Before and after the break wickets fell regularly with Brad getting a couple, your scribe, Pete K. and Mo getting one apiece, then The Sinkanator getting a few more for a well-deserved 5-fer as Darjeeling caught well in the ring and in the deep with two catches apiece for Chris (’keeping), Noel, Brad, AT and one for Nick. A few did go down though, as they normally do, so if anyone’s beginning to get excited about our catching standards, don’t. Special mentions for Ben and Jake who fielded as well as they always do, chasing hard with their young legs and quicksilver feet, getting down to the ball rapidly, and keeping likely 2s to just singles as they threw in hard as well.
All this while, batsmen of motley attire kept coming in and going out as we found ourselves in a somewhat surreal Friday afternoon Sharjah production of Yousuf and the Amazing Technicolour Team Code. In this red-ball game meant to be played in whites, we saw shirts that were green, lime green, dark green, orange-and-blue and navy blue, lime-green and dark green helmets, and even a set of orange pads which appeared twice!
With 14 needed and the last man in, it was only fitting that the Man o’ the Day, He Who Could Do No Wrong While Selling His Flat in The Marina For a Tidy Profit, Brad bowled the last over. Two off the first ball, an arrow-straight 4 down the ground bisecting the boundary-riders off the second, then a wicket off the 3rd, well caught by a tumbling Noely at short extra cover and we were home by 8 runs with 3 balls to spare!
Flush with chilled-to-within-an-inch-of-their-lives tinnies (’twas a bumper crop this afternoon, please bring plenty next week for Brian’s farewell match), the Club’s men and boys settled down for the customary Reading of the Scorebook.
Brad’s 50 and 5/23 off 4 were the highlight, well supported by Pete K’s 50, Nick’s 43, and contributions all around. The Club’s faithful carried on sipping whilst those with evening commitments left relatively early. Net, a fine close-run last-over win against needle opponents who still owe us match fees.
Next up, Brian’s farewell intra-club game next weekend (please be available, we’ll play 12-a-side if necessary) – plenty of amber fluids and Tea with seasonal, suitably appropriate grub on offer, then on to the IV for further carnage to help ease the lad back into the milder climes of Sussex. Then, the Midsummer Madness fixture against the Loose Cannons as the temperature and humidity escalate further for the Mad Dogs and Englishmen to keep continuing their pursuit of a fine game on a green field.