It seemed fitting with South Africa playing Pakistan in a test match in Dubai sports city, that Darjeeling would attempt to do the same, by fielding 5 Safas, all equipped with hidden zips, to tackle a Pakistani Taha CC in a 20/20 on turf at the ICC.
Meeting in the dressing room bright and early, it was clear from Gully blaming a maid for his whites misplacement, and Ollies text message at 3.40am to Danny to be picked up, but now not answering the phone, that DCC may start what a basketball team describes Noel Raymond…. short.
A toss was lost, and the inevitable occurred, Darjeeling would field. Gully arrived, had a few heaving practices, and 10 men proceeded to take the field, with captain Tideswell donning the pads. English pastures have seen less grass than the pitch that had been prepared, but as many have experienced in Rock bottoms during school holidays, with grass on the wicket, let’s play cricket.
Moses would open from the Southern end, and although struggled with his length, immediately got a breakthrough, and again in his second over eventually finishing with 2/18 off 3. Ward fired up from the Northern end, pestering the batsman with a good line, and the promise of some real pace with his Mitchell Johnston like ink. Neither the pace, nor the wicket came but finished off with 0/15 off 3, respectable on a pitch that didn’t want to offer too much assistance.
Danny arrived, Ollie not in tow, without his kit, but more worrying without a towel. So whilst the rest of the DCC players plundered who may be asked to dry the bald head, Danny had scavenged together a uniform, and made up the 11 on the field.
Tideswell made the change, and Brought on the second and third Safa bowlers to get the breakthrough. 2 blistering overs from the younger of the Kurten brothers, Barry (0/6 off 2) put the pressure on, allowing Ettiene to take 2 wickets in 2 tight overs (eventually finishing with 2/17 off 3). The first of which proves why even a moan can be classified as an appeal, with the umpire giving it out LBW before people had even realised what the muffled sound was. Taha were struggling at 4/48 off their opening 10.
Drinks were taken and Gully trudged in, refreshed for the first time in 3 weeks from water with no hops. Ward would drop a sharp catch in the covers, leaving the silver brumby wondering if his teammates have a disliking to catches off his bowling. The theory was certainly plausible as Kym came in first ball, claiming an edge, and the brisk movements of Hassan at point clenched onto a catch.
The number of safas in the team was questioned when a complaint about the ball was made, but we explained it was made in India, and it was merely dismissed. Very similar to Saturday night supermarket disputes in Durban.
Gully and Kym would keep the wickets falling, with Gully getting one through the batsman defences, and rocking his middle stump, a method not requiring his fielders help, and Kym giving Tideswell the chance to get a good stumping on a turning pitch. Gully finished 1/20 off 3, and Kym 2/31 off 4.
Hassans nimble, panther like movements in the field got him the nod for a bowl, and although the batsman took the aerial route, non went to hand, finishing with 0/30 off 2. Taha CC 7/144 off their 20 overs.
Darjeeling made a steady start to the chase, with their very own Geoffrey Boycott, Andrew Laing (2 runs off his first 16 balls faced), and the larger of the Kurten brothers, Greg, taking the opening duties. A quick flurry of boundaries from Greg, brought tears of pride to Barry on the sideline, before skying one too many finishing with 25.
Same name, different family, Moses strode to the pitch, and pelted a quick fire 32, Andrew Laing continuing to push singles on occasion. At drinks Darjeeling were 1/63 off 9.3 overs, called early due to Moses clearing the boundary, leaving Taha some time to find their pride along with the ball. It didn’t take long after the break for Greg to hit one too many skywards, holing out to midd on.
Barry (the proteas team activities manager) Kurten, hit a fine 18 off 9 balls before being trapped plum in front. If he had laid bat on ball he would have been given not out, yet bat on air is not a saving grace for anyone. His displeased complaints were duly noted and considered, but not even Oscar Pretorious could get the benefit of the doubt on that call.
Laing and Ward quickly followed suit and fell on 14 and 1 respectively, giving Taha a sniff, but Tideswell (34*) and Gully (10*) steadied the ship and put on 37 for the final stand. Not even a time limit pressure given by the ICC security guards could faze the 2 twilighters, and on a five minute warning, even with 4 overs to spare, 26 were hit off the final 10 deliveries, seeing DCC home 5 down and 2 overs to still be bowled.
Beers in the cricket stadium were to follow and watch the final hours of the test match. A brilliant way to finish a Saturday of cricket, and always keeping that spark alive of what one could have been instead of a Darjeeling cricketer in Dubai. But we surely are not complaining.