The Dubai Despatch, May 10, 2015
Yesterday’s events provided a quite stunning contrast to the previous Saturday’s dry run (which favoured the Tories), with a recently-cobbled-together Coalition of the Swilling (led, would you believe, by a Plaid Cymru representative!) prevailing in the Election Edition of the Desert Derby, throwing the psephologists into predictable disarray.

Yes, Cameron’s Conservative Cannons lost comprehensively (by 10 seats) to a resurgent alliance led from the front by Jon “Toothy Ed” Houghton and James “Cleggie” Smibert, with tacit support from the Irish (Rob Weir, back in Malahide for the washed-out one-dayer) and even the Scots (Chris Bridle, last seen repairing to the Sturgeon & Roe for a wee dram a few months ago).

Both teams seemed to have made equally concerted efforts to broaden their appeal to the minority, immigrant and Kolpak constituencies in an effort to capture the swing vote, with the Conservatives fielding Khalid, Mirza, Vincent and Coles, while the National Coalition offered up Banerjee, Moses, Blignaut and deBeer.

On to the details, then… the toss went the Tories’ way and they decided to bat first, opening with Cameron (of course!) and Thomas. The Coalition opened with Blignaut and MacFadyen, then Cook and Rees once the field was out, all bowling well enough to keep the flood at bay but never really threatening, and at the 10-over break the Cannons were 74/0, Cam dropped at 8 by Dannie as Cook’s low, full pie was driven firmly but airily to mid-off, mistaken for a bump ball, attempted (with resultant bruising) and parried overhead to the fence.
Meanwhile the long-awaited crate of water had arrived to provide succour at the break, and so had the Conservatives’ support, well-distributed across the key demographics: infants, women and seniors.

102 ensued off the bottom ten but so did 6 wickets, evening things out somewhat. Thomas departed in the 14th after a good opening stand of 111, well caught at long on by a sliding Houghton off Cook for an adventurous 49 off 40 (5×4, 2×6), even as Shep hopped in the heavens above.

Skipper Bradstock came in next, stroked the ball around well (that bat looks quite special) while Cameron continued to hit well-timed shots to all parts, particularly severe on Banerjee (who put the liberal in LibDem) starting with a few pies, then offering up kebabs and finally fish & chips, his trifecta of take-aways put away for 32 off 2 before asking the skipper Rees to take him off, lack of nets having palpably affected length and bowling form.

But there was a twist in the tale yet, Houghton brought on to bowl, taking 4-11 off his two! First the dangerous Coles holing out to Jamie at cow corner off a first-ball full toss for an effervescent 76 off 54 (6×4, 3×6), then the hamstrung Khalid caught by Blikkies in similar fashion, then Bradstock caught by Ash at point off a swirling top edge for 27 off 11, then Taylor went just as Coles did, and in a couple of overs the complexion of the innings had changed (much like London) even as Curtis went lbw to Rees for a first-ball duck (Adair, umpiring, giving the benefit of the doubt to the bowler), and the Conservatives finished on a possibly sub-par 178/6 despite a brief late flurry from Mellor with support from Lazarus.

Blignaut 4-23-0, MacFadyen 4-41-0, Cook 4-23-1, Rees 4-46-1, Banerjee 2-32-0, Houghton 2-11-4, not a single maiden bowled.
At the half-way mark the Conservatives might have felt they had secured enough, based on recent evidence, while the Coalition thought they’d shown good Labour form by fielding well in the Shires and were in with a chance.

And so it came to pass that Cleggie and Toothy Ed were nominated to lead the chase from the front, while bowling duties were entrusted to Taylor and Bain.

Taylor was accurate but predictable from the Academy End, while Bain from Bradenton North was brisk but wayward, profligate with the Dukes and going for 19 off his first and 25 off the second as the openers cashed in with some well-played drives and deflections for boundaries, 61 coming off the first 4, helped along by extras as well for as good a start as the Coalition has ever enjoyed.

This prompted a change in the Conservatives’ strategy, with the spin doctors Mellor and Adair pressed into service for the last two overs of the powerplay, but to no avail as the buffet bowling continued and the batsmen feasted, the Coalition 80/0 off the first 6.

The batsmen looked firmly in control and a sense of comfortable smugness seeped into the hutch, with the immigrants Moses and Banerjee placidly ensconced in the bosomy embrace of the welfare state, suckling contentedly on the twin teats of Healthcare (cigarettes) and Benefits (water) while the Kolpaks ran the scorebox, Nigel foraged fruitlessly in South Thanet and a distant David Dimbleby allegedly exclaimed “for God’s sake” when he thought the cameras were off.

As the field went out the scoring rate normalised somewhat, with the Coalition 109/0 at drinks after 10, still well ahead of the ask and the worm looking quite superior on the iPad. The spinners continued as variously Curtis, Lazarus and Mirza were each given a go, Houghton accelerated as he tired, peppering the Academy with a few sixes, even while Cameron raged against the tide from behind the stumps, attempting to rally the troops in the face of the inevitable. Toothy Ed retorted with “My mum’s French,” putting to rest any doubts about Britain’s future in the EU. The Scots didn’t rate a mention despite Cameron’s former cricketing connections to the land of single malts, kilts, haggis and em, Hogmanay.

It was all over four balls into the 16th, with Smibert (67 off 50, 8×4, 1×6) and Houghton (88 off 48, 10×4, 4×6) having batted really, really well (Cleggie’s Chinese cuts notwithstanding, perhaps an acknowledgement of the Met Ball’s theme this year?) for a fine 10-wicket win, long overdue against the Cannons.

Taylor 2-12, Bain 2-44, Mellor 3-18, Adair 4-24, Curtis 1.4-10, Lazarus 2-12, Mirza 1-3, no maidens or wickets.

Our opening pair of Jamie Smibert and Jonathan Houghton, who single handedly reached the target
Our opening pair of Jamie Smibert and Jonathan Houghton, who single handedly reached the target

A good day out for some, and all repaired to Kickers for a pint or two (“we don’t do champagne these days, you know”) and bit of post-match socialising. After his exertions for a Man of the Match performance, Houghton resorted to caloric compensation via cheesy fries, a hot dog bigger than its bun, and a chicken salad, all of which were pronounced tasteless but useful under the circumstances, much like this match report.