Captain’s Log, Stardate 29.11.2013 (Gregorian)

These are the voyages of the cricketship Darjeeling, with its mission to boldly go where no cricket club has gone before…

It was one of those rare days when the crew assembled early. By 1 pm, 9 of 11 were present, with Mo having recused himself due to a family emergency but Julius’ mate Liam co-opted as a replacement and waiting for a runabout to SES to dock with the club’s enterprise.

Liam had sent the most endearing introductory email to the club: “Julius, if you’re looking for a low-scoring pie-chucker who can’t catch, then I’m your man,” so he was in like Flynn. 

All ready for battle we were, except our opponents flydubai, an avian species, were missing from the designated zone of battle. Over banter it was agreed that tardiness was unacceptable given the time of genuflection had moved up to 12:15, and the toss would need to be negotiated favourably.

By 13:30 the opponents were still scarce and it was agreed that Darjeeling would definitely have the opening salvo; Officers Laing and Ward were instructed to suit up for battle so we could engage soon after the oppo eventually arrived.

Around 13:40 the opponents began straggling in, and the skipper negotiated and agreed first dibs for the ship, while urging the opponents to hail the rest of their crew on all available frequencies and summon them to the Neutral Zone in order for the skirmish to conclude before the early sunset. 

Meanwhile Liam’s runabout had still not materialised, the despatchers of Dubai Taxis off-form as usual, while flydubai were true to form, arriving late as their aircraft usually do.

Finally at 14:00 both sides maneuvered themselves onto the battle zone, the avians opening with the phazers of Asim and Praveen while Officers Laing and Ward defended with shields at 100%.

Defend they did, and how! The plan was for Andy to turn the strike over while Wardy, in his first proper batting outing for the club, used his youth, muscle and the benefit of coming in off the night shift to give the bowling a tap. But the best-laid plans of mice and men… Wardy, proficient in the art and science of fighting fires, refused to set the SES alight and decided to bat himself gently into form over an extended live net. Andy, trying to compensate under instructions from Julius (umpiring) and get the ball off the square, was drawn into unnaturally expansive but generally unfruitful shot-play. Both missed more than hit, the oppo kept dropping dollies, and after 10 overs, half-way into the battle, the good ship found itself at a sedate 45/0 with just a solitary 4 off an overthrow, while the storm-troopers Pretorius, Brown (J) and Ul Haq were champing at the bit in the grandstand.

Meanwhile, Liam’s runabout had yet to arrive at its point of departure.

Finally the first wicket fell to cynical cheers in the 11th over, Andy lbw to Ilyas for 18, and in walked Brandon and promptly moved the score along rapidly with a triplet of 2s, then a 3 and a 4, bringing the game to life and the grandstand out of its beveragey torpor.

Meanwhile, Liam’s runabout was finally en route, with its occupant (newly arrived in Dubai) clueless about where his destination lay.

After 14 overs the skipper exercised prerogative and beamed Wardy back from the holodeck, retired for 28 in the larger interests of the team’s endeavour.  The virtual teddies departed the virtual pram briskly, and it needed a Yoda-esque “Sublimate your individual needs you must, to the team’s overall interests” chat to get Wardy on-side again.

Jason replaced Wardy and carted it around briefly before falling for 7 to an outrageously unlikely catch, much like Brandon for a well-made 27 in the previous over. Then Izzy walked in and set upon the bowling, cracking a quick 30 not out with four 6s, while Julius was quickly in and out for 1, and Etienne smote a quick 14 (including a pulled 6 over square-leg) before being run out, the Abu Dhabi lads doing the business.

Meanwhile, Liam’s runabout, despite the pilot being instructed precisely (Exit 64, etc.) in Urdu by Ground Control, had still not managed to deliver Major Tom.

Neil, borrowed jock-strap and all, with a quick 3-ball 6 (1×4) in the last over saw the club to a sub-par 144/5 after 20, the consensus being we were about 25 short.

——Commercial break——

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Given the sub-par total, the skipper fished out a Dukes newie, proclaimed “I’ve defended a paltry 90 at The Sevens so we could pull this off if we bowl and field well and keep our heads” and rallied the ship’s complement for a concerted defence.

Meanwhile, Liam’s runabout was still en route but the avians were kind enough to offer up 13-year-old Anas to field for us, and he was promptly hidden at fine leg.

The avians opened with Adnan and the redoubtable Azeem, with the former skying one to safe-as-houses Gibby at mid-on in Izzy’s first over as we celebrated the early breakthrough.

But #3 Rashid proved resolute and Azeem opportunistic against Izzy and Wardy, both swinging the Dukes ball well at pace, then against Jules and Etienne, and at the 10-over drinks break it was 67/1 with the game still in the balance, Darjeeling having bowled and fielded really well (Jason outstanding in the covers), the field in good voice in support of the bowlers.

Meanwhile, Liam’s runabout had somehow managed to find an unknown wormhole and ended up in Romulan space on the wrong side of E-311 somewhere remote in the Sharjah constellation, so he was instructed by Julius to head back, money down the drain, unfortunately.

The skipper then brought himself on to bowl the 11th from the Uni End with Neil bowling the 12th from the Tank End and removing Rashid for 29. Not too many ensued, then Azeem was well caught at long on against the setting sun by Izzy off Ash in the 13th and it was game on.

Neil got rid of #4 Aslam in the 14th but unfortunately Tanmay at #5 took 3 consecutive 6s off the rest of his over to swing the balance and it was going to be uphill from there on.

With the game still in the balance in the 16th, Izzy ran out Tanmay at the bowler’s end, but the non-striker Rizwan had made his ground at the wicky’s end, the umpires didn’t know the rules (effing numpty-fied Daleks they were!), our concerted appeal and subsequent polite discussion with the umpires and batsmen ending up fruitless and Tanmay refusing to go, proving conclusively that he wasn’t avian at all, but a Kling-on.

With Ash finishing his spell after the 17th, the fast men Izzy and Wardy bowled well briskly in the fading light as retribution for the wrong decision on the run-out, but the avians got away in the penultimate over, winning by 5 wickets with the Kling-on Tanmay 42*.

The bowling figures: Izzy 4-1-21-1, Wardy 3-0-29-0, Etienne 3-0-24-0, Julius 3-0-25-0, Ash 4-0-11-1, Neil 2-0-29-2.

So a pyrrhic victory for the old enemy, but we will fight and win another day. The reading of the book followed, over a few cold ones on the turf, the usual piss-taking and banter, then eventual departures.