A surprising start to this grudge match against arguably our biggest cricketing rivals in the current Era , Loose Cannons. 11 Darjeeling players turn up on time and not  a hangover to be seen. Of course Gulli played the day before so that may have had something to do with it!

Skipper Ash disappeared with their skipper Bradders and duly won the toss and of course Darjeeling elected to bat first in a match designated as 25 overs per side.

Ash instructed Brandon and Tom to open followed by our resident chirpy person Danny in at 3. A few photographs of the intrepid opening pair were taken [to follow] and off they strode into the glorious sunshine. About this time a stranger came amongst us and enquired  if Brandon was out in the middle as he had been hearing great things about his recent batting performances. We confirmed that he was indeed out  there and joked that he had probably evoked the great cricketing gods to smite Brandon down!

The Cannons had to start without their regular openers as they had arrived late so a large bearded chap with a famous cricketing name , Gower , was asked to bowl the first over. He duly trotted in and Brandon was hit by the cricketing gods bolt of lightning  and he was bowled neck and crop for a super golden duck! His mate chuckled as Brandon swore and cussed his way off the field to be replaced by Danny. Not the start skipper Ash had envisaged!

Danny patiently played out the rest of the over which included more than  a few wide’s  but it seemed that the normally placid ICC pitch had developed demons and the ball was moving via the seam as well as rearing off just short of a length. Batting was extremely hard work and the old sages of DCC where predicting that 180 would be a good score on “this” sort of track. So much for being an old sage!

Tom finally connected with a few deliveries and had just hit a glorious 6 when Gower nipped one back a shade and it was au revoir to Boinville for 12.

Chris the dominator  was promoted in order to “steady” the good ship Darjeeling, as skipper Ash tried to second and third guess how events would unfold. Even at this stage he was planning his opening bowling attack! Now that is forward thinking !

Chris certainly steadied the ship and was extremely patient whilst at the other end Danny slowly started to find his touch and timing. Chris was bowled for 7 by a ball that shot along the floor and he  queried on his return to the sidelines just how much DCC had paid for such a cow patch of a track!! It did not look good for Darjeeling and that 180 seemed a long way away.

What happened next? Did the pitch suddenly put the demons away? Did the ball get soft or was the quality of the support bowlers merely not up to much? I prefer to say that through patience and application Danny and Israr  built their respective innings in a way we always have to do on pitches found particularly in the UK. At this stage respect was shown to the good ball whilst the over pitched or short delivery was dispatched to the boundary with panache and grace and often with pure brute force!

Experienced bowlers like Moxey and Bradstock where simply hammered off the park and only Sameer with 0 for 23 off his 5 overs came off the pitch without having received a beasting! Danny batted beautifully for his 73 before being superbly caught out to give Gower his third wicket of the innings. Andrew Tavare  strode in with the clear intent of giving Israr the strike and how beautifully it worked. Israr simply demolished whichever bowler was asked to do battle with him and he  raced to his 100 before skying a catch that was well held by that man Gower.

So instead of the disastrous score predicted by the sages we finished with 239 for 6 off our 25 overs. If any sub continental chap had had a wager on that score after ten overs surely he would have lost his shirt??

Ash gave the boys a pep talk on the pitch, reminding every man jack of us that we had to do the basics well and that if we did surely we would win. Sounds easy I guess but……..

Opening with Etienne and Julius it started well with again a bit of extra bounce and the odd ball moving off the seam DCC had a tremendous spirit in the field and Cameron Coles batting against his former club found the going particularly tough. It was his partner Taylor who fell first , admirably walking having gloved a  cracking Julius delivery to the safe hands of the Dominator having scored 23. Richard Bradstock entered the fray and in his usual fashion started to dominate the bowlers and with Coles built a fast scoring partnership before Coles fell to Israr for 26.

Gower strode to the crease looking for all the world like he was a farmer in a Thomas Hardy novel and sure enough swung  the bat with great gusto. For the first time DCC where a little rattled as skipper Ash rotated his bowlers seeking a breakthrough. Although the bowling at this point was generally tight , with Jamie having 2 overs for 24 , Ash bowling his first 2 overs for 16 the scoreboard continued to click around even though DCC felt in charge of the match . When the next wicket fell it was an unlikely scenario of Bradders pushing to mid-on  and seeing it was me fielding there  set off for the single. Little did he know that years of playing darts on a Manchester board meant I was able to hit double top from 3 yards and Bradders was a goner! Drinks where taken and DCC at this stage looked favorites  to end the recent run of defeats to Cannons.

Dannie replaced Ash and I replaced Israr who finished with a creditable 1 for 40 off his 5 overs. Dannie bowled his first over for only 6 runs and when Israr took a great catch off my bowling to snare Gower in an over that only went for 4 runs it was smiles all round for DCC.

That is of course when the cricketing gods reappeared and decided to change the whole course of the game! Danny went for 15 in his next over and even worse Sameer took 22 off my next over and the momentum suddenly was with the cannons.

Ash desperately tried to re organize  the troops when Tom had to retire with a hamstring injury but Sameer was in irrepressible form smashing various bowlers to all corners of the ground and in particular straight and high and hard!!

The fact that the match went to the 4 th. ball of the last over suggests that WE  did fight until the very end and that generally the bowling was controlled and straight. The fielding was generally good and the spirit remained high throughout. However when a guy is batting like Sameer was , supported admirably by Anderson , sometimes , just sometimes , you have to admire what the opposition has done rather that beat yourself up over what we might have done differently.

tienne and Julius both strove at the end to keep Sameer under control, but he kept smashing the ball skywards and unfortunately never once close to hand!

So did we snatch defeat from the jaws of victory ? Did we collectively let skipper Ash down when the going got tough? In my view the answer is a definitive NO. Simply one man took the game away from us in the same way Isrars   innings ensured we were in the match in the first place.

Ash skippered the side well and he was supported by all the lads and especially Chris behind the sticks.

For me  one of the best games I have played in at the ICC since we started playing there , played in a great spirit with both sides fully committed to paying hard but fair.

As for the track? It looked a  dog but 480 runs in 50 overs suggests that in spite of  having played cricket for over 40 years this Sage knows Jack!!!

Roll on bowling at SES I say!!,