Lower-order recovery and the skipper’s ‘victuals for victory’ strategy the keys to win


Darjeeling CC opened the entirely hypothetical winter season with a 40-over intra-club match yesterday, despite any evidence of winter being thin in the air or on the ground. 

Greens’ skipper Raymond Sr. had spent the week plotting the Golds’ demise, and their newly-anointed skipper-of-the-day Sackley walked right into the trap. The experienced and canny Raymond conned the Winter Gods into favouring him with the toss, convenient as two of his squad (the irrepressible Brown (S) and the responsible-yet-delayed Turner) were not expected to arrive anytime soon. 

Play began at 10:38 with Raymond and Rees opening the batting for the Greens, and Harvey and Moses sharing the new ball for the Golds, from the Academy and School Ends respectively, both bowling in the right areas and making good use of the conditions, and the batsmen being circumspect as a few no-balls and wides kept the board ticking slowly.

You have to bowl lots of dot balls or take 10 wickets to win a one-dayer, and Harvey took three in the third over to put the Golds ahead on points quite early in the piece. First, the infamous Raymond himself, nicking a brute of a delivery to Dommett behind the stumps and pausing for effect before being sent on his way, the very next ball Coles choosing to leave an in-ducker which struck him in line on the knee-roll, then Mooney, after his many sacrifices on Friday, stylishly shouldering arms only to see his off-peg gone, mortified, with Scholtz mocking in absentia, “Cheers Jules, thanks for coming.” A hat-trick for Harvey, the ghost of Tony Grieg heard gushing it’s all happening in the middle as winter set in early for the Greens at 14/3 after 3 overs. 

Raymond Jr. (J) was in next, pa testing the opposition to see if they’d take the frontline bowlers off to give the young lad a break, and Sackley obliged, taking Moses off and replacing him with the fraternally friendly medium pace of Raymond Jr. (B) at the School End. 

Amidst the carnage, Rees stayed calm, farmed the strike to shelter young Jake from the newie, played the ball on merit and struck boundaries at will to keep the scoreboard moving. However, Harvey soon scalped another in his 4th over, Raymond Jr. top-edging a dolly to Escritt at short mid-wicket for nought, Greens 44/4 after 7, with the first partnership of any significance realising 30 runs in 5 overs, all to Rees and Extras. Remarkably, nos. 3, 4 and 5 had failed to trouble the scorer

Ward arrived at the crease and immediately began playing some shots, to Rees’ relief. With Saeed on at the Academy End, the pair added 20 in quick time before Ben got one to kick up slightly, Rees nicking off an attempted glide, pouched well by Houghton at slip for a well-made 40, Greens 64/5 after 10. Adamson in next, and out shortly thereafter for 3, bowled by Saeed off “the in-swinger he’d been searching for,” getting his first wicket for the club, Greens 82/6 after 13 thanks to some strike-pinching and good hitting from Ward.

Tardy Turner had finally turned up but there was no sign of Brown yet so Smith was sent in, an inspired move as he settled into stroke-play with ease. Escritt replaced Raymond Jr (B) at the School End, bowling well, but the batsmen were up to the task and the partnership of the innings ensued either side of the first drinks break as they put on 44 for the 7th wicket as the pair milked runs off some unthreatening bowling. 

Ward finally succumbed to Banerjee from the Academy end, bowled off a flipper for an incisive 33, Greens 126/7 in the 19th and this brought Turner to the wicket and thence began the second significant partnership of the innings as Escritt, Banerjee and Sackley leaked runs to the rampant Smith and Turner, odd full-tosses going for 4 even as the dulcet tones of Michael Holding echoed ‘the bad ball must be put away.’

Finally, Sackley resorted to pace to prise the partnership apart, Harvey obliging by trapping Smith lbw for an adventurous and target-setting 47, a 5-fer to Harvey and the Greens 190/8 in the 25th over to bring Brown in at No. 9. Meanwhile, Moses had to pull out of the attack with a sore back after trying to bowl an effort ball (he hates the phrase ‘bowls a heavy ball’ on account of its inaccuracy per the laws of physics). 

Turner and Brown carried on for a bit before Escritt bowled the latter for an enterprising 24, 200/9 after 27, bringing in last man Harris, a good No. 11 to have in any side. Harris and Brown had a bit of fun as the Golds’ lads wilted in the field, taking the score along to 226 before Brown hacked Banerjee across the line to Sackley at short mid-wicket to bring the innings to a close at the end of the 37th over. From a precarious 82/6 the Greens had done very well, aided by some indisciplined bowling (60 extras!) and lackadaisical fielding from the Golds, to end up with 226. 

The Golds had a decent showing with the ball, Harvey the pick of the bowlers with 6-0-23-5; Moses 3-0-19-0, Raymond Jr. (B) 6-0-41-1, Saeed 4-0-24-1, Escritt 7-0-37-1, Banerjee 4.5-0-25-2, Sackley 3-0-23-0 

The scheming Raymond Sr. then unfolded the next phase of his cunning plan, asking the Golds to bat 10 overs as “Tea wasn’t ready yet,” then sent Turner to the rivals’ changing room with a fine, chilled bottle of Macon Village from Chateau Fagerhult to take their minds off the chase

Houghton and Apps opened the batting for the Golds, with Smith (School End) and Mooney (Academy End) opening the bowling for the Greens. Smith worked up a fair head of steam in his first over, castling Houghton with an in-swinging full toss off an under-edge (called no-ball for height) off the 3rd, then yorking him off the inside edge with the last ball, Houghton gone for a duck, sent off with a bellow from the bowler, the Golds 2/1 to bring Dommett in.

A fine partnership followed, with Apps playing attractive shots on both sides of the wicket and Dommett offering sensible support and rapid running, the pair never looking troubled and assuredly putting on 71 off 12 overs while taking the shine off the new ball, then blunting the challenge of the first and second change of the Yorkshiremen Turner and Brown, forcing Raymond Sr. to take them off after 2 and 3 overs respectively, and introducing the off-spin of Rees and the brisk pace of Ward. 

The change worked, Dommett caught behind off Rees’ first ball for 19, Golds 75/2 after 13.1, the skipper Sackley coming in to continue the chase with the returning, in-form Apps, whose stroke-play was as fluorescent as his accessories. Mrs. Dommett appeared and Tea was taken after 15 overs, a sumptuous feast of sausage rolls, spring rolls, curried egg sandwiches, samosas, onion bhajis, brownies, carrot cake, fruit and more, mostly provided by the Darjeeling ladies, Mrs. Raymond & Mrs. Harvey in the main. Mrs. Apps, Mrs. Rees and the soon-to-be Mrs. Tideswell were also present, and children gallivanted nonchalantly on the mound and under the 

tree. Banerjee uncorked a chilled bottle of Gavi with first dibs for the ladies, with Harvey, Sackley, Dommett, Turner, Raymond Sr. and the sommelier polishing off the rest. The senior members were heard remarking this is just like old times at the old Clubhouse, in the TMS booth in the sky Blowers waxed eloquent on the quality of the cakes, and as the afternoon sun peaked, civility prevailed, appetites were sated and thirsts slaked
, and the third phase of Raymond Sr.’s evil plot was put in play, inducing a sated torpor to the Golds’ lower order, effectively taking them out of the chase. 

The scorers Raymond Jr. (B) and Banerjee then passed the sheet on to Houghton, with an exhortation to make a contribution to the team’s efforts and score with the pen since he couldn’t with the bat. Houghton settled in with the leftover sausage rolls and omitted to note the scores and overs at the fall of wickets whilst eating for Kent and drinking for France.

The top order continued to thrive after Tea, first Apps and Sackley putting on about 20 for the 3rd wicket before the former was bowled by Ward for a classy 48, then new man Tideswell and Sackley putting on another 40 or so with good strokes all around the park as three catches went down in characteristic Darjeeling fashion. Tideswell eventually holed out in the deep off the bowling of Raymond Jr. (J) for an enterprising 25 off 29, with a big six over cover off the hapless Harris, who bowled better than last week but still couldn’t buy a wicket

Harvey and Sackley put on another 30 or so before the latter’s straight drive found Mooney’s trailing boot (even while he was taking evasive action) onto the stumps while Harvey was backing up, unfortunately run out off for a typically efficient 14 off 16 balls, the Golds approximately 160/6 off (I think) 22 overs, still in with a chance if the lower order kept their heads about them and the tail wagged, but some on the mound suspected that the worm had turned. 

New man Saeed was in at 7 and Sackley was looking sublime until he was snared in the deep playing one lofted shot too many while trying to force the pace, Raymond Jr. (J) doing the damage again. With the indisposed Moses coming in at 8 the Golds had hope yet, until he was undone by a pearler from Mooney taking top of off, and the wheels began to come off the Golds’ chase. 

Escritt in next and out first ball, bowled by Mooney, then Raymond Jr. (B) in, defending doggedly while Saeed tried to farm the strike, trepidation on the mound as tension and humour mounted equally as only 6 runs came off 6 overs, the chase effectively grinding to a halt. In an inspired move Raymond Sr. brought on Adamson to bowl his dobbers, and Saeed was out stumped to bring in last man Banerjee, with 40-odd needed off 5 overs. A few runs later Raymond was stumped as well and it was all over, the Golds collapsing from an assured 135/4 (or so – wish he’d done the FoW) to 190 all out after 33.

The Greens conceded 40 Extras yet bowled well, Smith 4-0-23-1, Mooney 7-0-12-2, Turner 2-0-15-0, Brown 3-0-28-0, Ward 6-0-25-1, Rees 5-0-33-1, Harris 3-0-23-0, Raymond Jr. (J) 6-0-30-2 and Adamson the pick of the bowlers with 1-0-5-2. 

On deeper reflection the ebb-and-flow of the game presents an interesting story. The Greens began poorly before a late-order recovery got them to a respectable total, while the Golds began well then tailed off rapidly, run-scoring and wicket-taking showing alternating bell-curve-like patterns over the course of the day’s play. A game of two halves indeed, through the course of which the injured Brown (J) made snarky comments through the day on everyone’s batting techniques, bowling form and fielding prowess (or lack thereof) and cracked up all present. 

With so many old and new members having played a good game of cricket, a team photo was inevitable and Theresa duly complied. Gary snapped away through the morning, some more were taken with phones in the changing rooms, and all will be compiled as an album on facebook in days to come. 

And so, to the changing rooms – both teams gathered in the winners’ with cold ones in hand, the books were read, banter exchanged, Gary magiced up a bottle of sparkling Rose for the winning skipper, Dannie appeared in a technicolour sarong brighter than anything we’ve seen on Crayton, then presented Hassan with a jockstrap, the bottle of bubbly went around the room, we finished up the beverage and some proceeded after showers to Girders, hurried along by the most pungent of farts from an apologetic Brownie which necessitated a rapid exit from the changing rooms. 

A really great day out for all… well done to Nick for organising it, to the Darjeeling ladies (Mrs. Raymond most of all – she later confirmed Noel had asked her to hold off coming to the ground as his plan was playing out well) for a sumptuous Tea, and to our junior members Jacob and Ben for being absolute troopers as they always are.