DCC vs Dubai Stallions
By 8.15am on Saturday morning, Darjeeling CC had already achieved its first victory of the day. The welcome sight of Gully, who had wisely decided to settle down for an early night almost five hours earlier, striding languidly across the car park of the Sevens ground meant that DCC had mustered a playing 11 (albeit in the second over of the match). The opposition for this decisive tournament fixture was the Dubai Stallions, a prospect which simultaneously bewildered and intimidated young Brian – was selection based on girth or length? He made a mental note to investigate further….
It was the morning after the night before and while Dubai’s privileged classes slept soundly, DCC’s most committed cricketers roused themselves from their slumbers at an ungodly hour; all were bleary-eyed, many with pounding headaches and a few still drunk.
With adroitness that would have had Kofi Annan nodding in silent approval, Jules expertly negotiated the toss (“You bat, we bowl? OK?) to ensure DCC would be back under the shade of the pavilion’s veranda before the sun had risen high in the cornflower blue sky.
As Jules paced out his run-up, Jonno proudly presented a cobalt blue tongue to the slip cordon as proof of his earlier antics in Rock Bottom. However, this only raised speculation that his preparation for the match had involved going down on an aging Smurfette – shenanigans he has neither confirmed nor denied…
While minds wandered, Julius bounded in for the first over with the vivacity of a young bullock and a determination to fell the Stallions opening batsmen at the first hurdle. Israr, with clear eyes and a full heart, opened from the other end and, with his first ball, induced a snick which Jonno lapped up (Granny Smurfette was still etched into the forefront of the mind at this point). There followed one of the tightest opening partnership spells in DCC’s recent history with just 34 being conceded from the first seven overs.
The cherry was then given to Gully to tighten the stranglehold and dispatch the Stallions onward to the glue factory. 10 balls later, and having fed the pony (a manoeuvre honed at the Sea View Hotel), he was thanked for his labours and sent back to sweep on the boundary. Down, but not out.
The change bowlers were effective and economical. As ever, Big Ben displayed his benevolence to the opposing batsman in generously providing ball-by-ball instruction on how best to play his deliveries. Not so much a horse whisperer as a steed shouter. Although the sentiment was compassionate, the result was ineffective as evidenced by his tidy spell of 1-19 off four – a tricky catch snaffled by Israr with consummate ease.
Tim Davy, now struggling for work as a Peter Crouch look-a-like as the long-legged footballer’s career wanes, took a sharp caught-and-bowled and proved near impossible to be get away – a six off his last ball blighting more-than-respectable figures of 1-23 off four.
Who is the most aggressive man in the club? Well, if you were to ask the Stallions, the Croydon terrier with the look and temperament of Ari Gold would be the collective response. Perhaps confusing cricket for baseball following a recent spell in the US, Brian literally went for the knock-out blow delivering two beamers in quick succession. Two strikes and you’re out here unfortunately. The intimidation tactics backfired and an apoplectic Brian was sent back to the serenity of deep extra-cover having only supplied the cowering batsman with five legitimate deliveries.
With one delivery still required to complete the over, De Boinville eagerly grabbed the ball like a fat kid grabbing a ball. He then demonstrated great sportsmanship to the clearly traumatized batter, bowling the gentlest off-break every seen on a cricket pitch. The reprieve was welcome and the ball deservedly carted over cow corner for a maximum.
It was time to circle the wagons and the Rhinestone Cowboy, Gully, having now sobered up, roared in with true Aussie grit bowling an inspired spell which included two wickets in two balls. He finished for a superb 3-26 off four. By this point in the proceedings, the Stallions resembled little more than shire horses and DCC took pity, slackening the reins and dropping two dollys (form is temporary, class in permanent). There is no ‘I’ in ‘team’ so it would not be fair to single out such individuals and the team should take responsibility. (Butter-fingers) Lee Dawson bowled tightly at the death and a sub-par total of 159 had been set by the Stallions off the allotted 25 overs for the loss of eight wickets.
The damp outfield (allegedly as moist as a young married French woman who had been cornered and chatted up by a few DCC charmers in Bidi Bondi) was beginning to dry and speed-up as the temperature hit 30C and confidence amongst DCC’s top order was high.
Openers Chris Neal and De Boinville saddled up and went out to the middle with the intention of battering the Stallions until they were flogging a dead horse (crow-barred in). The first few overs went to plan, with De Boinville seizing on every delivery and crashing the ball all over the park with such brutality against the equine-dubbed opposition that alerts were sounded at both PETA and the RSPCA. Each whip-like crack sent the ball in a perfect parabola toward the boundary until the human-mortar was prematurely silenced; caught at mid-on for 17 off 9.
Stylish left-hander Chris Neal provided good support with some elegant shots off both front and back foot. He was ably encouraged by the vulpine Israr from the non-strikers end; regrettably, when it came time for the number three all-rounder to face the bowling himself, he was unable to provide any further assistance and was out for a duck. Wickets continued to tumble like riders at Becher’s Brook and at 4-48, the match was hanging in the balance.
As the volume of the Stallions’ whinnying increased, and the vociferous appeal which followed every ball grew ever more tedious, it was up to Brian and Jonno to play the role of farrier, de-shoeing the petulant Stallions for good. With ever-increasing confidence and ability, this is exactly what they accomplished in constructing a partnership of 92. It was at this point that Jonno, having hit consecutive fours, declared that he was truly ‘in the zone’ before planting the following delivery into point’s hands for a valuable 37 . For the Stallions it was too late and DCC had slammed the stable door shut on the metaphorical bolting horse breaking several of its vertebrae in the process. It only remained for Big Ben to emerge with his shotgun and put the beast out of its misery.
Out the broad-shouldered Kiwi strode with a look in his eye that declared he was not only there to see DCC home, but that there would be no mercy in his actions. The bowler ran in. Thud. A few reverent nods and a smile from the umpire. Seconds ticked away. Like Tom Drummond on a dance floor, the umpire’s finger was raised skywards in the most contentious of decisions. Ben, utterly perplexed, took a deep breath, nodded acknowledgement to the umpire and tucked his bat under his arm before making the long walk back to the hutch. He knew a bad decision had been pronounced on this morning, but ‘the umpire’s judgement is final and must always be respected’ he informed his stunned teammates.
In any case, Brian (who in no way resembles a jockey) was riding these Stallions like AP McCoy at Cheltenham and the finish line was within reach. The final furlong consisted of Jules and the beamer-loving, man-of-the-match viciously thrashing the bowling over an ever-constricting field – the only valid theory for such poor decision-making by the Stallions captain was that he had Ketamined-up during the drinks break, having considered the floccinaucinihilipilification of his predicament, and was dozing in the paddock.
Ultimately, DCC won at a canter with six overs and four wickets to spare and knew that if they took down one of the planet’s most docile mammals, the Wombats, they would be in the final. The Stallions departed for the stables with their tails (despite having spend 40+ ball in the middle, Brian was none-the-wiser…) between their legs. A happy DCC team departed for home with the promise of more horse play and the rasping tones of Tina Turner’s early-90’s classic ‘(Simply) The Best’ ringing in their ears.
Given the eventual ease with which DCC took down the Stallions, it would be disappointing if the culling of a lowly Australian marsupial were not realised next week.