Sat Feb 22nd afternoon, Greenfield School, DIP, 25 overs
Clearing skies with a hint of cloud, temperature increasing to an unseasonable 27°C
Social cricket is most fun when there’s a reasonably competitive game, everyone gets to contribute, and the match is played in good spirit. And so it turned out to be against one of India’s oldest cricket clubs https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parsi_Gymkhana,_Marine_Drive
In typical gentlemanly fashion Watto negotiated the toss and offered the visitors first dibs with the bat. Khushal and Neville came to the crease, to negotiate the bowling of Brent and Oli Page doing their best on a slow, slightly two-paced track with a bit of clay in it.
Brent and Oli kept it reasonably tight, and at 15 in the 4th over Neville was castled by Oli without having bothered the scorers over a 9-ball stay. On the other hand Khushal, after getting the measure of the track and the outfield, set out to play one of the more cultured innings we’ve seen from an opposition batsman in a long while… not just social oppo, but also in sharp contrast to the modern dashers, agricultural smashers and hopeful slashers of the DSL. After 6 overs Watto rung the changes, Brent 3-0-24-0 and Oli 3-1-10-1
The skipper Manek kept him good company, nurdling it in the arc between third man and point for the most part, and the two put on 85 for the second wicket off 12 overs and a bit, despite Nick bowling very well from the Port End and unlucky with a few near misses (3-0-20-0), and yours truly doing his bit from the School End (5-0-30-0) with a bit of cat-and-mouse against Khushal.
At the 2nd drinks break after 16 overs, Khushal retired for 66 off 59 (9×4 and 1×6), having played orthodox shots with good shape, on an outfield which seemed to have quickened considerably since our last match on this pitch.
We were a bit thin on spin and Arsalan replaced Nick (who had to come off after a stunning Darjeeling FC style trap of a very hard hit straight drive as he followed through), for a couple of overs of (allegedly) off spin, 2-0-12-0, before the quicks came back on, Olly vdB with some seam-up, and Ben who struck immediately, castling a really good-looking left-handed batsman who had swivel-pulled his first delivery for a flat 4 through square leg, and then again in his second and third overs, ending up with 3-0-12-3 as the lower middle order perished rapidly whilst trying to get to a competitive total.
A good run-out and 2-0-21-0 from the new lad Sheyhan, and the visitors ended up with an under-par 172/8, about 40 short as they admitted later, despite having batted almost 3-1/2 extra overs as we conceded 24 extras (18wd, 3nb).
Charles and Arsalan opened the batting for us, and they galloped along to 57 when Charles was out for a well-made 33 (29b, 5×4) in the 7th over and Tebby came in, only to depart in the 8th. Meanwhile Arsalan played a few gorgeous shots, and both our openers had made evident to the oppo that we could bat, too.
Stokes-like, our Ben took that even further with shots around the park, even as Arsalan was out c&b for an easy-on-the-eye 31 (21b, 5×4). Watto and Brent came and went, and it began to look like a potentially ominous collapse could be on the cards, but Olly vdB kept his head, batted the situation, gave Ben the strike and drove classically when he could. The two put on 66 for the 6th wicket and took us to a win in the 22nd, with Ben 56* (36b, 3×4, 3×6) and Olly 17* (27b).
Ben Jones was deservedly MoM for his all-round heroics, and after a good speech by the visitors’ travelling luminary, duly anointed by the opposition skipper…
The car washes of Dhaid rarely embody the spirit of the exotic, but 7 km to the south east lies a beautifully green, quaintly rustic cricket field among plantations and gravel plains. It was an all-out, rural affair from the start with early, cunning home ground psychology at play.
Dusk enveloped the setting with flood lights being held back to ensure the Darjeeling wagon train realised it was no longer in glitzy El Dorado. Given James’s recent confessional email about a goat in the desert we feared he may never leave the area.
The captains toss, where adult men embrace their tribal responsibility and flick a piece of metal to decide who throws the ball at whom, was conducted in Dhaid’s muggy Autumn darkness by the light of a cellphone. It was our first loss of the night. The second would be Dexy, who after whistling down half an over of net-practice-like deliveries wounded himself and hobbled off the field to lie next to the boundary rope like a forlorn, beached Salmon.
The floodlights fired to life and with the neatly choreographed exit-right by the pre-game entertainment of five startled, foraging hedgehogs, it was game time. The unique opening bowling combination of Man of the Match, Will Gregori Rasputin Watson (a 4-fer on debut) and the shuffling Badger immediately baffled the opposition. George would later compliment Badger on his unexpected agility-to-weight ratio, an athleticism which may have also confused the batsmen.
As the loping left-arm mystic unleashed pacey, unplayable deliveries from within his ample beard, Badger looped in apparently terrifyingly slow turners. The batsmen capitulated to five down before long. The fielding effort was surprisingly suffocating given the Darjeeling reputation of generosity. Both Dorris and Scott held onto rippers, by our standards, and Ieuan proved a wicket keeping wall. However, there were notable efforts at big-hearted sportsmanship from an unnamed former international scrumhalf and then Ash, curiously, both using the white ball to demonstrate how a fat fledgling pigeon spills from a nest. A mixture of wides and ambitiously contrived overthrows were minor glitches supplementing the rare lusty blows that crept the opposition to 107.
Dorris, apparently still marveling at his catch and contemplating more stomach-crunches in response to witnessing the power of his batting partner’s guns, nudged an early, gentle catch back to the bowler. George continued to slap deliveries around the ground and grumbled like a poked bear at the incessant yodeling of appealing fielders.
The chorus reached its ambitious climax with a howl for LBW as a short, leg-side delivery was slapped for a boundary. George, tiring of the zoologists perpetual mistiming of strokes at the other end of the flat-rolled pitch, and pinching of strike, ran him out shortly before the composed, gentle downhill run with Laird to 107 for victory in the 12th over. George, desperately in need of protein-shakes after his flurry of wicket-to-wicket shuttle sprints avoided the post-expedition debrief at the Irish village. It would have been there he’d have heard the revelation by tribal elder and scorer, Nick, of a corrected mathematical glitch and the Hellyer maiden 50 not out.
In three cars we made our way down to Al Dhaid to play against our newest opposition against Azamari Cricket Club (including six lads and kit in Mrs Harvey’s’ 4X4)
In short, we had no idea what to expect and as many of you know when you drive out to this part of the world/Sharjah, you feel like you go back in time a little……what I hadn’t expected was to go back to an era akin to those early pioneers of Darjeeling Cricket Club!
The ground is at the end of a dirt track, half a mile off the main road – without the four flood lights rising above the ground, you wouldn’t know it’s there. The infrastructure consists of four lamp posts, a gen-set in the far corner of the pitch, a couple of very basic looking shower/WC’s and an old Barasti type pavilion (complete with a palm-roof)
The pitch is a grass one, though more like you’re basic rolled mud á la Sharjah Cricket Stadium (and from a distance all thought it concrete), the bounce however, was fairly consistent and the outfield grass was well-mowed and flat. It’s not a huge ground, larger than Emirates Palace, but smaller than Oval 2 from the ICC.
The opposition were a friendly young bunch, there was a smattering of salwar kameez attired spectators and the Umpire made beautiful efforts of formality with his limited English.
Harvey lost the toss and therefore, had to field – the usual grumbles and expletives were muttered under (and above) the breath….In this, instance – some of this was justified as only Darjeelingites turned up for the game and therefore, a perfect excuse to renegotiate the batting was wasted…………..schoolboy, some might say.
Darjeeling opened with Rikesh, who bowled well (including a cracking first ball in-swinging Yorker) as did his opening partner Brent, who enjoyed an early wicket, but a few poor deliveries and wides kept their score ticking along at 9 an over, as it did for much of the match. Harvey & Peet were first and second change and despite a couple of loose ones, both bowled OK but at the half way stage Azmari had lost just one wicket for 80 odd runs. We then changed ends and Guernsey Kimbo was bought on.
Kimbo later blamed the lights, though the rest of us blamed the long hops, full-tosses and wides as his one and only over leaked 22 runs. Olly VDB came and bowled well, though was punished in his last over and the remaining overs were bowled out by the remaining overs from Harvey, Rikesh and Brent who all kept the scoring down (though this may have been because their opening bat was completely knackered) with the home side finishing on 183 – 3
Rikesh finishing with 4-0-32-0, Brent: 4-0-21-1, Harvey: 4-0-24-1, Matt: 4-0-39-0 and Olly: 3-0-34-1 – Azmari’s opening bat finishing on 88 n.o.
Azmari apparently, means ‘Tigers’ though I’m not sure in which language. Darjeeling’s response to the hosts total was barely pussycat. Though in their defence (as the scorecard won’t) many argued that they struggled seeing the ball with the lights, especially from the left-arm over opener. Both out openers (Kimbo, 1 – Jono, 3) fell cheaply and when Brent, wasting an opportunity to bat 3 was run out for 2, only the extras were keeping the score ticking along.
Munish offered some hope, after our newest adoption from the Kuwaiti casuals was caught for 3 (though, I’m sure he made more than that) as did Potty, with the visitors best score (including a first ball six over mid-on) but when they fell for 13 and 24 respectively, the fat lady was already on the team bus with the microphone packed away. Harvey prolonged the agony for a few overs and enjoyed a decent partnership (relatively not nominally) with Rikesh, but was caught behind for 15. Thankfully, Rikesh & Matt Peet edging our final total over 100.
Result aside, the match was played in good spirit and only one contested stumping in the second over of the hosts innings resulted in a Darjeeling expletive.
The prospect of the club’s first over 35s game in ages attracted stars from far and wide. Mr. N. Williams (Tsar of Moscow) flew in from Azkaban, and yours truly from the cultural deserts of Kuwait. Unfortunately, only one of us survived the rigours of a pre-match session in Bidi’s the day before as the Tsar of Moscow pulled a fetlock rushing to the bar and joined the growing list of late withdrawals. Against doctor’s orders, Mr. R. Khanna (Patron of Putney) bravely decided to risk his dodgy hammie, and completed a less than spry looking XI just before kick off.
In true social cricket fashion we met up for a pre-match beverage in Kickers to keep Blikkies company, and then repaired to the pitch where Captain Banerjee (Advisor to Businesses) duly won the toss and elected to bat. Greg and Pottie opened up on a slow, low pitch against some elderly dross, and cruised to 17 in the third over. Greg then got bored and chopped onto his own stumps to his absolute disgust and departed for a swashbuckling 2. Jonesy and Pottie moved the score along nicely to 39 before both departed to innocuous deliveries for 22 and 12 respectively, and after a fluent 8 I joined them, spanking a full toss back to the bowler.
At 58-4 Cookie was joined by the non-injured Nathan (Cartwright) and set about repairing the damage. Dealing mainly in ones and twos (much to Nathan’s delight) they moved the score on to a more respectable 121 before Nathan decided he was done for and capitulated, stumped for 31. The arrival of Mr. Harvey at the wicket prompted an acceleration in the run rate, and after a cautious start even Cookie cut loose. The score raced to 191 with a couple of balls left, at which point Nick was bowled for 31, leaving Etienne to face one ball after warming up with his son for the previous 15 overs. Cookie was undefeated on an excellent 53, with 36 extras contributing to a par score of 193 for 6.
Following current IPL fashion we opened up our bowling with a combination of searing pace (Greg), and mystery spin (Badger). Greg bowled well (4 overs 0-23) but struggled to get the ball above shin height on a dead pitch. In an eventful second over which went for 17, Badger tricked one of their openers into trying to knock the pastry off a tempting steak and kidney, and hit him plum in front. 1-25 off 2 overs for Badger, so he was hauled off and replaced by the far more parsimonious Etienne who bowled well for 0-19 off his 4 overs.
MoM Cookie replaced Greg at the ICC end, and bowled tightly, taking 1-20 from his first 4 overs, aided by a great tumbling catch by Greg in the deep. At the drinks break the Mammoths were 82-2, and needing more than 9 an over, with Nick Harvey replacing Etienne at the Bradenton end. His first over was eventful to say the least, with two sitters dropped by Greg and Badger, a farcical missed run out chance, a run out by Nathan thanks to the mis-named Lucky, and finally a wicket for Nick, bowled all ends up. First ball of his second over was a real jaffa, clipping the top of off stump to leave the Mammoths close to extinction.
However, at the other end, Jonesy decided to make a game of it, getting smacked for 40 from his 3 overs as Ranjit and Sadiq kept the Mammoths in touch with the asking rate. Ash replaced Nick (2-18 from 3) and restored the balance in favour of Darjeeling, having Ranjit caught behind for 40, and bowling the new guy first ball. He finished with an excellent 2-17 off 3 overs, and with about 30 needed from the last 3 in a moment of madness/genius he tossed the ball to Badger. A good catch by Nick and 5 runs later, Mammoths needed 25 from 2, and tight overs from Ash and Cookie left them 17 short with 9 wickets down.
A good win, celebrated in customary style in Kickers afterwards, with the players joined by a number of the younger club members who had been staying hydrated while we sweated our proverbial’s off. I bade a tearful farewell as I headed back to the airport, but a great weekend catching up with some top chaps.
A very hot day at the ICC saw Darjeeling host a talented touring side from the University of East London.
DCC were batting first on an uneven wicket that offered movement for both new ball bowlers and spinners later in the game. Sam Jackson got DCC off to a good start with a string of impressive boundaries through the off side and formed a good 2nd wicket partnership with Watto. Watto, in particular, was eyeing up the 6 over extra cover shot with a success rate of 33% however still remained at the crease courtesy of picking their most limited fielder twice in the deep. Good batting & bad fielding had DCC well placed at 120-1 with Watto (47) and Sam (41) looking set for just the loss of Harry (caught behind for 17).
However, a familiar Darjeeling middle order collapse began with a newly single, resident DCC love rat, Dorris trying to hook a half volley & getting cleaned up, Jono exuding the air of man who would rather be in Rockies getting caught & Muni and Kev both succumbing to the tourist’s version of Badger leaving a middle order scorecard of 3,4,5,4 and followed up by Rohan running himself out without facing a ball for a duck (surely a dick of the day moment!?). Big Mikey hit a few boundaries and was not aided much by Matt Peet who seemed to be a specialist in picking the fielders – all in all DCC closed on a sub par 175 off 25 overs.
Being the most senior bowler in the team, Rohan was handed a brand new dukes ball, first over & ran in to bowl some heat from the top end. No wickets unfortunately but mixed his lengths up well and came up against some good stroke play to go for 30 from 3. Keen to avenge his own calamitous running, a smart bit of fielding off his own bowling led to DCC’s first wicket being a run out.
Mikey bowled well from the other end mixing up his stock slower ball with the odd quicker one & snicked off their opening bat for 32 who looked a decent player. Spinners were the order of the day at first change with Matt Peet claiming an LBW with a googly in case anyone was wondering & Jono wheeling away at the other end proving there is more to this man than smashing bullfrogs. Muni did well under a skier from Jono fresh after doing a juggling act with a similar opportunity a few overs previous & when the dreadlocked Rasta Brenty chipped in with a snick off wicket afterwards, UEL were 6 down and the game was well placed to go either way.
However, UEL’s version of Rambo (according to his scorebook name!) was under little scoreboard pressure and took the opposition home for a 3 wicket win in the last over. A relatively comfortable run chase in the end that proved DCC were most likely 20-30 runs light. Pick of the bowlers being Matt Peet with 1-29 off his 5 overs.
Darjeeling traveled to Emirates Palace to meet the Abu Dhabi Gents. The scenery was jaw dropping to the vast majority of players and it took a little time to let it sink in that we were playing a game of cricket in a palace next to the beach.
David was appointed captain and had a tough job on his hands having 3 leg spinners and 3 off spinners in the team. The leggies included Joe, George and Thomas and the off spinners included Umer, Aryan and Ollie.
Toss time came around ,after relaxing under the trees, and David lost it. Darjeeling were bowling first! David gave himself the first over and kept it tidy, only giving 3 runs away. Munish was given the second over and went for 11. David bowled 3 overs with figures of 0-11 and Munish was taken off after his second over went for 29. George came on and gave a left handed batsman nightmares after bowling consistent googlies in his overs and finished on figures of 1-38 after 5.
Shehan came on and was getting some surprising bounce and pace off the wicket after telling David that he bowled medium pace. Shehan rattled the batsmen with the shorter delivery and Kai took some very good catches going low to his right. Shehan ended up with figures of 2-23 off 5. Meanwhile in the field Jaco Smith ,who was due for surgery in a couple of weeks, was throwing himself around the ground and stopping every run he could, deserving the name Jonty. Joe then came on and bowled a good spell, picking up the wicket of Sheraz who was looking dangerous on 43. Joe finished his spell of 4 overs for 2-25. Thomas then came on and bowled a tidy spell of 2-16 off 3 and had Sheraz swinging his bat so hard that David was worried that the bat would go further than the ball. Aryan was given the ball and went the distance, ending up on figures of 0-38 off 2. Umer came on for the last over and was given some punishment,going for 14. The Abu Dhabi Gents ended up on a total of 202, setting Darjeeling 203 to win.
Umer and Jaco opened up for Darjeeling. Umer looked like he was ready to rumble having hit his first ball for 4, unfortunately Umer was only able to get 20 after being bowled. Jaco didn’t trouble the scorers after playing on a delivery.
Ollie came in at 3 and never really got going and only managing 9 before being bowled. Shehan was in at 4 and looked good, hitting three 4’s and a 6, however he could only manage 25. George was next in and played a very solid front foot defence first up but he held out playing a reverse sweep and being caught. for 2. Munish was next in and managed 10, hitting a lot of singles from miss-hits before being bowled. David came in and managed 4 not out. Thomas then came in and watchfully played his first ball for a dot, then he flicked a ball of his hip down to fine leg and it was quoted ‘the shot of the day’ from the keeper, however Thomas was stumped off the bowling of Etienne, expecting it to come a lot faster than it did. Aryan came in for the last 3 balls of the match and played a nice cut shot for 2. Darjeeling finished their innings off with 80.
The Abu Dhabi Gentlemen were definitely the better team on the day.
Darjeeling lost the toss and were asked to field, in what turned out to be tough catching conditions. Opening bowlers JP (5-0-27-0) and Brent (3-0-34-1) used the humid conditions to significantly swing the new ball.
JP bowling a tight opening spell, giving little away. At the other end Brent struggled to control the swing and subsequently bowled a lot of wides. However, in between the wides were some absolute beauties and was unlucky to have a nick behind put down before making the breakthrough. LBW.
From there on Wombats built a couple of decent partnerships, but never really got away from us, with Ash (4-0-31-0) and Krish (5-0-28-2) bowling tight lines, giving very little away. Krish in particular was excellent in changing pace which made it difficult for the batsman to get him away to the boundary.
Towards the end of the innings, when Wombats really looked to increase the scoring rate, they were halted by the taking of regular loss of wickets, Joe (5-0-44-3) and Dexy (3-0-32-1) held their nerve to ensure Wombats did not make it past the 200 mark, finishing on 198 for 5 off their 25 overs.
Darjeeling were assisted by some good fielding in the ring, Brent’s direct hit run out from point being the stand out moment in the field. The less said about some of the efforts in the deep the better and in all honesty there were a fair few of them, but as I mentioned at the beginning conditions were tough, it was dark for a start.
Tom (10) and JP (28 of 20) opened the batting for Darjeeling. Tom looked in sublime form, timing the ball nicely until recieving what can only be described as a tricky straight delivery, which he duly played all around to be bowled. Not ideal. Krish (6) came out to join JP at 3 and proceeded to deposit is second ball over the ropes for 6. However, in trying to do the same to his third delivery he was bowled.
Possibly a touch on the rash side. This brought Dexy to the crease, who unfortunately also got one of those tricky straight ones and was bowled for a duck. This brought Jaco (16) to the crease, again we were unable to build a partnership as JP was undone by a slower ball. Which brought skipper for the evening Pottie (8) to the wicket, who was undone by what looked like wombats best bowler and was bowled trying to up the scoring rate. Ash came to the crease and built our first meaningful partnership with Jaco, both playing some glorious strokes. Jaco was eventually out LBW for a well made 16.
Brent strode the wicket full of meaning and promise, something he certainly fulfilled, during an innings filled with cultured strokes and brutal striking, including a couple of big sixes. Again, he and Ash built a decent partnership, before Ash decided to protect his average and retire for a well compiled 23 off 32. Brent also decided he would protect his average and retired after making 28 off 24. Which allowed Chris (3), Kai (4 not out) and Joe (2 not out) to get some time in the middle. Darjeeling ended up on 143 from our 25 overs.
An enjoyable evening had by all, despite the loss, Wombats were simply too strong on the day.