Highgate CC, Middx - 4th XI Vs Teddington CC - 4th XI - Saturday 8th July 2017

This Saturday saw a remarkable game played against (then top of the table) Highgate. Our home fixture against the same opposition had seen Highgate chase down a decent TCC total, so we knew we'd be up against it.

The game took place at Old Camdenians Sports and Social Club, a nice little venue, tucked away so much from the hustle and bustle of London that you might think you were playing cricket deep in the green belt. There are two cricket grounds at this venue and we were sent to the one farthest from the clubhouse where they'd managed to squeeze a ground in with tiny boundaries and what looked like a stone-baked square. I lost the toss and we were inserted. OK! We'll take that. I was quite happy with that as, by the looks of the pitch, coupled with the heat and the short boundaries, I fully expected us to be able put on a score of 200, it not, 250-300 on this postage stamp of a ground, provided batsmen could get themselves in for the best part of 50 overs. All the Highgate captain (Mike Clarke) said rather mysteriously when I told him he would've batted anyway, was "It's Ok, we like the heat!".

Despite still not being fully fit, I decided to open the batting with the young talented colt, Will Greenall. If we thought it was going to be easy, our minds were quickly changed by the sight of John Newton opening the bowling for Highgate. This chap has excellent career figures: he has taken over 530 wickets from almost 3000 overs bowled, including twenty-seven 5 wicket hauls. If there's anything I don't like facing, it's these kinds of bowlers - ones that just trundle up and bowl wicket to wicket with a little seam and swing movement and you're stuck in your crease, as the keeper has stood up to the wicket. Difficult. Awks, as the kids might say nowadays. He's the sort of bowler I'd imagine James Keightley will turn into when the rest of his hair turns grey and he drops down into the 4s in his 60s. Nevertheless, we both blocked and prodded and were fairly watchful until I played a half-baked shot outside off, after hitting John for two 4s and gave Highgate's first slip (a 1st teamer with a bad back) the first of his 5 slip catches. Dammit. Stupid. Will hang around for a bit, but he was soon following me back into the shade at the edge of the boundary. Then the wheels truly started to come off our innings. Camball, Mufti, Harmer, Sanghera, Butt were all out for either ducks or cheaply and we found ourselves 54-7. Tauseef Khan came in and bludgeoned his first few balls to the boundary, which prompted the Highgate captain to stick himself at Long On. Sure enough, TK hit the next ball straight down his throat. 68-8. Harry came and went and we were 76-9. Then a remarkable thing happened. Young Tom Elway (24) and Ned Langlands-Pearse (65*) managed to stick around and add another 80! in a brilliant last wicket stand, thus giving us something to defend (156ao).

Whilst I tried to make sense of the scorebook over tea, I then Ned asked to repeat his heroics, this time with a new cherry, with TK taking the second over. It didn't start well. Highgate were quickly over 30 without loss and not looking in trouble. It was looking like it might be over very, very shortly. However, after Taus moaned that he was having trouble bowling from his end and after watching Ned swing a few too many down leg, I thankfully decided to trust my instinct and got them to swap ends. Immediate dividends! Ned took 2, TK kept on beating the outside edge and things didn't look that bad. I then followed up with the second bit of my plan (yes, I had one!) to start using some of the very capable spinners we had in the side. First up, Elliot Harmer, came on and bowled very tight off-spin and quickly picked up a couple. OK, 92-4. We had a chance. Over to Jag at the other, bowling his loopy leggies. I'd watch him warming up before the Highgate innings and had noticed he was turning it a good foot, so was hopeful he could repeat this during the actual game. He didn't let us down. First up, he got rid of their stand in 1st teamer (96-5) and then their all rounded Rajib (who had almost single-handedly won the reverse fixture for them at our place). 104-6. Hmm. Game on. Pendulum swinging. Tom Elway thinks he's taken a good catch at slip, but the umpires won't give it out. They're not sure it was clean. Controversary, but I kept a lid on things and we carried on.

Drinks. Highgate had an older chap trying to anchor the innings and just get them to the target bit by bit, but a foolish decision to go for a quick second to keep their youngster off the strike saw him returning to the boundary rope after being run out by Jag (with me catching and demolishing the stumps). 116-7. Jag kept on taking turning the ball and varying his deliveries beautifully and now Highgate looked in real trouble. Their captain tried to rescue the innings but after putting one over Shaz's head, tried the same thing after I'd moved Shaz back a bit and he was gone too. 124-8. Getting there. Excitement was building amongst the TCC 4s. Then we really started to crowd them. A couple of lucky boundaires but another wicket - 134-9. One more. Just one. Highgate were left with Newton (their primary bowler and in his 50s or 60s, if he's a day) and their youngest player at the other end,  nervously blocking most balls. Jag bowls. An edge. Harry Polhill lets it slip through his hands. Damn. Oh well. Keep going. A few balls later. Same trick and this time, thankfully, Harry took an easy catch. Cue the celebrations!

A remarkable turnaround for Teddington and this was probably one of the most enjoyable games I've been involved in here. The spirit of the game was excellent throughout, especially when Tom and Ned started performing their heroics and Jag started turning the ball almost horizontally. Lovely weather too! :)

Author: Matt O'Toole

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