Sunday XI v Gentlemen of Hampstead 9th June 2019
In a topsy-turvy game on Sunday M & B managed to transform an underwhelming position into a landslide victory against regular visitors the Gentlemen of Hampstead. Skipper Armstrong lost the toss and was asked to bat, so there was no real point in going out to toss. Opener Paddy Searing was given his fourth different opening partner, albeit the last two had the same name, this time the more fleet of foot, Ben Ward jnr ! Both batsmen found scoring fluently difficult and had to rely on their speed between the wickets to rotate strike and a couple of four byes to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Searing managed to strike the first boundary in the eight over but was promptly dismissed next ball, getting a leading edge to a delivery which stuck in the wicket, leaving M & B 31 for 1. Ward had struggled to get bat on ball in the early exchanges albeit the left right combination hindered the bowlers with a fair few deliveries going past Ward's leg stump. He was joined at the crease by another jnr, this time Mike Parkinson. Together they again ran the singles quickly whether it be runs or extras. Ward was by now beginning to find his range with his drives and flicks and was able to hit a couple of boundaries. Parkinson struggled to find his timing and pierce the gap and was limited to singles. The partnership though batted out time and took M & B through to the 19th over, whereupon Parkinson was castled by Cicero, still a useful partnership of 38 in 11 overs leaving M & B on 69 for 2. Parkinson relayed the information to the team that the wicket was slow and batting conditions difficult, whereupon Armstrong advised his players that 180 would be a realistic target. New bat Wyatt Michaux made a mockery of the comments though as he made batting look ridiculously easy. He found the boundary early on with a sweet cover drive then played a delightful back foot defence straight down the ground for three. He pulled a full toss through wide mid on and then found the cover boundary in the same over off Cicero. Alas his cameo came to an abrupt end after flicking Sudeep through mid wicket for two he then played back to a delivery which went through the gate and beat him all ends up. A quick three over 18. Skipper Bell took off the gloves and replaced Cicero from the Road End with immediate results, pinning Tin Man Tifler lbw with his first ball and then tempting Gunbarul into driving over the top but resulting in him playing too early and merely scooping the delivery to the other Bell at mid on for a third ball duck. Bell got another lbw, this time James King, in his next over to leave M & B in a pickle at 110 for 6 with Ward still there on 38 no. M & B were lucky to have wise old owl, James Cunliffe, emerging at 8. He was sensible enough to bat time and occasionally rotate the strike as Ward managed to hit a couple of boundaries. After seven overs of crease occupation he couldn't quite make a single as the fielder hit the stumps directly but his efforts had added a valuable 14 and supported Ward onto 49, albeit M & B were in the very dicey position of 124 for 8 in the 34th over. Ward was joined at he crease by skipper Armstrong, who was immediately of the mark with a push through the covers for 2 and a quick single. This allowed Ward to complete his 50 with another quick single in the 35th over. Ward then hit left armer Cleave over the top for a boundary and then quickly rotated the strike. Armstrong got the better of the battle with fellow captain Bell in the 37th over as he managed to dispatch full tosses over square leg and mid on as 11 were scored from the over. Armstrong dispatched another full toss at the start of the next over through wide mid on as the M & B innings gained momentum. Ward struck another boundary but was finally dismissed off the final delivery of the 38th over, as Cleave held onto a caught and bowled chance, ending Ward's excellent innings of 72 in 38 overs, which contained 7 boundaries. Ward and Armstrong had put on an 8th wicket stand of 46 in just under 5 overs to give M & B a reasonable total. Armstrong and Moorthy managed to add 10 in the final two overs taking M & B to the score of 180 which Armstrong had looked for at drinks. Skipper Armstrong was left undefeated on 25.
The normal duo of Moorthy & Gunbarul opened proceedings for M & B, as both bowlers hit their lines immediately, with opener Saunders looking particularly vulnerable. The Gents openers had almost survived the first four overs when opener Lewis took a single to skipper Armstrong at mid off. All of a sudden Michaux swooped in from extra cover and threw the wickets down, dismissing Lewis, with the umpire getting in a good position to adjudicate. Michaux had early asked Armstrong that he would like to field at extra cover ! The position is yours Wyatt. Gunbarul decided to go over the wicket a the start of his third over and immediately cleaned up Saunders with his first delivery, further disaster was to strike for The Gents, as Preston dragged a widish delivery back onto his stumps with the last ball of Gunbarul's over, leaving the Gents on 12/3. The procession continued into the next over as Moorthy cleaned up the dangerous looking left hander Cleeve for 9, as he went fro the drive and was castled. Gunbarul followed suit in his next over hitting the timbers of Potter to leave the Gents in tatters at 24/5, and Armstrong facing questions from his players that he should perhaps change the bowling, whereupon his reply was they are entitled to five overs. Moorthy took advantage of his fifth over by dismissing captain Bell, who decided to go down fighting as he went for an expansive drive but only succeeded in knicking off to keeper King and plunge the Gents to 26/6. Armstrong pulled Ambar Moorthy after five overs to prevent further cruelty as he ended with figures of 5/0/11/2 and but for two no balls and a wide was faultless. Gunbarul was unable to strike in his final over and finished with brilliant figures of 5/0/9/3. Armstrong looked to his senior spinners Chris Butler and James Cunliffe to clean up The Gents tail. Both struck in their second over, De Jaager bowled trying to cut and Cicero out smarted with flight and spin as Cunliffe hit the top of off, leaving Gents stranded on a mere 32 for 8. Butler snared Sudeep in his next over as he looked to hit over mid off, whereupon Parkinson pouched a fine catch running back and ended up tumbling over in ungainly fashion but holding on(I could think of an analogy but it wouldn't have gone down well, so I won't!). 33 for 9 reminded Armstrong of the two lowest scores he had been involved in during his M & B career, funnily enough both 33 and on a Sunday, away to Reading in the late 80's and home to Ealing late 80/s/early 90's. No 10 Bell made sure they reached the forties striking Cunliffe over widish long on and then over mid off in his third over. Cunliffe exacted revenge in his next over as Bell swung across the line and was castled by Cunliffe to leave Gents marooned on 44 all out in 17.4 overs with spinners Butler(4/0/5/2) and Cunliffe(3.4/1/12/2) joining the party. In the end it worked out well for Armstrong as M & B had played through steady rain for the last couple of overs which got progressively harder as the players walked off. The Gents were crest fallen and apologetic but everyone suffers these days occasionally and they all stayed for a drink and will be welcomed back next year and well beyond.