The skipper was feeling pretty good about things following the completion of the Tuesday session before the Grand Final. The side was coming off an excellent performance in the semi-final, his cracked thumb had got through and there was the welcome selection difficulties associated with having a raft of players available.
By Wednesday we were down to 12 which left Pugs debating only one place. The nod went to Colin, who was no doubt somewhat relieved after not a great run of form. However, his excitement may have been tempered by the fact that this now meant he had to advise his partner that not only was he cricketing again on the upcoming weekend, but the match extended into a 3rd day on the following Saturday. Tough times ahead.
Anyway, we rolled up to fine weather at Como on Saturday confident of our chances. We were limping slightly with a few players carrying niggles – this was to grow into a full-blown epidemic by the end of the match. Regular B Grade watchers (and indeed players) were unsurprised when Pugs lost the toss, and Old Camberwell elected to make first use of the deck. Dan ‘Triangles’ Scott (2/36) and Jordan Stephen opened things up as usual and we were away to a fast start. Two edges induced by Dan through to Pugs and an LBW for Jordan (after the usual polite appeal in keeping with his interaction with umpires) reduced the visitors to 3/16. Things could have been even better shortly thereafter but for the uncoordinated juggling of Luke at slip. Still, a good start for us.
A bit of a partnership developed, taking the total to 72 before we again got a few wickets in a bundle. Firstly Kev struck by getting an actual LBW (his 1st of the season). Rowdy (Tim Mitchell) then struck twice in quick succession, deceiving the dangerous Tudor with his quicker ball which the batsman duly charged & missed by a fair margin. Pugs gleefully whipped the bails off and when in the next over a ball was bunted straight to Colin (moved there the ball before) OCG had gone from 3/72 to 6/74. Again a bit of a partnership developed as the game entered a bit of a holding pattern. Neither Kevin (2/58) or Tim (2/47) were going for many runs, but we weren’t making a host of chances. Suitably rested, Jordan (3/14 off 12) came back to dismiss the two set batsman, followed by another for Kevin. Jordan was again involved in the last wicket, running out the number 11 after he’d swatted a couple. OCG all out for 190, a solid effort from us with the ball.
With a whopping 36 overs left in the day, there was plenty of time to put a decent dent in the target, although not if Luke had much of the strike. He & Kirk set out to continue their recent form as a partnership and Kirk in particular looked to take the game away from our opponents. He was living dangerously, but effectively as the scoreboard ticked over rapidly. Dealing mostly in boundaries thanks to a foot problem he’d picked up, he was also engaged in a running commentary with the OCG wicketkeeper. Upon bringing up a marvellous 50 (with the total at 60 something, extras on about 6 and Luke on about 5, or as aptly described by Bristle on Facebook ‘trying really hard’) he landed a decisive blow by encouraging said opponent to ‘kiss his bat’. This generous offer was declined. The score had got to 92 when Kirk unexpectedly departed for a brilliant 60 bringing a nervous Colin to the wicket, just when he was starting to think he’d get through without being required that evening. Luke (16) obviously got lonely without Kirk as without further addition to the score he surprised everyone by 1) getting out which despite the glacial scoring rate didn’t look likely and 2) middling one which was snaffled by square leg. Pugs joined Colin to safely see us through to the close at 2/103, a very satisfactory day one.
Weather was again no problem the following day as we fronted up attempting to firstly get a 1st innings victory and secondly build a decent lead. Pugs and Colin were to set the tone for the day with an absolutely masterful partnership that encompassed the entirety of the first session. Pugs was his usual effective self, punishing anything loose in trademark fashion. For Colin, this was a sensational knock. Both he and the rest of us knew it was in there, we’d all seen it but until this day it hadn’t come together for him this season. Not the case this time though, he played a calm, controlled and tremendous innings.
It was a happy balcony as firstly the target of 191 was achieved, followed in short order by the 200 and half-centuries for the two batsmen. A superb partnership of 131 – the cliched captains knock from Pugs and a real big game knock from Colin. In the final over before the first break we were all somewhat surprised when Pugs was dismissed for 63, but were nonetheless in a very good position at 3/223. A relaxed and comfortable first session of viewing was made a little tenser post-lunch. Firstly, Col was out not long after the break for 63 as well, bringing Ben Hucker out to join Nathan at the crease. However, most of the tension came from the newly arrived skipper, who is not the most relaxed of observers. With him out in the centre, things were nice and calm on the sideline – a situation that altered slightly.
His mood wasn’t helped by Nathan (who looked in fantastic touch) pinging his calf shortly thereafter. A brief attempt to push on was abandoned, so Josh joined Ben out in the middle and things continued to cruise along. 300 was passed when Josh (27) missed one and was out LBW. Dan (4) came and went briefly, proving to be a far better A than B Grade batsman now that his body of work was complete. At 6/310 we were well placed, but didn’t want to collapse completely. Hucker didn’t get this message, dismissed for 32 at 318 just when he looked set for a Col-esque breakthrough innings.
Not to worry, as the most confident man in the world (Kevin) and Jordan added another 40, taking us beyond 350 and the lead towards 200. Kev as usual looked good with the bat and Jordan (8) was able to keep his occasional tendency for a god-awful shot at bay; surprisingly dismissed playing sensibly. This brought Rowdy to the crease and may have seen a few players reaching for the whites to get changed. Probably the man with the least faith was Kev, who started to tee off, only to injure his calf shortly thereafter. Tim was to be frustrated by this, as a couple of lovely shots went unrewarded due to Kev’s inability to run. However, he did receive a standing ovation when he hit a shot for 2, marking the first time he’d done that in B Grade. That was as good as it got though, as he departed for 4 with the score at 381.
Nathan returned to the crease and what followed was not a high-class running exhibition. Still, Kevin managed to bring up 50 and the team got past both a 200 lead and an overall total of 400. 402 in fact, when Kevin was the last to go for 59, leaving Nathan unbeaten on 34. A brilliant team effort, as the batting line-up picked the best possible day to click. To get 400 with a top score of 63 indicates just how much of a group effort it was.
Feeling pretty good about things, we probably took a bit of a lax attitude out onto the field for the 18 overs we had left in the day. Certainly OCG weren’t flat as their intentions were clear. An aggressive start spearheaded by the keeper Subramanian saw boundaries flowing. Dan (1/69) was able to dismiss the other opener LBW with the total at 43, and in the last over of the day Josh gave everyone a much-needed boost with a brilliant run out. 2/59 was the stumps score, still 153 behind so we were firmly in the ascendancy.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing though as Subramanian looked capable of peeling off a rapid fire century, and we were starting to drop like flies. Nathan’s game was over, Kevin was struggling mightily with his calf problem and those of us carrying knocks were starting to feel it. Pugs had come in with a broken thumb, Luke a strained knee ligament, Col his usual dodgy back, Kirk had injured his foot quite significantly, Hucker had a knee and hand problem, Josh had to manage his knee which flared up if overused. Dan’s back and Jordan’s knee were starting to wilt under the mammoth amount of bowling done lately. This left Tim as the only uninjured party, to be expected from the youngest I suppose. It was a very light week on the track.
Still, we were well & truly in the box seat as we took the field for the last day of the season, albeit with a few sub fielders. By the end of things we were up to about the 15th man as Norm (12th), Dan Emmerton (13th), Ben Hipsley (who probably had hoped to just sit and watch whilst enjoying an ale or two) were all pressed into service. A few nerves were present early, as a team playing with nothing to lose scored very steadily, helped by some less than stellar fielding. They’d reached 100 when Kevin intervened for the first time with a smart caught and bowled.
Subramanian was still playing a blinder (he was 82 of 100 when the 3rd wicket fell), but was starting to give a half chance or two. A quick second breakthrough for Kev (well caught by Norm) at 104 put us right back on top. The scoring rate slowed a bit, but chances were still coming. 150 was passed, along with a brilliant hundred for Subramanian. The deficit had been reduced to 55 when Josh (1/25) got us a vital wicket.
Kev was to strike the hammer blow shortly afterwards as he induced Subramanian into hitting one straight back to him after a brilliant 137 of 178 at the time. 6 down and still 34 behind, we were feeling a whole lot better now. It was Kev again who got the next wicket, brilliantly assisted by Dan on the boundary who made a tricky catch look simple. Rowdy got in on the act as he again dismissed Tudor with a quicker one, leading to Pugs’ usual dance around the stumps whenever someone gets bowled.
It was 9/199 when Kev got number 10 to edge behind to Pugs, and from possibly chasing 50-70 it now looked like we mightn’t have to bat again. Alas, a few lusty blows from one of the tailenders saw OCG get to 220 and fittingly it was Kev (6/50) who got the last via the increasingly frequent method of LBW. A brilliant effort from Kevin, just ask him. A word too for Jordan who despite going wicketless was an important cog in dragging back some control for us at various stages.
The princely sum of 9 required for the win then. Not a lot to gain for batsmen here, just enough time to get out for stuff all. Thankfully this was avoided as Luke (4 n.o) & Kirk (5 n.o) got us there with Kirk hitting the winning runs. A comprehensive victory, and a brilliant team performance. Kevin was deservedly awarded player of the game for his 59 and 8 wickets over the two innings, but everyone contributed.
Kudos to Pugs and everyone involved for a terrific season, with everything coming together at the right time. The two best displays of the season were the last two, which is exactly what you want, so well done to all and hopefully there’s more success to come.