As the two sides gathered in North County CC on Saturday morning, there was a lot of wondering going on. Would the weather stay as fine as it started? What sort of team would NIACUS bring? Would our appointed umpires from the NorthWest appear to officiate? And most importantly, could LCU&SA achieve the gold standard of four wins in a row?
The day started fine, and the LCU&SA captain Mr Andrews had selected a steady eleven. Missing from the 2007 team were Martin Russell, Mike Carter and a trio of Mooneys, Joey, Tommy & Graham. In their stead came Sameer Dutt, Azam Ali Baig, Bala Kailash, Clive Colleran and Marty Block, leaving the team with lots of high-level cricket experience, if a little light on seam bowling.
The toss was made under the close supervision of umpires Tuffery & Norton (drafted in at short notice, and many thanks to them for agreeing to stand), and on calling correctly John decreed that LCU&SA would break with tradition and have a bat. Rumours that this was to allow our wicketkeeper recover from The Hills' dinner the night before were to prove inaccurate?
After a stirring team talk in the home dressing room, focusing on the historic nature of the game, in to bat strode the skipper, accompanied by Sameer Dutt, making his debut in the White Stick contest. John started with his customary vim, landing one over the scorebox wall, before being the first of Andy Clement's two victims.
In came Clive Colleran, so often the anchor man in White Stick innings, just in time to become Andy's second victim, also clean-bowled. Urvin Desai was next to the crease, and he & Sameer set about the tight NIACUS bowling. They batted according to the plan laid out in the dressing room, and together put on 64 runs before Urvin was bowled by Connor Simms.
This brought Jim Gallagher to the crease, with instructions from his captain to "not hang about blocking up an end". His innings was quick, contributing only three runs before Alan Neill soared above the turf at square leg to pluck a superb catch out of the sky. Next in was Marty Block, who after a slow start took the long handle to the NIACUS change bowlers and, in conjunction with Sameer, pushed the score along nicely.
After scoring 80 priceless runs, Sameer sportingly retired, his superb innings being the cornerstone of the LCU&SA total. Matt Dwyer joined Marty and together they added some useful late-innings runs, finishing on 12* and 23* respectively.
A total of 168 after 30 overs was felt by LCU&SA to be satisfactory, although the quality of the bowling had let us know that this game was to be a fight to the end. Andy Clement's 2 for 23 off 6 was the pick of the bowling, ably supported by Connor Simms' 2 for 37.
The NIACUS' opening partnership of Adams & Ross was a dangerous one, and some nervousness was evident in the fielding side in the opening overs. People found their stride, however, and the nervousness passed to the batting side, where some poor calling resulted in both batsmen standing stationary at the non-striker's end, while Azam and Mick combined to remove the bails at the other. Adams departed, cursing his luck.
The opening LCU&SA bowlers Azam and Urvin bowled steadily, and kept NIACUS behind the asking rate. However, they still had dangerous batsmen both at the crease & yet to come, and LCU&SA knew not to relax.
The change bowlers of Sameer and Marty proved to be worth the change, Marty dismissing the other opener to a fine catch in the deep by Kevin Gallagher, while Azam clung on to a chance off Sameer's bowling. When Sameer found his way through the NIACUS' skipper's defence, LCU&SA were in the driving seat.
As always in cricket, though, it's never over until 10 wickets are down, and a partnership between Clement & McAlpine provided LCU&SA with a few headaches. Bala came on to bowl and got Andy Clement to clatter one into Sameer's hands in front of the pavilion, then Azam returned to trap Mr McAlpine in front.
This brought Noel McCarey to the crease, and LCU&SA knew it was vital to keep this man quiet, and not to allow him any room. However, NIACUS' heebie-jeebies with regard to calling returned, allowing Jim Gallagher to collect a ball at point and roll it underarm to Nigel Parnell at the bowler's end, sending Noel back to the pavilion with only 3 runs to his name.
The LCU&SA fielding at this point was excellent, with everyone exhibiting full commitment to the cause, and full-length diving stops were the norm rather than the exception. No catching opportunity was refused either, bar one in the deep on the river side. The captain commented on this at some length...
Azam then removed Simms for 3, while Bala accounted for McConville, both LBW. This left NIACUS' last pairing at the wicket, Alan Waugh partnering the patriarch of umpiring on this island, Paddy O'Hara. Paddy showed his true fighting spirit, hitting an excellent four, before chancing a quick single to Azam, who combined nicely with Nigel again to whip off the bails and bring victory once again to the LCU&SA.
Many remarked that this was the most competitive White Stick match for several years, and both sides knew they'd been in a fight. As usual, the players, spectators (of whom there were many) and officials gathered for some refreshment, first liquid, then a superb meal, followed by some further liquids for the hardy few.
Speeches were made, and the awards handed out, Man of the Match going to Sameer for his superb batting innings, and Champagne Moment to Alan Neill for his wonderful catch.
Many thanks must go to the following:
- John Andrews, for his sterling work as captain and for organising the entire day.
- North County CC, for hosting us so capably and in such a welcoming manner.
- Alan Neill, Paddy O'Hara and all from NIACUS who travelled and participated.
- George Kitteringham for doing a splendid job on the scorebook & board.
- Everyone who showed up to cheer on the teams, take photographs, shout abuse (good-natured of course) or just observe in wonderment this great game of ours.
The only sad point of the day was that Paddy didn't make a speech, but maybe it wasn't a day for "Hogan's Lament". Having achieved four in a row, LCU&SA will be going all guns blazing for the five-for in 2009.
Any budding poets out there fancy working on "O'Hara's Lament"?....
|Match played at The Inch, Balrothery|
|Result: LCU&SA won by 45 runs|
|Series: LCU&SA 11 wins; NIACUS 8 wins.|
|J Andrews (c)||b Clement||15|
|C Colleran||b Clement||0|
|U Desai||b Simms||32|
|J Gallagher||c Neill B Simms||3|
|M Block||not out||23*|
|M Dwyer||not out||12*|
|A Ali Baig||DNB|
|Extras (Byes 5, Leg-Byes 2, Wides 5)||12|
Total (4 wickets, 30 overs)
|A Adams||run out (Azam Ali Baig)||0|
|M Ross||c K Gallagher b Block||18|
|C Williams||c A Ali Baig b S Dutt||20|
|A Neill (c)||bowled S Dutt||7*|
|A Clement||c Dutt b Kailash||27|
|R McAlpine||bowled A Ali Baig||14|
|C Simms||LBW A Ali Baig||3|
|N McCarey||run out (J Gallagher)||3|
|K McConville||LBW b Kailash||2|
|A Waugh||not out||0*|
|P O'Hara||run out (A Ali Baig)||5|
|Extras b19 lb5 nb2 w7||25|
|Total (all out, 26.4 overs)||123|
|A Ali Baig||6||0||27||2|
|Man of the Match: Sameer Dutt|
|Champagne Moment: Alan Neill|
|Umpires: Alan Tuffery, John Norton|
|Scorer: George Kitteringham|