RCC 1sts let slip a game that could have been a win
Old Camdenians 203/5 (42) beat Rickmansworth 176/9 (40.)
The expected weather forecast at Ricky 1st eleven’s away game at Old Camdenians was far more reminiscent of an oncoming Indian monsoon and far less an English early summer day. Heavy downpours all week had led to real doubt as to the viability of an effective game of cricket in Mill Hill. Many other league games up and down the County had already been called off. True to form, there were heavy downpours just prior to the start of the match. The rain eventually having ceased momentarily allowed the two skippers to stroll on to the damp outfield and toss on the spongy cricket wicket. The Ricky skipper riding his ‘lottery winning’ streak of winning the cricket toss in the early season, having once again won the toss, bravely chose to put the hosts in to bat on to what clearly was going to be a difficult wicket to bat on.
After a couple of early rain interrupted intervals, the match eventually got off to a meaningful start, with an agreed reduced target of 42 overs per side.
Old Camdenians got off to a sluggish batting start, partly due to the difficult batting conditions and the wet and damp outfield, but perhaps more so, due to the relatively tight bowling of the Ricky opening bowling attack of Amit Pau and Maj Khan. The pressure of the Ricky opening pair was telling, with the first wicket falling due to an awful mix up between the Old Camdenians opening pair, leading to a comical run out, followed by a quick follow up, LBW, decision for the hosts No 3, due to the very good pace bowling of the Ricky 1st change of the very talented young, Tahir Hussain. Amit Pau continued with his very solid opening spell by dismissing the hosts No2 for only 8 runs. This spell of fine bowling was continued with the Ricky skipper coming on and very quickly removing the Old Camdenians No 4 for a meagure 14 runs. Suddenly, Old Camdenians were 48 for 4 wickets with less than 16 overs having been bowled. Ricky were now in a very commanding and dominant position, as has been customary for them in the early part of this season. The only real and serious dampner for the Ricky side at this stage, was the hand injury sustained for their all rounder Maj Khan who was hit powerfully in the hand by the host’s no 5 batsman who smashed a powerful straight drive on to Maj Khan’s hand from his own bowling, splitting the webbing on his right hand. Maj Khan had to leave the field for emergency bandaging of his right hand. Consternation was all round the Ricky boys, and in particular felt by the Ricky skipper with the loss of his potential match winning all rounder.
Maz Shah, (aka ‘the General’) was called on by his skipper, after many years, to introduce his box of magical slow and medium right arm spin and keep the pressure on. The General bowled well and amazingly ripped the ball (with some of the balls, with which even Murali would have been proud of) on a difficult track, with the hosts finding it difficult to play his big right arm rippers. However, the early momentum and strong and commanding position was slowly lost over the next 18 overs with what can be crudely described as partly ill-disciplined bowling from the rest of the Ricky bowling attack (including 2nd spells from the regulars) but significantly, due to the gutsy and elegant middle order partnership of the hosts 5th wicket partnership of 121, with two of the batsman scoring two very good and fast scoring 50’s. Whatever permutations of bowling the Ricky skipper tried, it could not curtail the hosts, who eventually ended their innings with a surprisingly high 203 for 5 wickets off their 42 overs. It was clearly a good score by the hosts but with the Ricky batting line up as it was on paper, it was felt this was not by any means an insurmountable target.
Stories over the tea break about the damage the old Camdenians opening pace and bounce, bowling pair of the Gravett brothers had done to “Blackwell and Co” in the previous years, led to a slight re configuration of the Ricky batting line up. Maz Shah and Taz Shehabi led the line for Ricky. Whilst early on the ball fizzed around the head and chin of both Ricky openers, neither lost their nerve or their bottle. Maz Shah led the charge in his unwavering and charismatic bullish stylish way by smashing the openers all round the park, including for massive straight sixes into the trees and in the direction of A41. Shah received support at the other end from the classy Taz Shehabi who in his very charismatic and elegant, ‘Marcus Trescothick’ style, stroked the ball with effortless ease and timing to all corners of the park. The Old Camdenians bowling attack was shred to pieces in a way which one would associate with a PIT Bull being introduced to red meat.
Ricky lost their 1st wicket with the score on 95 runs after 20 overs. They only needed another 109 runs from 22 overs with 9 wickets in hand, with Shah still at the crease seeing the ball like a beach football. Shah’s old opening partner, Bashir came in at No3 and cracked 14 off 9 balls, after which he uncharacteristically threw his wicket away by trying to smash yet another one over the bowlers head, but on this occasion nicking it straight to the keeper. Ricky needed a calm and stabilising influence just to remain at the crease to allow Shah to finish off the game, but the Rickey boys were not taking heed. Bashir’s dismissal brought to the crease Waqas Nawaz who like Bashir also gave his wicket away having scored only 9, followed by Raz Khan who self sacrificed himself when he was run out on 5. Maz Shah was effectively anchored at one end with wickets tumbling at the other end and with his team mates unable to rotate strike, nor score without going for big shots, which ultimately led to their demise. Cooper (2) and Zaf Shah (0) could not provide any meaningful support by which time the required run rate had crept amazingly above 8 an over. With Shah having been bowled on 85 trying to force the runs as a result of his team mates inability to provide him with support, ultimately Ricky were bowled out for just 176 off 40 overs, and thereby losing the game by 28 runs.
Shah and Shehabi had batted with real style and pizzazz yet their team mates could not provide them with their support and build on the great opening stand provided to them. Ultimately, as seems very common now, the feeling was that the Ricky boys had gifted a ‘winning’ game which was under their control and handed an perhaps undeserved win to the opposition. Though OC's had set a target of 203. Big lessons to take away to the next game especially from the Ricky middle order batsmen, who need to stand up and be counted.
Report by Sohail Bashir