Ricky 1st XI pull together to gain unexpected win against top team
Rickmansworth 185-9 beat Old Albanian II 155-10 by 30 runs
Just as England were relying on veteran bowlers Broad and Anderson to demolish the West Indies at Edgbaston, Rickmansworth's talismanic skipper Phil Riddleston was calling on two veterans of his own in Mark Raine (402 innings) and Paul Blackwell (590 innings) to come and help out a beleaguered 1st XI suffering more unavailabilities than a current West Indies Test squad. With results and points at a premium, and relegation looking a distinct possibility, with just 3 games to go, the 1st XI was looking threadbare with players plucked from all 4 teams including 3 players playing their first games for a month. But the key was that this was a 'team' - a group of players who only had one purpose which was to do the best they could in the circumstances. But what circumstances - playing an Old Albanian team that were cruising at the top of the league and who had not lost at home all season. It was the "Fires of Babylon" for Rickmansworth.
Phil won the toss and decided to have a bat. Set a total and see what happens. Maz and Paul opened in the 1st XI for the first time, and Maz got off to a flyer before misjudging a straight ball and rushing past it to see it crash into his middle stump. As the only 1st team regular in the top six this was a bitter blow. And not long afterwards a frenetic Oz carried out a similar move and the result was the same. 31/2 after 7 overs and some calm needed restoring. Now everyone knows that if a bit of digging-in is required then no person has a better reputation for this than Paul 'Boycott' Blackwell and with Waheed playing straight at the other end, the score crept up to 70 off a sedate 23 overs before Waheed was unlucky to be adjudged LBW to a ball which may have been clipping leg stump at best. Worse still, Paul then succumbed in the next over lofting a leading edge to point for 24. But hopefully a platform had been laid for the more skillful players to come and the new ball bowlers had been seen off. Even a 50 over game need not be a sprint. Rory lost his off stump soon afterwards but 15 year old Raunak and "20-something" Majid then produced a partnership that combined big hitting with elegant stroke play and smart running. Neither looked in any trouble as they put on a vital 60 runs in the next 10 overs. Ricky were now accumulating batting points and it was a surprise when Majid was stumped for 41. His highest score for a few games, but timed to perfection.
Raunak edged to the keeper a few overs later for a well-crafted 26 and vital contributions from all the remaining players, batting in partnerships, helped take the score to 185 including an obstinate 22 run partnership between Rainey and Riddler that frustrated the Old Albanians and ensured that Ricky batted all 50 overs.
185/9 may not seem a lot in these days of crash bang Cricket, but on a pitch offering plenty of seam movement and bounce, it was an above par performance considering the last-minute make up of this Ricky team. At tea the feeling was that if gave Ricky's bowlers a chance and that was all that could be asked for. That Old Albanian had only once been bowled out for less than 215 this season was a statistic best kept secret.
Majid and Phil opened with their usual fire and 2 slips were kept in for the opening salvo's. Majid git some extra bounce to remove Asif for 7 and then Phil produced a beautiful swinging delivery to remove the OA's skippers middle stump. 19/2 and it was game on. However this OA team is strong and the game was slowly taken away from Ricky by the next pair - or so it seemed as their 48 run partnership was solid but they were not scoring that quickly at just 4 an over. They seemed to be waiting for the 2nd string bowlers, but of course Ricky have a surprise in that department with the eclectic and electrifying pace of one Harry Isles. Charging to the crease Harry unleashed a short pitched barrage which eventually led to a glove by opening bat Raza to Paul behind the stumps for 25. A vital breakthrough that the OA umpire was reluctant to give until the batsman was embarrassed enough to walk off himself. Harry also had the Number 4 caught by a full length dive by Waheed Mahroof that would have graced any international stage. This Ricky team were back in the fight.
Before this Waheed himself had a short spell of bowling that resulted in a caught and bowled of the highest quality. Two catches that will live long in the memory. 95/5 and Phil turned back to his mainstream bowlers to finish the job. Meanwhile Zaf Shah had been busy wheeling away at the School End getting extraordinary turn and bounce. The keepers job was a tough one but the batters found it even harder with little to hit. A good spiraling catch by Harry off Majid and a wicket for Zaf caught by Majid in the covers and OA's were suddenly 103 for 7. They had lots of overs but did they have the patience to score at the 4 an over required? The answer was no, as Zaf picked up his 2nd and 3rd wicket soon after, one clean bowled and one caught by Maz. 115/9 and just one wicket to get. But then followed the most curious part of the day as Numbers 9 and 11 played straight, hit the bad ball, and slowly picked up the runs they needed each over. Zaf was finished with great figures of 3-24 off 10, but coming into the final 10 overs, OA's needed 50 runs. Ricky had to keep it tight. With an in-out field they continued to pick up runs. Were Ricky facing another Northwood situation?
The emphatic answer was no, as Skipper Phil Riddleston produced a superb in cutter that fooled the batsman into playing across the line and middle stump was rocked back to produce a fine win in trying circumstances. Ricky had beaten the unbeaten and in the process put themselves 30 points clear of relegation with 2 games to go.
Forget the Magnificent 7, this was truly the Magnificent 11.