Following the wettest start to a season in years, the thought of a match at Sheddocksley, where the local ecosystem can mean four seasons in an over, did not exactly inspire confidence. However the strong easterly wind meant that the dark clouds kept moving on, and so our Johnston Cup match against St Ronald could be played.
The ten man FP’s 2nd XI team showed three changes from the team which played in the most recent washout away to Huntly Highlanders. Out went Youles, Mutu and Frizzell, and in came Tom Murray playing his first game of the season and Raam. St Ronald won the toss and decided to bat on a wicket which looked stodgy, uneven and very green.
Karthik opened the bowling from the Pavilion end, the downhill with the wind behind him end and Phillips bowled uphill into the wind from the North Pole end. Karthik struck first, bowling Mohit for 11, and two overs later Phillips bowled Shakeel for 5. New batsman Vijay hit his first ball beautifully for 4 through mid wicket, but next over Karthik had him athletically caught by Rizwan diving forward at square leg. The deadly duo struck again soon after with an even better catch to see off Nadeem, Rizwan holding on to the catch at the third attempt, one handed, lying on his back!
This was just the start FP’s needed, but it was to be a frustrating afternoon as the St Ronald batsmen went for their shots with all the bowlers having boundaries swiped off their bowling, not helped by bowling short at times, but were unlucky when several catches fell into gaps. Magesh was bowling well and had Taj excellently held by Phillips on the deep mid wicket boundary for 18. Zubair rode his luck before being bowled by Magesh for 39, and then Sunni lobbed an easy catch to Russell for 19, leaving St Ronald 7 wickets down for an unknown total due to a scorebook malfunction. Keeper Fraser then snapped up two catches, Abid off Magesh and Neeraj off Rizwan. The innings was over when Karthik returned to complete his five-for by bowling Viru for 4, leaving last man Dave 4 not out.
St Ronald scored a total of 145 helped by a strict interpretation of the wides rule. Karthik with 5-32 was the pick of FP’s bowlers, Magesh took 3-35, Phillips had 1-23, Rizwan 1-25. FP’s fielded well with Rizwan outstanding, holding on to a couple of great catches, and saving runs in the outfield with tenacious fielding. Keeper Fraser deserved his catches with a near faultless display.
Following a good tea, Fryer and Fraser opened the batting for Grammar. With the wicket popping up off a length at one end and playing reasonably at the other, the score had progressed to 17 when Fryer was caught off Suni at gully for 4. Johnston followed soon after, bowled for 1. The wind had been blowing the bails off regularly until St Ronald found the solution, using chewing gum to hold the bails in place! Batsmen Karthik and Fraser looked as secure as the bails and took the score to 41 when Fraser was out for 12, having hit 2 good drives for 4.
New batsman Murray and in form Karthik punished anything short and wide putting on 20 runs before Murray was caught at slip for 10. Phillips first two scoring shots were good drives for 4, and Karthik hit 2x6s as the score quickly moved on to 91. Karthik was driving and pulling powerfully and was looking set for a fifty when Mohit bowled an excellent off break and bowled Karthik for 44 (2×6, 6×4)
Mohit then produced a slightly controversial moment when he ran out non striker Phillips who had failed to leave his bat behind the crease while backing up. No warning from the bowler and a harsh lesson for Phillips, FP’s 91-6.
Russell was just settling in when he was bowled for 1, with FP’s still requiring 50 runs to win off 18 overs. Magesh and Rizwan put on 7 runs when Magesh was bowled for 6. Last man Raam batted calmly with Rizwan, ignoring the constant appealing for anything hitting pads, and the partnership was soon worth 20 valuable runs. The winning target was just beginning to look possible when St Ronald, having used eight bowlers, called up opening bowler Nadeem and with his first ball Rizwan was caught and bowled for 14 (2×4), Raam finishing 4 no.
FP’s fell 20 runs short of St Ronald’s total, score 123 all out.
A frustrating defeat for Grammar as we had half the St Ronald team out for 50ish, only for the lower half to add almost 80 runs. While Karthik was at the crease a victory was probable, but a couple of poor shots and an unfortunate run out during the FP’s innings meant the target was just too much.
Man of the Match – Karthik, a well deserved five wickets and top scorer with 44 runs.
Champagne Moment – Rizwans juggling catch at the third attempt, one handed while lying on his back. All in slow motion.