League leaders Grammar F.P.s travelled to Crathie with experience in the team and a dodgy weather forecast. Captain Magesh Devendran marshalled Arun Chitambaram, Jim Lee, Elia Gubbala, Gary Stuart, John Youles, Mathew Lynch, Paul McDonald, Roland Knudson, Vishal Desai and John Eagles.
Devendran won the toss, yet again, and asked Crathie to bat on a wicket of somewhat unpredictable bounce and pace. Desai and Stuart settled in to threatening, economical spells of bowling. In the 7th over, Desai bowled Taylor with a cracker and next ball bowled Shore round his legs- Crathie 14 for 2. McEwan and MacDonald settled in for a while before Stuart produced a great ball to bowl MacDonald and followed this with one that bounced inducing Cunningham to lob it straight to a cunningly placed Lynch at silly point- Crathie 32 for 4. Eagles came on and McEwan’s patience apparently expired as he left his crease to be stumped by a triumphant McDonald. Stuart then bowled Geddes for a duck to leave Crathie’s innings in tatters at 33 for 6. Bestwick and Slee then started to eye up the short leg side boundary despatching Eagles for 3 maximums, even if aiming for that same short boundary did lead to their downfalls- Slee LBW for 8 and top scorer Bestwick bowled round his legs for 19. McCara chipped a catch to Stuart at deep square leg, before last man Thomas advanced down the wicket and seemed to pose for the cameras while MacDonald removed the bails.
So Crathie were all out for 62 in 25 overs. Desai bowled very accurately to take 2 for 13 in his 10 overs. Stuart bowled 10 threatening overs, with only 4 wides- one of them rather harsh- 3 for 24. Eagles was more profligate with 5 overs 5 for 24. Amidst mutual recriminations, it transpired that no Crathie player had put the pies in the oven, so Grammar went straight out to bat. Even although the pitch was not easy to bat on, a regulation victory was expected.
Astonishingly, as Crathie started to bowl, it emerged that still the pies were not in the oven. While Crathie denied that this was a psychological tactic, it seemed to have unsettled opening batsman Knudson who lobbed a catch to short leg in Bestwick’s first over. Youles batted confidently for 10 before holing out at long on off Slee- Grammar 14 for 2. McDonald was smartly caught and bowled by Bestwick, to leave Grammar 22 for 3. It was only now that McCara finally left the field to put the pies where they should have been, and Lynch (with but one contact lens) joined Gubbala. After looking confident, Gubbala was bowled by McCara, Lee suffered a similar fate off an inside edge and Lynch was caught off Bestwick. Desai had hit a few decisive shots in the meantime but Grammar were now slightly frazzled at 44 for 6. Eagles adopted an anchor role before top scorer Desai was brilliantly caught by McEwan for 18. The fielders then crept ever closer, as did the thunder which began to rumble around Balmoral. Devendran and Eagles boringly ground out the remaining runs, to give Grammar victory by 3 wickets, and within 5 minutes the rain was tropical. The pies, well worth the wait and the controversy, were consumed as rain, thunder and lightning battered the pavilion. Had the pies gone in on time, of course, the match might not have been played to a finish.
It was perhaps “low total batting” from Grammar, who played some injudicious shots, but Crathie bowled and fielded well. Bestwick, in particular, bowled very tidily with 12 overs 4 for 24.
With two league matches to come, promotion for Grammar looks relatively assured, but two victories will probably be needed to secure the Grade 3 title.