26th April -v- Addington 1743 at Coombe Lodge
Crusaders began the 2008 season, with a 40 over match against Addington 1743, with the venue switched to Coombe Lodge, as the normal home ground was not ready. The ground was close to the Croydon Tramway and the undulating leafy Lloyds Park; the pitch like its surroundings was particularly green.
Most of the team was assembled twenty minutes before the due start of play, with only the East London Contingent still on the road. Driven by Don and alarmingly navigated by Chand, their journey took in a large swathe of South-West London before they eventually arrived. Stages of the Dhakar Rally have been completed with fewer incidents. So to the toss..another important one for Wajih to win..nevermind. True to form we were inserted on a very grassy green topper.
Assured of some entertainment Spud happily volunteered to umpire the opening exchanges - he was not disappointed. Addington made good use of the new ball, extracting bounce from one end and some swing from the other. Nita survived a first ball edge, but perished soon after, dragging a fullish ball onto his stumps and Mike followed, playing superbly over the top of a full-toss. What an inspired choice for opener. Matters went from bad to worse, as Wajih and Anand failed to blunt the scorer's pencil. At 18-4 we were teetering on the brink. Salvation came from Don and Chand, who had obviously had a good deal of time to discuss tactics on their way to the ground. Don played the anchor role, whilst Chand was more expansive. With the two opening bowlers out of attack, scoring became easier and we reached 51 before Chand's 'patience' ran out. A downpour briefly halted proceedings, but the Addington skip was hyper-actively keen to get things going at the first sign of blue skies. Don was happy to play second fiddle to the tail, picking up ones and twos, while Sumo, Johnny Walker and Damon took a more aggressive approach. Damon played particularly well (I have to put this in because his daughter reads the reports) executing an exquisite cover drive and a glorious cut through the point area. It is a shame he can't run a bit faster,
Improbably we had posted 137 from our 40 overs, which with good bowling and fielding was a defendable total.
Tea - less said the better. Ranks amongst the worst efforts I can remember.
From analysing their scorebook it became apparent that they relied heavily on a couple of players for runs. It was deduced (because we are an intelligent body of men) that the removal of these players for a cheap score would ensure victory. For this deduction to bear fruit we would need to a) bowl well b) catch chances and c) field efficiently. Perhaps this is what I enjoy about the wonderful game of cricket. It is easy to produce a blueprint, but not so simple to put into practice.
Manjit gave us the perfect start,removing one of their perceived stars for no score. Following a delivery that seamed away, one that held it's line went on to hit off-stump. Our joy should have been complete, when Mike's opening delivery - a legside full-toss - was clipped by the other opener to the waiting Nita at square-leg. A feeling of De ja vows. How many times last year did we drop a chance and find that the recipient of our generosity went on to score big? How many times did it cost us a victory? Sure enough the opener grew in confidence and the knowledge that Mike was bowling and started to score at a solid rate. He was joined by a less technically gifted player (who was also dropped on nought) and gradually our target was looking like a stroll for Addington. The turning point was not a wonderful, inspired piece of cricket, but a calf injury that forced Tam to leave the crease. This exposed one of the longest tails since pre-historic days. Not having a reliable partner, appeared to put pressure on the opener to force the pace and he eventually used up his 'nine lives', falling to a good catch from Jagdesh off Chand's bowling. Quite why Chand felt the need to tell him to get a lottery ticket I don't know.
Spud picked up a couple of wickets, both edged to the 'remarkable Man of the Match performing' Damon behind the stumps, who wishes to deny that he was completely surprised to find the ball nestled in his gloves. Addington's final hope was the returning injured player. The legendary Whale armball sent him back and it seemed an undeserved Crusaders victory was now on the cards. With eight wickets down Addington had reached 135, due largely to some uninspired fielding and some dreadful bowling. Wajih, having taken the 8th wicket and facing one of the freshest of young bunnies then decided to send down a wide and a head-high no-ball. He had obviously read Glenn Timms's excellent book 'Dealing with Pressure'. Scores level....Chand bowling....two wickets needed. A fine catch from Don at slip and a straight one to the embryo number 11 and the game ended in a yawn/thrilling tie. Most of the opposition had disappeared, there was no invite to a pub and they fleeced us £35 for three sarnies and a sponge cake split into 22 pieces. Damon took us to a Karaoke Pub full of lovely looking females and assured us he could perform a stutter free version of Mmmack the knife....we remain unconvinced.
Still a pub with topless barmaids at 8.30 on a Sunday night - pure genius Damon.