06th July -v- Sutton III at Holmwood Close, Cheam
Despite inclement weather throughout the week and heavy downpours overnight and on Sunday morning, the facilities at Holmwood Close were in fine fettle and Crusaders enjoyed their first visit to Sutton. More surprising than the game being on, was that we had a fully assembled eleven in time for the 1.30 start.
Wajih won the toss and elected to bat. Sutton fielded a predominantly youthful side, supplemented by a couple of experienced elder statesmen, while Crusaders relied solely on 'experience'. Nita and Johnny Walker started off at a cracking pace, with JW taking ten off the first over, but his innings was brief and ended with a sharp stumping. Wajih looked a little out of sorts with the bat and perished when he top-edged back to the bowler, but this brought The Claw to the wicket. It has been a while since we have seen Johnny Grrr at his best, but today he produced a vintage display. Mixing exquisite shots through the off-side with deft nudges off his legs, he was a joy to behold. Nita played the aggressive role, with some savage hitting and together they added 89. The partnership was broken, when Nita was caught on the long-on boundary for an excellent 61. Chand and John continued the momentum, before John played lazily over a delivery, falling for 35. Chand's entertaining knock came to an on 44, bowled by the returning opener. Runs had come at a fearsome pace, but Sutton never allowed their heads to drop and with new batsmen in, gradually hauled back the rate. Pommie failed to trouble the scorer's pencil playing woefully to square leg. Alex, with a batting style all of his own swished manfully and Spud looked all at sea. Barnard was the pick of Sutton's bowlers taking 5 wickets, including Mr Taylor in his ninth over -nobody begrudged him having one over more than his allocation. Young Patel bowled a mature spell of spin, making good use of flight. He was also able to benefit from some worldly advice from Umpire Danglers. Let's hope he didn't listen too closely. Our innings closed at 215-8 from 40 overs and we enjoyed another fine tea. Particularly good was the Garlic Bruscetta topped with Tomato! It was soon apparent that Sutton's youngsters were sound in technique, playing with a straight bat. They lacked a little in beef, however with a lot of fine strokes not having the power to penetrate the infield. Sleepy Rehman could manage only one over before dropping off on the veranda and it was left to Mike to partner Darren in our opening attack. Danglers was finding the left/right combination difficult and his normal accuracy was lacking, but he did make the initial breakthrough with a fine in-swinging yorker. Wickets tumbled, with Mike and Spud 'joining the party' and all of a sudden Sutton was in danger of collapse. The skipper came to the rescue, patiently rebuilding the innings before cutting loose against our 7th string spinner. Pommie (briefly 6th best spinner) bowled with flight and technique that reminded me of the great Glen Timms. His first ball turned sharply, taking the outside edge and was caught low down by Spud for his 200th catch. From then on it was vintage Timms, with the ball leaving the arena on several occasions. Needing an improbable nine an over, the Sutton skipper started to put pressure on the aging Crusaders fielders and in doing so induced mistakes. In desperation Skip turned to the ILM. Chand managed to quieten things down and with Mr Taylor varying his pace, the required rate started to escalate. Nita dropped another catch. That long break from the game hasn't helped his fielding, but it did not prove too costly, with Chand removing the dangerous Bliss (67) with a rank long hop that hit the base of middle stump on its second bounce. Spud took the final wicket by virtue of a good catch from Englishman and finished with figures of 3-5. Refreshments were taken back at the main ground, where Guinness was supplemented by brownies and yoghurt squares- a fine combination judging by how quickly a plateful disappeared.