17 August 2023 - WOCC 2 vs Star Schetter CC
Welcome to the latest edition of WOCC Cricketing Weekly – this time bringing you a match report from the venerable WOCC 2s. Bucking the recent trend of absolutely terrible weather, Mother Nature decided to play nice and provided a wonderful backdrop for this entertaining, and ultimately very successful clash. The warmth was welcome, but it wasn’t enough to completely dry the outfield, which looked beautiful, but was unlikely to yield many boundaries. Looking to put some pressure on the opposition (and the teams above us in the league), stand-in skipper Graham Cope won the toss and decided he wanted to have a bat. The skipper delivered strict instructions - “run hard, the ball won’t carry”, “back up when the bowler is running in”, “I’m sending Marcus in to make you run more Shoaib”. The last one must have struck a chord, because out of the gates, Shoaib Mohammad and semi-professional baseball player Marcus Cope (more on those skills later), delivered a cracking start. Ones brought twos, but nowhere could a boundary be found (in total WOCC would only clear the rope four times in 20 overs). Quite quickly WOCC made it to 26 in three overs, but then disaster, Shoaib, after slapping a ball off his legs for six, was clean bowled by the top opposition bowler, Ishu Sharma (who ended with 3 for 20 off 4 overs). This started a mini-collapse, with Marcus plugging one back to the same bowler in the same over (WOCC 30-2), then Izhar Hussain getting caught after being shackled by the same bowler again (WOCC 37-3). Malith Gamage was next to depart, run out (he was heard saying he will be the first person at conditioning training from now on – WOCC 40-4). Yama departed two balls later (WOCC 40-5), and then Oves Musa put up a bit of resistance, but ultimately fell, to leave WOCC at 56-6 at the halfway stage. The smiles from the WOCC benches had turned to frowns. Curses were cursed, heads were shook. The people needed a hero, better yet, two heroes would be nice! Well, you know the saying, cometh the hour, cometh the man. Up steps Stuart May, and he says, “not today, not on my watch”. Cultured cricket is what followed, ones and twos, barely a dot ball was faced. The fielding side fatigued, it was their smiles that started to fade. On the sideline, WOCC players and fans dared to believe again. And it only got better. You see, Stuart wasn’t alone. Joining him in the silent refusal to capitulate was the big man, Andries Venter, South African juggernaut, normally known for his pace bowling. But today, today, he chose violence. Three of the four WOCC boundaries came via his aggressively wielded GM bat. Between the finesse at one end, and the contemptuous power at the other, Star started to falter. Heads dropped, chasing in the field slowed, the WOCC benches found their voices again, things looked to be back on track.
Unfortunately, this is cricket, not a fairytale, and Stuart was eventually out, caught, having steadied the ship to leave WOCC 95-7. But this simply allowed other supporting actors to come to the party. Not wanting to be upstaged, all-round decent fella, and some would say fair and just arbiter of fines, Ben Mcilroy decided to join the party. Nursing a wounded ankle, he bravely laughed in the face of pain and discomfort to continue pushing the run-rate with the big man at the other end. The hundred came and went, then 110, then 120, before the big man finally conceded his wicket to a good ball. Bringing in WOCC and LCF stalwart, Arvind Pandey to see out the last couple of balls. WOCC ended an eventful, and at times emotionally fraught innings with 126-9. A fantastic total on an outfield that ran about as quickly as a grandma uphill. Confidence was flowing again and the team hustled out to get the job done.
A deep bowling line-up was the order of the day. Ben shrugged off concerns about ankle pain and fatigue to open the bowling (there were whispers from the crowd of “he’s a tough guy, that Ben”, but being the humble chap he is, he pretended not to notice). It didn’t start well, apparently confused by the objective of the day, he proceeded to flop down three wide balls to start his over. The calm figure of Graham behind the stumps started to look concerned. Advice was given, and duly ignored, and eventually Ben was able to right the ship, delivering the most medium of medium pace, bodyline bowling. Perhaps it was enough pace and bounce to soften up the batter for Oves though. For he rolled in next over, to carry on where he left off in his last WOCC match, bowling tight lines and then skittling the poor opening batter. First wicket down. WOCC in the ascendancy. Things going to plan. Ben wasn’t to be outdone, he finally figured out what side of the wicket was the offside and started to find his lines, eventually getting an edge behind, which Graham snaffled like his dog, Nougat, snaffles treats. Two wickets down. Star on the ropes. Another followed for Ben soon after. Stuart making everything look easy with a great catch in the deep. Three down. Home in time for tea?Oves, teasing the batter, probing, forcing him to play and miss, before finally getting him to loft one to mid-off. To Andries. 6ft 74 inches of Springbok, running, pouncing to his left, arms outstretch, ball sticking – like it was never in doubt – but we all knew what we had seen. A blinder, plain and simple. Fourth wicket down. 24 runs on the board. 6 overs gone. WOCC on the charge. Arvind joined the fray at the first change of bowlers, tempting the batters, asking them to play, making them miss, he was unlucky not to get a wicket for his efforts. Andries wasn’t done. Not happy with scoring a hatful of runs, and taking a catch that would make the highlights of any IPL game, he decided he wanted to bowl, and why not take a wicket while he was at it. You could see what happened, the batter thought he’d picked the gap, thought he was in the runs, instead, he had found Yama, loitering at backward square, who took the catch so nonchalantly that it seemed like he was playing a different game to the rest of us – one were the ball travelled slowly and without any movement in the air. Star 37-5, WOCC in charge! Hammad Kabir and PD Dholakia from Star had different ideas though. They took inspiration from the WOCC innings, and drew a line in the sand. “None shall trouble these stumps” they said, and settled in for a 36 run partnership. Not just adding runs, but burning through time and daylight. It became apparent that they would try to play for a light adjustment to the total, the weather was conspiring to rob WOCC of a great victory again. Skipper Graham decided it was time to turn to the spinners in the team. Marcus, fresh into the team, bringing the youth and enthusiasm, and all-around confounding spin that he offers. Izhar, returning off the back of his first international call-up, shrugging off a shoulder injury, to turn the ball (and the batters) inside out and roundabout. Five wickets became six – with a catch in the deep from Oves. Six became seven with slick piece of keeping from Graham, stumping the batter before he even knew he had missed the ball. Time was still against WOCC, but wickets had started to fall, we were into the tail and we knew what to do – keep the pressure up. Seven wickets turned into eight, the pressure began to tell, and the Star players started to chase good balls, playing across the line and feeding another catch in the deep to Stuart, three wickets for Izzy. Fourth wicket not long after, caught and bowled (he couldn’t do it again could he? Another five-wicket haul? Surely not). Nine wickets down, 97 runs on the board, the DLS board out and being updated every ball – worried glances over shoulders, towards the setting sun – the whole WOCC team felt like kids staying up too late at night - “just 10 more minutes mum” – could they get the job done? Could Izzy get his fifth wicket? Would Star steal victory from the jaws of defeat?
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. I know I’ve said that already in this report, but sometimes it is worth repeating yourself. Last ball of the 18th over. Ball cracked to mid-wicket, batters take-off, desperate to get some runs on the board. Marcus Cope chasing, sliding on the dew covered grass. Time slows. Breath was held. He’s picking up and throwing on the turn. Ten yards inside the boundary rope. Boy’s got skills.
What a throw. You can tell he’s played some baseball – “I was just trying to stop the run” he said. Modest in his appraisal of things.
Direct hit. Batter nowhere. Game over. WOCC wins! The final three wickets fell for no runs. Star made 97 all out, 30 runs shy of what they needed. The sun had set on their challenge, and a well deserved win for the WOCC 2s.
Time to rest now, recover, heal injuries – some of the more mature bodies need a bit of care and attention. But, the winning feeling stays, it helps you feel young again. Five wins from eight games. Two matches to go. Top of the table is possible, not completely in our own hands, but sometimes it’s okay to dream a bit. We are, after all, the Optimists.