by Andy Pearce
Sir Don Bradman once said “May cricket continue to flourish and spread its wings. The world can only be richer for it.”
With these words ringing in my ears, I headed to my first game for Vinohrady Cricket Club in the Czech Republic, a T20 contest against PCC 2nd XI. On an overcast and slightly blustery day, Captain Vojta won the toss, elected to bat and issued clear instructions to openers Arshad and Mik: be patient and steadily build a score. Both were happy to oblige and began the innings by following these instructions to a tee. Facing a medium pace attack from both ends, straight balls were defended in textbook fashion and loose ball were assaulted.
Arshad began finding the square leg boundary with regularity as PCC’s second bowler struggled for length in his first over. One huge six appeared to be top-edgy but when this notion was put to Arshad, he offered assurances that it had definitely come off the meat of the bat, definitely. Eventually a small group of Vino “fielders” was positioned amongst the wheat crop to assist with ball retrieval.
With Mr E Xtras contributing a healthy addition to the opening partnership, Mik finally came a cropper with the score on 85. Ball against pad, lots of shouting, finger of death. Tariq was in at 3 and began to build his innings patiently, the PCC attack by now having changed to a crafty spinner at one end. Arshad reached his half century with some more aggressive swordsmanship but at last misjudged one and was bowled out. Vojta took up the reins and attacked the bowling with a variety of positive shots to all areas of the field. At the halfway point in the innings the score was 103 and there began some whispers of the possibility of a record score.
However the second half of the innings saw something of an epic collapse; Hugo and Tariq were both bowled and Vojta and Chris both snaffled at mid on. Following which, the tail end of the order adopted a six-or-sticks approach – Leigh, Steve and Andy were all caught after swinging for the rafters, Louis was bowled first ball while Will was unbeaten on 1. 148 all out.
Louis opened the bowling for Vinohrady and immediately found pace, line and consistency while Arshad bowled effectively at the other end too. Their batsmen were attacked full length deliveries effectively and made use of the fast outfield to pick up some boundaries. Steve and Leigh picked up the bowling and also bowled with accuracy and variety, Steve picking up a couple of well earned wickets on the way. Yours truly had a bowl but couldn’t hit off stump with a handful of rice, eventually leaving Will to bowl the final over hoping to prevent the 16 runs that PCC required. With the fielders on the boundaries and the crowd going wild, Will nonchalantly bowled their big hitting batsman with the first ball of the over and frustrated them for the rest of the over with some good line and length. The final ball actually produced a stumping by Chris but it was academic at that point anyway.
A satisfying 11 run win for Vinohrady. One pleasing stat is that we only conceded 18 extras compared to 39 for PCC – a testament to the accuracy of the bowlers and the concentration of the field.
Man of the Match (MoM) – has to be Arshad for a game winning half century and an economical second spell with the ball
Play of the Match (PoM) – Tariq’s armpit/chest catch and Vojta’s 4-saving slide deserve a mention but it has to be Will’s epic catch at long off – a run, watch and dive effort from a high swirling ball that seemed to stay in the air for an eternity
Twat of the Match (ToM) – nothing particularly twattish to report although Leigh’s dropped catch at deep midwicket earned him a nomination. The award therefore goes to the mid and lower batting order; our final 7 batsmen scored a combined total of 8 runs.
by James Drake
This was a big day for your correspondent, marking as it did his first outing for the Vinos.
Perhaps news of the debut had spread, because our hosts – unable to muster a full team from their own craven ranks – had summoned the PCC’s youngest, brightest and best to fill out their upper batting and bowling order.
The Bohemians went in first. Acheson quickly castled Jagtap, but when that Giant Panda of an opener, Manjeet, began to lay about himself, Vice-Captain-in-joint-charge-of-strategy Pearce paradoxically ordered up an over of innocuous dobbers.
It was a Brearley-esque piece of psychology. As the BCC hitman girded his loins for an orgy of post-watershed violence, mothers on the boundary rushed to cover their children’s eyes. They needn’t have fretted: After a brace of wides, and a couple of mishits, Manjeet finally located the sweet spot ... only to be snaffled brilliantly by Arshad, loitering with intent at deep long on.
Game on and job done, our kindly old gentleman (flat feet, dodgy back, tennis elbow, deaf in one ear) was shuffled off back to the outfield, there to graze contentedly for the rest of the innings on the memory of his quite undeserved five minutes of fame.
Just as the next bowler up, Tozer, thought it was safe to emerge from the outfield, the next man in, Wickremasinge, began to hit his stride. Only when Leigh had returned wicketless to his post at deep long off did he finally engineer Wickremasinge’s exit for 46. A near carbon copy of the game’s first dismissal, this – different stooge (that Caledonian cheeky chappy, Buchanan), same tactics: bowl a few long hops and see what happens. We soon found out – it was the catch of the match by Tozer.
It fell to Reade and Soucek to gouge out the rest of the wickets with a good cop/bad cop routine straight out of the Cold War’s noir-est of novels. Steve – cricket’s answer to George Smiley – blinked benevolently from behind his specs as his victims played across or padded up to straight-ish balls; from the other end, Soucek charged to the crease like a man desperate to come in from the cold. [Who writes this crap? – Ed.] But hey – whatever works. They bagged three apiece.
All out for 178 ... but would it be enough?
True, Pearce, bristling with his customary truculent intent, top-scored with 53 in 50 balls. But this was not quite the kind of cultured thuggery that routinely endangers innocent civilians playing Monday tennis at Olsanska. The timing didn’t seem to be quite there – perhaps it was because Pearce thrives on a pacier pitch and prefers the ball that comes onto the bat. But it’s no use expecting the mountain to come to Mohammed, Chris ... [Eh? Wrap it up now, please. Ed.]
What else is there to say? Acheson, Soucek and Tozer kept their leader company and hopes alive with pleasing cameos. But really, we were simply outgunned in all departments.
It was a good run-out, though, for the start of the real T20 business this weekend. With a number of regulars returning from the abyss, this strong performance – albeit in a losing cause – is likely to give the Vinos selectors a headache or two for the upcoming fixture.
Man of the Match (MoM) - No individual performance really stood out, so the judges have gone for Pearce ... for his top score and pro-active, macro- and micro-consummate man-management. Was it your correspondent’s imagination, or did he – after scrupulously setting his field for the opening over – look up and signal the sun to move a little squarer?
Play of the Match (PoM) - Tozer. That catch. Like Arshad’s, it stopped a certain six. ‘nuff said.
Tw*t of the Match (ToM) - Scorer Tarique for not letting it be known that Pearce had reached his 50 (depriving him of a round of applause).