If 2019 was a rollercoaster, 2020 was an espresso with about 5 sugars – short, sweet and it got the pulse going. One warm up game against Welford Park and five games in the successful August Cup run. No defeats and more importantly the first silverware for the team.
The Sunday trip to the wilds of West Berkshire to play Welford Park was a great way to start. From 52-2 a pretty good Park side were shot out for 85, which was chased down with some style, Chinmay demonstrating his fondness for the ground where he now averages 85.5 with the bat. Is it the views? Is it the smell of cow pats? Or is it the short boundary down the hill? He then disappeared deservedly to loftier climbs, only to make one crucial cameo appearance in the cup. Wickets were shared around, with Atul Pawar getting all his toys out of the box to take 3. Junior players have contributed strongly this season and Aaryan Pawar, Zak Raja and Gautam Sureshkumar all chipped in with the ball, while Ishaan Kulkarni shaped up nicely with the bat.
The BCL decided not to try to run a half length league season but instead offered a chance of cup cricket for those who wanted it. We ended up in a pool of 6 Div 2 and 3 teams playing under the new league rules, including fielding circles and potentially DRS.
Game 1 of the cup saw the funbus roll into Woodcote to take on Purley (second home ground, keep up) with Raj at the wheel. Largely thanks to Ash Cable’s excellent 5-18, Purley were dismissed for 109. Purley’s tailenders’ game of Block one, Slog one, Miss one was finally ended when one of our secret weapons was rolled out of the storage unit it had been in since last season: Ranjeet’s Golden Arm. In this case it produced a horrific half-tracker which hit the stumps on the way down, followed by a bail high full toss to ruin some youngster’s day. I think they call that ‘natural variation’ but it looked like pies. Our successful reply was built around 43 from new-look Shiv, the opener who looked the part and set a platform for Atul ‘call me Rory Burns’ to see us home. This pattern of one major contribution supported by the rest was repeated in each of the games.
Game 2 saw the BCL XI travel through the back of the wardrobe into the Narnia of Stoke Row. Atul picked the PSR batting apart with 6-48 and after a minor blip, Ranjeet’s 71*, supported by Prasad saw us comfortably home. Having destroyed his own bat trying to hit the ball for 10, Ranjeet scored most of his runs with Raj’s – great willingness to sacrifice yourself for the team, skipper! The best moment of the chase, though was watching Prasad run ‘two, two, two’ , while Shiv nearly ran ‘three, three, three’.
Game 3 started with a game of Simon Says, as in “Simon says we are playing here so it must be true”. Except it wasn’t as the Rubik’s cube admin involved in getting these games on had gone wrong and the guys had to get from Sulhamstead to Highmoor (second home grounds again) to play West Reading 4s. This time the main innings was played by the skipper who started with an assortment of heaves across the line but settled down to play the knock of the day on a damp wicket and a slow outfield setting up a match winning total. Arnav Kulkarni made a strong impression with his technique and calm approach before Mahesh launched some big hits to make sure we got enough. The Fawad Hasan award for navigation went to George Lawrence for quite understandably missing the ground at least once. The ‘spin twins’ of Shiv and Atul did most of the damage and the cup run was on. Helped by Tony kicking the cleansing gel onto the stumps for a ‘bowled’ dismissal.
Game 4, home at last on a Sunday and the chance to play on the main oval, almost like actual members of the club! Raj decided to recreate the days when you used the whole playing area and batsmen ran 5 by keeping the mahoossive boundaries from the Saturday game. Shinfield scored their first boundary in the last over of their innings of 116. A possible wobble in reply was settled by Chinmay with 35* off 34. So all down to the final game of the August Cup, to be played in September! Purley, having lost to the BCL XI had won 3 on the bounce and West Reading 3s were also in the hunt. Cue drum roll and end of the movie tension.
Except that Purley then got hammered by West Reading 4s and the cup was won before the final game was played. (Sorry for the plot spoiler.)
Game 5 saw West Reading 3s threaten to set a big target as they channelled their inner Ranjeet but the guys stuck to the job, Shiv put the breaks on and Mo and Atul chipped away. So, last innings of the cup, 180 to win. You need someone to play a significant innings and Prasad delivered with 72*, supported by Mo (proper all-round debut and welcome to the BCL!).
Over the 5 cup games, Prasad was the highest run scorer with 162 @ 54; Atul took a remarkable 15 wickets @ less than 11, Shiv as ever provided pressure along with his 8 wickets, only conceding a tick above 2.5 an over and Tony snaffled 4 catches to go with his nifty footwork with the sanitiser. There aren’t any stats for rushing around in the field with a smile on your face but I suspect Prabhu would have topped them again. Alex O’Keefe bowled some quick spells to earn promotion up the club, Aaryan Purohit was another junior to contribute to the cause.
We will get to celebrate the cup win properly at some point, preferably with a curry at The Six Bells but in the meantime, well done to everyone involved in this weird season. Thanks to Ahmar and Ben Cable for behind the scenes admin; Martin Clements for scoring the 2 home games and helping with the Play Cricket stuff and to Smyler for letting us have use of the main oval.
- Simon Herrington