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Bristol T20 tournament, Sunday July 5th

Won the tournament.
1. Bristol Academics 90-7
Venturers 91-1
2. Cardiff 66-8
Venturers 67-3
3. Bristol Venturers (UWE) 116-4
Venturers 117-1

It is a long time since we actually won anything, at least in the summer. This is only partly because we don't play competitively. The Bristol T20 has been disorganised for ten years, but occasional coincidences of weather, management and availability have allowed it to happen a few times, usually with us involved. Bristol have always won, challenged if at all by UWE, and our successes have been confined to sometimes beating Cardiff.

It was therefore without great optimism that we took the field against Bristol. We have been playing better cricket this year, but mostly at weekends. We did expect to improve on our previous performances, though.

Bristol's openers were two short Indians. This has been a feared combination at least since the days of Gavaskar and Viswanath; but one of them rather resembled Phil Hughes in his approach: he stayed leg side of the ball and tried to swipe everything through cover. The resemblance ended there, as he seldom succeeded. Paul kept him very quiet. We never found out what his partner's style was as Kevin bowled him immediately. The new batsman was more orthodox but no more effective. Kevin removed him too, caught at mid-off. We did wonder whether that had been a mistake, as more competent Indians seemed likely to arrive shortly, and some competent non-Indians. Indeed they did, when Simon T knocked the swiper's off stump out of the ground, but it made no difference; Kevin and Paul had been extremely economical and Nigel and Simon bowled well enough to contain the middle-order batsmen. Only in Simon's last over did things go awry: he started with a wicket but then lost his rhythm and got hit about. We had enough control for this not to matter, but it did mean that the impressive score at the halfway mark, 29 for 3, wasn't the start of an utter disaster for them. On the other hand Simon had removed two dangerous batsmen, so that Bristol were short of resources to attack the last four overs, from Rob and Gregory. They needed the batsmen who were in at that point to stay in; and one of them lofted Gregory to Simon S almost straight away. Rob's first over contained only one loose ball and his second none at all, and in the final over there was a comedy runout and a good catch by Alastair off a near-wide (bowled deliberately as the batsman charged down the pitch). Only at the very end, when one ball produced a dropped catch and two separate overthrows, rounded off with a fumble by the bowler, did our standards dip.

Ninety can be an awkward target in a 20-over game on a doubtful pitch. After two and a half overs it started to look impossible: a shower drove us indoors, and got steadily heavier. We agreed to have an early lunch and the names of Duckworth and Lewis were mentioned. But the sun, watery at first, did return soon. Simon T got out early, and Ian G and Nigel (dropped badly once) progressed cautiously at first, though keeping up with the rate with the help of numerous extras. Somewhere in the forties, though, they began to accelerate. They did this with singles at first, and Ian's habit of not running his bat in nearly cost him his wicket; but soon after that, in a short volley of boundaries, the match was suddenly over. We had nine wickets and seven and a half overs to spare,a huge margin.

Over on the other pitch, where we were supposed to go and play the losers, things were rather closer. Cardiff had made only 71, and UWE had reached 55 for 2, only to lose six wickets for next to nothing. We watched as they tried to make eight off the last two overs: they managed seven and a tie. The organisers decided that we were to play Cardiff next, on the second and dodgier pitch.

Simon T was replaced by Andrew, who had sat out the first match. Again we fielded and again Paul and Kevin were all but unplayable. Twice Kevin did what Simon had done in the first match and knocked the off stump out of the ground - not the same stump each time as one victim was a left-hander. The surviving opener played and missed often, but his new partner, the Cardiff captain, looked a threat especially in what seemed likely to be a low-scoring match. Before he could get going, though, Paul induced a leading edge and made the awkward low return catch look easy. Simon S took an excellent catch off Paul's bowling, but from a midriff-high full toss so (after a puzzled silence) it didn't count. Kevin bowled a third batsman, Nigel removed the opener when he finally got an edge, and Saurabh had bowled two tidy overs when the rain returned. This time we had an early tea and watched Roddick lose his tie-break on the television in the bar. It was wet enough for some people to order pints. The rain stopped suddenly. Most of us - not those really interested in tennis - put boots on and went outside. The rain started again. Much later it stopped properly. We hauled the tennis fans out to the cricket pitch, spread sawdust around and resumed. From 22 for 5 it seemed unlikely that they would recover. Nigel gave a few runs away struggling with the wet ball, but Saurabh was as economical as before and Cardiff, like Bristol before them, were left with no option but to attack Gregory and Rob. This time it was Rob who got them out when they tried, one caught by Kevin at mid-on and another at the wicket: he had more catches dropped, including a simple one that wouldn't have counted anyway (another no-ball for bowling a full toss with a wet ball), which he dropped himself. Gregory also picked up a wicket when one of Alex's many stumping attempts succeeded. The ground fielding was good and there was no acceleration.

We were chasing only 66. In view of what had happened to UWE we had to assume that either the pitch or the Cardiff bowling was dangerous. Indeed the Cardiff bowling was quite good. They started off with a no-ball, delivered from far too wide: the bowler seemed to think that the damp crease permitted him to do that, but the batsman is entitled to expect the ball to come from the required direction, and after a few more balls the new footmarks would be as bad as the old ones anyway. Moreover, he bowled much better from close to the stumps. Alastair and Nigel began cautiously (there was no hurry) and were beginning to settle when Alastair dragged a wide ball of full length onto his stumps. In the same over Nigel was well caught at the wicket down the leg side, and a collapse could be seen forming. So could more clouds. We agreed to carry on regardless, but it didn't rain hard again. Kevin was uncomfortable but determined; Ian was careful when batting, though slightly less so when running between the wickets. But there were runs to be had, and plenty of time (Kevin briefly forgot that we were in the sixth over, not the sixteenth, and had to be reassured). Cardiff's slow bowlers made less impression on us than they had on UWE, and although there were few boundaries over the wet grass we got home very easily. Kevin was caught at slip just before the end, and it was Andrew who kept Ian company for the last few moments.

If Bristol could beat UWE we would win the competition there and then. We went over to watch, but it was clear that they couldn't. Now there was a problem about who was to play on which pitch, caused by the earlier tie; but in the end it was agreed that as Bath v UWE was for practical purposes the final it should be played on the main pitch.

Simon S stood down himself for this one, having captained well but neither batted nor bowled in the other two. Rob, Kevin and Gregory were all approached as possible captains; Rob was the least reluctant. He won the toss and fielded, as requested. Paul and Kevin opened again. The batting was better than Bristol's or Cardiff's, and one of the openers was the left-handed Ivor, which made things more difficult, but still they were hard to get away. Ivor is a sticker, but the right-handed opener was clearly going to be dangerous if he stayed in. Several times he cut at Kevin and missed, and Gregory at slip pointed out to Saurabh in the gully that they might be in business soon. Next ball the batsman connected with the cut, but hit slightly under it. The ball travelled fast, about eight feet in the air, over gully. Saurabh put up his right hand, hopped into the air, and casually caught it. The batsman stared and stumped off; and from then on we were winning. Not that UWE lacked for dangerous batsmen. But Rohan has become Kevin's personal rabbit and was promptly bowled by him again, and the right-handed captain skied Gregory, brought on to deal with all the left-handers. A short debate took place about whether it was Kevin's catch or Saurabh's, won by Kevin, who caught it.

A fragment of an earlier debate:

Gregory: I want someone in on that single.
Rob: All right, I'll do it.
Gregory: I want someone fast in on that single.

That was as far as we got towards bowling them out, until the very end. The next batsman, also a left-hander, swung powerfully at anything on his legs. In due course we stopped bowling there, but we also dropped him three times, none of them easy catches. With little more batting to come they also had to be careful and the run rate never got very high. Gregory having bowled earlier, it was left to Saurabh and Rob to finish things off, and they did it very effectively once Saurabh had worked a couple of full tosses out of his system. In particular his last over was ideal, and during it Ivor was finally run out by Andrew. It was only after the match that Andrew revealed that his flat throw to the wicketkeeper had in fact been intended for the bowler's end.

We had 117 to get. Alastair's usual aggressive running kept the wheels turning while Ian played himself in, though taking on Rohan's arm was not a good plan (Alastair escaped with a dive: it was Ian's call). Then Ian started to play shots, and the target came down quickly; by the time Alastair was out, for eight though it seemed like twice that, the score was past fifty and we were only in the eighth over. Nigel started to play shots immediately. A faster left-arm bowler was brought on and hit out of the attack. The potentially dangerous off-spinner UWE have was brought on, too late: they needed both Ian and Nigel out to have any chance. A few more lofted drives (but no sixes, nor LBWs, in any of our matches) and some quick running, and quite suddenly it was over.

We were conclusive winners of the tournament. Ian and Nigel with the bat and Kevin and Paul with the ball were the most effective, but everybody who got a chance contributed substantially. We scored 272 runs for the loss of five wickets in thirty-eight overs, capturing nineteen wickets ourselves. We never needed to bat beyond the fourteenth over. There was no point at which any of our opponents looked as if they might win.

We are rather puzzled and would like to be told how that happened.

Fixtures & Results 2009

Cricket bat and ball