To try to do an accurate write-up of this game is an attempt in futility. No amount of words will fully convey the ebb-and-flow of a great cricket-game, the frustrations of an in-team power struggle, or the passion between two fierce competitors. So please bear with me if the match report is a bit longer than a normal Benson run-up.
As was started last year, we used our free Sunday to play against an Invitational XI that consisted of a bunch of really good Oxford-based cricketers. In fact the Invitational XI teamlist of players looked so good, with guys like Alex Wyatt and Steve West to name just a few, that Watto remarked to me at the beginning of the game that we were likely to lose. I never knew an Aussie that gave up so easily. Maybe Watto has been in England for too long. In any case we arrived at the ground with half of the pitch completely damp and treadmarks round about a good length for a left-hander. Given these conditions and the prospect of showers in the afternoon, I decided to field first after winning the toss for the third consecutive time.
Wiesne and Martin started us off with a good couple of overs until Martin fell foul of a targeted attack by Alex Wyatt, and went for about 41 in 4 overs. They were 52 without loss after ten when we were first interrupted by a brief shower. With no Sam Dean to my disposal, I had to revert to Benson and Watto after the break. Benson bowled one of the best spells of seam-bowling ever seen at Manny road and ended up with 20/3 off 6. With his second ball he got Alex Wyatt stumped (yes I was standing up to Benson) with a beauty that seamed away, while he also accounted for the rest of their top 3. Watto from the other end got Steve West LBW with one that seamed in and bowled an accurate spell of 7/1 off 4. His best of the season. They were 75/5 after 17 overs when the second and last shower of the day interrupted us. At 87/5 after 20, I should have tightened the screws; but due to some poor field placements and stubborn captaincy on my part, I let it slip away. They scored 92 runs from the last ten overs and finished on 179/9 after 30, and I blame myself for letting this happen. Pete picked up 30/2, while complements must go to Wiesne for his economical spell of 25/1 off 6 in the beginning. Junaid contributed with a brilliant Herschell Gibbs-like (OK for the Aussies, Ponting-like) runout, picking up the ball on the run at covers and hitting the middle stump out of the ground at the bowlers end. 180 at six an over on a wet pitch isn't easy, but I still had hope. Watto however have given up for the second time in the match.
Tea was had with a nice contribution of sherry-laced trifle and some heated discussion regarding the just finished last ten overs. Talks of mutiny abounded again as it did last year around this time.
Junaid and Me opened up cautiously and only scored 13 runs from the first 5 overs. This made Watto so mad that he was fuming with the froth of defeat in his guts. A feeling so unfamiliar with Aussies that they are incapable of handling it. Luckily Martin, Benson, and Jezz were around to explain to him the Paula Radcliffe "Just give up when you facing defeat"-mantra, and calmed him down. Junaid and Me then launched our bowler-specific counter-attack and quickly brought the runrate up to the required 6 an over. At 63 without loss after 11 overs we were well placed. They came back with a good and almost unplayable spell from Steve West, and I lost my wicket (34) with us at 98 in the 18th over and the required rate now 7.5 an over. Benson and debutant Simon Fox tried to push the limits, but both got runout in quick succession. During Benson's brief spell at the wicket the second instance of quantum tunnelling at Manny Road was recorded. A quick ball from Steve West bounced so high that it hit the Benson belly and completely disappeared, only to reappear after a couple of seconds seemingly out of nowhere. Watto entered the fray at 127 in the 25th over, us requiring 53 off the last 5 overs. The next four overs went for 11, 11, 10 and 7. Leaving us requiring 14 from the last over to be bowled by their opener Usman Latif. Watto cut the first ball towards third man and they ran making what should have been one into a two, and got an overthrow as a bonus. Three from the first ball. Junaid, already on a century, got 4 runs from the next two balls, leaving it at 7 from the last three. Two singles followed and we required 5 from the last ball. Junaid facing up took his time to recover from the frantic running and also to clear his thoughts. He took two steps up the wicket even before the ball was bowled and smashed the next ball straight over long-on?s head. The ball landed somewhere in Zoology's backgarden and all of the Manny Road boys rushed onto the field to congratulate Junaid. Six from the last ball to win and a beautifully played unbeaten 115 by Junaid. The first century of the season to cap one of the best victories ever at Manny Road.
The day ended as has become customary now at Manny Road. Eunice came to pick up Wiesne, Watto?s bunny boiler came to pick him up, and only Me, Jezz, Pete, Martin and Benson was left after 9pm. No curry whatsoever.
Hi Guys Now I guess I have to do this in the public domain. In all earnest, I apologise for my scathing attack on Watto in my match report. We all know, and despite what my match report might say, I am sure nobody has any doubt, that Watto will never give up in any match and will fight until the end. He has proven this countless times in the last 3 years and have won us at least 4 matches this year due to his never-say-die attitude. My match report was inaccurate and created the wrong impression. I had a poor game and was wrong in using the public piece of writing to get back at Watto for pointing this out to me. It was uncalled for and unnecessary, and I am truly sorry. Watto, as he rightly pointed out, "bowled the 4 tightest overs, did not missfield" anything and was "one of only 2 batsmen willing to take a risk to win the match." In other words he gave his best in trying to win us the game and never gave up.
I thought I'll finish it with a more accurate report card on each player in the match. If I offend anybody, it is not my intention:
Juniad - 10. The sole reason why we won the game. A matchwinning innings, combined with some breathtaking fielding.
Watto - 9. Bowled the tightest 4 overs, great in the field, was very important in guiding us to victory with Junaid, and was willing to give invaluable advice in the field, that I unfortunately ignored.
Benson - 8. Phenomenal spell of tight seam-bowling that got us back in the match after the oppo got off to a good start. Loses a point for the drop catch from Pete. Willing to sacrifice his wicket in the chase for quick runs.
Wiesne - 7. Good economical spell of bowling as always.
Pete - 5. Not a bad spell of bowling (2 wickets and should have had another had it not been for the dropped catch). Expensive but could have been better with support from the field.
Martin - 3. Too many bad balls that was easily dispatched by the oppo
Stanton - 3. Same as above. Too many bad balls that was easily dispatched by the oppo. Much better fielding display this week though. Chased down a couple of balls that would have gone to the boundary.
Quentin - 1. Poor and stubborn captaincy, Slow average-protecting batting when we needed to go at 6 an over. Not willing to sacrifice his wicket as Benson and Simon did, and not willing to listen to other senior and experience players. And also losing it again in the match report.
Unfortunately Diganta, and Simon didn't have much to do so I left them out of the report card.