Sunday, March 13, 2011

Local Derby II: Blue v Gold 12-3-11, Revenge of the Nerds

It has been said that revenge is a dish best served cold. Well, once again Bonaira Street served up a 30+ degree day to perhaps thwart the efforts of the Kiama Gold Academy team in their quest to exact revenge for their second-last ball loss to their Kiama Blue counterparts in the first round.

It is probably not worth recording anymore that Joe Murphy won the toss for the 72nd consecutive occasion, and chose to bat for the 72nd consecutive occasion. Having lost two regulars in Jan Haubruck and Gavin Hartley to 2nd Grade the Academy side was again not at full strength, while the Blues were fielding possibly their strongest contingent.

The Blues got on top early, thanks to their regular opening partnership of Mark Thistlethwaite and Michael Hook. Joe found himself adjudged LBW to Hooky early on, new number three Frej Ulfsson deceived by Thissy, and Matt Clapham also falling to the sliding deliveries of Michael Hook.
At 3/25 the innings was decidedly shaky. Matt Price arrived to restore some stability and substance to the innings. Anthony Mortimer was introduced from the Kendall’s end to replace Hooky and Ethan McIntosh arrived at the East’s end to replace Thissy. It was my first time to face both.
Morty was immediately impressive. He has a good run into the wicket, good power at gather and release, and excellent shape away with the ball. His first over was too wide of off stump which cost him a couple of boundaries, but he quickly realigned his radar, and homed in on the stumps. At good pace and that shape that didn’t fade throughout his ten over spell, he was the most impressive of the Blues bowlers on the day. Very handy.
Ethan I’d seen a bit of in the nets, but never actually faced. When his first ball swung in and thumped into my pads before my bat had reached halfway on the downswing, it was an eye-opening beginning. His first couple of overs, though, were also wayward, and his figures suffered initially because of it. However, as he is wont to do, he produced an absolute cracker from out of nowhere, a ball that pitched on middle and cut in viciously to cartwheel Matt’s leg stump, ending what had looked like being a dangerous partnership.

John Watts strode to the crease at this point. It had been probably close to 16 years since I had last batted with John, and I can only say that I had been looking forward to the opportunity. You can’t learn more about batting than sharing a partnership with Wattsy.
Meanwhile, the Blues continued to frustrate themselves, with some close decisions going to the batting team (correctly, may I say, though some may consider me to be biased on that point) and a rash of catches going begging. Perhaps it was like boy scouts being kind to senior citizens, because chances were being offered, which the fielding team felt obliged to politely turn down on numerous occasions.
As the partnership continued to blossom, so did John’s stroke-making. It is a delight to watch John when he is in full flight. His technique remains as solid as ever, and his shots are just classical. There weren’t so many of the glides through gully or cover driving as there was in his halcyon era, but the off and on drives for four and six, and the pulling to the square leg boundary was magnificent to watch. While some hack at the other end swung like a rusty gate, John just flowed into his strokes and made the art of batting look like a breeze.

After the culmination of the fifth wicket partnership that realised 110 runs, John continued on with the effervescent Reece Conley who played the best innings I have seen from him this season. With only a few overs to face, he looked to get John on strike, but also played some terrific attacking shots of his own, striking the ball immaculately. It was exactly the finish the team needed, and he can be proud of his short and undefeated innings. Reece finished not out, while John continued his rich vein of form, remaining not out for yet another half century for Kiama in a master class of batsmanship. Kiama Gold had rallied to post 5/192 off their fifty overs.

Moving into the field, the instructions remained as always – bowl full and straight, cut off all possible singles, and we would go a long way towards winning the match. The Blues were confident of chasing down the total – they had certainly said so during our innings. Adam Czulowski and Vaughan Thistlethwaite opened the batting against Frej and Mitch Nevins.
Despite a stuttering run up almost reminiscent of a young Daniel Reilly, Frej was bowling his usual tight lines and reasonable length, bottling up the Kendall’s end nicely. From the East’s end, Mitch again exhibited his wonderful left arm in swing, though again his length was erratic. A great ball beating the outside edge would be followed by a short ball ripe for pulling. Adzy proved the most attacking of the opening pair, putting a couple of balls to and over the square leg boundary. He was also the benefactor of a couple of dropped chances, before finally snicking one through to Reece off Mitch to fall after a quickfire opening.

Jake Ashley and Steve Brown replaced the opening bowlers, with varying degrees of success. Jake continued his typical line and length attack, whilst being able to move the ball both ways. It served its purpose beautifully against Chris Park, who was happy to leave two consecutive outswingers, only to be brought undone by the inswinger Jake delivered to him next ball, and found his defence wanting. Vaughan Had again batted patiently before also falling victim to Jake's variations.

Brad Church and Russell Park had been brought together, and they began their own unique ways of combating the bowling and the target – Brad began to pummel the ball to long on and long off and deep square, while Russell punched for the gaps and took quick singles at a whim. The cessation came when Russell missed a full toss that struck him in front of middle stump, leaving his future in the hands of Frank Weir. Having taken his time to judge that the ball was definitely missing off and leg stumps his finger (perhaps somewhat reluctantly) was raised in affirmation of the appeal.
Tragically for the Blues, and great news for the good guys, Brad then holed out to Frej at long on in Jake’s next over, and the game was back in the balance at 5/110. Still, even at this stage, it was obvious to the Gold team that we had to bowl out our opponents, or they would win. It was highly improbable that we could restrict them under our total without doing so.

Morty and Brendan Czulowski were now together, and they worked to boost the total without creating too much risk. Sensibly they looked to keep the good balls out while taking advantage of anything loose or wide. Morty fell to a catch by Joe at first slip to put paid to that partnership, and Brendan fell trying to force the pace to a shockingly short and wide delivery from Frej, testament again that crap bowling sometimes becomes the wicket-taking deliveries.

Jake and Nudge returned for the final act with the four bowlers left to bat for the Blue team. Frank had arrived at the wicket with Russell umpiring with an already raised finger in an amusing sidenote in a fiercely fought battle. Along with Mark Thistlethwaite these two continued to nudge and punch the ball around in the search for runs, with the run rate required having now climbed to more than five per over in the last ten overs. Jake’s line and length was immaculate, and he deservedly picked up his fourth wicket for the innings by snaring Frank simply by drying up all scoring options. At the other end, one might say that Nudge was having some trouble finding his line and length. However, the magic returned as new batsman Hooky tried to pull one to leg, only to have ball snick the back of his bat and lodge safely in Reece’s gloves for a fine keeper’s catch.

Nine wickets down now, and still some runs to get, and the Gold side held its nerve as they fought for that final wicket. It came in the next over, as Jake was able to beat the stubborn Thissy’s prodding bat and remove his off stump. Jake did his best Shoaib Ahktar aeroplane impression having snared his fifth wicket of the innings, and the Gold’s had levelled the local derby up at one apiece with a (35) runs victory.

The Blue side was certainly not disgraced, and will no doubt be ruing their dropped catches. As with our first clash, it was an enjoyable day’s cricket with good spirit yet competitive nature all the way through. I can guarantee you it feels much better to win this time than in losing in the first round.

For our guys, John Watts was superb with the bat in setting up the big total. Reece Conley, as I mentioned previously, played the best innings I’ve seen from him, but it was his keeping that was the most impressive. I can only think of three occasions when he mis-gloved the ball, he took three catches, and was good on his feet. I don’t think it was a coincidence that his best day in the blue and gold cap in Seniors came when he hadn’t spent the entire morning playing junior cricket. Jake Ashley’s bowling was again spot on, rarely giving the batsmen any width to hit, and ensuring that when they missed, he hit. His five wicket haul was fully deserved, and was as important as Wattsy’s runs in the victory. The fielding, despite a few missed catches, was also improved. Nudge even brought out the "Lakers Slide” on at least one occasion, which brought the comment from Joe and John that “you can take the boy out of the Lake, but you can’t take the Lake out of the boy”.

A special note of thanks to all of the spectators, especially the continued support from those up on “Go Go” Hill, who cheered almost every run, wicket and saved run in the field.

With one round to go, if we can beat Gerringong next week we will finish second on the table. If we lose, we could finish second or third depending on the result of the Oak Flats and Kiama Blue match. In either scenario, it looks like we will play our semi-final at Bonaira Street, a huge advantage for us.

Now to see if I can unlock this left knee and sew this Achilles tendon back into place before next Saturday…