Welcome to the 2019 season … and the Sun has come out to play! A beautiful day in North Hertfordshire for this new fixture organised by local resident, captain Richard Higginbottom. Usual shenanigans getting 11 to the pitch on time, but we were at full complement pretty quickly, having won the toss and elected to field.
Guru Dath has returned to the UK and he’s got into a good rhythm here, finding a decent line and length from the North End. Meanwhile another Herts resident, David Stead has taken the new ball at the South End as managed to hit a there-or-thereabouts length in the corridor of uncertainty on a regular basis, and that is the one part of this decent but relatively slow pitch (it’s very early season) offering variable bounce (the captain – behind the stumps – can bear testament to this with his bruised shoulder – though the new boots meant his toes are in good order). Knebworth’s openers were just starting to settle when Dave produced a superb yorker to remove P Wheeler for 4. K Hassall had played some attractive straight drives, but chased an outswinger from Guru, resulting in a tidy catch for Graham Bruce at Cover Point. Price and Cirkel at 3 and 4 steadied the home ship as Guru and Dave completed their opening six over spells with the score at 24-2. Subbu Rao and Graham came on and were both getting the ball to move, testing the batsmen. The pressure told when Graham induced Cirkel to mis-hit to Shahed Ahmed. Price and R Hassall tried to up the rate, but Subbu checked their impetus, bowling Price for 14. 60-4 was very soon 60-5 as R Hassall top-edged to backward point off Graham where Richard had just stationed Subbu (nice when a field rearrangement works almost immediately). Home skipper James Roos and Digweed, after a period of introspection, then started to play more adventurously; Digweed improvising well, often moving across to off to play behind square on the leg side. Debasis Mohanty and Shahed Ahmed slowed the rate down, forcing the home batsmen into using a more orthodox approach, until Digweed broke the shackles once again and started to move the rate on. Richard rolled the dice by bringing on Sachith Dassanayake, but Digweed digged his bowling, opening his broad shoulders. Debasis switched ends and bowled J Roos to stop the Knebworth advance, then Subbu returned, Digweed tried a lofted drive that he didn’t middle, and Sachith made an astonishing run from long on to behind the bowler to claim the catch – a brilliant piece of cricket. Next – a kamikaze run attempted, and Subbu coolly extended his follow through to run out S Roos for a duck. Then Guru came back into the attack and produced a fast off break to rearrange Murrell’s timbers (also for 0). A Hassall and R Wheeler showed us how to eke a few extra runs out at the end of an innings with some intelligent batting, and the innings closed on 173-9.
So it’s teatime. And it’s hot. And “why is it 45 overs?” complained some of the Gardeners. Well, Knebworth’s league fixtures are 45 overs in length and this is a warm up for them, so it’s only reasonable for us to play that. Get a feeling that a few of us in the 45 years-and-over club are going to feel this for a few days … It’s a very pleasant tea, thank you Knebworth. Now lets have a bat.
David opens the batting with Paul Jordan. Good accurate stuff early doors from James Roos and Bella Hopcraft. Bella? Yes that’s right – Knebworth are fielding three ladies in their team today, and they are all very useful cricketers. Nice to be in the 21st Century, I reckon – in the grounds of a 16th Century stately home. Hopcraft pinned Paulie J in front, having failed to trouble the scorers. Debasis as always ignored the captain’s advice “play yourself in” by trying to wipe his first ball for six, the ball fortunately failing to hit the leg stump (maybe the draft off a bat travelling through the air at 100mph can force a ball off course). Anyway, the Bangalore Basher calmed down for a few balls until he saw a full toss float towards his knee, despatching it for six. He saw another one a few balls later, same result. The Whitley Bay Champion is meanwhile scratching around, using every part of his bat, brain and anatomy to keep his wicket intact as he tries to remember how to play on a slow wicket with occasional uneven bounce. Debasis brazenly continues to slap anything loose – or not loose – or sometimes really rather good – to all parts of the ground, and his dominance permeates to Dave, who hits a couple of boundaries of his own. Debasis raced to 56 with ten 4s alongside his two 6s, then inside edged Cirkel on to his stumps. Shahed was subdued by the slow pitch and some accurate bowling, then got into some rhythm in a workmanlike innings, muscling five 4s on his way to an unbeaten 40. Having notched his 50, Dave hit an elegant straight six in what proved to be our final over, a handsome win at a beautiful ground.