With the first Metro game of the season postponed to allow all Metro footballers to attend the first “Chris East Memorial Cup” competition on St George’s Day it fell to the Devils to get the cricket season underway on the last day of April. This was a return to the scene of their final winning game of last season; the “cradle of cricket” at Hambledon in Hampshire, in the beautiful south downs. The sun shone as if spring had arrived as the team reached the ground in good time and then all that arduous out of season training paid off as Dave called heads and the umpire confirmed the toss had been won by the visitors.
The home side were asked to bat and after a careful start for the first couple of overs against the Devil’s opening bowlers their openers started to take control of the game reaching 72 within eight overs but then the Devil’s hit back as Asif first bowled the skipper, Ryan, for 38 and then had the number three nick one to Charles behind the stumps next ball. He was not able to complete his hat trick but did pick up a third in his next over and in the next one the Devils skipper clung on well to a caught and bowled; as a second batsman in the match became eligible for Primary Club membership; with the score 91 for 4 and the balance of the match much more even. The 100 came up just before drinks at 15 overs and then shortly afterwards Dave Allen retired on 51 from 47 balls. After that the scoring rate slowed and the Devil’s continued to pick up wickets – a cleaned bowled for David and two for Gary including a caught behind that demonstrated the keeper’s goalkeeping agility. It meant that at tea Hampshire declared having batted for as many overs as possible this season, 28, with 186 for 7 on the board.
The Devil’s opening pair, Gary and Everton, strode out confident of a chase at about 8 runs an over but perhaps less so after an opening maiden over from the home side’s skipper; although confidence may have risen again as Gary hit twelve including two boundaries from the next over. That was however to be the high point of the innings. The sky now darkened, the wind speed rose and the temperature started to drop making being outside rather unpleasant. To follow the darkening in the sky the batting had a collapse – Gary was bowled in the third over, Andy Law caught in the next and Aemonn run out after a calling mix up in the seventh to leave the visitors wobbling on 33 for 3. Charles used his experience to calm nerves a little but when he skied one for a caught and bowled this started another collapse as in the next over both Chris and Asif were dismissed by Ben Good. It was looking good for the home side with six wickets down for just 52 and still 13 overs to bowl. They were then overjoyed when the skipper caught Everton off the first ball of Matt Cooper’s second innings as the Devil’s opener tried to hit more boundaries as he had from Matt’s first over. So ten overs to go and just three wickets in hand as Hasmukh joined Alan in the middle and Hampshire sensed victory.
However cometh the hour, cometh the man – or in this case the return of the legend as Hasmukh and Alan put on 38 for the eighth wicket from just that one ball short of nine overs until, when Alan hit wicket having scored 15. The over before that had seen a great tussle between the home side’s captain and Hasmukh as following a warning for bowling a full toss that whizzed just past the batsman’s head, a couple of balls later a “half out” LBW had been signalled. So the match boiled down to six balls, two wickets and a batsman with 32 deliveries safely under his belt. Dot, dot, dot, dot, dot, meant that the scorer was excited that the innings might start and end with a maiden, until a wide was signalled. It is not clear if Hampshire had momentarily forgotten that “Hash” could not be stumped – or tempted to try and a take a rash single and were searching for a way to get two wickets from one ball. Whatever it was the legend remained calm and playing another classy leave allowed the keeper to gather the last ball with a draw taken from a very difficult situation. Who is to know what may have happened if Hampshire had declared at 176 from 26 and had two more overs to bowl at the death?
Next week the Devils defend their T20 crown against Gloucestershire at Highgate and supporters would be very welcome to what should be another close and exciting game. Gloucestershire opened their 2016 campaign on the 24th with a last ball league win against Hereford in a match described as “a good advert for Blind Cricket”.
– Report by Paul Toplis