Clear blue skies, warm sun and a recently mowed outfield greeted the increasingly professional Saturday XI to Marble Hill. With 5 wins out of 5 in 2022, Captain Skinner (A) was focused from Ball 1 on extending the winning run. Our opponents today were Yarl, one of the oldest fixtures in the Crossbats’ calendar. As per tradition, less than half the Yarl team had arrived by the scheduled start and accordingly they chose to bat first. Captain Skinner began magnificently from the Other End, immediately finding pace and bounce. It was all too much for Baski who nicked Ball 2 to Keeper Sayers who took a well-judged catch low to his right behind the stumps. New man in Ramesh wafted extravagantly and repeatedly at thin air as Skinner continued to dominate, setting the tone with a wicket maiden. At the Marble Hill End Panesar shared the new ball, backing his skipper up well and asking plenty of questions of the Yarl batsmen. Finding a probing length outside off, he mixed it up occasionally with his trademark bouncers (note: facing a bouncer from Panesar is a little like stroking a friendly cat. It seems so gentle and mild-mannered at first, lulling you into a warm sense of completeness and love for all sentient beings, and then BANG, before you can react the little sod has bitten you before turning its
back and running away, laughing). The tactic worked perfectly to the muscular Mithu who, clearly riled by the short stuff, proceeded to miss a straight one and was bowled for 10. With Skinner continuing to taunt his opponent from the Other End with little luck, Crossbats were starting well. Balakrishnan replaced Skinner and continued the trend, bowling excellently with no luck, completing a spell of 5-0-15-0. Things began to unravel somewhat with the introduction of the volatile Humphrey in place of the implacable Panesar. Possibly distracted by his new personalised boots and the ensuing guessing games surrounding his middle names (for info: turns out they are Alan Robin), and definitely distracted by the umpire, runs rather began to flow. A couple of boundaries in his first were followed by several “wides” (depending on interpretation) in his second followed by quite a few more boundaries in his third and last over. The nadir seemed to be reached when Ben Alan Robin Humphrey apparently decided to educate the umpire on what a wide is by proceeding to bowl it even wider and yelling at him “there, that’s a wide!!”, or something like that. Picking trouble with an umpire called Sivaguru never seems advisable, and indeed BARH did apologise post-match to the learned gentleman.
At drinks Yarl were 83 for 2 with Romesh and Theepan looking slightly ominous. Dubey eventually snaffled the former, caught presumably off an inside edge onto the pad by Sayers. It was hard to tell from where I was at point, but Captain Skinner pretty much seemed to confirm the dismissal on behalf of the strangely hesitant Sivaguru and Romesh was gone. Dubey was unlucky not to take more, Nicholls dropping a clanger (at point), and some edges flying through Sayers’ gloves. For the
record other drops did occur throughout the match, definitely 2 difficult ones to Dubey and others I can’t quite remember. Coach Felton’s target of taking 11 out of 14 chances was definitely not achieved, but he gamely plugged away in 4 creditable overs of sinew-snapping, sweat-busting medium pace to no reward. With the game starting to get away from them, Dubey resorted to some mild banter with Theepan, while Captain Skinner could be heard exhorting more aggression from Iyengar in his ball-polishing, at one point appearing to actually be demanding blood from him. At 139 for 3 in the 26 th , and Theepan flaying it to all parts, the game was in the balance. It’s at times like these that northern grit is required, and there’s nowt grittier than Yorkshire grit. Skinner grit. Left arm over from the Other End, Skinner (S) sorted things out quickly, bowling the troublesome Theepan first ball (for 77) and Raam with his 3 rd ball. Sensing the game changing, Captain Skinner joined forces from the Marble Hill End, continuing his earlier spell superbly to restrict and then demolish the Yarl batting. A steady procession followed, Captain Skinner finishing with 7-2-13-3 and Skinner (S) with 5-1-14-3 (depending on which scorecard you read, or maybe one of S’s wickets was actually A’s?). The final coup de grace was left to Crossbats’ favourite Francophile. Managing to stifle his Gallic temperament, Humphrey swooped from gulley to collect and throw with some élan, getting a direct hit to run out Ganesh without scoring. Yarl had been restricted to 172 for 9 off 35 overs, a superb effort to only go for 33 in the last 9 overs. Tea was taken with most cricketers looking for shade from the hot sun. Soon after, Crossbats opened with their chalk and cheese/little and large partnership of Dubey and Nicholls. At this point, I should say that most reports I write are done from the perspective of the mildly perplexed bystander, whiling away the hours stood day-dreaming somewhere between point and cow corner, or otherwise trying to concentrate while umpiring/scoring. Today’s viewpoint offered a different insight into how it is to bat with my wonderful and varied teammates. Dubey: “I’m very relaxed about running, no quick singles eh?”. There then followed a fantastic exhibition of why Dubey doesn’t bother with quick singles. Showing excellent judgement of length and a good eye, he was quick to drive the full ball or cut and pull the shorter delivery, always with the same result of FOUR runs. Nicholls quickly understood his role was to dab the ball into the wide open spaces in order for Dubey to meander through for a sedate single before he could continue his onslaught. Alas, after a rollicking 7 overs, Dubey died as he had lived, blasting it straight at cow corner for nearly a SIX, but actually a CAUGHT. With the contribution of 14 extravagant wides, it was 64 for 1 at the end of the 8 th , Dubey out for a raucous 40. In next Skinner (S): “Give them nothing, look for the quick singles, but seriously, give them NOTHING”. Watching Skinner bat feels a bit like seeing for the first time how this game should be played. Showing impeccable judgement of when to leave, when to play, and always in control, with efficient use of energy and a calm focus, he proceeded to knock it around with some class and an air of infallibility. With Nicholls watching and trying to learn from the other end, the pair put on 43 in 10 overs before disaster struck. Driving impeccably to long-off, Skinner hared off looking for a quick two. Unaware of this, Nicholls lumbered off expecting a Dubey one until hearing the call “TWO!!!!” as he slowly turned. Quickly calculating that time=distance/speed, Nicholls quite forcefully shouted “NO!!!!”, forcefully enough to turn Skinner in his tracks but unfortunately not enough for him to get back in his crease. Skinner (S) run out for 22, bugger. Next in, Iyengar: “Let’s have clear calls, no stupid runs”. In fairness to Iyengar, having just witnessed what he had just seen this was reasonable and not unfair to feel a little anxious about the situation. This anxiety didn’t mix particularly well with Nicholls’ disturbed state of mind as he tried to process what had just gone before. Anyway, there then proceeded several examples of definitely not how to call and run. Arms were waved, voices raised, pulses quickened, and then before you knew it it was all over as Iyengar got a leading edge and was unluckily out for 3. At 131 for 3 in the 24 th , Coach Felton strode to the crease: “Do you want an Opal Fruit?”. That seemed to be the extent of his tactics, but his deeds spoke of a deeper wisdom. Don’t be fooled by that Australian accent, beneath it lies a man of intellect and insight. Working the ball easily into the large gaps, and dismissively smacking a couple of boundaries, he quickly brought calm back to the chase and helped Nicholls to get an (insert adjective) 50. With deluded visions of carrying his bat à la Graham Gooch circa 1991, Nicholls’ dreams were dashed as he eventually succumbed to a straight one that did apparently keep quite low, although by that time he couldn’t tell the difference anyway, out for 60. With roughly 15 required, Uppuluri had the thankless task of finishing things off. He gamely tried, hitting what looked like quite a decent stroke, except that mid-on caught it, out for 0. And so it was left to Captain Skinner and Coach Felton to finish the job, Felton ending on 20 not out, Skinner on 6. All in all this felt like a good win for Crossbats. After a good start, it seemed to be getting away from them until the Skinners bowling in unison reigned it back in. And
then Dubey’s quick start meant they were always ahead of the rate, making all the difference for the lesser mortals to get them over the line. Job done. Played 6, Won 6!