By Jay Shah

1st Game – Aston Clinton
“Baptism of Fire”

With the sun beating down for the best part of the week, the 2s made the trip down to Aston Clinton for the first game of the season. New league captain Jay Shah was excited about the prospect of leading the team and duly won the toss electing to bat on a hard concrete pitch.
Openers Gary and Umar started steadily, defending some balls whilst leaving others. Having played themselves in both openers found the middle of the bat at regular intervals with some nice boundary scoring shots. Umar looked tight and compact with some nice off drives with Gary in his usual bullish mood and aggressive style clearing the infield with ease. The score had reached 34 of 8 overs when Umar missed an in dipper and was clean bowled. In came Omar and out went Omar for 0 courtesy a brute of a catch in the slip cordon. Enter Irshad who had celebrated his birthday the day before to show his batting prowess in the all-important number 4 position. I must say I have seen the textbook cover drive, the square cut, the on drive, the pull shot and the sweep shot but I can say with certainty that Irshad has made the sweep come lap come slash on the onside his own trademark shot. We did not have to wait long to see it in action with it being employed as his first scoring shot. Unfortunately having hit a boundary he went for another booming drive straight down the ground only to be caught magnificently by the bowler and losing his wicket for 4 runs. With the score at 55 for 3 off 15 overs, Jay came in to bat taking pointers from the free flowing Gary to “take your time”. An over later Gary straight drove to mid-on who took a sharp catch ending Gary’s attacking display of batting for 32. Jay was then joined by Kashif at the other end who got a captain’s pep talk to take it easy and to bat the overs. Kashif looked solid after hitting a boundary but he too perished with an aerial shot straight down the throat of a deepish mid-on for 7. With a seemingly long batting line up Simmo senior joined the skipper batting at 7 and there was a sustained period of defending with Simmo senior eventually feathering one behind for 4. Now, batting at number 8 was Usman, as he walked on to the pitch Jay went up to him to give him the instructions that “the bowlers ain’t all that mate, meat and drink for you, ah but yh that spinner bowling from this end spins it in to right handers”. I don’t know whether it was my talk that did it but Usman suffered a chemical reaction, unfortunately it was not positive and after advising the skipper he was feeling a little unwell he was sent back to the pavilion to rest with good old Steve being called in to action a little earlier than he envisaged. Steve an all-round nice guy and most importantly a long serving member of the club is one of those positive players that every team needs. Seeing the positive out of the negative is part of his character and very much welcomed it is too. He came in wielding a bat as old as him and after hitting a boundary he was undone by a spinning bowl that hit his back leg on to the stumps. The score at this point was 83 for 8 of 34 overs and with the C’s in a perilous position in came the reinvigorated Usman who had shaked his what we now know as “headache” off. Unfortunately having played for the best part of the game, Jay sensing the urgency to push the score along mistimed an aggressive shot straight in the air into the gleeful hands of mid-off therein ending his vigil for 9 runs. Doc was the number 10 batsman and played around a straight delivery getting bowled for 1 run. Vish entered with his usual thigh guards strapped over his whites much to the enjoyment of the opposition. Usman on the other end hit some nice drives clearing the infield on a couple of occasions however, Vish with his aggression played an on drive straight to mid-on for 2 leaving Usman not out for 13 and the C’s all out for 99.
This is not what Jay had in mind when he elected to bat first in fact the opening partnership showed the strip was a good one to bat on however, the familiar collapse of Caddington as a result of poor shot selection was the undoing for the team. It is hoped the boys learn from this batting spectacle and ensure they understand that this is a 44 over game and whilst an aggressive brand of cricket is encouraged a calculated risk for scoring must be adopted.
After tea, the C’s set in to defend their total. Opening the bowling was Vish and immediately the Aston Clinton openers tucked in by driving and pulling for 4. On the other end Doc made his entry however, he too struggled with his length and was put away for boundaries including a straight six. With the next two overs going in the same vain (with a difficult drop catch included in there for good measure) Wiltshire was taking a liking to both the openers and it was time to change things up. Jay introduced Usman to bowl his slow straight ones however he too struggled. On came Steve from the other end but again he too struggled to contain the free flowing openers. A few overs in and again the changes came with Jay putting himself on and immediately finding a bit of swing which confounded the openers. It resulted in the final bowl of the over pitching on middle and taking the top off of stump for C’s first wicket. With no more options Omar was thrown the ball at the other end and he obliged by yorking Wiltshire who was finally out for 63. In came batsman no 4 and out he went first ball via a one handed beauty close in by Jay or what Steve described as “how did you catch that mate, I thought you was falling down for a second!”. With 4 runs required at this stage the end was near and Aston Clinton finished proceedings off with a boundary.

Captains Corner
So a baptism of fire indeed for me in my first outing as captain. Yet it is only the first game and the C’s normally start off slow however, it was clear there were not enough runs on the board. The batsmen need to ensure they take responsibility for their batting and ensure they bat sensibly with an understanding that not every ball needs to be hit for 4! The other thing highlighted was the lack of fight in the field with the players perhaps carrying a defeatist attitude before the second half started! This must be rectified if the C’s are going to get anywhere near their lofty aspirations of being promoted.
Man of match goes to Gary for his aggressive 32. Let’s hope for a better showing when the C’s host Wilden next week.