Report by Omar Shah

It’s 2015, we’ve done our last minute shopping on Sports Direct, had our dodgy net sessions at Manshead, and it’s finally that time of year again where the triple Cs start the cricket season. We will laugh, we will celebrate, we will fight and we will cry. We will shed blood, sweat and tears – but most important of all, we will play cricket, get some results and have stories to share to our grandchildren about that one time we played that one slightly above average innings.

So we begin the 2015 season with a lastminute.com pre-season friendly against Eaton Bray. After a hasty fixture announcement, the squads are announced in the breakneck speed of 2 hours – possibly a Guinness World Record for the fastest club squad announcement.  Fast forward to Sunday morning, after much confusion finding the secret entrance to the cricket ground, the Cs eventually arrive one by one into the Eaton Bray pitch. After winning the toss, Captain Gary decides to have a bowl first. After all, he didn’t a want a repeat of that infamous pre-season friendly against Great Brickhill the previous year. Let’s forget about that game…

It was a windy day on a nice flat pitch, where the conditions would allegedly suit the bowlers swinging with the wind.  Therefore it was decided that the king of swing himself, Jay, open bowling with the wind. Upon bowling the first delivery, the batsman immediately smashed a pull shot to the boundary and we were instantly reminded of the Division 1 prowess of the team. Farhan opened on the other end against the wind and was also hit for boundaries.

After an aggressive start by the Eaton Bray batsman, Jay made the breakthrough by finally deciding to bowl a wind assisted swinging yorker, clean bowling Gauntlett for 7.  Dan was the first change bowler and immediately took a wicket bowling a juicy full toss where D’Archambaud, wielding a rusty cricket bat from the 70s was unable to clear the boundary and was caught out by Raj at long off for 2. Dan continued to cause trouble to the batsman with his short and wide deliveries – much to the bewilderment of everyone, and took a second wicket where the frustrated Hubble tried to smash another short and wide delivery but was sharply caught by Jay with his cat-like reflexes at point.

After the dangerous Hosking was run out for 21 and the drinks break, Ghaf took the next couple of wickets in the space of two balls… a quicker one that deceived Wray (21) and the second, a lovely flighted delivery to clean bowl Scott for a duck. At that stage the Cs had Eaton Bray for 111 for 6.  Gary then decided to take the opportunity to try out all the other bowlers. Little did he know that another Division 1 batsman was at the crease, who thoroughly thumped his way into a solid century in what seemed like no time. The bowlers did continue to take wickets at the other end, but the run rate never dropped.

After taking the score to 219-7 off 35 overs, the centurion, Flecknell, felt he had enough batting practice for the day, and a retired back to the pavilion.  After that, the C’s cleaned up the rest of the batting line-up, with tidy bowling, from Raj, Aftab, Jay and Ghaf. Omar bowled the surprise death overs and signed off with a wicket . The first innings score was 239.

After the tea break, the wind and cloud cover picked up. No more sunshine and even more bowler friendly conditions. The Cs opened the batting with Omar and Dan. Eaton Bray opened the bowling with swingy dingy bowlers. Dan quickly departed LBW for 0, shaking his head in disbelief over the sheer swinginess of the ball. Shahbaz came on to bat and between him and Omar, decided to demonstrate a master class of front defence against swing.

After much careful and patient batting by both Omar and Shahbaz, building a steady partnership and neutralising the risk of a Great Brickhill style collapse, they saw off the opening swing bowlers. By that stage the score was 42-1 off 17 overs and the required run rate was climbing up. The second change bowlers were brought on and Omar and Shahbaz immediately upped the tempo, hitting regular boundaries and taking quick runs between the wickets. The score was taken to 84-1 after 21 overs. The 90 run partnership was finally broken after drinks with Omar doing his best Afridi impression of getting out hitting the ball straight up in the air for a catch. He departed for 42. Shahbaz soon followed in the next over doing his own Afridi impression of dancing down the pitch getting stumped for 29

Then came on the frustrated and pumped Gary and Ghaf, who both wasted no time in hitting boundaries, looking very good, but departed for 26 and 12 respectively. Ghaf reminded everyone why he bats at number 4 by hitting a massive 6 off his second ball. As part of his cameo, Gary reminded everyone why wearing a helmet is so important by demonstrating how to get hit in the head with a cricket ball. However, that head shot did seem to improve his timing.

Eaton Bray decided to supply a selection of juicy spin bowlers to tease the Cs batsman into hitting the boundaries and keeping up with the required rate.  The next duo of Cs batsman to come on were Usman and Carter, who both wasted no time in playing their shots. Usman soon departed for 6, then Aftab came on and did his best “Mo Show” impression by hitting wonderful boundaries without singles and got out for 30.

Carter continued to bat impressively, scoring singles and hitting regular boundaries – much to the confusion of why he doesn’t bat like that in the league games. He was greeted by Raj at the other end who faced a couple of balls in the last over and made an undefeated average busting 2 not out. Carter finished with a solid 28 not out. The end score was 196-7, which was not a bad effort for a chase, considering the scores last season.

So Caddington’s first warm-up game ended in a loss, but the end game was not about winning or losing, it was about getting time in the middle for the batsmen and overs under the belt for the bowlers. In that respect, Gary did a wonderful job of ensuring his players had sufficient match practice. Everyone made a contribution, and in Dan’s own words (and his spelling “we played as a unit, came up short but looked damn promising! Onwards amd upwards!”

Amd upwards indeed…