By Gary Norman

After losing their first four games, Caddington’s 1st XI were looking to ‘learn the lesson’ of how to win, and avoid a ‘lecture’ from Dale, on campus against the Open University’s cricket team (see what I did there?). They lined up with a pretty strong side, enhanced or burdened (depending upon your viewpoint) by the late inclusion of Gary, who swapped places with the ‘lift-less’ and therefore, marooned James Swann.

Allan lost the toss and the C’s were put into bat on a decent looking track. Things started badly as Dale managed to find the leading edge of a delivery from the impressive Ahmad and returned the ball back to the bowler for a duck. Allan followed soon after for 7 after being cleaned up by the same bowler, bringing Gary to the wicket to join Carl. They then set about seeing off the openers and rebuilding the innings. Scoring shots were hard to come by but the pair batted through the tough early spell, slowly accumulating runs. The hope of an easier life after the opening bowlers was soon diminished as the accurate deliveries continued to come, albeit with a slightly dodgy looking action from one end. Eventually the breakthrough came when Carl tried to cut one that was too close and slapped the ball to Gill at in the covers for 15. A couple of overs later, Gary was gone too for the same score as he nicked a full ball from Dey to Ahmad at slip. The C’s were four down with just over 60 on the scoreboard but the platform had been set for the middle order to push on, and push on they did. Zaheer, ably supported by Dan, pushed the scoring rate up with a flurry of boundaries. The partnership was confortable past the 50 mark by the time that Zaheer (47) holed out to a diving, and some might say slightly dubious looking catch from Gill at long off.

James was next in and the match situation suited his style well as he started to unload on the bowling with his big hitting style. Dan was run out for a well-constructed 26, and when Jay (0) and James (19) went in quick succession to Ahmad, who had brought himself back on, it was left to Mitul (8no) and Vish (4no) to finish the innings off, with the former hitting singles and doubles into the gaps and the latter hitting everything in the ‘V’, the ‘V’ behind the stumps that is. At tea the C’s had set the hosts 165 to win, and they knew that tight bowling was going to be essential if they were to prevail.

The skipper and Vish opened the bowling after the break and the latter didn’t take too long to strike, bowling Richens around his legs for 2. Although there were some good deliveries from the pair, the opposition and in particular Lall, took full advantage of the usual bad ball per over, and the scoring rate reflected this. Vish took a further two wickets, one thanks to a great catch by Dale, running back and taking the ball over his shoulder at deep backward point and Jay trapped Masood lbw, but with the skipper Ahmad at the crease looking composed, and the bowlers offering up too many easy runs, the OU were definitely in control at drinks.

With a win looking increasingly unlikely for the C’s, Allan turned to Zaheer and also brought himself back on. Ahmad took to the spinner and smashed two sixes and a four in four balls, but Zaheer was to have the last laugh by pushing a quicker one through his defences for 46. Allan then got in on the act, by bowling Hanif (12) and suddenly it was game on again. Even though the hosts only needed ten runs and the C’s were still four wickets away, memories of the previous week’s collapse when they were bowled out for 34 must have been playing on the minds of the tail as they came out. When Ganguly nicked one to Jay at slip off a well disguised slower ball from the skipper and Dey followed soon after, again taken at slip but this time brilliantly one handed by Jay off the bowling of Zaheer, the OU were in danger of collapsing again.

The C’s were pushing for an unlikely win but it was not to be as Sukumaran and Krishnamurthy (easy for you to say…) saw the hosts home, even though the former was farcically run out after securing the winning run.

So the C’s are still winless in this season and find themselves at the bottom of the Division 3 table, but surely Allan will take heart from a much better performance and the fact that they are still within a win of seventh place Ivinghoe and Pitstone. There were several decent performances this week notably from Vish with the ball and Dan with the bat, but the man of the match goes to Zaheer for his fluent 47 and two wickets.

Next week the C’s will be looking to avenge their opening day defeat against Harlington, and if they play with the same spirit and application don’t bet against them getting their first win.

Onwards and upwards…