Octopus CC vs Rickmansworth CC - 24th April 2011

 

Following recent years’ shellackings at Enfield, the Octopi gathered at the outer regions of the Metropolitan line hoping for a more competitive start to the season. And competitive it was to be, with no less than six early points scorers in the Duck Trophy.Octopus CC’s 72 all out was rather less competitive with the 187 posted in the host’s 45 overs, alas.

 

Having persuaded Rickmansworth – with surprising difficulty – that it wasn’t viable to play on a pitch with a half-foot deep lake at cow corner (“I know Reid isn’t playing, but the ball is still going to end up there...”), Octopus skipper James lost the toss on the second ground and struggled to contain his delight as the hosts batted first on a pitch still damp from the previous day’s storms.

 

Gopi and Hindle opened the innings with tight medium pace, assisted by more grubbers than a bush tucker trial. The watchful home bats were playing at a pace more akin to 1920s Tests than IPL 2011, but adapted well to the questionable bounce. After ten overs the score read 28-1, a gratifyingly loud team appeal bringing the sole wicket with an lbw decision for Gopi.

 

The second wicket partnership held firm against Baury and Lamplough, and were laying the foundations for a big score when Webber and Marsh came on and both found good turn. Webber finally broke through, the ball breaking between Hussein’s bat and pad for a quick reaction stumping from Smith. 115-2. 12 runs later, the other half of that partnership departed in less classical fashion: a conspiracy of silence from the fielders helped persuade Khan, on 56, that he had nothing to worry about before Webber’s accurate throw from fine leg buzzed past his lackadaisical run for Marsh to break the stumps.

 

The spinners bowled out the rest of their overs economically, to the growing frustration of the batting side – who twice smacked full tosses from Webber straight to Octopus fielders in their attempts to pick up on the rare loose ball. At the other end, Marsh picked up two wickets himself with an lbw and a classically flighted leg-break.

 

Baury and Hindle returned to mop up the tail with little fuss in the final three overs, Lamplough’s fine diving catch in the covers to remove Saad the highlight, and Mahadik’s 32 having provided the only late resistance. At tea, their 187 had seemed around par on a pitch which had offered variable bounce in patches (and no bounce in others) but was drying out. Did the visitors over-indulge in the suspiciously grey beef sandwiches and Easter Eggs? Or did they simply bat like South Africa under pressure? It was a South African dismissal set the collapse in motion: Lamplough lbw to one of the alternate balls which shot through at ankle height. Webber upped the collapsible tone with an unsuccessful attempt to call Gopi through for a very quick single, before Knowles got a good one second ball.

 

While confusion and disaster reigned at the other end, Gopi started playing serenely and magnificently. Smith attempted to join him, middling a crashing off-drive only to see the short cover fielder react faster than a Japanese nuclear plant to grab a stupendous one-handed catch.

 

Noting that the fielder in the green cap appeared to be able to catch seemed no disincentive to Octopus batsman hitting aerial shots in his general direction, with Hayward and finally Gopi also falling victim to him. Gopi’s stand had brought him 41 vital runs, but even that couldn’t make a scorecard featuring 21 extras as second top scorer look much better. With him gone, no further runs came off the bat as Octopus ducked out to a 115 run defeat.

 

 

Octopus CC vs Hackney Marshes CC - 8th May 2011

 

The game isn't over til it's over is a sporting moral that has long held true and it was certainly the case on Sunday. With a strong bowling attack and a green wicket we won the toss and put Hackney into bat and were soon enjoying the decision. After a cautious first 10 overs brought 25 for no wicket, one break through brought a glut and fine spells from Matt D and Graham, as well as sharp piece of fielding from Pete, had Hackney floundering at 63-5. Having been dropped on zero (albeit a fiendishly difficult over-the-shoulder chance as Stu sprinted from mid-off to deep long on), only the number 3 Nilish was offering any resistance. But two more wickets fell and at 97-7 we still felt in control. Then it went a bit wrong as Nilish started to tee off spectacularly, ably supported by batsmen 9 and 10. 60 runs later Rocky had removed the former but the final 7 overs brought a staggering unbroken partnership of 102, as Nilish blitzed on well past 100. From 97-7, Hackney finished on 259-8.

 

A nice tea from Gopi and his good wife and Octopus felt slightly fortified, but with the light already fading and the breeze getting up our innings got off to a bad start when the returning Rocky miscued to midwicket for 10. Further wickets fell in the face of some brisk, accurate bowling and when Andy joined Gopi at the crease we were 54-5 and facing humiliation. Then things got better - as Gopi and Andy batted with brutal fury and gallant obduracy respectively. Having taken 35 balls to reach 4, Gopi hit 9 boundaries in his next 21 deliveries and shocked the watching crowd by attempting not one, but two quick singles. Once past 50 Gopi then opened the shoulders a bit further, hitting two consecutive sixes,the first of which sailed into the adjacent tennis courts to universal cheers - a first, we think, for our time at St Aloysuis. Alas, the fun ended shortly after as, with ton looking on the cards, he succombed on 86 with the partnership on 95.

 

Andy and Graham continued in excellent fashion with Andy middling the ball several times to accumulate his highest score for a while, while no-one quite drives quite so flourishingly off the back foot as Graham. Both perished before the end but for pleasing personal totals of 32 and 13 and with Octopus' dignity safely restored for the time- being. We finished on 187-8, 72 runs short.

 

 

Octopus CC vs Hoopers - 7th Aug 2011

 

Another week, another game. Well not just another game but our annual encounter with Hoopers – a thoroughly personable bunch, who rock up with a man-of-the-match bottle of champers, a crate of beer and a heart-warming approach to the game.

The Octopus line-up saw a debut for the newest (and 40th player this season) Octopus recruit Suri, roped into it by Gokul. Smith Skippered a team full of promise, and benefitted from the implementation of ruse (concocted in the pub on Wednesday night by Felix & Knowlsie) involving flagrantly lying to the team – risking the ire of WAGs across London – in an effort to steal some much-needed fielding practice. It seemed like a good idea at the time anyway. That only half the team fell for it is of minor import, but they can hardly have been heartened as they descended the driveway towards St Aloysius' hallowed turf to witness teammates shelling bomb after bomb (does that work as an unmixed metaphor???) of steepling catches, more often than not the ball dropping feebly between fielders. Hindsight tells us this was to prove a highly effective act of collective visualization, as Octopus coined a new cricket warm-up - shadow catching.

 

Onto the game though, and the skippers agreed on the mutual benefits of Octopus wielding their blades first on a green looking surface, grim looking clouds forming overhead. Pandya-Smith and Hayward strode to the middle to face an impressive opening spell; our opponents living up to their name and dishing out some tricky, swinging fare, but not round corners. Having survived the opening skirmishes to move to 22 for no loss after four overs, initial fears began to dissipate, and in all but the sky a brighter prognosis seemed possible. However, a momentary lapse from a severely hung-over Hayward saw his off stump ripped out. It has to be said that no one had actually noticed Hayward arrive for the game; such a state was he in that he nestled prostrate in the grass until his time of calling. Having encouragingly bashed the first delivery of the innings – a horrible longhop – for four, Pandya-Smith thereafter found timing more difficult, with runs ceasing to flow. Lamplough came in at number three, played a magnificent forward defensive and looked solid, before stroking a ball to mid-on and setting off for a suicide run. Aggers too perished early, trying to run a ball angled across the stylish left-hander and chopping on. Suddenly a strong-looking Octopus batting line-up was teetering at 23 for 3. Three wickets for one run and the game turned on its head.

 

Keeper Winter then entered the fray and together with Pandya- Smith set about rebuilding the innings, with some exquisitely timed clips off the pads. A promising partnership of 29 was then brought to an end as Winter’s lovely, languid legside preference proved his Achilles’ heel, and one clip too many – straight out of the middle of the bat mind you – found its way to a bucket-handed Hooper on the fence. Newboy Suri joined an increasingly tied-down Pandya-Smith at the wicket whereupon one lovely classical forward defensive followed a stylish-looking extra-cover drive. Sadly though, the second ball was a Yorker. Suri’s stumps were splattered for an inauspicious-seeming duck.

 

With five wickets down, and (so it seemed) running out of partners Pandya-Smith then picked the wrong ball to slog and hoicked a horrible effort to Winter’s Hooper, who again made no mistake. Another three wickets had fallen for a meagre two runs – the tentacled brotherhood looked gloomily on; thoughts started to turn to the mirky clouds above, eyes gazed skyward, there perhaps held the most promise for a team, frankly, woefully out of form.

 

Meanwhile, at the non-strikers end, six-and-out Gokul calmly took guard, joined at the crease by a fleet-of-foot Felix. Somehow, Octopus prayers were answered, but not by the weather (although it did its best). Six-and-out Gokul has hit some wondrous blows this season, ordinarily followed by a prompt castling of stumps, hence the moniker. Not today. Assisted by some wonderfully diligent, gutsy defiance from the other end (by turns: Gott/Gopu/Hindle/Ingram) Murthy smited the ball to all corners of the ground in a batting comeback already etched forever in the annals of Octopus folklore. A good measure of this monumental effort and astonishing innings lies in the statistics: In partnerships with Gott (7 balls faced, no runs scored), Gopu (3 balls faced, no runs scored), Hindle (30 balls faced, 1 run scored), and Ingram (7 balls faced, no runs scored) Murthy expertly farmed the strike, found the gaps and bullied the bowling – notching up a quite incredible 109 from 86 balls, peppering the boundaries with no less than eight sixes, one deposited into the adjacent tennis courts. This moving of the score from a depressing 54 for 6 to a very competitive 170 all out was made possible only through the stout resistance of the lower order, typified by Ingram’s defiance of the premier Hooper bowler for half an over with soon-to-be-109-and-out Gokul stranded on 99 at the other end in the increasingly heavy rain.

 

What joy there was when the magical three figures came, and to their great credit, Hoopers applauded to a man.

 

With tea having been taken after 22 overs, the only interruption to Murthy’s outstanding knock, a swift turnaround ensued, and a rejuvenated Octopus took the field high in spirit. Tight bowling from Lamplough and Murthy immediately put pressure on the opposition, and the former soon struck as an uncomfortable innings from Hooper’s number one ended with an ill-timed swipe to Gopu at mid-on, who held on to a very tough chance. Without ever settling, the first-drop partnership realised 45 runs before a nasty short one from the skipper accounted for Hooper’s other opener – a dismissal which in truth had more to do with the state of the wicket than any bowling prowess. With Hindle now into his groove, and proving almost unplayable at times, Octopus struck a key blow just before the drinks interval. Tied down, and sensing his team going nowhere, the opposition skipper and number three aimed an unwise slap at Hindle’s quicker one. Gopu’s big hands had already copped a feel for the action, and they liked what they felt, smothering the ball again at mid-on. Three down at drinks, Hoopers just behind the run rate.

 

By the resumption Aggers – playing his last game before heading off to India – had joined the attack. What followed was a masterclass in creating intense pressure through accurate bowling and outstanding fielding. After drinks only seven runs were conceded is about as many overs as the Hoopers middle order had the life sucked out of them. One by one they succumbed: star man Nabarro snagged by hindle lbw, a vital blow; Curtis and Couldrey bowled and lbw respectively – both duped by the quicker one from debutant Shanmugan; Avery, caught and bowled splendidly by Baury in a fitting final flourish for him. By then, really the game was up. The last semblance of breath entirely squeezed out of Hoopers. The equation, following Shanmugan’s third wicket capping a fine bowling debut, was impossible. That Gopu took a third outstanding catch of the innings was the icing on the cake (which, incidentally, were rather nice at tea – even if I do say so myself), and is testament to the kind of contribution possible with a little hard work and commitment... and some shadow catching of course.

 

Felix and Si wrapped the innings up – or very nearly did. Felix demolishing the stumps of Trotter before the Hoopers pair for the last wicket took a few liberties as the field closed in to pouch number ten. That it never came is of no import, this was a terrific performance sparked by a wonderful innings from Murthy (supported in no small part by heroically dedicated encouragement from the boundary edge from Shanmugan), great spirit, and contributions from the whole team – a victory as sweet as it was unexpected.

 

Thanks to Alex for a terrific effort with the tea; to Hoopers for playing the game in the right way, and for their beer(s); to Felix & Knowsie for suggesting fielding practice in the pub on weds night (joking aside, it worked); and finally to Aggers for his years of great service to Octopus – how nice to go out on a victorious note!

 

J.S

 

 

Octopus CC vs West XI - 21st Aug 2011

 

The Toss

 

Debutant captain Hodge strode purposefully to the wicket having declared his intention to win the toss and bowl on a damp wicket that was sure to improve as it dried. Three minutes later he strode purposefully back, the toss against us and batting first our forfeit. Each side having 12 men, the captains agreed that all would bat, but only 11 would field at any one time, with the 12th being a sub to be rotated every 5 overs or so.

 

The Octopus Innings

 

Debutant captain Hodge strode purposefully to the wicket to open the batting with Lamplough. Three minutes later he strode purposefully back, adjudged LBW by former best mate and soon to be former lodger Reid. Apparently however, it was plumb and the skipper took it like a man, completely failing to break down in floods of tears or break even a single window (he'll never play for England). Gopi joined Lamplough at the wicket to contend with the highly accurate bowling of the W11 opening bowlers. After 17 overs, only 54 runs had been amassed, but crucially without further loss to the premier bowlers. The next three overs brought 23 runs to put Octopus on a handy 77 for 1 at the 20 over drinks interval. Gopi had just started to get into his stride when he fell to a flighted delivery for a tidy 34. Miles was robbed of a much deserved half century in the following over as he was stumped trying to up the scoring rate for 43. Webber was on his way back in the next over having top edged a long hop for a dolly catch (there are those who claim they saw the glow of his eyes lighting up as the bowler let that one go). Octopus now 95 for 4 off 25, having lost three wickets in as many overs. We need not have worried, Jo Smith and Alex Winter rose to the challenge. Jo had commented that he kept "getting out when I'm playing defensive shots" and so vowed to avoid them at all costs on this occasion, Alex was just in the groove. The next 9 overs yielded 55 runs before Alex was bowled for 25 off 22 balls, 150 for 5 with 6 overs to go, Reid was sent in to wield the willow with his characterisitic power and aggression. Two overs and 21 runs later Jo was on his way back, another one achingly short of 50, his forty balls despatched for 47 runs. Reid was going well and Dempsey joined him. Sam was run out in the penultimate over apparently Dempsey called for three, but after the second run, both batsmen stopped, then started again with the ball already in the air. A belated "NO" from Dempsey saw Sam scrambling hopelessly to recover his ground to more laughter than sympathy from the watching Octopi. He had got 19 off 13 balls though, so job done. Dempsey and Gott compiled 6 off the last over to take us though to 199-8, Felix run out off the last ball.

 

The Tea

 

Had we lost, this would have been the highlight of the day. Super sandwiches from Miles Lamplough, perfectly presented, including my personal favourites, egg & onion and cheese & tomato. Si Ingram produced home made carrot cake, apple cake, chocolate and caramel slice and rocky road that have earned him the sobriquet "Mr Kipling".

The West XI Innings

 

Buoyed by the return of Reid and Dempsey to open the bowling, Octopus were cautiously optimistic and roused by some suitable words from Cap'n Hodge, took to the field in a positive and attacking mood. After a couple of loosener overs, the runs started to dry up and Reid broke through, bowling Delanian for 10. Ed Webber shortly joined in, taking a brilliant return catch inches off the ground. Felix Gott then took an excellent running catch at wide mid-off from Miles bowling to send back dangerous left-handed opener Taylor for 33. Things were looking good but W11's number four R. Allerton was looking dangerous, playing an attacking hand. Si Ingram saw him off with the second great return catch of the day. Webber spun out another and Hodge joined the attack to claim two wickets in the middle. Ash Gopu claimed two victims, one caught full stretch overhead by Ed, the other bowled by a peach of a delivery. W11 skipper K. Allerton played a defiant knock for 13 before the returning Dempsey knocked out his middle pole and Reid did the same to Laing to seal victory, West XI all out for 165. (Apologies for lack of scoring detail, they didn't record fall of wickets).

 

The Celebration

 

The team enjoyed cold beers on the grass, on a pleasant evening after the final homer of the season.

 

The Summary

 

Octopus 199/8, West XI 165 all out. Octopus won by 34 runs.

Again a good team performance with the runs and wickets spread around, 2 wickets each for four bowlers and the only dropped catches a couple of half chances.

Good tea from Si & Miles.

Good captaincy by Will.

Scorecards submitted to Pete for processing.

 

The End.

 

A.J.