OCC vs Antares - 7th May
2017 got of with a bang with a lovely match against some, at times, challenging opposition. The day started with a shock: Gokul won the toss! We had a bat but were soon regretting it when we went to 14-3 and then 30-4.
However, cometh the hour, cometh the man. The prodigal son returns! Coming in at number 4, Harsh celebrated his first appearance for the club in 4 years with a cracking century. Harsh and Fidel (a ringer from APCC) shared a 118-run 5th wicket partnership to rescue things. The partnership included a 33-run over, including four maximums in a row to take Fidel to his 50. Always the clubman, Harsh was selflessly run out off the final ball of the innings for a stellar 110. 218 all out.
Antares, who were reportedly low on batting, were always behind the run rate with some tight opening bowling. However, with wickets in hand, there was always a danger that some heavy hitting come sway the tie. However, strikes from Stu and Gokul put the match towards the Octopus once again. Josh Grant came on and blew the opposition away. His loan spell away from the club has done him wonders, and 4 wickets was just reward for lethal bowling.
The attack never came, and Antares reached the end of their 35 overs without nearing the target. The final over gave Stu two wickets in two balls. Alas, no hat trick this time.
So, a win to start the 70th celebrations. Onwards and upwards to Crouch End next weekend and our old foe Bohemians.
OCC vs Alexandra Park CC - 2nd July
What a match on Sunday. What a win. What a grind. An attritional, drip-feed of a run chase, up to and past our target of 119 in no fewer than 43.2 overs. Test match cricket in limited overs form. 201 dot balls, 1 no ball, 4 wides, 6 leg byes, 7 byes, 27 singles, 3 twos, 13 boundaries and 3 sixes - the last of which struck cleanly by AF Francies over long-on to win in glorious, tension-busting style, after an inch-by-inch 63 ball stand of 24 with S Grant for the 8th wicket. CRICKET. Before them, Gott and Dempsey the heroes; theirs a frankly essential partnership of 55 in 79 balls to take us from the brink of memorable disaster to within salvageable distance of victory at 99-7. A long way from being 44-5 after 21 overs, as suffocating bowling, a tight in-field and a far too ample tea left the innings well short of any sort of traction. Thank God for the Viking's whirlish sense of adventure, for Dempsey's unstinting equanimity and for Adam and Sam's determined forward defence with a menacing finish. Alexandra Park thought they had us more than once, and were gutted in defeat, but were fair and sporting opponents.
We had felt great at tea; that feeling you get after quality bowling and great fielding in mid-afternoon has saved you nearly 14 hot overs in the field. Having won the toss, AP were bowled out for 118 in what was a thoroughly satisfying display of Octo verve: early break-throughs setting the scene and then the tail wrapped up quickly after the key 4th wicket partnership of 50 had ended. Wickets for all five bowlers and five excellent catches - especially for Grant, Francies and Hayward, all taken with poise and varying degrees of elan. Adam's the highlight, a spectacular dive at point to claim their best bat on 51; the start of quite a day for him.
The last time we had felt so pleased with ourselves at the break was probably the Bristol tour, 2013, when Henleaze Old Boys were eased classily from the field for just 108, a day when seven catches stuck. We collapsed that day too to 32-5 - the pressure of a small target caving in - but rallied to win by just one wicket. So we should have known on Sunday that the job was only half done. To be fair, we did know. We did. We had plenty of time we told ourselves. 45 overs, no need to rush! And rush we didn't. Worried? Us? Never. It was all part of the plan. A wonderful win by three wickets with 10 balls to spare to put us third in the league.
OCC vs Crouch End CC - 13th August
Octopus in familiar surroundings for an unfamiliar game. Crouch End CC, the artists formerly known as Calthorpe, have been regular opponents ever since the men in green and black escaped Enfield. But this was league cricket, and after a mixed start to their debut season, Octopus needed a win. There is something in the Crouch End air, though, and not just the smell of a quality curry for tea. Something which makes an Octopus captain do odd things. In September 2008, Joshi asked a keen young all-rounder named S Ingram to open the batting. "The Duckometer quacks again," reported the scorecard. In 2017, it was S Grant pushed up to three. Quack. Unfamiliar surroundings for a familiar result.
Murthy had lost the toss as usual, and tried not to look too delighted to be asked to bat. There was enough to be concerned about, though: a pitch with less life than the average ossuary, and a bowling attack which was going to eat more than the average amount of curry. Gurunathan, opening with Ketineni, was up for the challenge from the start. Two boundaries in the first over; 22 from just 15 balls his contribution to a partnership of 24. Ketineni had relished the supporting role, but thin edged a forward defence, and despite soft hands sending the ball down, was well caught low at slip. After Ketineni came Grant's promotion; the result a single-ball innings of remarkable endurance. For eight minutes, Grant ran twos for Gurunathan, and sprinted singles as the latter farmed with the expertise of a Countryfile pundit. The first ball he faced hit his back foot, and a lonely furrow was ploughed back to the pavilion.
23 runs had been added in those eight minutes, and the following partnership picked up the momentum further - and, it has to be said, more evenly. Selvaraj added 32 while Gurunathan pushed on past 50 to a club best 90. At drinks and 124-2 Octopus had been well set; a couple of overs later 140-4 with two new batsmen at the crease reminded us that things "well set" can still wobble. This was the situation when captain Murthy got a shortish ball in the slot and pulled it to deep square leg. 145-5. The lower middle order was continuing this season's form when Gott was joined by a determined-looking Russell. Playing with his expressive efficiency - why hit the ball with the bat when the ball can hit the bat all by itself? - the latter left, padded and shuffled into 19 dot balls before unveiling a glorious push drive for four. This vital partnership had stretched the score from 177 to 216 before Gott was bowled under one booming drive too many in the penultimate over. Supported by a shotless Hindle, Russell added another seven in the final over, which would have been eight had he not forgotten to ground his bat when turning for a second. As the game got closer in the second innings, an Octopus fielder was heard to wonder if the one short could cost the win. It would be unfair on Grant to name him.
Tea was glorious. Chicken curry, lentil curry, rice. Sandwiches, fresh salad. Cake, biscuits and non-binary jaffas. Strongly brewed tea, fresh fruit. Murthy looked around nervously as his bowling attack ravenously immobilised itself. Gurunathan praised the level of protein available, prompting everyone else to pretend that they, too, had been carefully considering nutritional value on their fourth visit to the buffet table. A satisfied XI waddled to the middle. Hindle opened from the bottom end, and after a variable first over settled into a decent rhythm. Debutant Ramoorthy took the top end, and bowled with some venom and little luck in his first spell. Crouch End were behind the rate, but Octopus were wicketless. First change Grant was similarly unlucky. His repetitive line, a remorseless form of poetry, kept the run rate in check, but the wicket wouldn't come. Hassett too bowled tightly without reward. Finally, it was the skipper himself who struck, a surprise quicker ball bursting through the Scotsman who had dominated Crouch End's scoring.
86-1 at drinks meant both sides felt they had a chance. The first ball that followed was one of the best of the season, Ramoorthy taking his debut wicket with bounce, shape and a thin edge to the keeper. A big wicket, but not a decisive blow. As the second half of the innings developed the other Crouch End opener found more ways to score as wickets started to fall at the other end. Finally, on 79 and at 188-5, he miscues a booming drive off Murthy and sent it high into the North London sky. Running in from long on, Hindle made the chance look harder than it was by stopping in the wrong place, but held on regardless. 35 to win, but Octopus finally on top. The bowlers held their nerve against the tail, notably including a fine penultimate over from Hassett, having not bowled since before drinks, which conceded just six. The skipper had 16 to defend in the last, and allowed just two of them with the assistance of his fourth wicket of the innings. Joy, relief and victory in a mini-classic, with important contributions throughout. Octopus might just be getting more familiar with the league.
OCC vs Chiswick CC - 3rd September 2017
Winter is coming. Sunday’s weather made that clear. A day of grey skies and cold winds and the clear sense of a storm brewing. Alexandra Park stretched out before us, deserted; a football pitch marked out on one side. The weather men forecasting torrential rain from six o’clock. Cricket an abstract concept.
Chiswick were late - “the traffic’s f***ing murder” came the message – but we were not; eleven of us there by quarter to one and running through a series of fielding drills. High catches, low catches, short catches, ground balls; Vasant even had a baseball mitt. Such energy! A wilful show of defiance in the face of the elements; the Octopus’ greatest quality. Hayward looked skywards and murmured his disappointment. “We’ll get a game in”, said Stu, calmly.
It would be a timed game, with the last 20 overs called at half five – if we got that far. Chiswick were a friendly mixture of colts and thirds, captained by a grizzled veteran, a man slow in the field but sharp as a tack. You bat first he said, so we did. Karthik and Pete wearing two layers, forcing and nurdling respectively, the sight screen panel spinning like a windmill in the breeze, facing two bowlers of modest pace but probing line and length.
The 7th over, a little extra bounce, and Gurunathan is caught at point. Selvaraj in for an innings that would move through the gears. Hayward rutting away at the other end, locked in a personal ordeal with a young leg spinner, memories of Gatting, Warne et al. First ball survived, just, but pinned finally lbw just before drinks. 57 for the second wicket and 34 for the third, before Vish is directed back to the pavilion LMS style: finishing 4, 4, 6 for a 63 ball half century. The weather swirls overhead, as Murthy moves the innings on. Mundane almost, his usual standard - but really, of course, spectacular. 50 retired from 27 balls. The gift of Gokul. 213 runs in three innings now off just 20 overs of bowling. Schmidt (0) and Russell (3) visit briefly, and Ogilvie blocks two balls in experienced duck avoidance before Bhandi (19) is bowled, looking to add to two fine blows. Skip calls time for an early declaration. A target of 183. Game on. Or, in all probability, off, very shortly.
In the field, we were in two camps: those who had remembered their jumper and those who hadn’t. A huddle for warmth as well as tactics as Gokul relayed the news that Chiswick would bat for a draw. 25 overs he reckoned, maybe 30, to knock them over before the rain came. So push hard. Francies and Ogilvie opened our response. Not much to report until the 8th over, the fourth maiden but one with two wickets - one glove, one leading edge, both pouched by Ben. The match settled for a period, Redfern, the senior man, advising Sykes his junior to keep blocking, to bat it out. Fleckles of rain spat down, but nothing permanent. Hindle and Hassett bowled tidy spells.
49-2 in the 19th over and Redfern errs. A tempting return drive, well taken. The field snaps to attention. A welcome diversion, although a mistake: next man Bresciani had not got the memo and the run rate increases - not much, but enough - to put Chiswick 93-3 at half past five. The umpires flash their figures twice. Last 20. Hayward notes the overs, 28, and starts counting. Two balls later, Hassett removes the young opener, a tired shot pouched at extra cover, and there is joy as his replacement is dispatched a short while later, Russell gleefully claiming a stumping from distance off Francies with the man well out of his crease. Success at last. We could have stopped there and then, really; a nice way to finish. Not much longer, surely? But on we bowled as Bresciani got the scent. The danger felt real: 49 needed, the scoreboard wrong - too many left - and skies, it seemed, briefly lifting. Oh dear! Oh dear, indeed. Thanks go to Adam for clean bowling him and making us all feel better.
12 overs left or was it 10? 134-6. The draw now back in Chiswick's sights. The skipper was in and with just youngsters to come, the game tilted into a bewitching stasis. Ball after ball in the grey, time ticking by, the wind blowing and the skies glooming. The rhythm of the bowling, the metronomic change of ends, the pat of ball on bat and the sounds of Bruss floating on the breeze....what a funny tableau it was to all but connoisseurs of the game. Cricket. A summer sport. Ha! Their skipper fends to cover and the teenage Shahid soon follows, for a sly 17, a third catch for Russell. 144-8. 7 or 5 overs left becoming a moral dilemma. We could win this.
Masters Harrison, M and Hurtig-Isaac had it licked though. Both not yet finished their SATS, but accomplished technicians at the crease. Weight forward, big stride, head over the ball....they were untroubled as Hindle, Francies and Ogilvie bowled into double figures. Three runs in four overs, with just one off the bat. On the clubhouse terrace, to the side, sat Mum, silently looking on: patient, protective, unyielding. The nature of maternal love. Discuss....? Christ, I was delusional. Lack of fluids probably. We had turned down the offer of drinks hours ago.
We needed something and Gokul provided it - this season's golden arm. On for an over and Hurtig was undone by a less than generous bounce. He takes it well and pads off. 48 overs bowled and analysed but crucially - it would transpire later - only 46 tallied down the side. One umpire preferred no nonsense, "just play the game chaps"; the other pleaded with pavilion for certainty, "are you SURE?" They were, and so play continued. It was a good thing. An excellent thing. Five balls later, Chiswick had their lessons in battle, Russell his 50th dismissal and Octopus their sixth win of the year - enough to take us one past the sparse pickings of 2011. An hour later, at nearly 8, the rain had still not come. But we were warm by then, and we were well.