2020 Match Reports

Octopus Vs UCS Old Boys - 9th August

Normally this historic fixture is played in the beautiful settings of an Oxford college. Perfect pitches, excellent tea and a general cricketing atmosphere reign. This year was not to be the same. Add a heatwave to a pandemic and was a very different match to usual. UCS’ state of the art facilities would instead host and with just one tree providing adequate shelter we already felt like octopi out of water. Both teams gathered with time to spare, with just one person missing. Karthik Gurunathan. The question on all lips: who would he be playing for?

The cricket match itself was really the secondary competition of the day, the main one being who would win the toss. The winners would be able to huddle in the small patch of shade, whilst the fielding team sweated for 40 overs in the height of the afternoon sun. Captain Hutchinson did his job masterfully though, calling a last minute “heads!” and the toss was won for the second time in a week. Even Adam Francies was seen celebrating the fact he’d have to wait to bowl, such was the heat on the day.

So the game was on. Still no sign of Gurunathan but it would be Sam Grant and Jim Jaulim to open. Sam (henceforth known as the Wall) was to open and for the next 22 overs he truly was an immovable object. Clearly Grant’s face expressed a determination that was just too much for UCS opener Goldsmith, after bowling a maiden he pulled up with an injured side. Jim was caught for 8, Jamie at 3 was called LBW on a highly dubious call after getting 11 runs, having formed with the Wall what would be the highest partnership of the day of just 22. Karthik arrived, made it clear he was playing for us by scoring a quick 16 before being caught too. With Karthik’s departure, the partnership that proved so resilient last year was reunited, Grant and Kotamsetti. Last year’s heroics were not to be repeated unfortunately, in their fifth over together the Wall was finally breached, bowled out and thus the Octo-collapse began.

Ed briefly joined Prasad before being run out for a four ball duck when a risky second run was taken. Sajeev joined Pras and was happy to let Pras hold onto the strike and after a couple of close calls Pras was trudging back to the tree pavilion/tree-vilion having been clean bowled. Schmidt was next into the fray, scoring a quick four before being trapped LBW after just seven balls. Bruss was not to have his revenge on his former school mates either, scoring a delightful four before being dismissed by bowler Maurya five balls later in the 31st over with Octopus on 99 runs. Could Octopus just make it to 40 overs and keep their heads high? Could they make it to 100 runs? Shaun joined Sajeev in the middle having only just changed into his whites, in fact he had only just returned from a lengthy trip to the shops for some kind of hangover relief aka more beer. Sajeev would depart being caught on the boundary with no runs added to the total and so with 9 overs to go and the Octopus stuck on 99, it fell to the bowlers to finish the job. Despite some late heroics including Adam and Shaun running three due to an incredibly slow outfield it would not be an extraordinary ending. In the 33rd over Adam edged one to the keeper from UCS skipper Chapman, 109 all out and Chapman taking a five-fer at the cost of just 20 runs.

Tea was certainly not the experience of the last year, a bit more hurried and cramped under the tree-vilion with UCS eager to get back out there and get the job done. Octopus were eager to get this done with dignity and potentially pull off an upset. For Adam it would prove a frustrating day. Meanwhile, Shaun proved he needs to be hungover more often with some incredibly tight bowling. Shaun ended the day 3-19 off six overs, with two maidens as well as two wickets in his third over, the first of which deserves further attention. The Francies/Hassett opening partnership clearly had the intended effect of pressuring the openers and with the opening ball of his first over Hassett sent down a great ball, batsman Hullein managed to get it away and even keep it low but perhaps he didn’t know he was in the presence of player with reactions faster than the speed of light. Jim got low, stretched out his right hand and let the ball come to him, taking the catch one handed just an inch above the ground. This was a total worldie. UCS’ number 2 was the next victim, bowled by Shaun with the final ball of his over. Two overs later Shaun had a second maiden and in his sixth and final over he struck again, with the batsman tamely chipping it to the waiting hands of Jim again. Schmidt and Gurunathan took over from Adam and Shaun without reward despite some fear-inducing bowling from the latter but it would be Sajeev who would strike after replacing Schmidt. Batsman number 3 had provided some stern resistance getting 25 runs but Sajeev was not to be denied. As the ball struck his pad Sajeev started to appeal for LBW but saved his breath as the ball struck the wicket. Sadly, by this point the damage was done, 97-4 and Octopus left with the feeling that had we scored a few more runs it could have been a tighter game. Captain Jamie bowled the final two balls of the game with the scores tied and unfortunately this was not the day he took his maiden double-hattrick. An Octoloss.

It was not quite the heights of last year’s draw in Oxford and a batting performance that was a rather shy of par but it certainly had some highlights: Sam Grant’s 13 runs off 61 balls in some serious heat, Jim’s magnificent catch and top quality bowling from Shaun. All this made sure that this was not a trip wasted against some really high-level opposition and will hopefully inspire some hunger for victory next year.

 

Simmons CC vs OCC

Another Sunday, another trip out to Hertfordshire. This week’s action took up to Knebworth House, with the stately home looking resplendent in the summer light. It’s always a pleasure to be playing cricket, but after such a long absence, and in a setting like that, who wouldn’t be content with their lot?

A late call to the host club had come up trumps, and so to add to our nine Octo-champs we had to Knebworth pups Luke and Drew. The game was afoot. The opposition was not our illustrious hosts, but instead Simmons CC, hailing from Harrow. They arrived early, kitted up and ready to go. This was not looking favourable…

With everyone present and accounted for, we tossed and lost. Simmons asked us to have a bowl, and so we did, to much early success. Francies found the first break through in the third over, with a big helping hand from Jaulim. The ball was biffed back past the bowlers head, a boundary on any day of the week, and twice on Mondays. However, a magical piece of fielding, Jaulim running round from mid-on and leaping to his left to pluck the ball out of the air one handed, got us on our way. Anything you can do, I can do better. So though Kotamsetti, and in the very next over delivered. Two balls. Two wickets. Alas, no hat trick, but the breakthroughs put Octopus in the driving seat.

This brought together the mainstay of the Simmons innings, who hunkered down and then attacked. Some less than optimal fielding probably helped, but a century partnership was raised as the bowlers toiled. The umpires missed the memo about it being a friendly Sunday game and so there was little margin for error for bowlers. The number of wides I will not mention, but I don’t recall anyone raising a bat when the half century was brought up.

However, wickets started to fall and Simmons looked to up the pace. Nair chipped in with some useful scalps, but it was Ketineni, the bowling revelation of the season so far, who stole the show. 4 wickets, including a 50th for Octopus, finished off a tail that threatened to wag but never find the groove.

Octopus had a target of 225 to register the first win of the summer.

The reply was opened by Panyda-Smith and Jaulim. But that win looks a long way off when, fresh off the plane from Singapore, Pandya-Smith was castled in the first over. I’ll need to check what the exchange rate is for duck points, but feel their value has stayed quite constant. Joshi came in and, all too quickly, was back at the boundary’s edge. The Hutchinson got a good one, the ball holding its line and finding the edge. However, not before he alerted the umpire to the ball hitting the ‘keeper’s discarded helmet. A welcome 5-run penalty to add to the cause.

That brought Knebworth Luke to the crease, joining Jaulim. And that is where they stayed. Coming together at 45-3, they built and blocked and biffed and bullied a bowling attack that started to look lost. Luke was solid in defence and sure in attack, unfurling a couple of glorious drives that had the watching masses purring with delight. Jaulim looked unfussed and unfazed, playing each ball on its own merit. His previous Octopus top score, 24 on debut eight years ago, was passed without comment as he glided through the innings. With successive boundaries, Jaulim brought up his maiden half century to cries from the boundary, met with a modest nod of the bat. The job was not yet complete.

The century partnership was brought up, but after Luke was bowled. Kotemsetti came and went, which brought Ketineni to partner Jaulim. Could the hero with the ball contribute with the bat? The pair mixed sensible defensive work with decisive power hitting. The useful partnership was broken when Ketineni was dismissed. Octopus were on top but, when Jaulim was dismissed, a career best 71 worthy reward for some brilliant batting, it left two fresh batsmen at the crease. Nair and Francies hit a boundary apiece before Francies was cleaned up, bringing in Knebworth Drew. Nine runs were required from 13 balls, but only two wickets left with Marsh waiting in the wings.

Nair took strike of the penultimate over and with it, took control of the game. A boundary, and a few wides (who reap what you sow ey…) meant that we needed two runs to win from the final over. Drew was facing. Talking to him beforehand, he was a cool customer. Are you nervous? No. Do you think we’ll get over the line? Yeah easy. What if you need to bat? Great. With the nouse of a wily veteran, the 14 year old read the line of the first ball and let it go past. Down leg. Wide. Scores level. The very next ball, and the same outcome. Drew watched the ball as it drifted past his legs yet again. The umpire signalled the extra run and with it the game. Octopus winners by six wickets, with six balls to spare.

A team effort, contributions all round, and an excellent way to celebrate a first win of 2020.

 

Battersea Bagers CC vs Octopus CC

Sunday the 23rd of August 2020 would answer one of the great questions in anthropology...who would win in a fight between an octopus and a badger? Not even Sir David Attenborough had managed to crack the subject. But thanks to Sammy G seeking out new fixtures against other animal-named cricket clubs, the world was about to find out!

The lead-up to the match did not look good for the sea-dwellers. Skipper Hutchinson was out with scooter-related injuries. Most other recognised batsmen were otherwise occupied or didn’t fancy a trip out to deepest darkest Mordor… er, Merton.

A mayday call went out for some ringers to shore up the batting. Matt Schmidt generously agreed to step aside at the last minute to bring in a gun bat from UCS. It was an heroic decision, putting the team first - but would it be enough to stave off an Octo-collapse?

First-time skipper Hassett didn’t want to take the risk. Even before he inspected the very green wicket he had determined to bowl first. Unfortunately he called “Tails” and lost the toss. Fortunately, the Badgers captain decided to have a bat.

Ogilvie and Francies opened the bowling. Who needs batsmen when you have bowling this good? Ogilvie was finding plenty of bounce, hitting the batsmen on more than one occasion. He should have been rewarded with the opening wicket, but for a moderately difficult chance being spilled in the covers. Francies would get his man shortly afterwards instead. Adam clearly had his mojo back, making use of a strong cross-breeze to swing the ball back into the right-handers. It was lovely to watch. That inswinger brought him a double-wicket maiden - one clean bowled, the other a very plum LBW. Gopi called it “the best start I can remember”. The figures speak for themselves. After 10 overs the Badgers were 16 for 2.

Nair and Hassett relieved the dynamic duo, and while they weren’t quite as economical they kept up the pressure. Sajeev picked up a wicket, sneaking one ball past the batsman on the stumps. After 20 overs the Badgers were 60 for 3.

But taking wickets can be a dangerous thing if it brings their best batsman to the crease. Battersea’s hard-hitting Aussie “Tildo” was at the crease and “going big”. An inspection of the Badgers’ twitter page included this post, “We’ve got the better Australian with us today”. Tildo might have been the better player, but this Aussie insists he is the better Australian! Either way, Hassett got himself into the wickets column with a ball that lifted and caught the opening batsman’s outside edge, presenting Gopi with an easy chance in the slips.

Meanwhile, Tildo had hit multiple boundaries in the blink of an eye. The worm was rising rapidly. The leg-spinner Marsh came in for some stick, but could he bounce back in his second over? Of course he could, getting the other batsman out stumped for a duck. And it wasn’t a fluke- Bruss had whipped off the bails quickly just two balls before, but the batsman clearly didn’t learn his lesson… don’t leave your crease to Ben Russell!

With Tildo threatening to ruin the afternoon, the skipper turned to Ogilvie and gave him a simple instruction, “get this bloke out”. Stu gladly obliged, knocking back the hard-hitting Australian’s off-stump. Out for 67. It was the key wicket. The Badgers were now 153 for 6 and the Octopi felt back in control. Stu would finish with figures of 2-20.

A cameo spell from Gopi produced a much-deserved wicket, and when Francies came back into the attack he picked up from where he left off, claiming another two scalps, the last of which came off the final ball of the innings. The batsman hoiked it in the air over mid-off’s head, but Ogilvie turned and followed the ball. No one at the ground gave him a chance of catching it, but Stu timed his run and positioning perfectly, the ball sailed over his shoulder but Stu didn’t lose sight of it and grasped it firmly. A truly spectacular catch! The Badgers were all out for 206 off exactly 40 overs. Adam’s final figures were 8 overs, 4 maidens, 4 for 17.

Bring-your-own-tea resulted in another Chad special. This time his meal involved caviar. Only the finest food for Octopus!

Gopi went out to open with Octo-debutant Dickie. Dickie had been told not to take any quick singles with Gopi and he took the instruction literally. Dickie’s first 40 runs came exclusively in boundaries. Gopi had a similar plan. 16 of his 19 runs came from shots to the rope. But one four got him a little too excited, as next ball he was bowled by a straight one while looking for a repeat.  The old “lull them in with a boundary” tactic worked against Chad as well. He pounded two boundaries, then went looking for a third - clean bowled for 8.

Then Dickie made a major mistake. He scored a three. The consecutive run of boundaries had been broken. Dickie didn’t score another run, gloveing one to the keeper while trying to sweep. It’s not clear if the umpire would have given him out, but Dickie walked - out for 43. Octopus was now 107 for 3. A solid position, but Octo were already down to their last specialist batsman. The fear of a collapse was real.

Sajeeev had to play himself in against some great leg-spin bowling from the Badgers’ Australian all-rounder. Tildo beat the bat multiple times, but Saj survived. He then decided that attack was the best form of defence, getting on to the back-foot and pulling aggressively against the spin. He’d got himself to 29 when he was hit on the pad directly in front of the stumps. Umpire Francies had no hesitation in giving him out. There was only one problem, Saj was convinced he had hit it first and didn’t want to go. Square Leg Umpire Hassett agreed that he probably did get some bat on it, but reminded him that “the umpire is always right” and got him to move on. 178 for 4. Only 29 more runs were needed, but the Octo faithful were still nervous.

They needn’t have been. Ben Wright had woken from his nap at the start of the innings and was determined to be there for the finish. At the other end the UCS ringer Gagan Virk was living up to his star billing. He had been calmly accumulating runs, and had taken advantage of the extremely hard and fast outfield, lifting the scoring rate with some well-timed boundaries. Not that it was a chanceless innings. The Badgers’ fast bowler almost pulled off an incredibly difficult caught and bowled, while an easier chance at slip was also put down towards the end. Gagan fittingly finished the match with a six - his final total was 81 off 74 balls. Octo had won by six wickets and four overs to spare, but it felt closer than that. Having won his first match as skipper Hassett opined that he had discovered the secret of captaincy - “find a couple of good ringers!” - well, that, and a lot of strong performances from the regulars! As for the question of anthropology, the science is clear - an octopus is too strong for a badger!