45/45 game. Beddington won the toss and chose to bat. Beddington 189/9, Mitcham 108 from 39 overs – scorecard
Another sweltering day, with a breeze and occasional cloud, and another pitch in excellent condition. The outfield was quite fast, but it’s also big, allowing fielders to prevent too many boundaries if they put the effort in. For Beddington’s innings I was accompanied throughout by a single injured player as umpire, for Mitcham’s by a handful of players rotating in and out as the innings progressed.
This Mitcham side have a reputation for being hard to score against and were unbeaten so far in the league. The first Beddington wicket fell after just three balls, and two more fell quickly, putting the score on 15/3 after the first 10 overs. It looked like there was a bit of a kicking on the cards. But a 100 run partnership for the fifth wicket salvaged the game, and some very expensive overs at the end – the last five went for 47 runs – meant Beddington ended up with a very defendable total. While the batting was excellent in that high-scoring middle-order partnership, they were helped by some poor fielding. There was a constant drumbeat of “chase it”, “attack the ball”, and best of all “run you doughnut” from the wicket keeper-captain, and while it’s not an approach I remember from Brearley’s “Art of Captaincy” he was dead right with all his criticisms. I think the captain made a big mistake with not having one of his openers bowl his full allotment of overs. He was a youngster, who came off after six overs as required by the ECB’s regs for young fast bowlers, but he was brought back into the attack too late I thought, in the penultimate over, where he took two wickets. If he’d come back in earlier I rather suspect that Beddington’s high-scoring tail wouldn’t have done anything like as well. He ended on figures of 4/22 from seven overs, including two maidens.
In Mitcham’s innings I started off standing at square leg as usual when it was my turn, but soon switched to standing at point, as the popping crease on the leg side had become almost completely invisible from bowlers landing on it and batsmen standing on it.
In only one of their previous games this season have Mitcham had to chase anything like as high a total, and have also been dismissed for under a hundred only to return the favour to their opponents. This Beddington side’s opening bowlers are good, both taking wickets but also not conceding runs, and wickets will still fall for the later bowlers. It’s hard to build a long partnership against them, and Beddington took the field in a confident mood. Their fielding was also much better than Mitcham’s and the result wasn’t in any doubt from about the 20th over onwards, when it was 46/7. Mitcham’s tail wagged, but unlike Beddington’s which scored with abandon, Mitcham’s was just annoyingly hard to dismiss with one of them hanging around for 62 balls to score 18 runs.
Regular readers will have noticed that I very rarely mention individual players by name, but I’m going to make an exception for the absolutely outstanding effort from Beddington’s Awais Zahir. He took 5 wickets for 28 runs, which is an excellent performance on its own. But he also took a run-out and two catches!
One dismissal I gave (caught behind by the keeper off a faint edge) was a bit controversial. The non-striking batsman told me that he was sure the noise I’d heard was the bat hitting the ground. It was not. Not only did it happen while the bat was several inches off the ground, I also saw the ball change course. I got to make an unusual decision – denying leg-bye runs when the batsman hadn’t played a shot. And I also had to give a player a gentle telling off for using sweat on the ball, contra this season’s Special Plague Regulations. Even if I hadn’t seen him do it right in front of me the gigantic red stain that slowly started to run down his face would have been a dead give-away. I did, however, make a mistake in this regard: I should have made the fielding team sanitise the ball at that point, but I didn’t.