Saturday 13th August 2022

Semi-final report by El Presidente

Kingsford bowl fairly well, but put on a disappointing batting effort against Smithfield.

Burwood park is a small ground, and a has a very skinny six-foot pitch. Grass from both sides had started to creep onto the pitch, and the ground was still a bit soggy underfoot alongside the pitch and in some parts of the field, making turning and stopping a little harder. Given the short boundaries there’s not a lot hit along the ground at these games, and today it would be more of a necessity than usual.

Smoke finally got to call in a coin toss, called correctly and sent Smithfield in. The weather reports had suggested some rain, and the thinking was that a disjointed first innings would make a run chase easier, but the weather held and a light shower only passed over at the innings break. Bryan and Dnes opened up and faced some aggression from the big hitting left hander, Luke. Despite his clear intent backed up by his fellow opener, our opening pair along with some solid fielding had managed to mostly contain them and Smithfield were 0/41 after 8 overs. Captain Smokey brought himself on for a quick spell to switch Bryan to the other end, and nabbed a wicket in his first over – a skied catch to Bryan at slip, and then bowled his opposite number in a wicket maiden for his second over. Smithfield 2/49.

With the big hitting lefty retiring, Ajeet and Chinmay were brought on to put some pressure on the middle order and try to stymie the runs. Once again Chinmay made scoring difficult, which meant they had to go after Ajeet. Despite taking a bit of stick he maintained his composure and took an important wicket courtesy of another catch by Bryan, before Chinmay removed the other set batter beating the bat to light up the Zings. Smithfield 4/95 at the break.

On arguably the smallest field in the competition, and against an obviously solid line up (undefeated during the season, posting an average score of 160+, and only being bowled out once) this didn’t seem to be an unreasonably large total. With thoughts to the lefthander still cooling his heels on the sideline, Vipul replaced Chinmay, and the match resumed.

The batters continued their aggression and we couldn’t keep them to less than 5 an over, every good over saw them swing harder and catch up the run-rate. Vipul brilliantly took a “catch it or die” aimed at his head at shortish mid-wicket to give Ajeet his second, and another of the Smithfield gun batters, this one slumming it in the tail, came to the crease. Ajeet finished his spell with a useful but expensive 2/41, before club legend (myth?) GG was handed the ball to use his experience to turn things around.

Sadly his first over going for ten wasn’t quite what was needed, although it did see the game’s first and only 3. Smokey replaced Vipul, and G managed to trap one in front lbw, bringing the big swinging lefty back to the crease. Which brought “The Weapon” back into the attack at his preferred end, replacing his Captain.

Again he was mostly unplayable, so G bore the brunt of the hitting and was crashed out of the attack. Chinmay bowled a maiden, Smokey replaced G, and had the lefty out caught on the boundary by an unflappable Gazi, who never looked in any doubt of taking the catch. Chinmay backed up his previous maiden with two straight wickets – a good stumping by Mal, and then beating the other gun batter the next ball taking the top of off stump. Smithfield all out for 183. Not ideal, but on a small ground, against a team who all could clearly hit the ball pretty cleanly, it was a respectable effort.

Chinmaya 3/11, Smokey 3/15, Ajeet 2/41

The innings didn’t start well when John W got an edge to the keeper, but Mal and the promoted-up-the-order Chinmay put together a useful 30-run partnership, to get us going.

Chinmay played a textbook classic hook shot for six before being bowled (16), and Mal flat-batted a few boundaries along the ground despite the dodgy grass, as well as one six that probably never went higher than ten feet. After 11 overs we were 2/49, exactly the same as Smithfield had been.

After another six, Mal was next out caught behind – and no-one, not even Mal, is sure what kind of shot it was or was supposed to be, which left us 3/55. Then, and for you long time readers who have been wondering who these Kingsford imposters are, came the familiar collapse. Gazi, Bryan, Ajeet, and Dinesh, all lost in the space of ten runs, leaving us 7/65 at the halfway mark, and with quite a mountain for Vipul and Smoke to climb.

The bowling was proving difficult to play. Smokey waved at a number of deliveries as they went by either side of him, but kept out the ones on the stumps, and wore a couple in the process. There was even a moment when the ball clipped off stump enough for the Zing bail to light up the gloom like a distress beacon, but there was no rescue party coming, and the bail remained firmly on top of the stump.

At the other end, Vipul was having trouble finding a gap in the field, so decided to go over them, absolutely launching one straight down the ground for six, and following up not long after with a booming six over the midwicket boundary. By this stage Smokey had remembered how to use the wooden thing in his hands, and chipped in with a couple of boundaries from ugly swipes through mid-wicket / cow corner. Their handy 37-run partnership came to an end when Vipul misjudged one and was bowled for 22.

Six overs at around 14, is not an equation suited to Smoke’s batting having grown up watching Swampy and Tubby scratch around for hours doing very little, but he went on a mini run-spree taking nearly 30 from the next four overs (including a top edged six behind square), before edging one to the keeper. All out 134 in the 35th over.

Smoke 41, Malcolm 30, Vipul 22.

A really disappointing batting effort overall, although a good recovery early on, and some dogged resistance towards the end, but the soft middle order collapse was not something that we were going to be able to recover from. We cannot afford to lose wickets like that, we have not done so all season, and we had better not do it again if we want to win the grade. Some serious thought needs to go into shot selection, and a bit more energy in the field and running between wickets is probably needed.

The Nazgul will return!