Dodgers suffered a 22-run defeat to Superstars yesterday, leaving the series tied at 2-2 for the year [unless you count sports day and discount the silly game in May when we hardly had any players, of course. That would be 3-1 to us]. Two-all is the finest outcome for Superstars in recent memory – a welcome shot-in-the-arm for the struggling state-funded outfit.
Captain Priest won the toss and we went out to field with some confidence on a very flat-looking deck. This confidence didn’t look misplaced as Simon Cousins swung one to bowl Conway with score at 13 and, despite an innocuous spell from Benn at the other end, the Rats’ usual blistering start never materialised. Rod Paterson – who had become an uncle that day – was pawing at the ground waiting to get on and didn’t disappoint when a full ball bowled Gaught. But wait! Umpire Conway had ruled that the ball had passed the batsman above waist height (and he’s a tall lad) then dipped down at pace by about 45 degrees before hitting the stumps. This ludicrous decision shocked and angered the Dodgers players and will leave a bad taste in the mouth for some time to come.
Fortunately, Gaught’s reprieve wasn’t a long one and he nicked a ball behind off Cousins in the next over to leave the Rats 72-2 in the thirteenth and give Simon creditable figures of 7-0-32-2 from yet another dangerous spell. Replacing him, Robert Fox was on target from the off before having danger-man Walker well caught by Hilary at deep mid-off and when Paterson bowled Gigg and Whitrod the Tomatoheads were under the cosh at 94-5.
Gundry and Mountain began the repair work slowly, but then accelerated rapidly against Cooper – again bowling at the wrong time – and Alex De Groote. John's luck is so bad these days that he had not one but two (difficult) chances dropped by McB. Both went for six. The late entry of Hilary into the attack accounted for both batsmen, but their stand of 85 in just 11 overs had done serious damage and allowed the Rats to reach a very challenging 204-7 in their 35 overs.
McBarron and Hilary began our reply brightly, with in-form McB particularly fluent, until John on 25 tried to loft Paresh Tailor over long on for a second consecutive boundary only to find they’d put a fielder there in between deliveries. Priest was struggling to time the ball but was showing signs of settling in on 17 before a swinging ball from Mountain reached his stumps via bat and pads to leave us 96-2. This triggered a horrific collapse.
De Groote shuffled across and was given LBW to Mountain for 1 (103-4); McBarron got caught in two minds before chipping a simple return catch to Tailor for a fine 47 (103-4); Paterson attempted an ambitious pull over mid-wicket to be bowled by Tailor for 2 (105-5); before Fox played across a straight one from Mountain for a duck (105-6). In all, five wickets had gone for nine in 14 balls – and that included four wides and a bye!
Pacemen Benn and Cousins then embarked on a spirited stand of 67 in 11 overs to restore some respectability to the score. Starting slowly, they began to play with more freedom and ran exceptionally hard without every really threatening victory. The stand was broken when Benn on 38 tried to hoist Patten over long off and was stumped leaving John Cooper to crash a final boundary off Gundry as we ended up at 182-8 with Cousins 21 not out.
This was a difficult game to assess. Superstars certainly deserved to win, but the game was there for the taking when we had them 94-5 before some fine batting gave them the edge at half time. Our reply was in touch before the middle order disintegrated and we perhaps did well to get so close with no players of the calibre of Gundry and Mountain to come in late-on.
Aside from the Gaught incident, the game was not played in the best of spirits, with umpire Priest subjected to some totally unnecessary verbals from several players when he turned down the umpteenth speculative appeal. Let’s hope for calmer waters next year.
Bowling: Cousins 7-0-32-2; Benn 6-0-35-0; Paterson 7-1-34-2; Fox 6-1-25-1; Cooper 4-0-34-0; De Groote 3-0-24-0; Hilary 2-0-16-2.