The Great Escape

Dodgers scraped home in dramatic fashion from the last ball at Regent’s Park against ATOC Marauders last night, surely the greatest escape in our turbulent history.

We arrived at the venue – itself a late change from a mythical Wandsworth Common fixture – to see our opposition in various bits of clothing, some of it designed for office wear and none of it white. Surely an easy victory in store? Phil McBarron was delegated to spin, predictably called tails, even more predictably lost, and we took the field.

The early overs confirmed our initial impression despite some audacious – bordering on suicidal – running from the openers that had the Dodgers ring fielders scratching their heads in amazement. Rod Paterson was unplayable at times on the bumpy track recording 1-9 and Neil Benn picked up 3-15 courtesy of two catches from McB. When Rhys Thomas took two wickets in his first two overs the score stood at 46-6 from 12 and Cap’n Carr decided to open things up.

And how! Enter… the Cat, whose career figures from 124 matches stood at 0-10. His first ball was short and whacked behind square for four; his second was identical and received a similar whack, yet Chris Jacobs had been moved back 20 yards and pouched the catch. At the other end the ball was thrown to a shocked Jacobs (career figures 1-64) who also grabbed a wicket with a catch by Benn. Then it all went wrong. The Cat was hit for successive sixes and Jacobs treated not much less harshly as the pair recorded 4 overs for 41. Back to the real game and Hilary and Dunning managed to restore some order towards the end, but ATOC had reached a worrying 103-9.

Priest was in fine form, however, and his enforced retirement at 27 had taken just 19 balls. Qureshi had been a little scratchy before being brilliantly caught for 11 but we were in control as Carr and McB came together. Neither looked in good nick on the poor surface and John was eventually out for nine heaving at a slow delivery as the innings began to stall. Jacobs was just getting going when he was run out for 12 in a mix-up before McB’s ordeal ended for 20 off 33 as he too attempted a desperate heave to break the shackles.

Seventeen were needed off two and the obituary writers were drafting their verdicts on JC’s captaincy. An increasingly anxious Dodgers bench then had to watch Rod Paterson run out for nought having almost crashed into JJ Dunning in mid-pitch. JJ managed a four to leave nine needed off the final over. Dot, two, then John Hilary was caught behind leaving seven needed off three balls with Benn coming in.

The next ball was a classic. Benn hit it only as far as the keeper, who was stood up, and had to scramble back just before the wicket was broken. Not many on the ground seemed to understand what happened next. JJ certainly didn’t as he stood bemused in mid-pitch as his partner gesticulated wildly at him to run; the keeper certainly didn’t either as he repeatedly and pointlessly hit the bail-less stumps with the ball; but umpire Priest did and the run stood.

[For the record, when both bails are off you need to rebuild the wicket or remove a stump from the ground with either the ball or a hand holding the ball].

The rest, as they say, is history. JJ smacked the penultimate delivery down the ground for four then smacked the final ball to long on for an easy two and we had won. Cue the music: de-de, de-der-de-de-de, de-der-de-der-de-de-de-de-de…

Was this complacency or arrogance? Perhaps a bit of both. We had let a non-lowest scorer bat twice at the end for some reason, then more bizarrely we had lent them a fielder to make eleven when we had started with only eight and received nothing!

M-o-M votes: JJ 5, Jacobs 2, Priest 2, Cat 2.