Dodgers @ Buckhurst Hill, 4 September 2005

Match report by Simon Cousins:

Sweltering heat and a slow, low wicket combined to produce a soporific draw, as Dodgers finished their season in the Essex suburbs.

Stand-in captain Benn once again lost the toss, and condemned his team to fielding in the heat of the day. The Dodgers opening bowlers, Cousins and Cooper both bowled tidily. But the batsmen were taking no chances, eschewing scoring chance, except tucking into the full tosses, of which there were too many. The young opener, Gray, looked set for a big innings, when he was trapped in front by Cousins, but there were few other chances.

It was Benn who looked the more threatening. He deserved more than the one wicket he took, with the batsmen unable to pick up his line from left arm over. But he had only himself to blame, by missing an easy caught and bowled chance, despite having four goes at it.

Fox also continued his encouraging form for Dodgers, taking a wicket courtesy of a brilliant catch diving to his right by Matthews. But his spell was cut short when he rashly tried to stop a hard straight drive with his ankle.

In fact all the bowlers stuck to their task well, even new-boy Marr, who was unlucky to take some punishment off straight balls. But by the time the Leyton Wizard, Pope, came onto bowl, wickets were desperately needed. Second ball, he obliged, the batsman popping one straight up to mid-on – where Benn again fluffed the catch. The batsmen now treated Pope with due respect, but he still got his statutory Buckhurst wicket, Atkinson driving low to McBarron in the covers.

Eventually Buckhurst declared at 4pm, and their score of 182-4 did not look massive. When Dodgers started, after an excellent tea, they looked to be positive. At one end was the dangerous quickie Baig, at the other a young spinner, who could turn it both ways. McBarron and Taylor seemed to be seeing off Baig, and picking off the spinner’s bad balls. But having made 12, McBarron was given out LBW on the front foot to Baig. This started a collapse, as Baig, now keeping the ball very low, and swinging it, ran through the Dodger's batting order. 30-0 became 60-6, with Baig taking four wickets, and one suicidal run out (Qureshi).

With the last 20 overs beginning, the odds were on a Buckhurst win. But Cousins and Benn now embarked on their second major partnership in four days. With Buckhurst employing an exclusively spin attack, there were nine fielders round the bat. But though neither batsmen, particularly Cousins, looked comfortable, generally the bowlers pitched too short, allowing the batsmen to play it off the pitch, and avoid the trap of the close fielders. When he had made 6, Benn saluted the rapturous applause from the boundary, which bemused the Buckhurst team. In fact this was to acknowledge that he'd become the first Dodger to reach 1000 runs and 100 wickets, a feat of such magnitude that later this proud Yorkshireman bought two jugs in the bar.

As the last over began, Buckhurst still needed four wickets, and the match seemed safe. But off the first ball, Cousins played around a straight one. Cooper then pushed into the hands of one of the close fielders, and the result was in doubt. Fox, though, comfortably saw off the next three balls, and celebrated by hitting the last one over mid-on for 4.

Dodgers were clearly second best on the day. But given that they had the worst of the conditions, and that the bowlers had bowled with such discipline, a draw was probably what they deserved.