A wonderful, warm and sunny day in Regent’s Park provided the perfect setting for an afternoon of competitive cricket. Going in to the game there were some notable absentees such as the club captain Charlie Vickers and our opening batsman Billy Soomro, but we were still confident that our team was strong enough to put on a good performance. However, our hopes of victory were threatened after some miscommunications before the match, meaning Birkbeck went into the match under strength, playing the match two men short of a full XI. It looked like victory would elude our grasp before even a ball had been bowled.
Birkbeck won the toss and stand-in skipper for the day Michael Johnson, last year’s club captain, chose to bat first on what had looked like a day for the batsmen. Phillip Butler and Ahmed Hussain opened the batting; Phillip initially looking solid and in good form with solid defensive shots combined with some aggression on wayward deliveries. At the other end, Ahmed Hussain was unfortunate to get a thin top edge on a short and wide delivery which went straight to the keeper. Phillip’s wicket fell shortly after, leaving us two wickets down in the early stages with a slow run rate. Enter Janusan and Dev.
After a shaky start for our third and fourth batsmen, with some missed catching opportunities from LSE, the two were able to steady the ship and protect our wickets; Dev in particular targeting the LSE spin bowling attack with a couple of good boundaries. Janusan’s wicket eventually fell with Madhur coming into bat at number five. At the halfway stage of the twenty over innings, Birkbeck were 45-3, with LSE seemingly on top of us at this point in the match. During the drinks break, we agreed on a method to improve on our current score, making sure we kept wickets in hand as we were two batsmen light in order to push for quick runs towards the end of the innings.
The plan seemed to work initially with Dev and Madhur building a solid partnership; offering some solid defensive play mixed with some quick running and the odd boundary. Our score and run rate were slowly increasing, taking us to a score of 74-3. However, Madhur’s wicket soon fell, with Hassam coming in and quickly going, it again looked tricky for Birkbeck. We were into the tail end already. Fast bowler Nouraiz came in at number seven and looked to provide a steady partner for Dev who was still going strong. With three overs to go, Dev was unfortunately out caught looking for some big hitting in the final stages of our innings. Dev was top scorer for Birkbeck, and the whole match, for 39 runs. He walked off to a deserved round of applause from the rest of the Birkbeck team. It was left to Nouraiz and Michael to try and score as many runs in the last three overs as possible. The death bowling from LSE was solid, with stand in captain Michael looking to play offensive shots but only managing to add a couple of singles. Nouraiz took the strike for the final two balls of the innings, and with some magic hitting had managed to hit two consecutive 6’s to take our final score to 105-7 from our 20 overs. We were possibly 30 runs short of where we wanted our total to be.
However, historically the strength of Birkbeck Cricket Club has lied with its bowling attack and this certainly proved to be the case in this match. With two fielders light, the pressure was on Birkbeck to stick to an aggressive field and tight bowling to restrict the LSE run rate and give us every chance of winning the game. We did not disappoint. Madhur and Ahmed opened the bowling, giving absolutely nothing away. Madhur’s immaculate line and length combined with Ahmed’s express pace proved too much for the LSE top order as they failed to offer any significant shots. As the pressure mounted, their opening batsman fell early; promising signs for Birkbeck.
A tactical decision to take Ahmed out of the attack to save for the final overs paid dividends, with his replacement Hassam Tariq bowling full and straight took two key wickets in consecutive overs as Madhur continued to starve LSE of runs at the other end. Pace bowler Nouraiz replaced Madhur as he bowled out his 4 overs consecutively with impressive economy figures. Again, the change of bowling was great for Birkbeck as Nouraiz was able to claim the 4th LSE wicket before the drinks break, restricting LSE to 38-4, leaving Birkbeck in a ‘strong and stable’ position.
After the break the pressure was mounting on LSE to score quickly to get them back in the game. Their captain played a resilient innings, looking solid at the crease and not giving his wicket away but was not able to score regularly. The pressure soon mounted on LSE, with wicket keeper Phillip Butler expertly running out another batsman off Janusan’s bowling with a second run out the next over by Michael. We were now into the LSE tail with a fair few overs left to play in the innings. With a mini fightback, LSE were able to add some quick runs to their total with the some excellent stroke play, but this did not last long at all with Janusan and Nouraiz taking another wicket each.
With only two wickets remaining, their remaining batsmen looked nervous at the crease. Changes to the bowling were brought in to try and quickly tie up the innings. Dev came in to bowl spin in attempt to get them to make mistakes with Ahmed coming back on the other end. As they were desperate for runs, LSE looked for quick singles which proved yet again to be their downfall, as Kevin Lau at fine leg with a somewhat surprisingly accurate throw in to the keeper to run out their number 9. The last LSE wicket fell in the 19th over, with Dev’s spin bamboozling the last remaining batsman as he mistimed a shot to Michael at mid-on, leaving him to take a simple catch and win the game for Birkbeck, with LSE only able to achieve 85 runs all out.
What initially looked like a tough day for Birkbeck turned into a comfortable win for the team with every single player performing for the team. As the stand in captain for today, I’d like to thank the team for their immense effort and LSE 2nd XI for great sportsmanship and an enjoyable day’s cricket. My man of the match for the day was Dev for his match winning performance of 39 runs, the final wicket and leading by example with his immense ground fielding. With only 9 players in the side today, who knows what the team is capable of with a full XI?
By Michael Johnson
Communications and Activities Officer
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