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Montgomery CC vs Golden Lion CC - Sunday 19th July 2009 - Rankins

Montgomery CC: M. Aggus, O. Pidgeon, M. Couzens, R. Clayton, T. Smith, C. Lees, P. Raffers, S. Lees, J. Aggus, G. Turner, C. Smith (cpt)

Whilst England battled Australia in the second test of the 2009 Ashes at Lords, looking to end a 75 year wait for victory at the home of cricket, Montgomery CC were also facing an old foe.

For the third time in the 2009 season the MCC would be facing old adversary the Golden Lion, having lost the two fixtures played at the Garrison and Shoebury Park.

This game was to be played at Rankins cricket club in Rochford – the usual haunt for the Lion’s home fixtures, although the first time the fighting rats had ventured into the heart of the Lion’s den.

With the match having been added to the schedule late in the season the MCC was looking rather threadbare with regular bowling stalwarts D. Champ and Aggus Snr both missing. In fact at the start of the day it looked as though the Monties would be fielding only eight players – not ideal when looking to beat a team who had defeated a full strength Monty side twice this season already!

MCC regulars Aggus the younger, Pidgeon, Couzens, Clayton, Smith T, Turner and skipper Smith C were joined by blast from the past James “not as snr as Aggus Snr or jnr as Aggus jnr” Aggus.

In addition to the lack of numbers, prior to the game Aggus J had already run a 10k and Pidgeon and Couzens had both swum 3k in the Thames estuary, the Monties were understrength and some were already tired! This was before you even considered the tragic illness afflicting impending world’s largest athlete Gareth Turner.

The odds were stacking up against the MCC taming the cricketing king of beasts.

Help was at hand in the form of Rankins CC who generously offered three of their own players – Lees C, Lees S and Raffers to give the MCC a full team.

Smith C won the toss and the patched up MCC were to bat.

The pitch was looking hard and despite the forecast of heavy showers the sun was shining although a gale was blowing that would make conditions for both teams tricky.

Opening the batting would be Aggus Jnr and Pidgeon who had put on 50 for the first wicket in the last game against Lion and were both in fine form thus far in 2009, comfortably averaging above 30.

Opening the bowling was to be MCC nemesis Sams with off spinner Bailey bowling from the other end.

Predictably Sams opened with a maiden as both batsmen looked to play themselves in watchfully, taking account of the blustery conditions.

Bailey’s first over went for a single but otherwise he was straight into a good line and length as well.

Sams second over saw a sizeable setback for the Montgomery with Pidgeon carving a cut shot into the off side and caught by Mayhew for 1.

Couzens was in at 3 and just about saw off the remainder of the over from Sams before coming within a hair’s breadth of being bowled by Bailey in the next over.

Having survived that though, Couzens and Aggus began to build a partnership, Aggus running the singles mercilessly whilst Couzens huffed and puffed between the wickets, throwing the odd slog in himself.

Both batsmen survived the testing spells from Sams and Bailey and had now put on 50. The Lion wheeled Mayhew and skipper Ward into the fray and Couzens was the first to succumb to the Lion skipper, getting bowled for 49.

Much sulking ensued by the Frenchman.

Aggus battled on with Clayton now at his side but was himself next to perish, bowled lbw by young Mayhew.

Smith T joined Clayton at the crease and after a lucky escape when he lofted a drive into the offside that wasn’t taken, began to show glimpses of his 2008 form, with some aggressive shots, including one gloriously steered late cut for four.

At the other end Robert Clayton was struggling slightly to live up to his pre-match requirement of scoring a double ton and taking 10 wickets (shame on you Roberto) but had battled to 6 before he was sent back to the hutch for 6, bowled by Ward.

This meant that the first of the Rankins batsmen was in the middle, in this case young Carl Lees. He showed good technique as he and Smith T took the total past 120.

The “Adelaide Express” Carter came onto bowl and despite referring to himself as the “Adelaide milk-float” he was to prove lactose intolerant for Smith T who was bowled for a breezy 14.

It was now an all Rankins affair at the crease and Carl Lees was the first Rankins batsman to capitulate to Sloman’s very first delivery.

The Monties were still in the hands of Rankins as Raffers was joined in the middle by S. Lees and the two of them looked more than capable of taking the total towards 200.

Unfortunately misfortune, the malady that often inflicts the valiant fighting rats, was soon to rear its ugly head, this time in the form of a run out which saw S. Lees on his way, after a direct hit from Mayhew. When Raffers played on off the Adelaide milk-float for 8, it was down to Gareth Turnip, James Aggus (whose last three scores for the MCC had totalled a hefty zero) and the Dangerman to salvage something from the innings.

Turner was looking sprightly when he realised that there was no-one bowling anything faster than very slow and proceeded to launch one of his first balls for four, back over the bowler’s head. Unfortunately that was where the cameo ended when he was caught two balls later off Sloman.

There was just time for a rapid four from the Montgomery’s dangerman before he was left stranded on 4* as J. Aggus hurled the kitchen sink and various other domestic appliances at a Carter straight one, missed and was bowled for 1.

Montgomery CC all out for 158.

A rather paltry effort considering the Lion had chased down 228 in the last game against a virtually full strength Monty side.

A frenzied assault was launched on the waiting tea and then it was back onto the pitch for the Lion’s reply.

The Lion innings was opened by Burton and Salt. The Monties had seen enough of Salt over the course of their last two encounters with scores of 56 and 34 to know he would pose a serious threat.

In a change to normal proceedings Rankins own Raffers was taking up position behind the sticks giving Pidgeon a chance to test his skills in the field.

Success was not long in coming as Couzens struck in the first over, having Burton caught behind for a duck.

In the absence of the veteran Daniel Champ, Smith T was rewarded for a succession of strong seam up showings with a share of the new ball.

Salt was equal to Smith’s early endeavours but the first few overs were kept tight as the Lion looked to recover from the early blow of being 0-1.

Couzens kept going with the wind behind him and was able to make another dent in the Lion’s pride by removing Mayhew lbw for 5.

Meanwhile Smith T continued to battle into the wind and kept Salt and Palmer honest with some good pace and accurate lines.

Captain Dangerman made his first change to the attack after eight overs, bringing Rankins youngster C. Lees on for Smith T. The youngster soon made his diminutive presence felt with a spell of excellent seam bowling, pitched up and moving which had Salt and Palmer on their toes.

However Rankins were not the only team with a youngster ready to test the mettle of the Lion - Gareth “Turnipator” Turner was waiting in the wings.

After one over of “right arm, terrifying”, Smith C gave the root vegetable a well deserved rest (regrettably his debilitating disease robs him of much of his energy these days and he can only be used sparingly), and brought himself into the attack.

Unfortunately even some well aimed grenades from the skipper were kept obstinately out by Salt and Palmer who were building towards a hundred partnership and the foundation for a comfortable victory.

The skipper brought on his other Rankins option S. Lees who impressed with an excellent fast and accurate spell of 4 overs for just seven runs. Crucially though the wicket’s taken still read two and Salt and Palmer remained.

Both Smith T and Couzens returned to the fray with the former terribly unlucky not to make the breakthrough when first Couzens couldn’t quite get to a lofted shot at midwicket and then Pidgeon couldn’t cling onto an edge at slip.

Still the two Lions remained and with options looking a little thin on the ground the skipper experimented - bringing Pidgeon on for his first ever spell.

Aggus Jnr was also wheeled into the attack for the first time since 2007 and so nearly took a wicket when Lees couldn’t keep hold of a hard hit chance at point.

As the saying goes; “bowling total rubbish does somehow get you wickets, though thankfully not all the time – usually it just goes for 12 an over” and so it proved today.

Team spirit was thankfully still in evidence despite the Lion nearing victory, as Aggus J confirmed that if a chance came near him off his brother’s bowling he would ensure he dropped it.

At the death Smith C made his last throw of the dice, bringing on Clayton. Clayton had some clear and easy to adhere to instructions – to ensure that with the Lion needing two for victory; he took eight wickets (from six balls) and conceded no runs.

Unfortunately Clayton let the team down by letting his first ball get hit for four rather than taking the minimum 1.3 wickets required.

Game over. Golden Lion 3, Montgomery 0. Humbug.

Matthew Couzens

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