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Montgomery CC vs Island Taverners CC - Sunday 30th May 2010 - The Garrison

Montgomery CC: C. Smith (cpt), A. Drake, S. Thurlow, O. Pidgeon, M. Aggus, M. Couzens, H. Lucas, T. Smith, K. Baker, D. Champ, J. Aggus

Gather round my fellow followers of Montgomery CC, for today we have a real treat in store.

A tale of cricketing derring-do, the like of which has rarely been heard in the illustrious five year history of the Fighting Rats of Shoebury Garrison. The Monty’s opponents on a blustery afternoon in May were Island Taverners CC, another side new to the Garrison and its legendary occupants.

The MCC had two debutants – S. Thurlow, the latest in the Leigh on Sea CC production line for the Monties and H. Lucas, the 37th player to play in MCC colours.

With left arm batting sensation Ashley Robert Shore appearing in his third consecutive game and none other than Keith Baker, welcomed back to the bosom of the MCC, 2pm was set fair for an intriguing contest. The Taverners were put in and Couzens and Champ opened the bowling, Couzens desperate for a first wicket in three games, whilst Champ looked to continue the form that sees him at the top of the wickets chart in 2010.

The fortunes of the two bowlers were accurately represented in their first over showing - Couzens starting with a no-ball beamer but Champ continuing his Swann-esque knack for taking a wicket in his first over by bowling D. Ulesthy for three. Hall, in at three, joined the Taverners’ remaining opener Hammond and the two settled well despite the windy conditions and were able to lay the building blocks for a solid partnership.

The two had put on fifty two when Champ struck again, having Hammond caught at mid on by Smith for a breezy twenty three. With both opening bowlers having bowled straight through, skipper Smith rang the changes at sixteen overs, bringing T. Smith and J. Aggus on to replace the departing Couzens and Champ.

T. Smith had endured a tough spell in the previous game against Golden Lion but was able to put it behind him with a decent spell of seam up which saw Island Taverners lose their third wicket, Hall, bowled for 25.

John Aggus wheeled away at the other end and the Monties watched slightly incredulously as number four M. Ulesthy started some agricultural swiping outside the off-stump, against the MCC’s line and length lynchpin.

He continued in this ugly fashion, sometimes making contact, mostly just sending a warm breeze in the direction of cover. As Aggus Snr, battened down the hatches, the skipper introduced Baker for T. Smith, who bowled a peculiar first over which included two no balls and four wides, followed by six dots.

The Taveners continued to score at a reasonable rate without anyone achieving a big score and were helped on their way by a liberal smattering of extras which threatened to damage the general good work in the field.

Aggus inevitably got his name in the wicket count when he removed Croxston, bowled for 14 and it was no more than he deserved after some harsh wide calling by the Taverner’s umpires.

There was still time for Baker to get in on the action when Lucas marked his debut with a catch, as Ulesthy swiped once too often and was caught on 21.

Lucas then followed this up with a wicket of his own, caught by his fellow debutant Thurlow, during an impressive four over spell.

Island Taverners finishing on 188-6 off their 40 overs, with extras by far the top scorer on 48. Worthy mentions for D. Champ who finished with 8-0-28-2 and a good first spell by Lucas finishing with 4-0-26-1 – he at least didn’t bowl any wides/no-balls!

Tea was laid on by D. Champ, ably supported by Mrs. Champ and as the Eurofighter Typhoon was put through its paces for Southend Airshow, it was generally considered that 189 was an achievable target.

Smith C and A. Drake strolled into the buffeting winds to begin the MCC reply.

After the first over went for two, Drake scored the first boundary, driving Maksud through the covers for four, so far so good for the chasing Rats.

In the fourth over, with the score on 14, the MCC encountered the first inkling of trouble when Smith edged through to the keeper for two.

Thurlow was in at three but the action was all happening at the other end, as Maksud took his second wicket in three balls when he trapped Drake in front for a swashbuckling twelve.

That brought Pidgeon to the crease and El Destructo wasn’t in the mood for mincing (though let’s face it he rarely is) and immediately went on the attack against the Taverners’ other opening bowler Hammond, who had been quietly getting through his overs with minimal runs.

Unfortunately, a big shot down the ground plopped straight into the hands of long on and Pidgeon was on his way for three.

The MCC were suddenly looking less than watertight at 18-3.

That became 21-4 when Thurlow defended a ball which hit his pad and then unluckily hit the stumps.

That supposedly achievable target of 189 suddenly looked rather more daunting.

Aggus was in at five but he, Lucas and Couzens all went cheaply, Aggus caught, Lucas unluckily bowled by a pea-roller, Couzens caught and bowled.

The MCC was crumbling in the face of some solid line and length bowling by the Taverners, and had now lost seven wickets for a pitiful 38 runs.

T. Smith was joined by Baker, in at nine and the hope was that these two could at least drag the MCC past its worst ever total.

On the sidelines, faces were glum and thoughts had already turned to the post match drowning of sorrows.

Baker and Smith weren’t quite ready to submit just yet though. Both batsmen looked to play their shots from an early stage, with the pressure of the win removed.

The score soon went past the Monty’s lowest ebb and when it reached a hundred with ten overs to go the Taverners’ fielders who had been understandably laughing and joking began to realise they would have to work hard to remove these two. On the sidelines, the watching Rats were enjoying this show of defiance from Baker and Smith in what was still seemingly a lost cause.

The Taverners brought back opening bowler Maksud, but by now both batsmen were seeing the ball well. When Baker launched him for six and four in three balls and then five wides were conceded in that same over, the scoreboard, which had been the subject of awkward avoidance from the MCC, was suddenly of interest again.

It was still a herculean task but Smith and Baker were warming to it. The Taverners brought back Hammond and Brown who had both bowled so economically earlier in the day, after Higgins and Hall had been blasted out of the attack at 7.5 an over between them.

Suddenly though economy rates were getting the treatment, as Hammond having gone for only seven runs in his excellent first six overs, went for ten in his seventh, likewise Brown, who had also only gone for seven from his five overs, went for eight in his first returning over.

Baker went to fifty with a towering four which nearly killed the young Taverner underneath it, who all were relived was ok, but once his continued good health had been confirmed, his teammates started the abuse for the drop.

Baker’s survival was a crucial boost and now the momentum was well and truly with the Monties.

However, there was still plenty of time for further twists and after Baker had sent Brown over the rope for his second maximum, Smith T holed out for an excellent forty three.

The two of them having put on over one hundred and thirty between them and taken the MCC from the prospect of one of its most dire defeats, to the verge of a famous victory.

With Champ in at ten, the scenario was thus, if he could survive the last delivery of the over it would be eleven runs needed from three overs with two wickets remaining.

The tension between both teams was palpable. Champ was new to the crease and on the sidelines, almost unbidden, the infamous phrase of “Okey Dokey” was on everyone’s lips.

Would this be the new straight bat stalwart that the Monty bowlers had been facing in the nets on a Saturday or would the Peach be unable to restrain an early “Champ” against a straight one?

One delivery to face from this over, Champ waiting, full pitched, straight delivery...twist or stick...Champ or forward defensive...what would it be? Huzzah and hurray! A perfect straight bat from the Champion!

Well done Moses!

Three overs left then.

On the sidelines, collective heart rates were beating rather above normal and it wasn’t helped when Baker guided one into the off-side, started to run but then decided against the single. Nothing to worry about surely? Plenty I’m afraid. Heedless of the loud cries of “No!” from Baker, the Peach had set a course for the other end and was entirely focused on getting there.

“NO!” bellowed everyone on the sidelines in utter despair as Champ arrived in Baker’s crease.

Expletetives followed from the middle as DC began haring back on a desperate return journey.

Somehow he got back.

What a game and still those runs were needed and the delivery count was dwindling.

The focus was entirely on Baker but he didn’t seem daunted, in fact he looked calmness personified when the Taverners brought back Hall for a last assault.

Only three had come from his first over but further runs from Hammond had meant that with two overs to go, Baker had time to pick his ball.

One crashing four brought the end within sight. Another followed and sweet victory hadn’t just been snatched from the jaws of defeat, it had been forcibly wrenched!

Montgomery win by two wickets. Welcome back The Florist and cue extreme beverage intake!

Matthew Couzens

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