C&S vs RANGERS, AT BIRCHGROVE OVAL, 1 DECEMBER 2019: REPORT BY MARK HENWOOD
There are only three sports: mountain climbing, bull fighting, and motor racing. All the rest are merely games, except cricket which is art. Cricketers are all apprentices in an art where no one ever becomes a master.
Birchgrove Oval itself is art. The first cricket field here was reclaimed from the harbour in 1885, and was home to the Sydney Cricket Club from 1897-1942. The field sits over ancient mudflats, where shellfish grew to feed the Eora nation for some 10,000 years, before colonialism and smallpox. Weathered stone seawalls poke through the soil, faintly marking the buried outline of Snail’s Bay, grown old in their easy retirement.
Walk past the old caretaker’s house and changing shed, to the path just below the old site of Birchgrove house, for a view of the harbour bridge past the wharves and sailboats. There was no bridge when Lieutenant John Birch named his home Birchgrove. The humble stone dwelling sat on the hill for 150 years before it was pulled down in 1967 and replaced by a dozen soulless moderns fighting for his view.
The day was overcast with gusty winds blowing off the harbour. It was one of those days that was pleasant enough when the sun shone, but when clouds hid the sun the wind was cool. Simon James, skipper, won the toss and decided to bat. It wasn’t a long deliberation; everyone could see it was a road. Tapping the pitch made a sound like knocking the hardwood top of a well-polished bar and the sunburnt shoots of grass grazed your knuckles.
Hearing this news, Pete Buruma laid out on the grass, rolling on his balls, the kind you put under your back to massage yourself with. He complained about working Saturdays, and in a little while he fell asleep with his cap over his eyes. Jed Wesley-Smith’s new bat was passed around: the grain, the weight, the feel, all drew nods and knowing comments. Eventually, Curtis Murray tied up the long laces of his shiny new boots into long loops, and the game began.
Tom Robertson was dropped by the keep on the first delivery. It shook him a little, and he played test for the next few overs. Meanwhile, Murray was playing straight, and striking some elegant fours down the ground. You could see those new boots glistening in the sunlight as he batted. Art.
An appeal broke over the rustle of the wind through the trees. Wesley-Smith raised the finger, Robertson out caught in gully. To everyone round about it looked a bump-ball. Tragedy. That’s cricket though, anyone of us is only one ball away from a rough call. Use it next week Tom against Knox. 1-28 in the 5th.
James joined Murray at the crease for a quality partnership of 58 runs from 10. Both worked the ball around the field. The outfield was lightning fast so anything past the fielder raced away. Drinks was coming along nicely. Murray struck a particularly fine 4 off the leggie, tried again, and was caught at long-on. A crow cawed moodily, turning his head to survey the field below him, from the roof of the changing shed. 2-86 in the 15th.
Paul Nash joined James at the crease. He was in a boundary striking mood. 4,4,4,4,6, out! Caught in the deep off the leggie too. Jim Hadley followed suit off a full toss by the part-timer not long after. It sounded sweet and crisp off the bat though. 4-126 in the 24th.
Soren Hughes walked out in his new helmet, safety first, swinging his weighty old blade. His first ball was struck sweetly for a 4. It was a sign of what was to come. Together with James the scoring rate lifted, and boundaries were flying all around the ground. Suddenly Hughes was bowled. The opposition skipper had been yelling instructions and trying to set his field, so called him back and the umpire signalled dead ball. Sportsmanship.
James edged a tired shot outside off behind with a couple of overs to go. So Buruma joined Hughes for a brief cameo of well-run 2s and 3s. Hughes then unleashed on the final over in a powerful display of hitting. One 6 landed up near the tennis courts and set off a kookaburra laughing. We all sat on the hill near the changing shed grinning as the over went for 18. That made 98 runs off the final 10. Wesley-Smith will have to wait to test his new bat. 5-233 after 35.
No tea was provided by the hosts, so little camaraderie took place between the sides at the break. Instead, both teams rested in the gloomy coolness of the changing rooms. The skip said we probably left 20 odd runs on the field. It’s his style; all stick and no carrot.
Nash and Buruma opened the bowling. The first few overs went by in a chanceless fury of boundaries. Heads went down, though if we could win from here, we could win from anywhere. Buruma pulled up lame. The world breaks everyone sometime. James finished his over. Short and wide, cut to Crooks at point. 1-32 in the 8th.
Greg Brooks came on to replace Nash. Cricketers don’t grow wise, they grow careful. Brooks was careful. After picking up a leg side caught behind, and noticing how easily the batsmen were flicking 4s through fine leg, he bowled outside off to much better effect. (President Brooks wants to make it clear that this was an off side caught behind, but that runs against the narrative). Wesley-Smith bowled tidily from the tennis court end. Dot balls came more frequently, the required run rate started to go up again, and pressure built on the Rangers. Despite a couple of missed chances, the match was turning. Drinks, 2-78 after 18.
The pressure told; Wesley-Smith drew a slog that top-edged to mid-on. The spinners came on. Hadley picked up an LBW. At the other end, Mark Henwood was struggling to find his length. Scores were shouted out, “80 needed off 5”. The batsman decided to go for it and ran down the pitch and missed a wide one. Murray flicked the bails off with a full arm stretch. It’s good to be lucky, but it’s better to be disciplined, then you’re ready when luck comes. The match was all but over, drifting towards a CCNSW win. Up on the hill a red setter bayed and howled in anguish. 5-151 in the 30th.
Hadley had a good LBW shout turned down. It looked plumb from mid-on. Cricket. The opener bought up his 100 by hitting Henwood out of the attack. We all take a beating every day, you know, one way or another. The openers had been a selfish and relentless innings, punctuated by some quality off-drives and flicks to backward square. Next over James, now bowling spin, beat a dirty slog to cow. Bowled. Hadley calmly finished off the match, defending the total. 6-201 after 35. CCNSW win by 32 runs.
Balmain has more pubs than people, everyone knows that, so it was strange there were no beverages on hand. Instead of celebrating the win, Skipper James gave a speech. The fielding had been sluggish and there were too many pastries on offer from the bowlers. There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self. There will be tougher matches coming up this season, we will need to improve.
With that the players drifted into the late Sunday afternoon. This is a hell of a dull match report… How about some champagne?
In the style of Ernest Hemingway, Ian Henshaw.
The Team was: Tom Robertson 12, Curtis Murray 41, Simon James 61, Paul Nash 22, Jim Hadley 8, Soren Hughes 68*, Pete Buruma 2*, Greg Brooks, Jed Wesley-Smith, Mark Henwood, Peter Crooks.
The Result was:-
CCNSW: 5-233 in 35 overs (Simon James 61, Soren Hughes 68*)
Rangers: 6-201 in 35 overs (Flaherty 116*)
By 32 runs.
FoWs: – 1-28 (Robertson); 2-86 (Murray); 3-116 (Nash); 4-126 (Hadley); 5-200 (James).
The Bowling was: – Paul Nash 4-0-23-0; Pete Buruma 2.1-0-12-0; Simon James 4.5-0-23-2; Greg Brooks 7-1-19-1; Jed Wesley-Smith 6-1-30-1; Peter Crooks 2-0-17-0; Mark Henwood 4-0-41-1; Jim Hadley 5-0-35-1.
The Fielding was: –
Catches: Crooks 1, Murray 1, Hughes 1
Stumpings: Murray 1
Player Points:- T.B.A.
CLASSICS vs WARRINGAH, AT CAMPERDOWN PARK, 1 DECEMBER 2019: REPORT BY MIKE WEAVER
The CCNSW Masters side have surprisingly suffered another loss at home last Sunday 15 December 19, this time to a very well organised Warringah side.
A reshuffled CCNSW team took the field at Camperdown after the late withdrawal of Ian Allmey, while Mick Tarrant was also a delayed attendee on the day. And the ‘Queensland Connection’ – Jono Shaw and Craig Fletcher – had earlier in the week succumbed to influenza and could not be available.
Fortunately CCNSW were able to call on the services of UK tourist, Dallas McDermott, and over 50s specialist Mike Pinter to make up the full line up. Both players gave their all in what was an honest performance by the team. For various parts of the game CCNSW gained ascendancy but were thwarted by a very determined and talented opposition.
Captain Michael Weaver took a gamble by inserting the opposition to bat first on a particularly green wicket. The decision looked to be correct as a fresh Brett James commenced bowling with excellent rhythm, moving the ball considerably both ways and with decent carry to ‘keeper Favell.
A few plays and misses with the ball being too good for the bat and a dropped catch saw Brett finish an excellent 9 over spell with just the one wicket. He did affect the first wicket of the match though, with an excellent throw on the run from from fine leg. It saw the unfortunate Warringah opener O’Connor stranded after being sent back by his partner who has initially called for two runs. After this early breakthrough, Captain Mick Weaver probably erred by not setting a more attacking field – short cover to go with the two slips ,etc. Although this goes the benefit of hindsight.
The Warringah batsmen worked hard and despite two wickets from Lee Witherden, one a splendid caught and bowled, and some initial accurate bowling by Dallas McDermott, persevered to get themselves into a reasonable position at 3-90 off 20 overs.
For the final 20 overs, despite taking regular wickets, CCNSW were not able to stem the flow of runs. Ben Stanic, Luke Holman, Mick Tarrant and Stu Ridge all had their moments but at other times were thrashed around the park. Luke received the appropriate accolades for dismissing the Warringah captain for a second ball duck and Mick Tarrant picked up a wicket in his 2nd and 5th overs before a final onslaught against him. Stu did well to collect a wicket at the death in his return spell after an accurate wicket-less stint at the start of the innings.
Emerson Wilshire’s shoulder gave way in his only over and the set was effectively completed by his skipper. A fielding highlight for CCNSW was Benn Stanic’s direct hit runout from mid wicket.
The final 5 overs yielded 58 runs though as CCNSW were not able to close the innings off after the 8th wicket fell. Only 4 boundary riders were set during this period. There are no restrictions on field settings in the Sydney Masters Competition, and perhaps this could be looked at in the future by the organising administration. As I believe no more 4 or 5 is a fair amount.
Despite the early loss of opener Weaver, who continues his lean trot, CCNSW were given a strong start in the run chase by Emerson Wilshire and Scott Wells. Unfortunately Scott was dismissed lbw just 1 short of the 40 retirement mark in the 19th over. So instead of being just one wicket down at the drinks break, CCNSW were 2-95 after 20, a similar position to their opponents at the same stage.
Emerson Wilshire performed admirably in playing the pace bowlers confidently, producing several strong drives and pulls in his 42 retired. Mike Pinter gene the innings together to prevent fall of further wickets with a well made 27 runs. Brett Favell was looking like it was his day after smiting the Warringah finger spinner over the far cover boundary, before he was unfortunately caught at mid-on off the same bowler, succumbing to a change of pace. CCNSW were still looking a chance when Brett James was joined by Lee Witherden. However an unfortunate mix up saw Lee runout at the bowlers end before he could inflict any damage.
This was probably the telling wicket. From there on it was all Warringah as they tightened the screws with defensive fields, using more boundary riders than CCNSW had implemented in the first stanza of play. Brett made a solid 35 runs before bowled trying to address the ever increasing required run rate dilemma that had developed. Luke Holman was runout and Ben Stanic bowled, both cheaply, trying to do the same.
With CCNSW 8 wickets down, 22 an over required and Warringah urging themselves to get full bonus points for taking all ten wickets, Dallas McDermott and Mick Tarrant combined to spoil that for the visitors, shutting up shop to prevent any further dismissals. Both players look to be well suited to test cricket, displaying sound defence and smart ‘leaves’.
Well done to Warringah and for CCNSW, it was back to the drawing board and the search to find a winning combination of players and an improvised selection situation, in so far as player availability is concerned .
The Team was: M. Weaver 1, E. Whilshire 42 ret., S. Wells 39, M. Pinter 27, B. Favell 12, B. James 35, L. Witherden 1, L. Holman 1, B. Stanic 5, D. McDermott 8*, M. Tarrant 5*.
The Result was:
Warringah: 9-262 in 40 overs
CCNSW: 8-182 in 40 overs
By 80 runs.
FoWs: – 1-1 (M. Weaver); 2-92 (S. Wells); 3-109 (B. Favell); 4-144 (M. Pinter); 5-147 (L. Witherden), 6-149 (L. Holman), 7-167 (B. James), 8-169 (B. Stanic).
The Bowling was: – S. Ridge 9-1-41-1; B. James 9-1-44-1; L. Witherden 5-0-44-2; D. McDermott 4-1-22-0; B. Stanic 2-0-14-0; L. Holman 4-0-30-1; M. Tarrant 5-0-50-2; E. Wilshire 1-0-10-0.
The Fielding was: –
Runouts: B. James/B. Favell 1, B. Stanic 1
Player Points: T.B.A.