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St James' Cricket Club intra-club match in Wandsworth

Sunday morning: We have the pitch, but not sure how many students will turn up. Storms are forecast anyway, so it’ll probably be a washout. Maybe we can try again in a couple of weeks.

Sunday afternoon: What were we so pessimistic about?!! Organizer’s spirits are lifted, as 21 enthusiastic players have arrived for the start time. The storm clouds have evaded us (for now).

The St James’ CC intra-club match is about to begin!

Playing on this glorious Sunday afternoon were 2 representative teams, made up of Ernest Bevin College students and teachers, St James’ CC regulars, and boys from the Twenty20 Community Academy. A 35 over friendly game was agreed. This was a great opportunity for the young cricketers to show what they were made of, in a more challenging setting.

1st Innings

Mr Dave Smith (Ernest Bevin) led his side into bat, against Mazza’s (Twenty20 Academy Coach) XI. Opening up were Twenty20’s Head Coach Ed, with one of his young prodigies, George.

George has been playing with the Academy since the age of 8, and it is great to watch him make the step up from pupil to teammate. Him and Ed showed guts to try and get through a menacing spell from Ernest Bevin’s U14s duo, Sheraz and Labib. The first few overs were of the highest quality, with both openers finding an immaculate full length. The consistency was rewards with a wicket for each, both George and Ed caught behind.

Captain Dave entered the fray, and quickly changed the momentum. His counter-attacking innings put the pressure back onto the bowlers and was ably supported by Bevin’s 1st XI captain Armughan. The pair added 70 runs before Raghib’s mystery spin broke the stand. A much-needed wicket, as Dave was threatening to cut loose. His clean hitting included 2 sixes, one smacked over Mazza’s head.

Mazza’s XI showed some good character to claw their way back into the match and managed to pick up 6 wickets by the drinks break. 13-year-old Keiran showed signs of his huge promise, beating the bat regularly. Wicket keeper Umangh did a great job of motivating the side through the middle overs.

Young Daniyal was a star, picking up 3 wickets with his leg-spin. He keeps a fantastic length, and constantly threatens the stumps, forcing batsmen to play nearly everything. It was brilliant composure from the youngest player on the field.

Armughan survived this rally. He anchored the innings well for his team, making sure they batted most the overs. As well as his 37, Akram (St James’) went for his shots, connecting well for a rapid 25. Harish look very solid until he got a good ball. Taha ran fantastically well, picking turning 1s into 2s….to be honest sometimes some 0s into 2s as the fielders tired!

A late flurry of wickets from Sufiyan meant Mr Smith’s XI were all out in the 31st over. Would the missed overs prove crucial? The final pair were certainly good enough to bat to 35 overs.

Credit has to go to our veteran, Andrew. As the St James coach, groundsman, team maker, player, broadcaster. He managed to balance all of these jobs at the same time, and still have time to hare around the boundary (dropping the camera in the process) making stops. An inspiration to us all!

Tea time

Tea time. As well as being a good day out, the boys were getting to grips with some harsh – but valuable - cricket lessons. Among these were:

  • Fielding gets harder after drinks.

  • You MUST bat out your overs!

  • Batters have more time than they think – why waste a lovely day of cricket by throwing your wicket away in the first over?!

  • You have to create your own team spirit, luck and momentum – it’s all down to you and not the coach

However frustrated, these lessons have been taken on board, and will serve the boys well moving into adult cricket. Also, it is worth mentioning the up-sides of the all-day game:

  • If you do well, you get to play for longer

  • If you play skilfully, you will get rewards

  • Children can dismiss adults, if they do the right things

  • TEA!

Second innings

Chasing 161 for victory (and playground bragging rights for the remainder of the school year), Sufiyan and Taufeeq looked calm and composed. Bevin’s 1st XI openers, they are establishing themselves at the top of the order. For 6 overs, they accumulated singles, using the pace of the ball to pick up 1s and 2s. The running was sharp, and they were unphased by the odd ball rearing up off a good length, which Mirsab and Akbar hit very consistently. Neither bowlers or batters were giving anything away. On top of this, Tahsin’s fielding was electric early on, keeping pressure on the batsmen.

It took a bowling change to find the breakthrough, with Akram catching Taufeeq’s glove from a nasty, lifting ball. Not much he could have done with it, but the Mr Smith XI took advantage of their opening. Akram and Sheriyar (just 13 years old) produced the most dangerous spells of the match.

The following 5 overs yielded 3 more wickets – including the prized wicket yours truly for a heroic 3 ball duck. Sheriyar was rampant and was even on a hat-trick at one point.

At this stage, the match could easily have been wrapped up in record time. However, Team Mazza’s secret weapons had been left in reserve. The new ball pair of Labib and Sheraz proved that they can bat as well. Labib looked elegant on the drive, getting off the mark with a superb 4 through the covers. Despite showing signs of nerves, he settled down brilliantly later, and showed his range of strokes. A few more matches, and he will definitely be a consistent run-scorer….he has the game for it! Sheraz kept a straight bat and played the situation perfectly. It was fantastic to watch him control the tempo of his innings and go through the gears.

Armughan, George, Tahsin, Taha and Ed all toiled in the middle overs, looking for a breakthrough. But the 14-year olds at the crease held firm. Eventually, Labib went for one drive too many, and was bowled for 20, while Sheraz continued up to the 30th over for 40. Both can be very proud of their performances today!

Having been in a hopeless position, Mazza’s XI had clawed their way back into the match. Against all odds (and possibly thanks to some “creative” scoring), they still had an outside chance of winning with 5 overs left. However, Dave held his nerve, to remove the 7th and 8th wickets (both bowled, and capping of a useful all-round day). He then brought on Akbar to finish the job – Raghib bowled also for a spirited 14. Mr Smith XI achieved a 9-run victory.

It was a deserved win, for a team who played their best cricket at the crucial moments.

Summary – a great game, played in great spirits!

Sunday evening: Stumps are drawn, hands shook, and smiles all round. Wandsworth Common is still bathed in sunshine. The senior players reflect on how pleased they were of the standard of cricket….and how impressed they are of the enormous talent on display.

Rarely in cricket has the term, “if you’re good enough, you’re old enough”, felt so appropriate! Expect big things from this great of fantastic young cricketers.

Cricket in Wandsworth is alive, well, and only improving in health. We are gaining momentum. This is just the beginning!!

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