Swashbuckling Simon Dunning and Anu Roland-Jones combine to crown Twickenham league champions
What a finale!
In a fitting finale to Twickenham’s 2nd XI league season, the side were tasked with a tantalising away trip to Shepherd’s Bush, in what would prove a promotion shoot-out. Given that Southgate were already promoted (barring an unlikely tie between Shepherd’s Bush and Twickenham) the ten point swings of the overs format would see either Twickenham or Shepherd’s Bush guaranteed promotion. Defining 1st and 2nd place would ultimately hinge on the outcome of Southgate’s game against Hornsey (Points as of week 17: Southgate gate 99, Shepherds’ Bush, 95 and Twickenham 94).
After winning a crucial toss, Eugene Berger’s took first dig and were assigned by their skipper the task of posting a competitive total - scoreboard pressure being at the forefront of the skipper’s thinking. The pairing of Sanjit Sandhu and Arjun Rehncy opened up. Both played with caution as Shepherd’s Bush bowled with control. After gleefully cashing in on the odd bad ball, the opposition nonetheless their way in to an early advantage, Rehncy falling to a sharp low catch at 1st slip and Nomula following in exactly the same manner.
Being 43-2, Sandhu curbed his natural stroke making instinct and showed fantastic maturity in seeing off the new ball. Meanwhile at the other end, a series of soft dismissals in the middle order left the Ts reeling. Bowling right arm offbreaks from around the wicket, Wookey claimed Taylor, Field and Vishvanath (bowled, caught and LBW respectively).
Shay Boo get caught in an oil slick
Having staggered the batting lineup, the Ts were still optimistic when Sandhu and Simon “Slick” Dunning were asked to resurrect the side’s hopes at 71-5. Given that Dunning is a graduate of the “see ball whack ball” school of thought, the big Saffer announced himself with a series of towering maximums. By playing counter-attacking cricket, the collapse at the top of the order was soon forgotten as the Shay Boo bowlers and fielders were being put under pressure. Sandhu eventually departed for a well-constructed 37 (off 82), with skipper Berger and Dunning delegated roles to see it through to the end.
Taking a liking to pace on the ball, the South African duo continued to keep the scoreboard ticking in contrasting styles. Berger used the pace to his advantage and played elegantly behind square and through the covers, while Dunning continued to exude alpha male by depositing length bowling over the sightscreens (think Luke Ronchi at Dunedinhttp://www.espncricinfo.com/series/11486/scorecard/749789/New-Zealand-vs-Sri-Lanka-5th-ODI in 2015).
The pair persevered in shifting momentum Twickenham’s way by making use of gaps in the field, Dunning in particular bludgeoning balls past boundary riders. As 4 fielders had to be inside the ring, boundary efforts were consciously being targeted towards vacant areas on the rope. Needing 1 off the final ball for a maiden Twickenham century, Dunning knocked the ball into the offside and accepted rapturous applause from the spectators as the Ts set 225 for Shepherd’s Bush to win.
Going down to the wire
With a view to minimise pace offered on the new ball, Berger opted to open with the off spin of Anu Agarwal. This was complemented nicely by Simon Dunning who charged in from the Pavilion end. Although the pair proved wicketless in their opening spells, Shepherd’s Bush were not allowed to get off to a flyer. The early breakthrough also came courtesy of a fantastic tumbling catch from Kiwi veteran Dan Taylor at long on. 31-1.
The hosts' slow start was then consolidated into 108-2 as Shay Boo rotated the strike effectively against the variety of off-spin on display. Although failing to rip through the middle order, Vishvanath and Field both picked up important top-order wickets as pressure seemingly began to mount on opener Watts who appeared to be anchoring the chase. He was 61* at 122-3 off 24 overs. Berger continued to rotate the bowlers effectively, as Shepherd’s Bush tried to up the ante. Berger himself weighed in with an important spell at this phase in the game, in picking up an important wicket and bowling many dot balls, ending with match figures of 9-2-30-2.
Wickets then began to fall at regular intervals, Shay Boo's hopes resting ever more on experienced skipper Ben Colbeck and Watts. The two batters kept their heads and it began to look like the hosts were getting on top. However, much to the surprise of his own team-mates a moment of magic in the field from TCC's MDL Captain opened the back door for Twickenham. Having been inundated with “Top 10 Runouts“ from Robelinda’s youtube channel, Nikhil Nomula produced a fizzing flat throw from the boundary to send Shay Boo skipper Colbeck back to the hutch as he attempted a 3rd run.
Step up Anu Roland-Jones
With the run rate climbing above 7 an over for the last 9 overs, the Bush were ever more reliant on Robbie Watts. By now he was in to the 80s and clearly needed to manage the majority of the strike. Some astute ground fielding (including a superb one handed catch from Dunning) from Berger’s men ensured that it was rather Shepherd’s Bush tail-enders who would ultimately have to go big for the win.
Running like Mo Farah from long-on to long-on, Dan Taylor continued to demand the responsibility of fielding in this important position. His experience proved pivotal as Agarwal bowled the penultimate over. Being tempted by the Sheikh of Tweak’s flight and guile, Watts (95 off 129 balls), Wookey and Todorov all holed out in consecutive balls, as the Kiwi continued to accept the catching practice (fingers up) that came his. In doing so, the Bush were bowled out 21 runs short, sealing a memorable victory for the Ts. Anu (formerly Agarwal) Roland-Jones would now be the second man in Middlesex to take a hat-rick to win the league!
As the Ts walked off jubilant, resident Sherlock Holmes (Fieldy’s Dad) had investigated and received confirmation that Hornsey had defeated Southgate, crowning TCC champions! A quiet night of watching Netflix with a mug of Horlicks was upon us, as the lads looked forward to a winter of bedside table shopping at IKEA…
By Nakul Vishvanath