On the plus side, at least there was no rain. All of the cricketing decisions that needed to be made in Week 18 of the MCCL were therefore made out on the field and not whilst twiddling thumbs in the pavilion. That’s the one positive thing that can be said about Twickenham CC’s final week of the 2023 season.
Finchley pull off great escape
Over the last two weeks the ones have risen magnificently to the challenge of facing off against two really good sides (Ealing and North Middlesex). On both occasions the Ts belied their lowly status and put their opponents to the sword. Indeed, had North Midd beaten the Ts in Week 17 then the Midd would have ended as league champions….
Given the way that 2023 has gone it was nonetheless entirely appropriate that when ninth placed Finchley rolled into town the Ts of Week 16 and Week 17 seemed to somehow go awol.
To be fair, Finchley needed to win to stay up and so had lots to play for. That they did win and that Hampstead lost against Shepherd’s Bush means that Finchley will remain in the Prem in 2024 whilst Hampstead join the Ts in Div One.
On Saturday, the Ts can have had no complaints with the result. Carlos Nunes (22 off 23) briefly flickered into life, but no one else got above 20 as the Ts just about got to three figures. The ageless David Burton (4-23) and Seb Feszczur-Hatchett (3-47) did most of the damage.
Gus McKenzie (2-11) did his best to manufacture a miracle, but Rohail Imman (a quickfire 35 off 21) and Tim Le Breton (27 off 21) made sure that Finchley got where they needed to go in pretty quick time. Fair play to them.
Hamish Johnston catches the eye, but the twos miss out on promotion
The twos were no more satisfied with their final day performance than were the ones. They, too, were playing Finchley although the background to the contest was altogether different.
Twickenham’s second string knew that a win would give them a chance of being promoted to the top flight, whilst Finchley were long since doomed to life in Division Two in 2024. The outcome? Finchley won at a canter.
Finchley had first hit and put 208 on the board. Cam Fraser (2-23 off 9), Tapan Kumar (2-32 off 9) and Hamish Johnston (2-55) all chipped away nicely.
Going into the second innings the Ts will have backed themselves to give the chase a good go. Things, however, started badly, got progressively worse and concluded – despite an entertaining 24 from Hamish Johnston at the end – pretty dismally. Skipper Nakul Vishvanath managed 16 as did Tapan Kumar, whilst the indomitable Kev Cavilla got 18 up top. Mo Ahmad (11) aside no else made double figures.
With Barnes losing to champions Richmond, the Ts finished the day where they started it (third). On the one hand a disappointing way to end, but on the other the season as a whole has to be viewed as a pretty successful one. Promotion near-misses do at least indicate you’ve been winning more than you’ve been losing.
Close but no cigar for the threes
Of all the Twickenham sides it’ll be the threes who are most frustrated with how Week 18 panned out.
If they were to stay up then they knew that a lot of things had to work in their favour. And, they all did …. apart from the one that they themselves could control. They lost against North Midd when a win would have kept them up.
The context there is, however, important. North Midd are champions and the best side in the division. The Ts had a real mountain to climb in trying to put one over on them. They absolutely gave it their best shot, too. Sean Daly and Oli George dug in and batted well as the Ts put 160 on the board.
The Twickenham bowling attack took to the challenge of defending that admirably, and with seven wickets down it really did look like the 3s might be pulling off a miracle. Sadly, the North Midd tail wagged and they ultimately (just about) got where they needed to go. They won by three wickets. The 3s therefore drop to Division Three for next season.
Andy Donelan reincarnates as a bowler
The fours also ended their season with a defeat, but there was none of the final day jeopardy in their contest with Southgate 3s.
Southgate won the toss and batted first. Their 191 all out represented a good effort with Liam Babwah leading the way with 64.
The redoubtable Hinay Dassani (5-38) was impressive with the ball, although he pulled a real ace out of the pack in chucking the cherry to Andy Donelan late on. The Wounded Giraffe mixed subtle changes of pace, with flight, guile and at least one Shoaib Akhtar-like rocket to claim a couple of wickets. Respect due.
In reply James Hopkins dug at in at top, whilst Asim Shahzad (41 off 52) kept things moving in the middle. VP Singh (15) and the skipper himself (15) wielded the willow impressively at the end, but ultimately 192 was always going to be a bridge too far. The 4s ended 56 runs short.
Will Jones shines the light for the 5s
The fifths were the second of the Twickenham sides with an outside chance of going up. Like the twos, that didn’t happen.
The 5s, however, never really expected to be in anything like a promotion chase and they won’t be too perturbed at coming off second best against a good Actonians’ side.
Actonians put 199 on the board, Hitesh Patel (50 off 43) and keeper Alistair Slaughter (29 off 44) leading the way. Jon Bosier, unquestionably and unequivocally the best all rounder in the club, weighed in with a monumental 5-33 off his 9.2 overs, whilst Will Jones (on debut) and Shahwanaz Khawaja also took wickets.
With the rarely spotted Combrinck of the Damon variety in the batting line up the Ts were certainly primed to give the chase a go. Saul Croxford (21 off 16) got things moving nicely and Ryan Oakes (39 off 46) dug in admirably later on. Will Jones (21 off 22) also did his level best to put the Actonians’ attack under pressure.
Their efforts weren’t, however, enough to inflict a defeat on the league champions. Actonians got home with 51 runs to spare.
All in all the final day of the season wasn’t one that will remain long in the memory. Indeed, much the same can be said about 2023 more generally.
But, cricket clubs have better and indeed worse years. One thing remains clear; the winter will see batteries re-charged and all five Twickenham sides will be back and ready for battle come May 2024. In the meantime, don’t go spending too much money during those long Saturday afternoon visits to Ikea and Homebase….