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Lombardy League Cup
Milan C.C. vs. Kingsgrove 31st March 2012

by Jonathan Legge

This is how my season ended up last year :

Captain “Jonathan : where do you want to field ?”
Jonathan “ Ummm.... anywhere, but not behind the bat.”
Captain “Ok : go gully.”

So - hoping for better things ! As we all should be – a glance at last year’s batting statistics will tell a story – out of the 196 scores that made it into the batting averages calculations, fewer than 10% of those were of 30 runs or more – I am wont to say that as a team we bowl far better than we bat; if we could all score at least 15 runs each, then I fancy we would win everything - as our former alumnus Craig said over and over again : “ work on building partnerships, and bat out the overs”. Which I think is a polite way of saying “stop throwing your wickets away !!”. Remembering these mantras against Kingsgrove will be a very good place to start ...

* * * *

A fine, sunny day – and apart from the fact that some of us seem a little fatter ( not me – it’s just the way the light falls ) – and more hirsute ( definitely not me – but Nand is sporting some sideburns worthy of Wolverine ) – the other change is that a concrete base has appeared just by the ground entrance, which heralds the arrival of a clubhouse ( well, it’ll probably more sort of “huttish” ), but good news in any case – Sunil and I think that the addition of a kebab shop and possibly an adjoining Chinese massage parlour would really improve the whole tone of the area. Anyway, first things first.

Milan were all present and correct at the appointed hour, unlike the opposition who rolled up late – the toss was won by Milan who elected to field first, reasoning that the hot weather would impinge on fielding abilities later on in the day. There followed a team talk in Hindi ( just as well : my English is rubbish ), and then play started – 35 overs, first match of the 2012 Lombardy League competition. Milan seemed to have a certain spring in their step (can I use the word “jaunty” here ?) – I presume that after the damp squib of a game the previous weekend, in which Settimo scored poorly both on the pitch and then in the score book ( who was in charge of the scorebook ? Lousy performance - imagine having to go round after the game and asking people how many wickets they took ! ), Milan really wanted a more meaningful contest.

The first 10 overs were atypical, insofar as Kingsgrove usually go about their batting in an unhurried way with little drama to speak of anywhere – but not today : a couple of skittish overs as Sunil and Amir adjusted their sights ( 11 runs conceded, of which 5 wides and a boundary ) and then the 2 sides exchanged blows to make the first session really quite enthralling : some determined bowling suggested that Milan meant business, and if it were possible to display the batting wagon wheel of scoring shots for the batsmen, then they would show exactly that : two multi-spoked wagon wheels, as the shots flew to all areas of the ground – the 4 catches that Milan put down in the first 8 overs ( eek !) all went down in different positions – a skyer to deepish mid on, a fast one at first slip, a hard hit to backward square leg and a fast low one right into Wolverine’s crown jewels ( ouch ) at mid off. Opener Fabio M. was then bowled, yorked for 7 by Amir while trying to hit across the line, having never really looked in control of his game; the score now 19 for 1 – Ali and Tarindu set about adding new spokes to their wagon wheels, suggesting that as Kingsgrove were going to bat with less caution than they usually do, then Milan would have the chance of some wickets, if only they could hold on to a catch – wides notwithstanding, Milan bowled with gusto and intent – the run rate was about 4 an over, most of the runs coming in 1s and 2s, the carefree ( = careless ?) batting suggesting that shots were not sufficiently well-timed to get boundaries. But Kingsgrove made it through to drinks at 17 overs , 73 for 1 – no further wickets for Milan, but the run rate was more than acceptable. We know from experience that Kingsgrove do have this habit of cutting loose towards the end of their innings, so Milan would have to take steps to counter this if they wanted to avoid having to chase a 200+ total......

And guess what ? Although a double strike by Nand first ended Tarindu’s stay ( deceived by the flight and offering up a simple catch to Sunil at mid wicket for 38 ) and then did for Ali ( going for the big one but catching it too high up on the bat and getting caught at mid on by Irfan for 16 ), the next 2 batsmen Dinesh and Dinuk upped the pace and, noisily supported by their raucous teammates in the crowd, took K’grove from 86 for 3 after 22 overs to 176 – a crucial partnership of 90 runs, aided and abetted by some sloppy fielding it must be said. There were chances : a couple more catches went down, we could have had a run out and a stumping, and the bowling went from being toothsome to relatively toothless – the 150 coming up in the 31st over as Milan toiled without reward. The breakthrough finally came in the 34th over when Gurmel caught and bowled Dinesh for 49 ( six 4s and one 6) – too little too late, maybe ? Zaen and Dinuk ( 53 not out, three 4s and two 6s ) saw the overs out : final score 188 for 4. Two wickets for Nand at a cost of 36 runs, but Sonu’s bowling was the tidiest : 0 for 25 off 7 overs. One wicket apiece for Amir (7 overs, 2 maidens, 1 for 45 ) and Gurmel ( 2 overs, no maidens, 1 for 17).

Please forgive the gloomy tone – for sure Milan could have done better, but there appeared to be plenty of depth in the batting line-up, considering that Ramesh was at n.9 and Nand was at n.11 – take your time, boys, build partnerships and no foolish risks : how difficult can it be ?

Answer : fairly. Despite 9 runs coming off the first over, Bhupi then played the classic wrong
shot : instead of taking a step back and square cutting an innocuous waist-high ball to the boundary at backward point ( well that’s what I would have done ..... “yeah : in your dreams”, I hear you all say !!!!! ), he thoughtfully guided it straight into 2nd slip’s hands – Milan 9 for 1 with 7 balls bowled. Having seen Gurmel hitting a 6 with his first scoring shot, I began to wonder if we were on the brink of a collapse – I love watching Gurmel bat, but boy does he scare the living daylights out of me ! He bats with such relish and tries to mete out punishment to every ball, where perhaps a more unhurried approach would pay more dividends.... and he duly followed the Shanta habit of either getting 2ish or 62ish, out caught behind for 16 in the 4th over – Milan now 22 for 2 off just 4 overs – a frantic start, just not what the doctor had ordered, and 2 potential batting match winners back in the ( yet-to-be-built) pavilion. What
next ?
Kingsgrove decided to give us a hand and produced some very shabby bowling, the highlight of which was an over with 11 wides. Indeed as the game went on, it became obvious that in fact Kingsgrove had not really bothered to bring along any proper bowlers at all – despite Sonu losing his wicket in the 10th over for a disappointing 15 ( skying one to widish deepish mid on having caught the ball too high on the bat), the run rate was healthy enough : 6 an over, but we had to stop unnecessarily losing wickets. At the crease now were Irfan and Saleem – Saleem was quick out of the blocks ( he, too, with a 6 for his first scoring shot ), but Irfan seemed intent on biding his time – the 50 partnership came up just after drinks in the 17th over ( Milan now 120 for 3,well on target, and Kingsgrove doing themselves no favours with some decidedly unimpressive bowling [25 wides in all] and dropping Irfan when he was still in single figures).
The 100 partnership was duly reached in the 22nd over after a series of powerful shots all around the ground : not much nurdling or guiding going on here ! Then the 10th bowler to be used by Kingsgrove finally got some reward – Saleem got himself stumped going for the big one, out for a decent 34 (three 4s and one 6); Sunil came and went in the same over for just 4, caught ( but I don’t remember where !) Much too late for Kingsgrove to turn it around tho’, still plenty of batting to come and far too many runs gifted already – Milan romped home in the 26th over, Simon sensibly not risking his wicket ( 11 not out ) and Irfan finishing the day with 80 not out
( six 6s and two 4s).

A comfortable victory, made easier by the opposition’s bowling shortcomings. Milan acquitted themselves decently during the first session in the field, restricting Kingsgrove well, and batting pretty imperiously ( after a nervous start !).

A good start - if we continue in this vein we should be contenders for the cup ........

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