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MCC vs Settimo Lions - April 7th 2013
Lombardy League Cup

Match photos

Points table

Got a book last Christmas. Title : “How to play better cricket”. Here is what it said : 

1)     Lose weight. 

2)     Drink  less. The End. 

There was also something in the forward about nets ( written by a certain Suitemarn ), but for the life of me I can’t figure out how fishing comes into all of this, so I have decided to ignore that point.  
Welcome, then , to the Chinese year of the bat, er, mat. Yes : after decades of fine service the old mat is no more - the new mat has been delivered and nailed down – so the first thing we did when we got to the ground on Sunday was pull it up !! The reason for this was that an area the size of a plate had subsided right in the area where most of us pitch the ball ( short of a length outside leg stump ), so armed with a small coal shovel and  some sand that Jonathan had inexplicably found under his staircase some emergency repair work had to be carried out. So we got out the pliers and pulled out half the nails ... and on removing the underlay we found a disconcerting number of worms lazily tunnelling out irritating (but undeniably artistic ) patterns in the sand : question to worms : cosa volete ? Que voulez vous ? Why here ? Anyway, we did what we could – fingers crossed. 

What does the year have in store for Milan?  I can still recall our  last summer – the scorebook and trophies speak for themselves – Milan won both the Lombardy League and the much-coveted Zuoz cup at long last - but the mark of a true champion is surely to see whether the winner takes it all two years in a row.

For 2013 an easy opening fixture – on paper at least – against the renamed Settimo Lions – a nice way to ease into the season......

Decent weather - Milan to field first – the customary 35 overs for league games – Yogesh to open from the “Nets” end, Sunil from the “Pavilion” end. Both bowled with intent, injecting sufficient pace to give neither of the openers a chance to score easily– in the first 6 overs 85% of the (few) runs were scored to places behind the stumps  – however the theme to sum up the early exchanges would be “slipping through my fingers” as Milan contrived to  put down 3 catches : one bisecting the slips, one bisecting Vijay’s hands and the third a huge skyer ( eagle soaring altitude, if this helps ) that Yogesh inexplicably put down, having had about half an hour to wait for the ball to come down halfway down the track. The Settimo score limped along at just under 3 an over , Milan kindly chipping in with a few wides. The batsmen were constantly under attack,   and it was surely just a question of when they would get out, as not many defensive shots were on display – even the first boundary was a somewhat fortuitous shot, a half-hearted wave outside off to a rising delivery.

I cannot claim to be without a score book – I had a good look at the score sheet kept by Settimo, but they just marked down every ball as a dot and  didn’t record the fall of the wickets. Not to worry :  it was clear what the pattern was going to be  - the bowling changes set the tone for the rest of the game, and Settimo went from a “ few-runs- no-loss-of-wickets”  phase to  a “ few-runs-with-regular-wicket-loss” phase – Oliver picked up 2 wickets as did Sonu; Brian collected a couple as the third bowling change was made – for their part Settimo demonstrated that the little known scientific “ double circle “ law still holds good : it says that the wider the circle of your waistline, the wider your turning circle is when you are halfway down the track before your batting partner has no intention of running - and you stupidly  run yourself out. Which they did. Twice.

In spite of a few more chances being spurned (catches + a stumping ), Settimo went on and on and on just  throwing away their wickets, and although they succeeded in upping the core rate to 4 an over, they were all out for a rather pathetic 91 after just 23 overs, Balvant and Naresh the only 2 to get into double figures. I mention here that their score would have been close to 70 had not so many wides been bowled.....             

Chasing 91 ? I can think of at least 3 of today’s Milan batsmen capable of getting that on their own ! But I can also think of countless Milan batsmen with lemming tendencies ..... Settimo had put almost no thought into their batting, opting for the “slash and (be)burn(ed)”  technique ( almost criminal to get all out with still 12 overs to bat ) – so absolutely no need to rush – no need to take a chance - more sort of andante andante rather than allegro vivace....

....... and off we went. Gurmel and Sonu opened, the latter playing his customary effortless strokes, Gurmel starting with his usual resolve – would he have the mental strength to stay in ? No – having already posted 25 runs in 3 overs the opening partnership was broken ( i.e. chucked it all away ) as Gurmel, under no pressure at all,  chipped a regulation catch to mid wicket for a disappointing 9. New MCC man Stuart in, and although dare I say it he looked a little rusty, he managed to partner Sonu up to the 50 mark in the 9th over. The change of bowling saw Settimo Lions step up a gear, and Sonu was out for 20, LBW to Said, Settimo’s most effective bowler who generated both pace and swing to cause problems to the middle order – Milan now 52 for 2, but surely no reason to panic ?? The job, after all, was half done –how difficult could this be ?   

Reasonably. Sunil now in, and with Stuart pinned back by the better bowling partnership of Sandeep and Said, hopes rested on him – Stuart was bowled for 8, finally succumbing to Said’s hostile barrage,  and then Sunil, having hit a powerful 4 over mid off  was then immediately caught for a paltry total of 6 runs. Now we are 60 for 4. Mamma mia – and there was me hoping for a 10 wicket victory .... 32 runs shy with 6 wickets in hand would appear to be no big ask, but you just never know with Milan : one of us would have to step up to the mark – TONS of overs left, so no rush so long as we just don’t throw our  wickets away ! No need to go for big shots : it really could be done in singles ( and, er, wides – all told Settimo bowled a top-scoring 23 of them !! ).    

At the crease were Oliver ( saying all the right things about not rushing it ) and Vijay – few of us will forget the day when he cut loose and hit a majestic 36 in next to no time, but this was not the day for that – Settimo had realised they were back in the game and there was  a new energy about them . Vijay always sets pulses racing when he bats, and not always for the right reason, and having got bat on ball a couple of times met his customary Waterloo when he was bowled by Said for 4 – S.O.S ( save our self-respect? ) - Milan have now staggered to 70 for 5 in the 17th – not even half way through the overs !! 

Oliver was playing sensibly, picking off singles here and there, but down the other end was Jonathan, not famous for his wide selection of strokes – basically “clout-it-if-I-can” would sum him up – but gently reminded by Oliver after every ball that there was plenty of time (and possibly not plenty of batting to come ) he and Oliver survived the end of Said’s spell ( a most respectable 7 overs, 3 wickets for 14 runs ),m  and slowly but surely pushed the score along – when all is said and done this is what both sides should have done from the outset. Milan’s third and final boundary of the day ( easy does it, J !!) nudged the score into the 80s, and then it was just a case of getting the final few, Settimo rounding off affairs by bowling a couple more wides. Credit to Oliver (12*) and Jonathan(9*) for staying level-headed and not getting out, which is the name of the game, after all.  

Milan won by 5 wickets. 

Next weekend we play Idle in Lodi, and we will have to produce a better display – anyway, it’s hasta manana from me, and let’s hope for some better mental discipline next time round. 


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