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The Parting of Legends

07 May

Thursday 7th May 2015 … a day remembered for the General Election in the UK, but for the day when a group of legends parted in the West Indies.

The bulk of the guys who had taken Wecester Gipsindies to the top of West Indies’ cricket were playing their final First Class game together. And what more fitting way to play their final game together, against old rivals Biodiesel, the current number one team in the Windies and the 14th best in the world. Of course, by this point Wegi had already sold off a few of the main team that had taken them to the top, but the bulk were still there and this was their last offering.

The groundsman had deviously prepared a pitch that was green/hard and fast to begin with, his aim was to give Wegi the best chance of drawing their final FC game together. Two of them were playing their final game, another 4 would play one last OD game the next day, so wanted a draw to keep morale high for that.

Alas, Wegi lost the toss, but a very good effort from the bolwers against world class opposition in lovely batting conditions saw us bowl them out for 309. Alas though, we were skittled 155, narrowly missing the follow-on target. With only 4 main batsmen to rely on it was always going to be hard to get a big score if they got two early wickets, which they did.

This was where the match turned though. Biodiesel declined to enforce the follow on. Not only did this play in to Wegi’s hands due to the state of the game, it also gave them a massive boost in the dressing room and the mood changed from one of defeat to one of galvanisation and hope. We could now get something out of this and each and every one of us would try our hardest to do so.

At the close of play on day 2 Biodiesel were 39-0, leading by 193. We knew that they would get to 100 and declare in the morning. Our hope was to not let them get to that in under 10 overs and see if we could bat the day out for the draw. For at this point we knew the pitch would be fully hard and fast and the sun beating down.

Indeed, they did declare at 100, but we’d manage to hold them back in doing so, taking 2 wickets and using up 15 overs of the day. It left us 95 overs to bat out, and, should we do so, maybe even get us close to a stealing a victory.

Indeed, at this point, manager Dinho sent a famous text to friend and rival manager of King Havit, Paul Baker thus: “They’ve set us 259 to win in 95 overs …The pitch is pure hard and fast, the sun is shining … we only have 4 batsmen … but if 2 get centuries, which surely they can … then we COULD win this….! (…Bring on early quick wickets and the afternoon off!)”

The tactic was clear. The openers would have license go for it. As soon as a wicket fell, the rest would try just to hold out. It was felt that we’d probably have more chance batting less time and going for the win rather than defending all day for the draw. And of course that very mentality would make the task slightly easier.

So, the openers went out with a license to swashbuckle and boy did they LOVE them Apples. After 7 they were going at over 7 per over:

End of Over 7 (14 runs). Wecester Gipsindies: 44-0, runrate=6.29 (1st Inn: 155-10)
Trail by 214 runs. (Biodiesel 309-10 & 104-2)
Overs left today: 88
Jalil 4-0-26-0
Lovatt* 16 (15 balls)
Appleton 28 (27 balls)

After 13 the swashbuckling continued:
End of Over 13 (5 runs). Wecester Gipsindies: 75-0, runrate=5.77 (1st Inn: 155-10)
Trail by 183 runs. (Biodiesel 309-10 & 104-2)
Overs left today: 82
Chorley 3-0-13-0
Appleton* 48 (48 balls)
Lovatt 27 (30 balls)

After 20 the crowd were really sensing the belief:
End of Over 20 (5 runs). Wecester Gipsindies: 94-0, runrate=4.70 (1st Inn: 155-10)
Trail by 164 runs. (Biodiesel 309-10 & 104-2)
Overs left today: 75
Muslehuddin 5-0-18-0
Appleton* 62 (74 balls)
Lovatt 32 (46 balls)

Lovatt brought up the 100 in over 22 with a SIX – 102-0, 155 to win from 73

The 27th over was a big one. Lovatt brought up his 50 and then smashed another two fours as we got past the half way mark without losing a wicket!

End of Over 27 (14 runs). Wecester Gipsindies: 137-0, runrate=5.07 (1st Inn: 155-10)
Trail by 121 runs. (Biodiesel 309-10 & 104-2)
Overs left today: 68
Anderton 5-0-30-0
Appleton* 79 (96 balls)
Lovatt 58 (66 balls)

The 150 came up in the 30th over, that’s right 5 per over after 30 overs! We were 155 all out in the first inns! 108 runs left for victory and no need to even talk about the time left to get them (65 more overs still left in the day! – the only really question in terms of time being whether everyone could get home for tea…)

The next over we got to that 155 mark, making a mockery of our first inns score. But this of course is likely when you rely on only a top 4… when they get a partnership or two, they can get a decent score. When they don’t they can be skittled.

The 39th over was famous. Only one from it, but it was the one to bring up Apples’ century. What a way for the great man to go. His final FC inns for us and he lead a galvanised group of heroic gipsindies. As he took his helmet off he wiped a brief tear from his eye and immediately refocussed. 193-0. 66 runs required for a famous outgoing victory for this side.

As he had done in over 22 to bring up the 100, Lovatt smashed another 6, this time in the 40th and this time to bring up the 200 partnership! It also took him to 99. I’ll have to look back through the history book, and I’m sure there’ll be bigger partnerships v bots, but this must be the greatest partnership against one of the world elite’s for a Wedge pairing. The two came to the middle to embrace one another and again you could see the tears. More this time. The whole ground was caught up with the emotion of the moment.

Again, the lids went back on and they had to refocus…

The next two overs saw Apples take most of the strike and score just a couple of singles as the wait for Lovatt’s century continues. Then, in the 43rd, Apples stretched at a one that would have been called wide and his tired arms spooned it up to the fielder! He was gone. In came Lelho, already sold, this, as with all the top 4, his final FC inns, but unlike the other 4 he won’t have the chance to bat in OD tomorrow one last time. What could he do? He got a single first, Lovatt on strike…bowled by an inswinging yorker!! So cruel! On 99!

I said that we needed two players to get centuries to win this. Well one opener got 103, the other got 99 … surely Lelho and Warner could get the remaining 56 runs required for victory? OR at least the bulk of them with Nikosi, Lunt and Graddon to scratch around for the last few?!

The joyous mood had now turned to an atmosphere akin to that during the high tension at Edgbaston in 2005… Maidens and single run overs were now becoming more and more prevelant as Warner and Lelho found it hard to adopt the swashbuckling style of the openers, and rightly so … but maintained a gritty, doggy and determined effort…

The 50th over of the innings came up. Warner had 6 from 25, Lehlo 5 from 20. 213-2. 46 required from 45.

That became 34 from 40. And that was tea! WOW!

SURELY from here we’d do it. We just need to come out focused and hold tight for the first few overs after tea…

A single from the first over after tea.

Seven from the next!

Then two.

Then three. Just 21 short of what would be a famous and oh so fitting farewell victory for this glory team.

Maiden. 1 leg-bye. Maiden. Maiden. Eek. That’s one extra from 4 overs. The tension getting too much for the protagonists! 20 runs still required. 32 overs left. No batsmen left though, apart from a trainee, old boy Lunt, and bowling all rounder Graddon….

Lehlo and Warner put on 38 in 21 overs but Lehlonoholo agonisingly fell for 18. Youngster Nikosi comes in and we still need 18…

Nikosi came out looking confident, scoring a couple of 2s in the next over.

A single each in the next… then a single for Nikosi in the 67th, that left us just 10 to win!

Nikosi hit the ball in to the deep and they ran 3 in the next over. Then a maiden … Palpable tension!

End of Over 69 (Maiden). Wecester Gipsindies: 252-3, runrate=3.65 (1st Inn: 155-10)
Trail by 6 runs. (Biodiesel 309-10 & 104-2)
Overs left today: 26
Anderton 11-2-45-0
Warner* 21 (65 balls)
Nicoski 9 (21 balls)
Last Wicket: Lehlohonolo c. Muslehuddin b. Jalil 18 (FOW: 241/3)

He’d been brave, But young Nikosi had too much adrenaline pumping and was run out for 9. We still required 6 to win. We’ve collapsed for 0 runs from this position before. In came Lunt, one of the greatest legends not only for Wegi but also for their parent club in England, the Gips. Now 38 years of age though and with dwindling skill levels and only mediocre stamina, could he get us there with captain fantastic Warner?

The next three overs were all maidens. The boys just couldn’t buy a run. Still 6 required, now just 22 overs left (he says as though that would matter … surely there’s no way all those overs would be bowled …it can only be 6 runs or 6 wickets … normally you’d know which would be more likely, but one wicket could easily bring 6 here).

Another maiden … then BOOM … a … single … for .. Warner. 5 to win from 20 overs!

The change of strike worked wonders. Warner then hit a 4 next over to tie the scores … the main objective from pre-match complete, defeat avoided … two balls later Warner pulled a short ball square and the boys ran through to complete and incredible 6 run victory. What a way to bow out. And how fitting that captain Warner, the longest standing member of the squad should hit the winning runs. The scenes were jubilant, full of emotion, and went long in to the night. The morale gained for the OD match the next day surely nergated by the late night celebrations!

Appleton*, Lovatt*, Lehlohonolo*, Warner*, Nicoski, Lunt, Graddon*, Hoefakker, Sishayi, Karnik*, Seargant … we salute you!

*All playing their final FC game for us.

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