Refreshers v Chelsea Arts Club
Oxford, 1 August 2021
Delayed start due to rain but sunny thereafter.
Refreshers lost the toss and set to fielding
Chelsea openers contrasting styles, one nurdler, one whacker. Sachin bowling his seam-up drew some uneven bounce. Kavanagh dropped a sharp caught and bowled off the whacker, leaving a nasty bruise. The ball gradually became wetter and wetter – especially when pulled into the neighbouring rugby pitch which hadn’t been mowed.
The breakthrough came when first change Henry Law’s first ball was slog swept into the hands of the retreating Sachin; the other opener tried to follow suit but Sachin unluckily dropped that difficult chance diving forwards.
Number three had one shot: a lofted on drive. Stuart Brady was onto this quickly and stationed one, two then three fielders there: loudly ordering them into the ‘dropping zone’. No3 paid no heed and carried on his merry way, repeatedly chipping the ball into the dropping zone where it either fell miraculously short of the fielders or slipped through their hands like a bar of soap.
No 4 was a frightening prospect and made a quick start before lunch. But he must have overdone it on the Chinese curry, chilli con carne, cheeseboard and/or Eton mess because he fell first ball after lunch to the spin of McAloon. It soon became clear that McAloon was a canny bowler, varying his pace and extracting turn from the pitch with his off breaks. He had the no3 caught by Law to whoops of delight (third time lucky as he had dropped him twice off Brady), then had a small child stumped twice by skipper Ahmed (their sq leg didn’t give the first but the child gave himself out the second time).
Almeida bowled tightly, Sutton picked up a very handy wicket and young Willatt fielded enthusiastically, with a strong throw back to the wicket keeper possibly something to do with his baseball training?
Lusty blows at the end and a big target: something like 183/8, with none of their batsmen scoring more than 30 but all chipping in.
McAloon opened with Willatt and again it soon became clear he could bat. Not just a big hitter, more a manipulator of the field, finding gaps with sweeps and pushes. His effortless accumulation was illustrated by the Refreshers only thinking of clapping him for his 50 when he was already on 74. Willatt looked his usual classy self before unfortunately retiring hurt after one of many 2s; Brady stuck around and showed some classy drives before being given out LBW in comical fashion (umpire’s finger up before the ball hit the pads); Rob TB hit some lovely sweeps and cuts but was caught out trying to get on with things too quickly. This left a handy platform for the Sachin show: one over went 464 and had the scorer panicking about whether there were enough runs left to allow McAloon his 100; another highlight was a slap over point off one leg for a one bounce 4. McAloon might have heard the whispers from the pavilion because he cleverly farmed the strike in the next over, got to 99, then sent an on drive to the boundary for the winning runs to reach 103 not out, to go with his 3 wickets, on debut!