Down Memory Lane – The Roehampton Epic – 1997
A reminiscence by San Gore
It was a real struggle to get players for this late September fixture. On the day before we had entertained Chudleigh, on tour from Exeter, at the Roehampton ground on Putney Heath. And we were due to play there against Roehampton itself the next day. But enthusiasm had waned after a great evening at the St.James’ school ball; we were down to seven players with at least three (based on drunken promises) to show up. Needless to say, the extras didn’t materialise and we faced certain annihilation or else we call the game off (which we were loathe to do at this late stage). Fortunately, Roehampton were themselves down to nine men so we were prepared to have a go.
Being the skipper, I assessed our motley crew assembled at the ground. The reliable stalwarts comprised Ravi Kannan, our star all-rounder, John Behar, the young off-spinner, and myself, the wicket-keeper-batsman. Vinoo Nath was, as ever, full of grit and determination, and Atul Bajpai, who sometimes turned out for us in-between his rounds of golf, could prove useful. Then there were Ravi Ramamrutham, our rotund new batting recruit that year, and his drummer friend, Mick Morena, there to make up the numbers. Not exactly the Magnificent Seven, but seven prepared to do battle.
I lost the toss. Not a good start. At least we had the new ball to bowl with. My instructions to Ravi Kannan (inset left) and John Behar (inset right) were simple, “Bowl at pace until you drop!” I set a three-two field, no slips, no fine leg, and exhorted the bowlers to bowl outside off-stump. And so they did, ball after ball, over after over. The Roehampton openers struggled and we fielded like tigers. Soon we were amongst the wickets, Ravi taking the first two – a good catch by Mick at point, and a caught and bowled. It was then John’s turn to make his mark with the next two wickets, straying straight to clean bowl one, then pitching a rare short ball that was swung high to deep square-leg where Ravi Ram held an amazing tumbling catch that earned him the Grubby Trousers award for fielding that year. 47/4. Ravi K cut down his pace to conserve energy and promptly picked up two further wickets.
All the while opener Paul Cooper was nurdling his way at one end to reach a plodding fifty. None of the other batsmen had made more than 11 runs, despite the many gaps in the field. A mini-stand ensued but was broken by a second catch by Mick, still protecting his precious drumming hands. 115/7 and Ravi (20-5-66-5) was finally rested with a job well done. One more wicket to get (or so we thought). John reverted to off-spin and Atul took over from Ravi.
It was then that we realised that Roehampton had a full eleven. Apparently, two Pakistani lads who had been watching the game asked if they could play. Without offering them to us to make the numbers even Roehampton added them to their own team. And they proved pretty useful.
When Paul was eventually out, bowled by Atul, the score was 153/8 which should have been the end of the innings. Instead, their two new recruits piled on 43 more runs before the declaration came on 196 after 45 overs. John had bowled unchanged for 23 overs ending with 2/99, figures only spoiled by the late onslaught.
We went into tea fuming at our hosts’ selfishness and were determined more than ever to win the match – a tall order given they had 11 fielders. We started badly as both our openers, Vinoo and Ravi Ram, were bowled and we were 13/2. I was joined by Ravi Kannan, still tired from his earlier exertions, and the two of us set about building a platform. This soon became the launch pad for feisty fireworks as both of us tore into their attack. There is no stopping Ravi when he is aroused. Time and again he drilled the ball to the boundary with alarming ferocity. I was content to play second fiddle moving the ball around to give Ravi the strike. Together we put on 131 runs before the ball was tossed to one of the Pakistanis, Syed Naqvi, who induced a snick to the keeper when I was on 47. 144/3 with 7 overs to get 53 to win. But Naqvi was good, his four overs only going for 4 runs. Atul and Ravi targeted the other bowler and hammered the ball in all directions. The last over, we needed 27 and Ravi smashed 14 in a final flourish as KCC ended on 183/3 with Ravi and Atul remaining unbeaten and unbowed on 97 and 19 respectively.
It must also be written that we had to score the runs in only 34 overs as Roehampton had delayed their declaration until the 45th, so circumspect they had been against our three bowlers and only seven on the field. So, a match heavily stacked in Roehampton’s favour was handsomely drawn. Indeed we would have cruised to a win if we had at least one of the ringers. But I’m proud to say that our Seven were indeed Magnificent on the day, with Ravi Kannan leading the way with an extraordinary Match Double.