Sun 23 August Harpsden Won by 3 wkts
They 236/5 in 40 overs (Christian Whittaker 115*, Will Stevens 47, Mark Cooper 29, Wajid Tahir 2/50, Matt Syddall 1/32, Charan Shetty 1/33)
We 238/7 in 38.2 overs (Praveen Lekhraj 70, Harsha Gandadi 48, Amit Shanker 26*, Jai Singh 23, Stef Franklin 2/24, Rod Birkett 2/31)
Stats Guru San – “We have never won against Harpsden, Tim, so let’s put up a decent side.” Tim obliged with a star-studded cast – six top-order batsmen, five all-rounders and no tail. Blumberg described this as KCC’s Panzer division! Nitin, chosen to marshal the force, sent out pre-battle instructions to the troops – be there on time, batting order flexible, team first.
The day dawned and the match started bang on schedule with all personnel present and accounted for. Nitin lost the toss but was pleased that Harpsden chose to bat first (“We should be able to chase any total down”). Perhaps this was a premature statement as Harpsden openers Mark Cooper and Will Stevens made a steady start going at 5 an over off Adam and Amit in the first 8 overs, before Wajid came on and immediately bowled Mark with a beauty. Would Waj repeat the hat-trick he took on this ground 3 years ago? Not to be, although Tabrez a little wayward to start with knocked over no.3 soon after. The arrival of Christian Whittaker to the crease swung the momentum back to Harpsden as he and Will launched a counterattack putting on 65 at nearly 7 an over. Had not our skipper told Will that there was no Johnnie Walker prize on offer this year? Spinners Charan Shetty and Matt Syddall kept the batsmen in check and Matty was rewarded with the wicket of Will, well caught behind by Harsha. Christian meanwhile continued in fine form hitting a powerful unbeaten century in just 72 balls, well supported by the lower order. The innings closed on 236/5 – a daunting challenge for our 11 batsmen. Will they deliver?
Our start was disastrous, Matt Syddall first to go, well caught in the gully before he could open his account. Jai and Nitin set about stabilising the innings with Jai in particular beginning to stamp his authority. Then in quick succession we lost 3 wickets, Jai to an injudicious shot, Nitin through the gate, and Andy for a duck, 2 of these wickets falling to the wily veteran, Rod Birkett. At 38/4 after 13 overs, we were shell-shocked but not out of it. Harsha and Praveen came forth with all guns blazing in an exhilarating stand of 113 at a run rate of 7 an over. The fours flowed freely, and many singles were taken to rotate the strike. Sadly, Harsha was run out on 48 having simply run out of puff! With 86 still required and 11 overs left, Nitin promoted Wajid to up the run rate. Waj obliged with 18 in 10 balls before being bowled. All this while Praveen was playing a gem of an innings pulling and cutting anything short, and driving us towards the target, only to miscue one just 20 runs away with 3 overs remaining. Amit Shanker, normally an opening bat, saw us comfortably home with 10 balls to spare.
The Harpsden fortress had fallen after 7 campaigns and the bogey was finally laid to rest. Victory had been hard fought, and the opposition players were gracious in defeat. Christian and Praveen won the Man of the Match awards for their batting and we all look forward to many such thrilling encounters over the coming years.
Sun 16 June Harpsden Cancelled
Sun 17 June Harpsden Lost by 31 runs
They 194/7 in 40 overs (Will Stevens 61*, Ollie Brown 44, Adam Birkett 39, Tabrez Khan 2/27, Nitin Chaturvedi 2/31)
We 163/9 in 40 overs (Harsha Gandadi 50, Amit Shanker 38, Harry Geyton 2/10, Will Stevens 2/18, Shazad Gulfraz 2/45)
“Success leaves clues” someone once said. As we strode out to field with only 8 players after losing the toss, knowing we hadn’t yet won a game chasing this season I wondered to myself whether today was going to be a successful day.
What was not up for debate was the beautiful surroundings at Harpsden, definitely one of the most picturesque grounds we play at.
Back to the match and It did not start brightly, with the Harpsden opening pair putting our opening bowlers to the sword; 0 for 67 off 10 overs. Luckily, we had a few tricks up our sleeve with the slower, tighter bowling of Neeraj and Nitin. First the run rate slowed, and then the wickets followed. Neeraj got the initial breakthrough scattering the stumps of the opening batsman, but after pulling up with a sore back Sid was forced to finish the remainder of his next over. It was quite the introduction as Sid’s second ball swung late and through gate it went.
A couple of overs later Nitin was in on the act, with not one but two smartly taken catches by Ian Elliott in the cover region.
The brakes had well and truly been applied to the Harpsden innings, and even though wickets were harder to come by in the second 20 overs the run rate was kept in check by Tabrez and very late arriving Seethal. All in all 195 was a very gettable total.
Harpsden took the early honours in our innings, dismissing both Tim and Saikat cheaply with their slow / quick bowling combination. Amit and Harsha then formed what was the crucial partnership. Amit, very watchful, was ably supporting Harsha’s more brutal and punishing approach. With the pair taking us past 100 and Harsha in dangerous form, the onus was on one of them to score big.
But as often happens in cricket, both fell in quick succession trying to keep up with the ever-increasing run rate. It proved to be quite a difficult pitch to score on against slower bowlers, with Will Stevens following on from his 61 not out to claim 2 late wickets which sealed the victory for Harpsden and earned him the bottle of JW Gold.
Sun 16 July Harpsden Lost by 100 runs
They 178/10 in 39.3 overs (Johnny Wright 50, J.Aston 37, Wajid Tahir 4/37 (including hat-trick), Hammad Rishad 3/43, Saurav Sen 2/37)
We 78/10 in 25 overs (San Gore 13, Rod Birkett 2/10, Stef Franklin 2/12, Matthew Stanley 2/12, Shazeb Gulfraz 2/24)
Harpsden was the second of two back-to-back strong fixtures for KCC this weekend which, given our win-loss record (more of the latter, none of the former) against this excellent side, was always going to be a tricky proposition.
Our hosts tried gallantly to reassure us at the toss by mentioning they had been bowled out for 54 the previous day, and so understandably when Saurav called incorrectly they elected to bat.
For a while it seemed that they would not score much more than that as Saikat sent down 5 consecutive maiden overs to record an opening spell of 6-5-2-0. He was ably supported by Wajid who picked up a wicket for 17 runs in his first 4 overs. Runs at this stage were as hard to come by as an easy KCC victory but Harpsden progressed to a measured 72/1 in 19 overs with the batsmen Ed Birkett and Aston rotating strike and threatening to settle in for the long haul.
A change of bowling brought about a few wickets and a good contest between bat and ball as the batsmen tried to up the run rate in the face of tidy spells from Wesley and skipper Saurav. Hammad looked a bit rusty and was taken to the cleaners as he struggled to reach the 80mph+ mark of yore, but picked up wickets nonetheless, including their top scorer, Johnny Wright. Catch of the match (perhaps of the season) was a spectacular diving effort by Kamrul at gully to dismiss their top gun South African player who had flashed hard at a Saurav delivery. Wajid came back for a beautiful second spell to wrap up the Harpsden innings with a hat-trick – all bowled with reverse-swinging yorkers.
That, and the excellent tea which followed, was as good as it got for KCC on the day, unfortunately. Chasing 178 and faced with a decent bowling attack, skipper Saurav committed the tactical error of favouring “give everyone a game” over “let the all-rounders bat up the order even if they have bowled”, and we found ourselves in the disastrous position of 21 for 4 almost before we knew it. Disaster was compounded by farce as San had to go in ahead of Regan as the latter had failed to pad up in time for his batting slot (head shake). The opposition skipper – clearly unfamiliar with the KCC Way Of Things – even asked us on field whether we had reversed the batting order. We would have been dismissed for less than 50 save for a few blows from the lower order.
As it was, we lost by 100 runs even though there may be intriguing new photographic evidence to suggest that something else might have actually happened.
Due credit to the Harpsden bowlers, especially the left-arm quick Stef Franklin, who were too good for us on the day. So good, in fact, that there was not even enough time to chill the Cobras – another abject failure by the skipper. Our hosts were kind enough to overlook this grave error, though, which made for excellent post-match drinks while Ravi Mantha, taking on new responsibility as team physiotherapist, proceeded to fix Saikat’s sore shoulder via a series of taps to the ankles.
Sat 17 Sept Harpsden Cancelled
Sat 6 Sept Harpsden Lost by 1 wkt
We 160/9 in 45 overs (Tabrez Khan 40, Varun Sarna 23, San Gore 19, Max Martin 3/18, Will Stevens 2/19)
They 163/9 in 39.3 overs (Will Stevens 95*, Jon Stanley 49, Deepak Ramachandra 4/16, Neeraj Nayar 2/21, Matt Marshall 2/26)
A fine late summer fixture, 26 degrees sunny, a lovely ground in the picturesque setting at Harpsden. No delays on the M4 reported, 6 KCC players at the ground at 12:20pm and the match manager Deepak even managing to find his way unaided despite frantic phones calls to San for directions – all set up for a good game. Sounds too perfect to be true? Only because it was! 12:45pm…one call to say “I’m stuck at work, sorry”, another call “traffic on the M4”, and another, more worryingly, “My wife is in hospital” – so we toss with 8 players present, and pre match plans in disarray. Baptism by fire for Deepak, managing his first ever KCC game – pretty routine occurrence for the more seasoned KCC managers so no sympathy there!
Thankfully we won the toss, the decision was made for us – we bat first as the prospect of fielding with 3 short wasn’t quite appealing. A few more frantic calls, a quick reshuffle of the batting order, and calm was restored as Pammi and Matt walk out to get proceedings started. James Brooks and Max Martin tidy and sharp with the new ball, created problems and caused a wobble early getting Matt just for 2 and then eventually breaking through the solid defences of Pammi. It was left to the ever-reliable middle order of San, Neej and Tabby to stabilise the innings but runs were hard to come by. KCC continued to lose wickets trying to force the pace and tight spells from Will Stevens and Rod Birkett kept reaping rewards. 85/6 and it wasn’t looking very happy in our camp. A case of better late than not show at all helped KCC, as latecomers Varun (23) and Nitin (13*) provided some rear-guard resistance with Tabby to get us to 160, respectable but easily 35 too short, at the least.
After a group strategy discussion and a lot of pep talk at lunch we walked out ready to give this a fight. The pitch wasn’t easy to score on so we chose to take some pace off right at the start; we got the wily Neeraj to open the bowling with Deepak. Four quick wickets between the opening bowlers and first change Matty suddenly gave us real hope at 8/4, a spring in the step, lots of encouraging chatter and belief that we could pull this off. Harps had other plans though. Jon Stanley and Will Stevens arrived and made that belief very short-lived. Stanley played sheet anchor while Stevens, we believe right on the back of an unbeaten century the previous day, picked up where he left off and tore the bowling apart. The chatter quickly died and the spring in the step became a drag. But then Matty got Stanley well caught by Neeraj at slip and may have opened a chance? Deepak returned for his second spell to get 3 quick wickets. Last over, 1 wicket to get, 6 runs to defend – was there a twist left? Would we snatch victory from the jaws of defeat? The spring, the chatter, the encouragement returned – we could do this! But, alas, it was not to be. No fairy-tale finish. Man of the Match Stevens quite nonchalantly smashed a few out of the park to take the Harps across the line.
KCC lost another, but at least we got pretty close. All in all, a great game and after a friendly few beers later, it was back on the M4.
Sat 9 August Harpsden Lost by 4 wkts
We 160/9 in 40 overs (Jai Singh 59, Amit Shanker 29, Ian Whitaker 3/37, T.Stevens 2/29)
They 161/6 in 39 overs (Will Stevens 66*, Christian Whitaker 37, Deepak Ramachandra 2/20, Khush Khan 2/28)
Put in to bat by Harpsden (Chris lost the toss), KCC started solidly if unspectacularly. In particular, opener Jai Singh played elegantly and very well for his 59, leading KCC to a respectable total of around 100 off 25 overs for the loss of just 2 wickets.
With wickets in hand, the next step was to increase the run rate to capitalise on the solid start, but unfortunately Jai got out just as he looked to go on the charge. Tied down by some tight Harpsden bowling, the rest of KCC’s batsmen struggled to keep the scoreboard ticking, and with wickets falling often the momentum never increased. By the close of our 40 overs, we had limped through to a total of 160 for 9, with the run rate of 4 an over off the last 15 overs exactly the same as the run rate off the first 25 overs. It wasn’t enough runs on a decent pitch against a good side and we knew it.
Despite the below par score, 10 overs into Harpsden’s reply an unlikely Kensington victory was very much on the cards. Excellent bowling from openers Deepak Ramachandra and Khush Khan brought them two wickets apiece, leaving Harpsden in deep trouble at 31 for 4. But from that point on Harpsden skipper Will Stevens turned things around, playing a finely judged match-winning captain’s innings of 66 not out, shepherding Harpsden to victory with an over to spare. As usual at Harpsden, this was a very enjoyable game played in excellent spirit – long may the fixture continue.
Sat 10 August Harpsden Lost by 84 runs
They 226/5 in 40 overs (N.Stevens 64*, Cary 41, Bradish 37*, Chaggar 3/52)
We 142/10 in 36.2 overs (Regan 29, Gorasiya 27, Ghosh 24, Paice 2/19)
Driving through Chiltern countryside straight out of a period film, we arrived at Coppid Hall to play Harpsden, their main ground being under repair. Magically situated within a large estate, the Coppid Hall ground has two mature trees within the playing area. Including a large chestnut tree only the length of another pitch behind the wicketkeeper at one end. With a white sheet surrounding its trunk it made for an unusually thin sightscreen. Local rule: Only two runs if you hit the tree, so best not to aim there. Useful to park the helmet behind it though!
Harpsden elected to bat first on a pitch that resembled an egg crate (even Sunil bowled a nasty bouncer … although not intentionally, he later explained). Sakib Ola got an early breakthrough but opener Cary (46) smashed anything within reach to the boundary. Sunil and Joe Ireland bowled beautifully, conceding only 20-odd runs each in their allotted eight overs, both unlucky to end wicketless. For, aside from the chestnut tree, there were plenty of distractions at hand for our wool gathering fielders. Pleasant distractions such as the cuckoo calling in the woods, red kites sailing overhead and polo horses galloping in the adjoining paddocks. A watchful 64* from skipper Stevens and a late flourish from Bradish (37*) ensured Harpsden finished well, at 226/5 in their 40 overs.
In response, our batsmen found the pitch rather more difficult. A torn muscle terminated captain Rohan’s fluent innings and a belligerent Regan, complaining bitterly about an apparent demotion in the batting order, smote a few over the pavilion roof. Whilst our innings whimpered to a close at 142 all out in the 37th over, Blumberg resisted with a vintage 2* in 27 balls. Shame that his handsome cover drive fell victim to a fine (youthful) fielding effort. It deserved four.
Sat 11 August Harpsden Lost by 5 wkts
We 207/4 in 40 overs (Ledger 95*, Gore 62, Gorasiya 21*, A.Berkin 2/34)
They 210/5 in 38.5 overs (Harcock 70, Jones 30, Stevens 25*, Gorasiya 2/23)
This was our inaugural fixture at the village of Harpsden, just outside Henley, and first impressions were good – the ground is in a lovely rural setting, and the friendly opposition welcomed us warmly. On a pleasant sunny day, Harpsden won the toss and chose to field first in this 40 over game despite the sunshine and good pitch, as a couple of their players needed to leave early.
After one of KCC’s young guns, pinch hitter Regan, perished early, old stagers San Gore and skipper Chris Ledger rolled back the years, compiling a classy 144 run second wicket partnership. Unfortunately, after San was out for a fine half century with 10 overs to go, KCC’s incoming batsmen lost their way, alternately getting bogged down playing defensively and then flailing away trying and failing to smash the ball to the boundary rather than rotating the strike. As a result, KCC ended up 30 or so runs short of the total that had looked likely, and starved of the strike, Chris (inset) unluckily missed out on what would have been a deserved century.
In reply, Harpsden struggled against opening bowler Hammad Rishad’s hostile pace, but made up for it by scoring freely at the other end. At 150 for 3 after 28 overs, with just 58 runs to score in the remaining 12 overs with 7 wickets in hand, the game was virtually done and dusted. KCC managed to eke things out until the penultimate over as the result of some tight bowling spells from Seethal and Bharat, but in truth the result never looked in doubt. Nonetheless, this was a very enjoyable game played in excellent spirit, and a fixture that we much look forward to revisiting next season.