DULWICH 121-4 (35.2) beat SANDERSTEAD 119 (36.1) by 6 wickets
After finishing second in the group stages, Dulwich Academy XI were rewarded with a plate semi-final against reigning champions Sanderstead on an overcast day at the DSG.
The Academy XI had reached this stage under the excellent stewardship of top clubman Patrick George. As he often reminds us, Paddy loves cricket and is never afraid to go the extra mile for Dulwich. This week he went even further… 1200 miles further to be exact, as he left his team behind to celebrate his birthday on the beach in Italy. What a bloke! Taking up the reigns in his absence were the safe and steady hands of former skipper, the Chaos Engine himself, Euan Johnson.
Johnson’s first act – after giving his team a rousing preemptive bollocking – was to lose the toss. But with rain in the air and the wicket greener than the outfield, Captain Chaos was happy to accept Sanderstead’s invitation to bowl first. Leading the line for Dulwich were the Sam twins – ‘McLovin’ Ellison and Saleem.
After a full and frank discussion over who got to bowl with the wind, the smooth-talking McLovin pulled rank and, once his butler had marked his run up out for him, he began with the breeze at his back. The Sams have developed into a formidable opening duo in recent weeks and it was immediately apparent they had brought their very best to the big occasion, as both bowlers beat the bat at regular intervals.
The opening exchanges were cagey with the ball moving in the air and off the seam and the Sanderstead openers watchful, but it wasn’t long before the relentless accuracy paid off, Ellison trapping Ottewill in front for 5.
A period of rebuilding followed for Sanderstead with Ward and Azer carefully seeing off the Dulwich openers. With Johnson keen to hold back some overs of pace, Dulwich sought to extract a few overs from overseas superstar Matthew Balch and young seamer, Seb Connor. Though the batsmen looked to press on, neither bowler allowed Sanderstead to get away, Connor in particular impressing on his Academy team debut.
The 2nd wicket stand had passed 50 though, and with Sanderstead 67/1 and looking up the rate, Johnson made a double change, opting for spin at both ends in the shape of Jonny Stone and James Hirst. Azer, sensing it was time to move through the gears, shaped to launch his first delivery from Stone over mid-wicket only to be deceived by the late dip, bowled for 23.
The younger Stone has played plenty of cricket with Hirst of late, and it was clear he had been listening carefully about how to bowl the mythical ‘wicket-taker’. Interspersed between an excellent few overs of spin bowling were two long-hops – both caught by Johnson at mid-wicket – and a full toss – caught at mid-on by Balch. In the 7 overs surrounding drinks, Stone had eviscerated the Sanderstead top order, reducing them from 67/1 to 74/5.
At the other end, the Sanderstead batsmen had been (unduly) cautious to the third-choice left-arm spin of Hirst, allowing him to rattle through maiden after maiden. After four overs of blocking, the first shot in anger saw the ball loft high to mid-on where McLovin – no stranger to rattling through the odd maiden himself, eh ladies – took an excellent tumbling catch.
Another collapse followed: a tactical mis-field from Captain Chaos resulted in a run-out and Hirst got rid off the battling Horner (19) with his obligatory full toss. The second-string spin twins handed back to the Sam twins with the score at 105-8. Hirst returning a miserly 8-4-16-2 and Jonny Stone a match-winning 8-1-27-4, including 4 of the top 5.
The Sams took no time in claiming the final two wickets, Ellison (6-2-15-2) finding the edge to give keeper Guy Skinner a deserved victim, before a wicked yorker from Saleem (5.1-1-18-1) smashed through the defences of the Sanderstead number 11.
120 runs were required for a place in the final, but Dulwich were taking nothing for granted. Sanderstead were the reigning champions, and from the moment they took to the field, it was clear to see that they were a fine side.
Despite their obvious disappointment in posting such a low total, the visitors were lively in the field and put pressure on Dulwich from the outset. Their captain, Allen, opened with decent pace. Senior pro, Raj Tulsiani left the first ball with care, the second ball, he also left… though with considerably less care – bowled. Dulwich were 0/1. Chris Stone quickly followed, adjudged LBW for 6. 16-2, and Sanderstead had their tails up…
With Dulwich players desperately grasping for their pads, the two new men set about turning the game back in Dulwich’s favour. The bowlers threw everything they had at Guy Skinner and Rordon Daws, but the pair knew that wickets in hand would win the day. Sunday-specialist, Skinner, took full advantage of every loose delivery to keep the scoreboard ticking over just enough, whilst Daws blocked, left, and blocked some more.
With the score on 83, the partnership of 67 was brought to an abrupt end when Skinner (34) was run out by a direct hit from long range. Captain Johnson (14) upped the scoring rate a little before he too fell to the excellent Allen.
With 7 overs to get 17 runs and plenty of wickets in hand, Daws (29* off 92) finally allowed himself to open up, hitting Azer for a boundary through square leg, before smiting the Sanderstead spinner for glorious 6 over mid-on. All that remained was for red-ink enthusiast, Balch (5*) to hit the winning runs and take Dulwich into the final against Sunbury.
This was an excellent all-round performance from the Academy side, led well by stand-in skipper. Dulwich bowled superbly, held all their catches and batted with real maturity, never allowing Sanderstead back into the game. With the squad strengthened further next week by the return of the skipper and others, the Doggies have a great opportunity to cap off a successful 2016 with another trophy. Please come along and show your support!
WASIM RAJA SHIELD FINAL: Dulwich Academy vs Sunbury Chieftains
Away at Banstead (1pm start)