Sunday 25 September 2016 Highgate CC
In a weekend where Middlesex won the cricket County Championship for the first time in 23 years, and Arsenal finally scored a league goal against Chelsea (plus 2 more), anything seemed possible, but sadly the Tigers could not end their season with a win, well beaten by a strong Highgate side for whom Russell scored an unbeaten 126 and Hodgins destroyed the Tiger batting with 5-7.
On a brown, flat grassless pitch with no bounce whatsoever, it was a difficult day for both batters and anyone fielding behind the wicket, the ball hitting the deck and skidding along the ground, generating a total of 82 extras from the 387 runs in the day, 57 of them wides, strictly enforced by the standing league umpire. Highgate raced off at ten an over, helped by wayward bowling and poor boundary fielding. By the time the Tiger bowlers had got their line right the horse had bolted. Matthews (42) was undone by a dubious lbw decision, with Matt Webster the beneficiary, but the opening pair had put up 120 and at the 20-over break the score was already 152-1.
A massive total was looming, but the Tigers pulled it back by taking pace off the ball, Mike Delanian bowled a steady spell before Stewart Taylor, reverting to left-arm spin, bagged his second hat-trick for the club in the 39th over, which like his first, were all bowled. But the damage had been done, despite the final 20 overs being restricted to 103, the left-handed Russell batting through the innings for an excellent century.
Any hope the Tigers had of making a game of it disappeared in the first few overs as Hodgins blew away the top order, dismissing Delanian, Mike Herlihy, Ian Daffern, Stewart Taylor and Steve Rennie at the cost of just seven runs in 8 overs, with only Simon Warren (22) offering much resistance. The score petered out to 132 in 30 overs, more than a third of which came in extras, with the best partnership being 38 for the last wicket as Highgate took their foot off the pedal, Ali Sikandar showing some batting prowess with a top score of 33, though still 12 short of the extras total.
One might question the validity of playing league teams in these types of fixtures (the previous match for Highgate against Railway Taverners the day before on the same pitch panning out in almost identical fashion at 248-6 v 136-8) but players will only learn and improve by occasionally putting themselves up against opposition from a different level.
Ultimately, it was a disappointing season for the Tigers, with only seven wins in 23 matches, despite some memorable moments and excellent performances, though rarely did the batting, bowling and fielding come together at the same time. With neither Chris Dane and Chris Wright being available for this game, the shoot-out for leading wicket-taker did not materialize, both ending on 26.
Anyway, if you want to see what a winning cricketer looks like….