RCC 2 v Cropredy 3

By Connor Wakefield

Following a convincing win over Steventon 2’s on Saturday, Risinghurst 2’s eyes turned to the Osberton Radiators Cup Final against Cropredy 3’s on Sunday.

The Risinghurst 11 made the trip up the M40 to Cropredy to Oxfordshire’s northernmost outpost, wedged in-between Warwickshire & Northamptonshire. They were joined by 12th Man, Dhishanth Benolin, scorer for the day, Praneel Siliveru, as well as 25 or so Risinghurst supporters. There was a respectable number from Cropredy; though in truth it felt like a home game for Risinghurst with John (minus his bicycle) making his presence known.

It was a day of tradition for Risinghurst. The first tradition came at approximately 11am, where Faisal Munir advised the team of a road closure on the A40, as well as some routes to avoid the worst of the traffic. Despite being the architect of the diversion, the taxi-driver Faisal arrived last, once again giving the team a fright.

The second tradition is one that was seen as skipper, Connor Wakefield, made his way out for the toss. Strangely, Wakefield had won the toss the day before at Steventon, however it was only as the word ‘tails’ left his mouth that he remembered he’d intended to go for heads. With this in mind, a group decision was made to go again for tails. The coin went up. Heads. ****!

Cropredy’s skipper then surprised everyone in the Risinghurst contingent by opting to bowl first. The pitch was hard, however there were some interesting cracks at one end, with the potential of the surface offering some variation in bounce as the day progressed. Nonetheless, skipper Wakefield marched back to dish out the team-talk (something about everyone enjoying the day and not to feel pressured, which by the way is a lot harder than it seems!) and sent Hasan & Ben in to bat.

They started well against some tough bowling, with one bowler (H Leather) in particular offering up a lot of pace, though potentially missing out on more wickets by bowling just short of a length. Ben and Has took us on to 25 runs after 7 overs, and both Risi batsmen looked good and had offered some cracking shots. Unfortunately though, in the following over a short ball rose slightly more than expected on Ben, who top edged one to a grateful fielder, falling for 14. An over later Hasan also departed for 16, falling to an LBW to the other opener, M Twynham.

This brought Connor & Faisal to the crease, and at first the going was tough. Connor’s plan of ‘see off the openers’ contrasted to Faisal’s plan of ‘hit Cropredy into submission’ though for the first 5 overs or so of the partnership the scoreboard ticked over in only edges, byes and the occasional 1-2 off the bat. By the 16th over, two new bowlers had replaced the openers, though Risinghurst sat at 52-2 at this stage. Things changed however in the next over with some sledging from the Cropredy players, who up until this stage had certainly not let their feelings about the two batsmen’s runs coming from edges go unknown. The very next ball, Faisal smashed a four through the covers, and the delivery after dispatched one down the ground past mid-on. Safe in the knowledge the ball was going for four, halfway down the track Faisal made sure Cropredy knew that his middle was working perfectly fine (or words to that extent…). True enough, Faisal his another four off the next ball, and the Cropredy chirping certainly died down.

Two quick wickets then fell for Risinghurst, with Wakefield going for 6 & Raj Kumar for 0, though Dom Gurden then proceeded to hit three fours from his first three balls, much to the annoyance of the Cropredy bowler who gave him a long stare-down. By the 20th over Risinghurst were 89-4, with the game finely balanced. The run rate continued to climb, and despite losing Dom for 14, Justin Sammuller for a Golden Duck, Kyle Brooks for 6 and James Cole for a duck, Faisal continued to hit the ball left, right and centre.

With a number of large fours and sixes from Faisal, Risinghurst had made it to the 31st over at 148-8, with Ishaq now joining Munir in the middle. Operation ‘stay in with Faisal’ was tasked to Ishaq by the Risinghurst contingent, however he clearly wanted to get in on the act. Ish smashed a four and a six, clearing the fence with his maximum. Not only did he get involved with this, but he truly put his body on the line running some impossible singles to get Faisal on strike, with a number of dives to avoid being run-out.

Faisal continued to make up a bulk of the scoring, however, and in the 39th over he brought up his 100, tickling away a single, much to the delight of the supporters in Green. When he fell two balls later, at the end of the 39th over, he was given a standing ovation by the whole crowd & the home team came over to congratulate him on a sublime innings of 101. Ishaq then fell for 19, on the penultimaate ball of the innings, leaving Cropredy with 202 to chase in order to win the trophy.

During his innings Faisal had been working off one leg, having pulled his hamstring early on. With the acceptance of the umpires, 12th man Dhishanth Benolin took to the field as sub fielder, with Kyle Brooks taking up the gloves.

In reply, Risinghurst opened up with the deadly duo of Colesy & Ishaq. Despite dropped catches in Ishaq’s second and third overs,  things couldn’t have started any better. With a riled up Risinghurst team fresh out of 40 overs of sledging from Cropredy, they set themselves the task to give their own share back. In the third over, Connor asked Colesy to send the batsman back for an early pint (paraphrasing). The batsmen, clearly no stranger to the bar, replied that this sounded very inviting, and true enough that very ball the bails were dislodged by a top ball from Cole. “There’s your pint” was the shout from the men in the covers. The number three batsman walked in, and continuing the theme of putting money behind Cropredy’s bar, this time Connor mentioned that he looked a bit young for a beer, and that he may be interested in a J2O instead. He obviously was, as the next ball, he too missed a straight one from Cole for a double wicket maiden, leaving Cropredy 7-2 from 3 overs.

Things then quietened down over the next 10 overs, with Cropredy’s two batsmen picking off the odd boundary an over to stick along with the rate. By the 14th over they had reached 49-2, with their batsmen starting to settle. The balance however swung back in Risinghurst’s favour in the next over, with some exceptional bowling from Justin Sammuller dispatching two Cropredy men for another double wicket maiden.

Maybe this swing put led Risinghurst to be complacent, as whilst the wicket of the Cropredy captain fell cheaply to Justin, the pairing of Barker & Leather set about frustrating Risinghurst. They took the score from 52-4 in the 16th over, to 115-5 in the 25th over. Whilst skipper Wakefield rotated the bowling unit and brought Ishaq back in to the attack, due to the 8 over limit he turned to Raj to make the breakthrough. Sure enough, on his fourth ball Leather swung at a vintage Kumar ball that skids on, sending the batsmen back to the hut on 32. The next over, Colesy found the wicket of Leather’s replacement, with a rank full toss, which was hit straight down the throat of Hasan at square leg. Again, like with Ishaq, Colesy was held back for an over or two, leaving Justin at the top end and Asif from the bottom, following an expensive over from Raj, despite his big wicket.

With the score at 149-7 after 28 overs things could still change quickly and the dangerous Barker remained, despite his suicidal running. This running had been a topic of great conversation between Barker and Wakefield, with some half run-out chances going wide.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man, they say. Justin Sammuller’s 7th over saw the wicket of Ainley for 1, which whilst being a good delivery, was brought about mostly due to the batsman’s nervous swing across the line. With Barker at the other end, the new batsman, Twynham, picked up a quick single to take Barker onto strike with just two balls remaining in the over. Perhaps realising that he now needed to get back up the other end, the next ball Barker dropped one and ran, despite Risinghurst having two fielders relatively close in. Despite those fielders, it was Justin who beat the non-striker in a foot race, throwing the ball to Kyle who still had a lot of work to do to run out Twynham, but run him out he did. This left Justin with figures of 4-29 off 7 overs, with one run out to boot.

Then it was Khan’s turn to bowl to Barker, who had at this point realised that singles weren’t going to cut it with his number 11 batting partner not being the most nimble (though was a great laugh who joined us for a beer post match). He creamed a two into the leg side, and then dispatched a four down the ground. However, the next ball Barker’s defence was finally broken as Asif took the all important final wicket, sparking jubilant scenes in the Risinghurst ranks.

The third and final tradition came whilst Cherwell League Chairman, Brian Standish, presented the trophy. Supporter, John (minus the bicycle), had made some fantastic comments throughout the day, sledging both home & away teams. This continued into the presentation ceremony. John, now stood in the middle of the defeated and pretty glum Cropredy team, was not too impressed with the length of the speech, and it’s safe to say there was a mixture of muffled laughter and head in heads across the 60-70 people who remained. However, captain Wakefield was then invited to break Risi 2’s tradition as he was presented the trophy by the Chairman, securing the first cup silverware for the second XI.

A historic win for Risinghurst, who had to do it the hard way to make it to the final. They had to topple Freeland on a dark, drizzly day away from home. They had to hold their nerve against an East and West Hendred side who had beaten them only two weeks before in similarly tight fashion. Finally, they had to dig deep and hold their nerve to beat a Cropredy side who evidently have a strong youth set-up and are surely a cut above their position in the league.

For Risinghurst though it was a special day, and whilst Faisal Munir took the plaudits, there were a number of performances all round in both this game and in previous rounds that were just as important. Every player can be proud of their efforts.

Risinghurst will fight to defend the Cup again next year, and will be in attendance as the First Team look to secure the Steve Dixon Memorial Cup against Witney Swift’s next Sunday over in Witney, to secure a cup double for the East Oxford Machine.