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Mankad Mildness

It was a drizzly and overcast morning as Metchosin kicked off their 2024 campaign against freshly minted rivals Langford this past Saturday. Given the context of the previous meeting between the two clubs (Mankad Madness!) there was sure to be some simmering tensions with the Cougars looking to make a statement in this fixture.

With the toss an afterthought, the Cougars sent Cocks and Kieren to the crease, the latter making a triumphant return from a nasty Achilles injury which saw him sidelined for all of the 2023 season. The duo made a slow and steady start, hampered by a slow outfield and Cocks’ complete inability to hit the ball off the square despite fairly loose bowling. Kieren managed a couple of boundaries before a frustrated Cocks lost his off stump to an ill-advised shot. Kieren followed a couple of overs later, too quickly through a shot against some deceptively slow bowling. Olly and Duke feasted on the change bowlers batting aggressively and confidently to put together a vital middle order partnership of 53 including a controversial catch made over the boundary by the mankad-merchant himself. The runs kept flowing before Olly was skittled trying to work one through the leg side. Doug came and went all too quickly, popping a leading edge to mid wicket in yet another case of a Cougar batsman being through his shot too early against pedestrian pace. Chris departed the very next over, absolutely crushing a cut shot directly to the fielder at point. Izak started uncharacteristically sensibly, with a stout forward defence and some nice controlled attacking shots before feathering a cut shot to the keeper. This brought Mr Cricket himself to the crease which provided a stabilizing presence to the Cougars bottom order. Rob quickly set to task building an innings in methodical fashion, with some trademark cover drives going sadly unrewarded on the very slow Windsor Park outfield. Supported competently by Cole, Amit and Nick, Rob was able see the squad through to 45 overs, unselfishly giving his wicket on the final ball in pursuit of an extra run. Some lower order fireworks from debutant Tushar (the nice one) helped the Cougars post a total of 188 (although the less said about the first innings scoring the better) which felt borderline defensible on a slow, rain-soaked Windsor Park outfield.

After a delicious Biryani tea the Cougars took to the field with the knowledge that taking the two big wickets of Gaurav and Mr Mankad would be key to victory. With the overcast conditions Izak and Rob had the ball hooping early, although Tushar managed to cheat to the leg side and dispatch anything that was even slightly outside the corridor of danger. A minor field change invited him to challenge the man in the deep and he failed, holing out to Kieren at long on. Their other opener fell victim to the same plan a few overs later, doubtless frustrated with the slow field. First change saw debutant Tushar (the cool one) enter the attack for the Cougars. After a couple of looseners this paid immediate dividends with Rohit Sharma (not that one) caught at backward point by Cocks. This brought the lynchpin of the innings to the crease and renewed focus to the Cougars side. Gaurav immediately looked comfortable against Tushar and Amit, picking off bad balls seemingly at will. This necessitated something different, with Cole entering the attack to replace Tushar at the pavilion end. So started an exceptional spell from Cole, beginning immediately with an outstanding stumping from Nick to remove Gaurav. He lifted his back foot for just a split second but that was all that was required. With Gaurav in the sheds confidence was buoyed although the job was far from done. Langford were well ahead of the required run rate and needed to make only 3 an over for the remainder to secure victory. A couple of overs later Cole took a very sharp caught and bowled chance. With Cole firing on all cylinders and taking wickets, Cocks was brought on at the other end and bowled 7 overs of gentle medium pace that managed to keep the run rate contained and the pressure on the batting side. This bowling partnership was key in containing a lower order that threatened to pat-ball their way to victory. As per tradition, catalyst Doug injected himself into the attack which paid immediate dividends, with Cocks and Nick connecting for a runout (mercy killing) and another wicket falling caught behind in quick succession. Finally Mr Cricket was brought on at the death with ice in his veins, immediately connecting with Olly who took two difficult catches at deep cow to round out what seemed at times an improbable victory.

Thanks go to Gurmit and Norrish for umpiring, to Langford for providing delicious tea and snacks and to the great collection of supporters who braved the conditions to come out and watch throughout the day. The Cougars are back in action next weekend against Incogs at MCG which is always a fierce rivalry.

Scorecard here

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