Seasons in the Sun (Part Twelve): Striving for the finals

As the DVCA E-Grade ladder sits, the mighty Lower Plenty Thirds are fourth behind Montmorency, Lalor Stars and Old Paradians/St Francis. With four games to play, we can still snare a final… but with plenty of sides snapping at our heels, we could also drop out.

“So, it’s down to numbers,” declares The Benevolent Leader. “We win three games and we play finals. We drop any and it becomes harder.

“So, first things first – welcome to our new spinner.” The Leader extends a hand to Jacob Bloom, who has joined us from Rosanna. You can see the light in The Leader’s eyes; a wicket-taking spinner is a piece of the puzzle for which he has been searching for a while.

Lower Eltham are one of the teams keeping us on our toes: as an indication to the middle of the ladder logjam, they are eighth but just a game behind us. We win the toss and elect to bat on a slow, dewy Beale surface – The Leader wisely anoints boundary hitters Wellsy and Jacko as openers.

The Lower Eltham boys and Brian the Umpire await our unflappable opening pair. The openers do a fair job bowling to Wellsy except for one recurring issue. A latecomer could look at the scorebook and discern, from the regular ‘4’ that dots the paper, that one short ball is being bowled per over.

“When will they learn…” sighs Captain Grumpy, who has come to watch the Thirds with his Fourths scheduled to restart next week, “You don’t. Bowl short. To Wellsy.”

Captain Grumpy and DK turn their critical Kane eyes to the run-in of one of the openers. He starts jerkily and then almost slows to a standstill before gaining pace as he hits the pitch.
“He looks like Josh Kennedy,” comments DK. Another short ball and Josh Kennedy is sweetly sent on his way. It’s not long before Jacko gets in on the fun – a firm clip off his toes goes for four, a pull sails over slips and another bursts through the soft hands of midwicket. Jacko shrugs and keeps on going.

“Change of bowler – Pipe!” comes the yell from the fine-leg boundary, duly noted. Travis Pipe, the Lower Eltham captain, has evidently decided that his team needs him.

“Reckon he’s a part-timer who’s just snuck himself in?”

Yet, like the ghosts of our match against Monty returned, an innocuous spinner makes the first breakthrough. Jacko misses an offie and Captain Pipe sinks to his knees, throws up his arms and roars at Brian the Umpire. Brian is so impressed by the Platoon impression that he allows the wicket to fall.
“Right, so just make a lot of noise in your appeals next week,” The Leader orders to us all.
“And do it really loud so Brian can hear you,” adds DK.

This brings Mantis to the crease. Mantis got the call to play just as he had his feet up in anticipation of a day’s watching the Fourth Test – his French cut off his first ball is a fine indictment of his preparation. Within two overs, he’s snicked one to ex-Lower Plenty player Spargo and the score is 2/63.
“Did you hit it?” inquires Jacko.
“I think so, but I’m not sure if it wasn’t a bump ball or me hitting the ground –”
“On a scale of one to yes,” Jacko neatly interrupts. “Did you hit it?”
“Yep.”

Conversation drifts to what our clubmates have gotten up to in the Christmas break.
“Did you hear about Niall?” grins Captain Grumpy. “He signed up with RACV and then accidentally locked his keys in his car. So, he calls them out and they unlock it for him. The bloke drives off and then Niall bloody locks his keys in again.”

With the bowling tightening, Wellsy comes to the inconvenient conclusion that today is a day that requires running between the wickets. Patiently picking gaps through the field as The Benevolent Leader sends the ball scurrying with short, sharp shots, Wellsy is nearing 50 when Almanacker Warren Richards comes on. A steady up and down delivery beats The Leader’s inside edge, flicks off his hip and carries to the keeper. Brian’s finger shoots up. The Leader keeps his fuming tongue behind his lips until Bronty innocently asks “LB or caught behind?”

Maestro walks out and has clearly lost none of his touch in the New Year. In position early, he waits for the ball and then precisely hits through gaps. He looks good. He looks good taking stance, playing his shots and moving through the wickets. He even looks good as he delicately edges a screamer of a catch to the keeper. Big Sirra turns up just as his son retakes his position next to the scorers.

“Surely you haven’t already batted, Luke?”
“Yep.”
“Did you look good?”
At this point, Westy, one of the cavalcade of blokes who are watching in lieu of having a scheduled match, grins and quotes ‘The Grade Cricketer’: “If only a father’s love was independent of his son’s batting form.”

With a degree of inevitability, Wellsy reaches 50 and begrudgingly raises the bat after extensive encouraging applause from the sidelines. Bronty and Catesy are caught behind in quick succession and the score is 6/121 – time to hit runs. Unfortunately, the Lower Eltham bowlers are most unpersuasive on this front. Warren’s son Kane – no, not Keith as I had hoped when I saw his initialled name on the sheet – picks up wickets as his outswingers tighten our scoring.

Jacob gives it a good crack – he plays some sublime pulls, cuts and drives. As soon as he stops missing the ball, we’ll have another handy bat in the Thirds. Then again, wicket-taking spinners are a valuable commodity at Lower Plenty. No doubt the Firsts and Seconds will be sniffing around Jacob in no time.

As Jacob bats, Captain Grumpy does what he does best.
“I’m trying to think of a nickname for him,” he says, forehead furrowed in thought. “I went, Bloom> Flowers>Icehouse…” Jacob Bloom is a tricky name for moniker interpretation.

Just as a partnership is getting going, Jacob is bowled. Heata walks out and dabs a late cut past slips to get off  and tears up the pitch to complete a second. Unfortunately, Heata is Kane’s fourth victim. DK walks out and I lay down the scorer’s pen to pad up.

“Our match report at the clubbies is going to be a bit boring,” observes Catesy, who slightly resembles Mr Miyagi with his New Year beard.
“We made 180 and Wellsy hit 90. The end,” anticipates The Leader.
“Or we could let Wellsy take it,” says Catesy mischievously. “’So, after I passed my 600th run this season…’”

Captain Pipe, having orchestrated a good field all day, generously allows Wellsy easy singles to keep DK on strike. Wellsy attempts to go over the field and sends a catch down to Spargo on the square leg boundary. The ball draws nearer. Spargo floats, well aware of his ex-teammates salivating on a dropped catch. The ball sticks. The spectators deflate in disappointment and I jog out to see if my run of letting DK down as a batting partner can continue.

Kane nears. A nice outswinger zeroes in and I get my hands somewhere between a leave and a block. The ball flicks off my thumb and is neatly taken by the keeper but Brian spares me. His good grace earns us six more runs before stumps.

A score of 175 is probably below par. Then again, Jacob has probably seen Brian’s persuadable umpiring and decided that he can turn up next week anticipating a few quick wickets. And, hopefully, his Lower Plenty nickname.

Lower Plenty 9/175
Wellsy 87
Not Keith Richards 4/36
Captain Pipe 2/19
Josh Kennedy 2/48

About Callum O'Connor

Here's to feelin' good all the time.

Comments

  1. Paddy Grindlay says

    Nickname for Jacob – Matty Rosa, after the Eagles player? Bloom – flowers – rose – Matthew Rosa.
    Again, a humorous and entertaining take on club cricket. Good luck with the defence of the target next week.

  2. Jacob – ladder – Bailey ladders

    so Bailey, Bails or Dean(o)

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Go the , Lower Plenty 3rds entertaining as always and a evenly poised game .

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