Seasons in the Sun (Part Twenty One): Make Your Own Luck

There are no such things as good omens for Grand Finals.

Losing Jacko to the Seconds? Well, any score over 50 is going to be too big.
Losing AT to his brother’s wedding? Well, make that 40.
Windy day? Well, we’re obviously going to lose the toss and bowl.
“I would wish you good luck,” declares our Coach Dick in his pre-match address. “But good luck is something you make yourselves in Grand Finals.”

We went down to Montmorency by 28 runs in our home and away match but we have learnt our lessons and done our practice since then: their key spinners in Beanbag and Obi won’t be as successful and we’ll isolate their run scoring top order Georgie, Woody and wunderkind Snelson, who has scored 100, 136 and 101 in his last three innings.

The Benevolent Leader meets with Obi in the middle of Whatmough Park, the mighty Lower Plenty Thirds standing nearby with bated breath. It’s a hot day with an uncomfortable northerly pushing downhill. Montmorency have gained batting strength where we’ve lost it. We have to win the toss and bat –
“Heads!”
Obi shrugs. “We’ll have a bat.”

Time to stand up. And we have the bowling to do just that: TBag joins us from the Seconds to shore up an attack that has been conceding less and less with every week while Captain Grumpy has arrived to man the gloves and ensure our sledging game is strong.

“On your toes today boys,” urges The Benevolent Leader. “Let’s try to make a great run out, a great catch and a great bit of fielding happen for every session.”

One end of Whatmough Park looks as if the groundsmen thought they were making a baseball diamond: our bowlers will have to climb over a hump – delaying their momentum – then push up a steady slope. With this wind pushing into them. Murphy and his Law have designs on this Grand Final.

The Benevolent Leader takes the first over, having deigned that Catesy will be running uphill. Woody drops one into silly midwicket and calls Georgie through – I sprint in from square leg, gather, leap and hurl a wide one at the stumps. It’s a warning shot: Monty are playing to make us hunt every wicket. Next ball, Georgie hammers an off drive back at Catesy, who dives right and plucks a sterling catch – what Georgie doesn’t know is that if he’d hit it higher and softer he’d still be at the crease. When Catesy removes the other Monty opener’s middle stump next over, the score is 2/11 and we’re suddenly alight – can we push through Monty like we did the Stars?

However Monty have the depth to wait out the tough times when the Stars just crumbled. Woody and Snelson wait out The Leader’s over and pick enough runs to make a living off. That wind stays around, challenging Catesy to keep pushing and pushing. Snelson sends a well-timed cover drive rustling away to the fence and it looks like we’ll have to start from scratch. However, Catesy puts more heat into his next ball and it charitably lobs off to the waiting Maestro at cover, who takes a catch to claim the wicket we consider the most crucial.

Bronty assumes his usual grumpy position of vaulting himself upwind uphill as C Grade recruit Jimmy Clark comes to the crease. Several inswingers jump past Jimmy’s tentative bat and an edge lands just short of mid-on with Charmer and Huddo surrounding the bat. It’s a stage of the game where everyone can feel the importance: a wicket will give us the momentum but, as the wind keeps up, every over that this partnership lasts lessens our ascendancy. Jimmy avoids two more testing deliveries outside off stump then just stubs out a quicker yorker. When he flicks the next off his pads through backward square, it’s like he’s reached safe ground. This match is on; a real Grand Final. A leading edge off Woody lands in the triangle between Bronty, Charmer at mid-off and Huddo at cover. Woody goes on the offensive, taking runs off TBag and turning the strike over as Jimmy looks for any juicy half volleys for his strong cover drive. Again, it’s our persistence that creates an unexpected chance: Jimmy skies one off DK and The Leader charges in from point, sending Maestro scurrying out of the way, to take the catch and give Jimmy an atypical barrage: things really do change in the Grand Final.

Beanbag wobbles to the crease, huffing and sweating as he takes strike. We fell for this puppy dog act last time when he was panting as he came in off four steps. Today, we’re wise to his deception: we sadistically give him singles, watching like wolves as he struggles to the bowler’s end. Unfortunately, this gives Woody more time to build on his good start. Huddo – whose run up, unlike Catesy’s and Bronty’s, extends to over the hump – is given the hardest time of the day to bowl. Trying to snare a wicket in the final ten overs before tea, he surges into the wind ball after ball only for Woody to wait for the half volley that is hit hard through covers to bring up his 50.

4/110 off 42 at tea and that wind isn’t dropping off. How bad d’ya want it!?
“I thought we bowled and fielded well,” reports The Leader. “But I reckon we’re going to have to push this all the way to the 68 overs.”

Wellsy comes off ashen faced, rubbing Voltaren into his back. “Ock, I’ve buggered my sciatica,” he says to The Leader. “Bring Joshy on and tell Georgie I’ve had problems with – ”
“I’ll just tell him ‘Alan Wells’,” says The Leader flatly. “He’ll fill in the gaps.”

Josh the Twelfth Man joins us on the field for the restart of play. We make a stand by getting out there before Woody and Beanbag but soon they’ve got us on the run: the field is pushed further and further back as they hit deep through the onside and loft straight drives for boundaries. And that wind doesn’t drop off. DK and TBag are pushed to deep mid-on and mid-off, Charmer and The Benevolent Leader step closer to the square fence with every over and Catesy – who is now on the downhill – just plugs away against the attack. Finally, Woody pulls a catch to The Leader and a short skidder dismisses Beanbag (who looks just as relieved as us as he retreats to the cool pavilion). 6/152.

“Alright boys, they had a go at us,” says The Leader as we take a second’s respite. “But we now have to lift.”

By the end of his spell, Catesy is gasping monosyllabically at The Leader like the asthmatic kid from Malcolm in the Middle: “Just… gimme…one more…over… I think… my figures….are better…than yours…with finals… ”

Obi and the Elder Snelson keep our field pushed deep, but the scoring at least slows. If luck is being randomly thrown around, much of it is landing with Monty: Obi attempts to slog Bronty (who, unlike his sparring partner Catesy, is still attacking uphill) and gets a straight edge over Captain Grumpy’s head and Elder Snelson finds the quickest parts of the thick band around much of the Whatmough boundary.

With 60 overs gone, The Leader brings me on for my first spell of the finals series. Well, Monty are 193, a score that we’ll have to pull out favours to reach. The wind has, finally, dropped off. First priority is conservation. Within two overs, Obi and D-Path have skied catches to Catesy at gully, who proves that the extra split second he receives when not taking them caught and bowled makes all the difference.
The Elder Snelson smacks a flat catch to DK at mid-wicket off The Leader and the Monty tail starts to thrash in its death throes: crazy singles and desperate slogs creep their score up to well over 200 before an optimistic swing falls
into Bronty’s waiting hands in the 68th over.
We’ve let them get away but then stuck at it until things started to click for us. Over at Lower Plenty, the Seconds dismiss Banyule for 178.

220 is probably more than we would like to chase, especially with our weakened batting line up. Tomorrow, we make our own luck. Here’s hoping that wind does its thing again.

Montmorency 220
Woody 61
Beanbag 35
Jimmy 32
Catesy 5/63
Sheldon 3/12

 

 

About Callum O'Connor

Here's to feelin' good all the time.

Comments

  1. Well played Callum.

    Is Beanbag’s name Chris Buckley?

  2. craig dodson says

    Stiff to only get a bowl in the 60th callum the leader should have given some new blood a crack..Great series of writing, reminds me of what I miss about the game. Good luck with the willow

  3. Dips, I can understand your call of Chris Buckley. Beanbag is one of the Naughtins.

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