Sunday, August 27, 2006

We won't be druv (Part 2)

It's 5.00 am in the sleepy Devon holiday home that CT is currently making a mess of. Time to get up, get washed, get dressed and get ready for the Taxi. It might well be in the middle of the family holiday but this is important. Sussex are playing at Lords. Taxi arrives at 5.50 and manages to miss the early train by 2 minutes, leaving Tiger with a tricky 50 minutes to negotiate sans seat, coffee, newspaper and anything warm/dry to wear. The train finally arrives 15 minutes late at which point the best laid plans etc start to unravel. The Taunton connection won't wait and the ghastly thought of missing the first couple of hours of play (by which time Sussex will have decimated the Lancs batting line up) looms large. Trouble averted though, as connection arrives late and I make it to Lords with 20 minutes to spare.

However, when talking of arriving late, the various railway companies of Great Britain cannot hold a torch to The Gent. Travelling up from near Lewes compared to my great trek from Devon, The Gent contrived to be a sumptuous 70 minutes behind schedule. Whilst, he battles with his own conscience I slump into my rain soaked seat and prepare myself for action.

Skipper Chris Adams admitted he would have bowled first had he won the toss after a 15-minute delay because of morning rain, with early movement on offer in the air and off the pitch. I also admit that I would have started on Red Stripe if I'd been thinking straight but no, straight into the Champagne it was. Whilst the first glass was being tossed back The Sharks chances took an immediate blow when Tom Smith (ex-Liverpool hard man) made a diving stop at backward point and threw down the wicket to run out Richard Montgomerie. Oh, Bugger!

A gung-ho mixture of dashing bravado and big match nerves on the part of the Sharks batsmen seemingly prevented them from rebuilding effectively from there. Matt Prior flashed three boundaries, including a lofted drive, before spooning a catch off Hogg high in the air to mid-on. Double Bugger!

Grizzly survives two run out chances before Mahmood joined the attack after 12 overs and gains some extra bounce with his second delivery to have him caught at slip. Murray Goodwin cuts a ball that was too short from Chapple and Carl Hopkinson is run out by Cork at mid-off as he fails to ground his bat. Loads of Buggers! More Champagne please.

Robin Martin-Jenkins is unlucky to be dismissed, though, as TV replays showed Chapple's delivery caught RMJ's pad, rather than, bat as it crept through the gate. Murmurs of discontent from the Edrich Stand. Sussex then turn defence into attack. England call-up Michael Yardy (37) and Pakistani Yasir Arafat (37) share a pugnacious seventh-wicket partnership of 56.

Amir Khan's cousin returns to halt the revival as Arafat feathers a catch attempting to cut a slower ball and eventually finishes with 3-16. And the mercenary Kartik justified his selection ahead of veteran Gary Keedy by trapping Yardy lbw to end a 96-ball vigil, then having Wright stumped after a dashing run-a-ball 19. Sussex have definitely missed a trick by not following Lancashires lead and calling up Messrs Ponting, Tendulkar and Lara , because I'm sure they were free this weekend.

As they begin their chase, Lancashire's 12th victory in a Lord's finale seems a formality. By this time the Champagne tent beckoned. The game looked well and truly up. However, a judicious bit of loitering by the bar turned an impending defeat into glorious victory. No sooner had the third cork flown into the sky than we were on our way.

Mal Loye, a perennial thorn in our side, demonstrates the Northerners confidence by slog-sweeping Kirtley for six. Happily Kirters gains revenge with his next legal delivery, though, earning the first of three lbw dismissals in his opening spell. Loye missed a delivery that jagged back off the seam, Nathan Astle was trapped in front with an inswinger and Stuart Law made his displeasure clear at being distracted by the sound of ribald laughter from the nursery end, as he edged onto his pad (Shame).

Mushy then shows what Pakistan have been missing this summer as he bowled 10 consecutive overs of spin and guile, returning figures of 2-19. Opener Mark Chilton was stumped for 20 off the leg-spinner in the 23rd over and Glen Chapple's dismissal rewarded Sussex for putting a short-leg fielder in place in the 25th.

It's time to head back and watch the action live. No sooner had we done that than Lancs started putting up a fight. However, Luke Wright then had Luke Sutton caught hooking a short ball to midwicket in an expensive first spell. Fortunately, he did well in the late overs, making Kyle Hogg (28) his second victim after a gritty stand of 58 with Cork.

It looked as though Cork might yet see the red rose county to an improbable win. He hit an unbeaten 35 but ran out of partners as Kirtley tied up victory with 16 balls to spare, pretty much as predicted by Tiger’s dream. On a pitch that helped the bowlers throughout, Kirtley finished with 5-27 - with all his victims out lbw - to take the man of the match award. Cue massed celebrations, much hugging and gentlemanly handshakes. As the Lancastrians headed out of Lords, Grizzly lifted the cup to a raucous rendition of “Good Old Sussex by the Sea”. Fireworks lit up the grey London skies and a tear or two of joy was shed as the mighty Sussex went doo-lally!

After what seems like an age I finally head back to Paddington. What happened on the journey back to Bigbury-on-Sea is still being dissected by criminal psychologists and therefore cannot be released to the public at this time. Suffice to say when Tiger finally arrived home it was either very, very late or very, very early. Depending entirely on your perspective… which by this stage was very, very blurred!

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