vs Saint Omer 2 July 2017

On a drizzly 2nd July Thoiry welcomed St Omer for their second meeting of the season, this time playing for the Lions Goodwill Cricket Trophy in what it is hoped will be an annual event. Organised by the Yvelines Lions, the game was intended to raise awareness about and hopefully funds for refugees rebuilding their lives in France. The St Omer team, newly formed this season and predominantly featuring Afghan refugees, had narrowly beaten Thoiry in an extremely hard-fought game earlier in the season. This was therefore a much anticipated return fixture with both pride and a shiny new trophy at stake.

St Omer won the toss and elected to bat in overcast conditions. It was a bold decision as looking upwards you would think it would hoop round corners ; but given the damp state of the outfield, the question was : for how long ? Kesara opened up for Thoiry from the Pavilion End and whilst not generating a lot of swing, he was fast and accurate, bowling with hostility from the off. This is what you what from a fast bowler, but there was some concern that it could be paid back later with interest, St Omer having on their team the fastest bowler we’d seen at Thoiry in many years in Jadav, who had made a big impression during their previous encounter.

From the Zoo End came Cameron who immediately got into his ryhthm, bowling full pitched out-swing at decent pace. The St Omer batsmen looked like they hadn’t been on the business end of much old-fashioned swing bowling before, and there was a period of a couple of overs where they could not lay a bat on it, playing and missing at everything Cameron sent down. Although only 4 or 5 overs into the 30 over match, this built some excellent pressure which paid dividends at the other end when opener Said tried to cut a good, back-of-a-length delivery from Kesara which was too short, too quick and too close to him for the shot, and he managed only to push it to short cover where the catch was gobbled up by Tyson.

At the other end, Cameron’s outswing continued to bamboozle, and he was rewarded with an lbw against the remaining opener. The ball started outside leg, pitch on middle and leg and would have hit the middle of off. Beautiful bowling. He got another lbw the very next ball with an appalling full-toss which should have been smashed into the monkey park. However it swung just enough to beat the bat and hit the disgusted batsman bang in front of middle, so umpire Dusty solemnly raised his finger once again. Keen to help history be made, the Thoiry slips were now wondering out loud if an ICC qualified umpire had ever given a hat-trick of lbws before in continental Europe  – this could have been Dusty’s chance to cement his place in the record books. But alas, the hat-trick ball was slightly misdirected and another play and miss outside off stump was the result. Kesara then picked up another wicket with a sharp catch in the gully by Ali.

With both of Thoiry’s opening bowlers having bowled their alloted 6 overs straight through, the score stood at 30 odd for 4 off 12, a very good start for the home side. The dangerous all-rounder Javad, in at 4, was beginning to settle in however, and would continue to accumulate. Captain Pragash turned to Tabreez at the Pavilion End and Ali’s spin at the other. Tabreez found good movement in the air and was unlucky to have two lbw shouts turned down from full, quick inswinging deliveries. But if ever there was an artificial pitch and conditions to suit Thoiry’s battery of quick slow bowlers, this was it. Slippery bowling on a skiddy pitch can be hard to get away, and so it proved for the St Omer batsmen. After 3 luckless but tidy overs from Tabreez, Captain Pragash sniffed easy wickets from the Zoo End and brought himself on, switching Ali to the Pavilion End. Both bowled a mainly good line and managed to pick up wickets and make life at the crease generally hard for the visiting batsmen. But whenever they strayed off line, Jadav would put away the bad ball for 6 or 4. Ali picked up two wickets in 2 balls with an lbw and a bowled, and Pragash held his nerve to have Ibrahim, who was just starting to threaten, stumped by Greaves for 13. Javad was finally bowled by Ali for 67, having carried St Omer to a defendable total. Tyson chipped in at the end with the third instance of 2 wickets in 2 balls to wrap up the innings for 135 (he will have to wait until next Saturday for his hattrick ball !)

It was perhaps with a little trepidation that Tyson and Jonathan Taylor strode out to open the innings for Thoiry after the break. We’d seen Javad the batsman, but not all of us had seen Javad the bowler before. But we had heard plenty about him from those who had, and had been promised a Nasty Fasty who could bang it down at about 85mph. On Thoiry’s pitch this could be dangerous… Opening from the Pavilion End, he bowled a fast and hostile 3 over spell, striking Taylor painful-looking blows on the collar bone and forearm – but crucially the Thoiry openers saw him off, Javad choosing to save three overs for the death and hopefully easier pickings later on. Ahmad at the other end, who although not slow seemed far more manageable by comparison, bowled a very tidy opening spell too. He also came off after three to presumably come back at the death. The opening batsmen were separated in the 11th over when Tyson was out caught & bowled with the score at 47. It had been a really solid start. By the time Taylor was out in the 15th over for a brave 28 however, the innings was just beginning to stagnate a little at 56/4.

With the sun out but 80 still needed, the game was starting to tilt towards the visitors. Keeper Greaves now trotted out at 6. Having patted back his first 2 balls, he then got off the mark with a nicely timed, enormous 6 over backward square leg. An unusual start for somebody who grew up wanting to bat like Michael Atherton, and after swishing at fresh air for his next couple of balls, it looked like just being a glitch in the matrix.

The introduction of Ibrahim’s spin into the attack at the other end saw him pick up a wicket for just 2 runs off his first over. His second over though saw Greaves go, in his own words, « bananas », and cart him for 3 sixes and a four in an over which turned the game with some clean hitting over cow corner. The reintroduction of the fearsome Javad resulted from this onslaught, but Captain Pragash, despite taking a nasty blow to the shoulder, was resolute and stood up to him bravely. Greaves took him for a couple of singles before lofting him for 4 over extra cover. At the other end though, Greaves was now playing his own game, dispatching all-comers for 4 or 6 as if it was the easiest thing in the world. He swiftly brought the game to a conclusion with 2 towering sixes off Ahmad into the long grass over mid-wicket in the 24th over. He ended up on 63* off 36 balls with 7 sixes and 3 fours, a memorable knock.

The game, which Thoiry won by 5 wickets, was played in a very competitive manner by both teams, but also in a good spirit. It is to be hoped that this will prove to be the first instalment of an annual event to be repeated for many years to come.