Under azure skies, Richmond under-11s put Long Ditton to the sword, winning by a princely 150 runs on Long Ditton's lovely ground, where hefty cover drives were accompanied by a search in the nettles and brambles for the ball. While this was never really a contest, the boys showed determination at all times and never let the intensity drop, in any of the three departments. More importantly still, they behaved impeccably - never once did they puff up at their mastery of the opposition, nor did they fall into complacency even when it became apparent that a facile victory would be theirs. All in all, a pluperfect outing in terms of application, skills, teamwork and grace.
Jack lost the toss as skipper but was delighted to be asked to bat as that is what the coach had suggested would play to the team's strengths. While we were short one man, the boys' batting order looked very strong, and this was borne out by a sequence of high quality innings right the way through the order, as the team kept up a run-rate of 10 an over right from the off. After Osian missed a straight one, Oisin, Finn, Jack, Rory and Mashood plundered the rather under-powered attack to the extent that each retired on a 20+ score thanks to some aggressive stroke-play and largely sensible calling and running. Finn showed intent from the off with some brutal hitting, and further highlights included 4 straight boundaries in an over from Oisin, some cultured straight driving from Jack, and some good old-fashioned clubbing from Rory (particularly lethal on the leg side) and Mashood. Runs came down the order from Karan and Alfred, and the innings closed on an imposing 194 for 3. It is hard to find fault with the boys' application and ruthlessness. Communication between batsmen was excellent (including Shay's excellent calling from the non-striker's end) and the intent was always there to push on for more runs. Boundaries were struck in all directions, and, while they need to learn to cut out some of the aerial stuff, it was hard to complain at their desire to keep the pedal down at all times.
When it came to Long Ditton's turn to bat, the boys again showed ruthlessness. The bowling vary rarely strayed (just 5 wides all innings) and there was not one weak link in the fielding, where the close-in ring created a claustrophobic atmosphere for all of Long Ditton's batsmen. Charlie and Karan began proceedings in killer fashion, such that the scoreboard read a sickly 7 for 3 after 4 overs. Tight lines and tigerish fielding meant that the squeeze was on from the very first ball. Rory and Alfred continued the excellent start with some tight lines (Alfred delivering a maiden that should be a collector's item for a leggie). The only meaningful partnership of Long Ditton's innings was ended when its number 4 was bowled by Jack (who later took another wicket with a nasty short one), and thereafter it was something of a procession as Mashood's fiery pace and steep bounce and Finn's immaculate control (he ended with the Ambrose-like figures of 2-2-0-2) undid what was left of the opposition's crumbling middle order. There was, in amongst some fine catching (two excellent outfield catches by Karan and a composed caught-and-bowled by Finn), time for a moment of real class from wicket-keeper-come outfielder Osian who arrowed in a throw from the deep to hit the stumps (aiming only at one) directly, with the Long Ditton man short of his ground running for a single that looked far-from-suicidal; the champagne moment of the match, if you will. All that remained was for Oisin to apply the coup de grace by bowling the Long Ditton number 11 neck and crop. 36 for 4 had become 44 all out.
It is invidious to pick out individuals in what was a real team performance, in which each and every one of the boys played their part. The wickets were shared amongst 6 bowlers, and almost all of the batsmen made their mark. The match ball went to Karen for his 2 wickets, three catches (two in the outfield and one as keeper) and lower order runs.