The annual SAC tour of Kent occurred last weekend. It was a successful tour both on and off the field, with some good cricket played and an excellent time had by all. Thanks are particularly owed to our kind hosts, the Band of Brothers CC, Shepway Stragglers CC and Smarden CC, and to tour manager Robin Groom for his organisational expertise. An honourable mention must go to Shravan Kumar and Sameer Shetty for flying all the way from India to join the tour!!
On Saturday, we played a declaration match against the Band of Brothers at the beautiful Torry Hill ground. SAC won the toss and inserted the hosts, however, they got off to a flyer – with some particularly impressive back foot play from openers Bruce and Page – as the SAC bowling erred on the short side. The entrance of Ben Macintyre to the bowling crease, pulled back the run rate as he took two quick wickets, including a peach to remove the BB’s best player caught behind. Tight spells following the lunch break from Sameer Shetty (who took two wickets) and Shakeel Ahmad kept SAC in the match, but the BBs had still managed an imposing 285 for 8 at the declaration, leaving SAC 43 overs to chase the runs down. Ben finished with four wickets, showing that he is clearly the no. 1 spinner in the Macintyre family.
The SAC reply started solidly, with Shravan Kumar and Alastair Thomas putting on a hundred for the first wicket (as they did the year before), but the run rate was rising and some big overs became necessary. Both openers perished looking to up the pace, Kumar for a superb 76 at close to run-a-ball, Thomas for a more sedate 38. James Grant then showed parenthood had taken nothing away from his game with a quick-fire 20, but he and the middle order then fell in the search for quick runs. With 10 overs remaining, the task became too much, and the focus turned to securing an honourable draw, which was achieved 8 wickets down with 188 on the board. Murmurs in the dressing room were that the skipper should have scored a bit quicker. And they were probably right. Nevertheless, we moved on to the night’s festivities with the draw secured and our heads held high. Rich Parkin made it past 8pm this time round, and the youth brigade did us proud later on at the Cuban. Or so I’m told.
Sunday saw us move on to the even more impressive Belmont House ground to play the Shepway Stragglers. This is always a special match where we honour the memory of Toby Cox, who played for both clubs. Toby’s father Jimmy passed away a few months ago, so both Toby and Jimmy were in our thoughts throughout the day, and our condolences were passed on to Jimmy’s wife Elizabeth, family and friends.
The match itself was dominated by the Stragglers, who batted first on a pitch that appeared slightly slow. Early wickets to Ahmad, Shetty and Paul Willey kept the Stragglers in check for some time, but when the Smallwood brothers (Jasper and Alastair) arrived at the crease the inconsistency of SAC’s bowling began to be exposed. The brothers put on an undefeated 223 together, with each bringing up a century before the declaration came at 305 for 3. In response, SAC lost a wicket first ball and were soon in crisis at 75 for seven (despite a brisk 22 from Andrew Dennis). With 28 overs still to bat, things looked bleak for Standard. But nobody told the tail that. Rich Parkin dead batted 17 overs, Ben Macintyre another 10, and Paul Willey comfortably negotiated the penultimate over. At the other end, skipper Thomas made 22 not out in 28 overs, and Geoffrey Boycott shed a tear of joy. SAC finished 111 for eight, an improbable draw was secured, and SAC remained undefeated on tour.
There would be no block-a-thons on Monday, though, as we played Smarden in a 35 overs a side match. SAC again bowled first and restricted Smarden to 197 off their 35, with Shakeel Ahmad picking up 2 for 25 off his seven. Lesley Clack, on comeback, took two wickets, as did Sameer Shetty. In reply, SAC were in early trouble at 20 for 2. Supporting hands in the middle order from James Grant and Robin Groom took SAC through to just over 100 for five. Sameer Shetty was batting well at one end, but the game was still in the balance. Enter Shakeel at number seven, and these two saw us home for a five-wicket win with four overs up our sleeve. Sameer played a lovely and well-paced knock finishing on 82 not out, while Shakeel – with a mixture of intelligent defence and natural aggression – made 55 not out. A great way to finish the tour.
Thanks to all, especially Robin for once again planning/running the tour. We look forward to our next tour (to Cheltenham in late August), and then to Kent again next May.