Some lighthearted quips and insights from a day in the life of a very b-grade cricketer muddling about in whites on a glorious Autumn day in Johannesburg.
Hornbills crushed by Leithal ton
The Lindale Settlers concluded a successful 2016-2017 season with a resounding 151 run victory over the Highveld Hornbills at the Johannesburg Country Club in Auckland Park on Sunday 02 April.
Heading into the encounter, the Settlers had lost just one match all season, a 25 over fixture at that. Confidence was high, in spite of injury to the in form Michael Ford and the unavailability of the likes of Craig Armitage, Roddy Watson and Jonty Blumberg.
Batting first on a glorious autumn day in the City of Gold, the Settlers amassed 281-7 in their 40 overs – thanks in large to a 189-run third wicket stand between Murray Leith and skipper Jonathan Ford.
With a new ball that swung like Austin Powers in the 1960’s, openers Shane Murphy and William Holm battled gamely to knock the shine off the ball. However, their stays at the crease were relatively short lived with Murphy (6) and Holm (14) having both departed by the ninth over with the Settlers on 25-2.
This brought Ford to the wicket, where he joined Leith in a tricky situation for the Lindale outfit.
As the ball lost its shine, Ford and Leith started to prosper on a pitch that suited run scoring. Traditionally one might call it flat, but due to a noticeable slope on the wicket, it would have been in correct to describe it as such. Although this did not stop allrounder Dale Austin from remarking “It’s as flat as a road” from first slip once the Settlers took the field.
Reaching 85-2 at drinks after 20 overs, the Settlers were quietly confident of compiling a competitive score in the region of 220. Little did they know that Leith spent the hydration break studying the MCC manual with the plan of putting on a demonstration that the Gary Kirsten Cricket Academy would have paid a six figure sum to have on video.
The first ball after drinks was expertly cut off the back foot through cover by Leith and one could not be blamed for thinking that the tall piece of timber from Sandhurst was in fact Jacques Kallis.
Leith’s lambasting through the offside was an ominous sign for the Hornbills and proved to be just a light snack at the table of a Michelin star five-course meal – with wine included.
What followed was a purists dream. An array of exquisitely timed drives and brutal pulls flew from Leith’s blade in a Martin Guptill-esque fashion.
No less than nine balls were sent sailing over the ropes from the Slazenger that Leith lashed around as though he were one of the Knights of King Arthur’s round table. Equal to the maximums were the nine fours that he lambasted en route to the first hundred in four years by a Lindale Settlers batsman.
A magnificent 123 is what Leith ended on – an innings that few who witnessed it shall ever forget. Least not the Hornbills, who’s wicketkeeper Amos was vehemently threatening his captain to let him bowl after watching his fielders spend most of their afternoon disappearing into the thickly wooded surroundings in the hope of retrieving a 156 gram red leather ball.
His stand of 189 runs with Ford proved that blood was in fact thicker than water as the two in-laws put the Settlers in an almost unassailable position.
Ford’s efforts should not go unnoticed either, as the skipper played the perfect foil to Leith’s belligerent brilliance. After a placid beginning, Ford started to come into his own shortly after drinks, displaying some crisp hitting of his own.
After getting a reprieve in the forties when he was put down at cover, Ford brought up his fifty in the most emphatic fashion as he shimmied down the track and caned a maximum into the top of the trees over the bowlers head.
He eventually fell for a superb 66 with the total on 243-4 as the Settlers innings derailed somewhat with the set batsmen having departed.
Keagan Frisch played some neat flicks off his legs to score a brisk 18, with Dale Austin (1) and Michael Grinaker (1) perishing in the pursuit of quick runs at the death.
Jimmy Hitchcock then played a masterful cameo of 21 not out, striking a four and a six, as he together with Tyler Magor (2*) saw the Settlers to the close of the 40 overs with the total on a mammoth 281-7.
Chasing seven an over from the outset was always going to be a stiff ask for the Hornbills, especially in the face of a potent Settlers seam attack.
Hitchcock and Magor were sublime with the new ball, restricting the scoring and leaving the Hornbills reeling at 23-3 by the ninth over.
First, Hitchcock took a superb caught and bowled, diving low to his right in his follow through to send a shiver down the spine of the Hornbills lineup.
Magor then struck a double blow, taking wickets on the penultimate ball of both his third and fourth overs. His first saw an outside edge fly off a lashing drive into the slip cordon, where an aerial leap from Dale Austin at second slip parried the ball upwards for first slip Murphy to complete the catch. Magor’s second was a fast bowlers dream, cleaning up the batsmen through the gate to disturb the timber.
Tim Buckley was then brought onto bowl some medium pace alongside fellow change bowler Dale Austin.
The searing Highveld heat started to take its toll on the Settlers, as their mouths turned drier than the Eastern Cape veld in the winter. A dropped catch only further served to quieten the field as the Hornbills innings began to gather momentum with the scoreboard ticking over rather rampantly.
Buckley, who was the unlucky bowler on the receiving end of the dropped catch, had his revenge in the fifteenth over when Magor took a neat catch at midwicket.
Runs continued to flow as the Settlers let slip of their stranglehold on proceedings, but it was Dale Austin who effectively ended the match as a contest with the final ball before the Tea break, claiming an LBW to leave the Hornbills at 113-5 after 20 overs.
The day’s final session did not take long at all, with the Settlers running through the remaining five batsmen in just 5.3 overs.
Frisch struck in the first over after the break, nicking off a smart catch to Holm behind the stumps.
Grinekar then made use of the pitch, banging it in short of a length and inducing a false pull from the Hornbills’ mainstay, Hayden (60), who top edged to Holm. The keeper taking an impressive catch on the run through the limbs of the iconic tree on the CCJ field.
A slight fumble at point from Ford tempted the batsmen into thinking of a run and chaos ensued with the men clad in pads looking as confused as a homeless man under house arrest when they were stranded in the middle of the pitch. An expert recovery from Ford and neat glove work from Holm saw an easy run out for the eighth stick.
Frisch then claimed his second with a leg before to leave the Hornbills in dire straits at 127-9.
It was at this time that Ford turned to his front line offspinner, Warwick Austin, considering the imminent danger that number 11 Amos poised. Amos, usually a top order batsmen of Steve Smith like caliber, was forced to bat jack in light of his shenanigans the previous evening which left the wicketkeeper-batsmen feeling more fragile than the Rand.
Using his bags of tricks ‘n traps, Warwick Austin managed to tempt a large hoick from Amos which was skied and smartly taken on the run by his cousin Dale at cover.
130 all out is all the Hornbills could muster, as the Settlers closed off their season with an emphatic 151 run victory.
An allround team effort in the field, with all the bowlers chiming in with wickets. Frisch boasted the best figures with his 2-16, with Magor (2-30), Hitchcock (1-17), Buckley (1-28), D Austin (1-25), Grinekar (1-7) and W Austin (1-3) all playing their part.
Leith emerged as the star on another splendid day of Lindale Settlers cricket. A fine way to end a fine season for a fine team.