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The Ashes 2019 - Marin Cricket Club, Piper Park, Larkspur CA, August 17th 2019

Billy Nosocks, Associated Press

Marin Cricket Club, Piper Park, Larkspur CA, August 17th 2019

“She’s angry my friends” I heard Duncan Williams utter as he looked towards a very blustery and foggy Mt Tam at 9:30am

Duncan was one of the English players warming up in the nets. I had arrived at Piper Park early as I’m always keen to talk to a few players before the game. I know this game, of all the games I come to, has extra meaning and once the game starts it’s are all business. Several players were already in full posturing mode, while most were just trying to figure out which end of the bat to hold. England had a quiet reservedness , while the Australians were already fully boisterous. Having won the last 2 matches, the Aussies were feeling pretty good. Although I arrived to find out both David Bower, a long time pain the English rear end, and “Leaky” (Aussies are rarely called by their full names), one of the best batsman usually on the park, were both unavailable. I could see that the English had a spring in their step after hearing this news. John Leake had apparently been arrested for smuggling sandpaper into Australia and was serving 30 days in a low level detention center.

The fog continued to cascade down, and apparently the blistering hear of the previous 4 days was nowhere to be seen. But the game must go on, and it did, amid chairs tumbling, hair pieces flying and small dogs being hurled through the air.

The skippers took care of business, Paul Armbruster and Stuart Read both had their match plans laid out, and England put the Aussies in. “We’re a bit light in batting” said Armbruster “but still enough to beat the Poms”. Read decided no response was the best way to answer.

So onward. The first thing I noticed was the burly impressiveness of the umpires- Everton Matambanadzo and Mark Carrington. There was a calmness to both, as they’d already negotiated their daily rate of one case of beers each.

The Aussies came at the game hard, with Armbruster himself cracking 3 or 4 shots to the offside boundary. Joining him in the middle was Jim “The Professor” Pittman. I check through my notes from prior games, and I found one from 1965 that also had Jim’s attendance. He’s been at it a while!. England toiled in the first several overs. Captain Read came on, and then promptly took himself off “my shirt’s too blustery, it’s affecting my run up “ he said. Red Hendery pushed through a nice length from the car park end, and Nick Lynam replaced Read from the nets end and promptly threw it into the gale force winds, smartly using that to hold the flight for at least 55 seconds each time. It was difficult batting and bowling. Pittman went at 10 overs, a nice catch of Rajiv’s bowling. Armbruster quickly followed taking by a nice catch by Hendery patrolling deep mid-wicket, and England felt a bit better about the situation.

By now the crowds were pouring in, and our new caterers, Cam & Tammy Chan and their “Fair Dinkum Aussie Pies” were set up and ready for action. The pies, sausage rolls and pasties were a bit hit! Cooper Lees and the new batsman Heshan Heshan (no that’s not a typo) built a solid 3rd wicket 50 runs partnership before Lees was bowled by Peter Sellick. Kanishka Pothula, always a dangerous hitter came in, but was quickly out to an even better running catch by Hendery, still flashing around the boundary with his ginger mop. Both Tim Irwin and Chris Miceli put some runs together, and by the end of the 40 th over Australia were sitting at 207. String bowling by Hendery (2-28) and Rajiv Sharma (2-29), and some tweakers from Jaime O’Sullivan (2-43) & Nick Lynam (1-14) kept the Aussies down from a big score.

As the teams broke for lunch, several around thought the run chase would be tight. Piper was playing fast though, and skipper Read was busily working through the batting innings on his white board.

After the pies, sausage rolls and all kinds of salads had been munched on, the second half commenced. The wind was still billowing across the field, at one point a small child was tumbling down the park, but didn’t seem too worse for wear. The England batsmen, Peter Sellick and Sam Venning, looked as though the recent World Cup victory by England was coursing through their veins. It wasn’t long before some chaos ensued, and Sam was run out after completing 3 runs to Peter’s 1.

Not the best of starts for England, and skipper Read immediately went over and rewrote the white board again. Next in was Rajiv Sharma. And the promise that had been evident in the nets, where he was able to have a cup of tea before playing most shots as he looked to have that much time, came into view. Rajiv and Peter quickly went about the bowling and built the score nicely to 92 off 19 overs. Suddenly a wicket, on the last ball before drinks. Sellick edged one down the leg side, and Armbruster, battling the wind as he shuffled across, snagged the catch. The Aussies had a breath of life.

Skipper Read was next in, and started gently after the break. Rajiv got to 50, and then Pittman, using all of his 400 years of cricketing experience decided to give Rajiv the old” full bunger thigh high”...and not realizing the trick of the delivery Rajiv promptly hit it straight up in the hair. But as noted the wind was howling at about 30 knots nots now, “400-1 odds I give him to catch it”, our resident bookmaker Ed Commins was heard to say on the sidelines, as Chris Miceli teetered and tottered as the ball finally made its way back down. But there it was, safely snagged and a brilliant catch, and the Aussies had a small whoop of delight, followed by a gathering and a team cheer. You could tell they were back in it.

Nick Lynam came out, and he and Read managed without much success to move things along. By the time Read was out bowled, Lynam caught behind and Red Hendery had a quick visit but was caught on the boundary, there were 9 overs left with 70 runs. Not out of the question, I think both teams still felt it could be done. Williams had come to the crease, and Jack Wood joined him in what would be the partnership of the game. Between the scurrying of Williams, and the magnificent stroke play of Wood, things began to turn England’s way. Wood began gently, but quickly began to launch 6’s around. One moonshot going into the goal netting almost didn’t come back down. In the space of 5 overs he & Williams put 60 runs on the board. As Williams departed, LBW for 17 at the end of the 39th over, England needed just 5 to win. Jamie O’Sullivan quickly crashed a 4 through the covers. Game over.

England definitely felt this was one that could have easily been lost, so the winning taste was even sweeter.

The most important thing was a great day of cricket. And jack’s technique for leaving was also to be admired. “I have to leave early today....” he was heard to say at 5:15. At 8:05 he was still finishing up and leaving, on what was a great afternoon for all.

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