In a week that saw a late fixture addition vs Knowle, which was then cancelled, then replaced at the last-minute with a hastily arranged match vs Deportivo, followed by several WhatApp messages telling of withdrawals and injuries, it felt like this fixture was Off and On again more times than an IT helpdesk caller’s laptop.
But On it went, and two teams of eager cricketers, without the assistance of oxygen or sherpas, scaled the East Face of the Sporty for only the second ever Blades vs Deportivo clash.
For the second time in two weeks, Blades took to the field with two debutants – Nigel Hall and Hemant Kumar both donned the baggy blue with reputations in both bat and ball prowess.
Hall opened with Hurst, whose cameo four was cut short by a calf strain, and knocked a cultured 17 including the first boundary of the innings. Showing he knows one end of a bat from the other, he gave a masterclass in Actual Cricket Shots. Brown and Farmer’s 46 partnership was dotted with fours and motored Blades to 67-1 from 10 overs before Farmer was caught for 20 at long off in the 11th. Brown followed him back to the pavilion later that same over, but of his own volition with an undefeated 27. Second debutant Kumar, having patrolled the rope for a good three or four overs like a caged tiger but with pads on, also impressed with the bat, compiling a 20 which included the only six of the innings before being stumped next ball in the 15th.
A regular smattering of fours and sharp running throughout the order ensured the run rate was in the high sixes for the whole of the innings; Hamer and Meering’s 20 partnership keeping this going, and it was The Barrier who tonked a four off the last ball to bring The Blades to a creditable 123-4.
But this was The Sporty. Their website declares that the pitches “vary a little in size” and Pitch Five is legendary for its philatelic proportions. Coupled with the fact the wicket was cut so near the boundary on one side that chasing a wide would put the batsman in danger of catching his glove on the fence, the standard “one or four” innings was expected. And if this leant more towards the fours, then 123 could quickly look very gettable.
Afzal opened proceedings, only allowing a single from the first over. Farmer joined him in the attack and when he bowled the number 2 in the fourth, Depo were 16-1. They were finding runs hard to come by, fours in particular – one of which in the fifth only crossed the rope when Rhodes was completely unsighted by the sun setting directly in his eyeline.
Farmer took a catch off Afzal in the 7th with the score at 34 – a little behind the rate but Depo still had the total very much in their sights. They were 42-2 after 8, only four behind the Blades total at the same stage.
But where Blades had kept the scoreboard ticking from the ninth onwards, Depo stalled. They were 45-3 in the ninth when Brown caught behind off Meering, then Farmer decided that was enough of other people getting Depo out thank you very much, and caught the next off Hall before flooring the furniture himself for the fifth wicket. He had now been involved in four of the five dismissals. Depo slumped to 52-6 when Hall claimed a wicket in the 12th, three wickets having fallen for just 7 runs. 68 runs were needed from the last 6 overs and BetFred were considering paying out but Depo went on the charge. The 14th went for 16, the 15th for 11 – both overs featuring sixes – and suddenly Hollywood film producers were on the phone, sensing a comeback that would feature Tom Hanks when they showed it on the big screen. But in the 16th Kumar replied brilliantly to his previous (undeserved) 16-run over with 1-1, slamming the door on the nascent recovery. Hall kept the 17th down to five runs – ending his impressive debut with the ball with a return of 2-12 from three overs – and barring a miraculous 28-run final over, Blades were home and dry. Still the drama continued with a 6 and a 4 in the over but a run out with the batsman so short you could see it from space, meant the last two deliveries were of academic interest only. Despite a gallant late effort, Deportivo had not quite done enough on the middle of the innings and this thoroughly enjoyable match ended with them on 110-9.
RESULT: BLADES WIN BY 13 RUNS
Champagne moment contenders:
Meering’s big four to close the Blades innings
Farmer’s catch so low down that worms were ducking
Kumar’s 1-1 reply to the 16 off him in the previous over
Hall’s debut 17 with the bat / 2-12 with the ball combo