Armadillos (187) beat Buccaneers (176) by 11 runs
The Buccaneers’ first-ever fixture against the Armadillos fully fulfilled expectations on Sunday amid the Elysian splendour of historic Sheffield Park against a dazzling backdrop of frothing azaleas, soaring firs and the lordly stately home.
The Buccs lost the toss and were sentenced to sweat it out under a welcome but pitiless sun. A low, slow track and a tight line and length from Rob Rydon and Paul Hobson made scoring difficult and the Armadillos struggled to 8 for 1 off the first 10 overs, Sujay Chakravarti snatching a hard low catch at square leg.
Cunningly taking the pace off the ball to ironic cries of “great hang time, Hobbo,” from Mel Ragnauth, Hobson took three more wickets including a sharp slip catch from Richard ‘the Hack’ Gwynn to finish with impressive figures of 4 for 33.
Hack then bowled a very tight spell with movement and guile to record the scarely credible analysis of 3 for 8 in 10 overs to keep the home side on the rack before and after a sumptuous lunch.
But after losing their 6th wicket soon after lunch while still short of 100, the home side dug in and then accelerated during a torpid afternoon against the father and son spin combination of Simon and Charlie Leefe to establish a defendable total. But good fielding, including another fine catch, this time by Sujay’s brother Subhir, and accurate bowling eventually wrapped up the Armadillos innings for 187 in 55 overs.
With batting strength in depth, at least on paper, the Buccs were quietly confident of reaching their target.
However, early wickets fell regularly, including the prized scalp of galactico Ragnauth who was caught and bowled pushing early at a ball that stuck in the sluggish surface.
Sujay Chakravarti provided the only early resistance stroking several fine shots including a silky on drive before being caught trying to up the tempo for an elegant 59. But having slumped to 107 for 7 with 81 required off 12 overs, the Buccs looked done and dusted until Rydon entered the arena brandishing his cracked Salix blade.
Reprising a creditable impression of Chris Gayle, Rob simply smashed the ball to all parts of the picturesque field in a quick-fire 57 ably assisted by 13 year-old Charlie Leefe who cleverely nudged singles into the gaps to get Rob back on strike.
Alas, Rob fell with 16 still required which proved too stiff a target for the lower order against the clock and an accurate attack and the Buccs went down nobly guns blazing just 12 runs short, having received 12 fewer overs than their hosts.