Chiba Sharks 171/8 - 173/1 TWCC

September 6, 2008 - 11:00 am at Fuji 2
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by Ian Gason

Tokyo Wombats will be making their fifth consecutive Grand Final appearance Sunday after an emphatic nine wicket victory over Ichihara Saturday.

As the 0715 departure time came and went, the day’s first -and arguably greatest- moment of tension was provided by serial snoozer Ross Ferris’ non-appearance. Last seen nursing his “last” pint in the pong, Ross was also phoneless, and probably not well enough acquainted with the windy roads that lead to Fuji City’s Ryokuchi Koen to make the journey solo. So we cooled our heels as the weekend traffic headed south without us.

Relief all round came at 0723 as the boy from Ballarat, proud owner of a new alarm clock, jogged up the hill, no doubt pretty stoked to see Nippon RentaCar’s indestructable people-mover parked in its usual Wombat spot.

The Fuji grounds looked a treat under sunny skies, with a large crowd of supporters in shade tents for the D2 all-Japan Fuji v Adore clash. The absence of boundary ropes and stumps suggested that something was amiss, namely the key to the shed containing those aforementioned quintessential cricketing items.

The key it did appear, stumps were inserted, boundaries abounded, sun cream lathered on (in the usual non Jarrod Harris way….), the umpire trundled out and off we went to play. Ichihara sent us into the field, a surprise strategy after we’d recently chased their 200 for the loss of just two wickets.

Morty opted for the River End, which suited me fine since last time I got a wicket from there, John Winston Howard was Australia’s Prime Minister. Like the Australian public, I sought improvement. Prashant Kale opened up, with veteran Nick Creese in his trademark egg-yolk yellow helmet taking strike. Prashant had made merry with our bowling a month back, but could not repeat the pyrotechnics this time. In the third over he drove a regulation catch straight back to yours truly, which came at a pleasantly catchable height. Can’t really explain how it popped out. Never mind though, cos a desperate one handed lunge followed and prevented me from out Herschelling Luke Ray’s Wyverns effort. 1/4 and the stand-in skipper to the crease.

Stringing together more dots than a set of dominoes, Morty found the River End to his liking, even treating it as his own personal change room, stripping down to his Skins for a few deliveries, and unveiling his waxed chest the next. Nick Creese had a scare when he gay-dabbed me over 2nd slip in what would be my 3rd and final over. Pup came on, and although Dougal and Nick weren’t about to get IPL contracts, they were ticking along at 4 an over. And not getting out.

An old cricketing piece of advice is never run on misfields, but after one slack piece of groundwork from me, the pair took the single offered, and Nick promptly twisted his ankle. A runner is always a welcome sight for a keen fielding side, and we fancied our chances of breaking this stubborn partnership.

And when we did, the scorers recorded a wicket to Mr Shackleford, though the real credit should go to the Monster, naughty Morty. From mid-wicket he goaded the skip, “you’ve got your 40, time to get out.” Or perhaps it was a prediction? Doogal was keen to show who’s boss and to our tweaking veteran’s next delivery, switched his grip, switched his stance, and unleashed a shot even Graham Gooch would caution against: the reverse pull. Well, with a quarter of the ground to aim for and just the team juggler at backward point to beat, who can blame him for trying? Alas, I moved with uncharacteristic gazelleness and my left hand did not betray me.

The spot of bother the Sharks found themselves in at 2/81 grew bigger yet when the reliable David Lollback holed out to Courtney Jones off the bowling of the Body, reducing them to 3/87. And when half of last game’s run out shennanigan arrived at the crease, it was remarked to the skipper, “I can see 3 blokes at one end here!”

And so it came to be, before Smith had even faced a ball!! When Creese dabbed the Shaxinator, the votes were 2 against and 1 in favour of the run. A calm lob back to the bowler was all it took, and after some consultation between umpires over who was actually out, it was deemed that the Creese/Kale team had regained possession of the safe end, and Smith trudged back holding a diamond.

Dabral tamely fended a rising Pup delivery to Rowdy Turner for wicket number 5, and when Rhino France got his first stat for the day, he got the big one, the one-legged pillar holding the Sharks up, Nick Creese. A deft piece of diving groundwork by the Rhinosaur at short mid-on caught the runners unawares. A further piece of deftness to whip the ball back to the Grumpy One was met with some of Dino’s own deftness as he whipped the bails off to strand the batsmen and/or the runner. Deftness all round ended a fine knock.

Adams showed good application in contributing 22 lower order runs, but displayed an inadequate understanding of the give ways laws of the pitch, colliding with our Englishman in his follow through, and then taking issue with all and sundry over it. Morty had the final say, having him caught by Steve Burke- another great grab running with the flight of the ball.

Pairing him at the death was GT Turner, who also grabbed a caught and bowled in a mislerly spell of late innings bowling. Morty and GT both finished with 8/1/1/28.

Our target for a Grand Final berth, 172 from 40 overs. Burkeandshearer to open, with a beaming happy Ross Ferris at #3.

When Mr Burke powerfully pulled the second ball for four, the tone was set. A ten run first over is no way to begin a defence of 171, and should give cause to the bowler to think twice about chuckling at dropped catches. Waiting for loose balls was not great test of these campaigners’ patience, as they motored along to 50 in the 8th over. Mossop probably wasn’t laughing when Jarrad was dropped by their keeper down leg side either.

Both batsmen found the ropes regularly. A double change brought little respite and the first six came in the 13th over. Wombat sat comfortably positioned at 0-94 at the first drinks break, when Chuck encouraged them to bat more adventurously, so we might all enjoy Ross’ and Pup’s prowess.

Doogal’s next two balls were blasted back through midwicket and whistled past square leg by Jarrad (39) who tried unsuccesfully for a third boundary, only top be dismissed for the first time this season. Sharks encouraged themselves with the usual one-brings-two stuff, but all that one brought was Ross Ferris, who looked as troubled as a man with his feet up watching telly.

With 40 runs needed, Lollback was introduced into the attack, and re-introduced to the ways of Burke:+444.4. Those first three fours were text book, “for any kids watching at home”, forward of the wicket elegantly timed, perfectly placed cricket shots. The fourth probably was too. Ross realised time was his enemy and cut, pulled and hooked his way to 25 from 21 balls, including two effortless sixes behind square, one in the 23rd over sailing away into the evening and placed us in the Grand Final.

Steven Burke’s innings of 75 from 72 balls included 10 4s and 2 6s, earning him our Hardys Man of The Match. Nick Creese (44) and Rhino won the other Hardys prizes.

Everything got drunk, and tidied and shedded and packed and loaded into the van. Five new staff quit McDonalds when we did the Club song in there, before mozying on down the Tomei. No eskis smashed, no van parts broken, no 9 blokes in 1 seat, no dislocated body parts, not even a traffic jam. But plenty of highlights and more than enough gutter talk to make your Auntie Mavis blush. Back at Harajuku by 8, just as scores of young fitties were piling out of Yoyogi Park’s Brazilian Festival. Terrible timing.

All to play for Sunday. We know we have the talent. Let’s show them we have the heart and the hunger to go three in a row!


Hardys Man of the Match

Steve Burke
vs Chiba Sharks (Sep 6, 2008)
A return to form for Steve Burke earns him Hardys' Man of the Match! Burkey propelled the Wombats into the J1C Grand Final with 75 not out that included 10 fours and 2 sixes!