Having defeated the King's Road by 149 runs in their 40-over encounter, and by 5 wickets in the shortest format of the game, the Badgers were full of confidence as they headed to Battersea for their extended two-day, two-innings, 'Test' Match. Damp, overcast conditions greeted the teams with a forecast of bright skies later in the day. However, the Badger's captain wasn't tempted to deviate from his plans and, on winning the toss, elected to bat and get some runs on the board.
The first session got off to speedy start aided by some wayward bowling (9 extras of the first 4 overs). The 100 was brought up for the loss of only one (Marchant), but two quick wickets just before the lunch interval left things evenly poised at 128 for 3 after the first session.
The afternoon saw the Badgers begin to take control. Blaiklock played a crucial innings to steady the ship, before falling to the impressive off-spinner Smalley. But superb knocks from Foord, Morse and Mackrell put their team into a commanding position of 290-5 at tea.
The Badgers suspected the pitch with its short boundary might well be full of runs, so Morse and Mackrell continued after the interval for seven overs of free swinging. Mackrell fell to Cocken attempting his third six in a row (later admitting he was attempting the 6 in an over), and Morse continued in the same vein, before a lost ball (after another huge six from Morse) finally triggered the declaration at 350 for 6, from 61 overs.
With 29 overs still left in the day, the Badgers were hoping for some early wickets to get into the Road's middle order, expecting either the ball to disappear into the huge gaps in the on-side, or the edges to come flying through to their vast slip cordon. However, neither happened, the batsmen seemed to be going for the draw from the off, playing out maiden after maiden. No edges came, no balls breached their defences and very few shots were played. Indeed the two runs to come off the first 5 overs were the result of a wide and a leg bye.
It was Morse who finally found the breakthrough, removing Isham (4 from 46 balls), and as a wise old Badger has said on many occasions "one brings two". Thorpe took his advice to heart removing Watson and Barnes in consecutive overs. Mazumder also fell for a duck to leave the Road on 70 for 4 at the end of day one. 280 runs behind, with another 155 required to avoid the follow on.
The morning of day two saw the next six wickets of the innings fall in the first 21 overs, and the badgers had the luxury of asking their opponents to follow on. 68 overs left in the day and 180 runs behind.
When the star batsman, Barnes, played on in the second over it looked like the road were going to capitulate and the game would peter out into a resounding Badger victory before the tea interval. Another wicket went down in the 7th over as Watson chipped a straightforward catch to Cloke at mid-off.
Lunch time. This was going to be easy.
The Road's skipper had other ideas. Ably assisted by Isham and then Smalley he hung around playing a superb knock, seeing off 70 deliveries. However when he finally fell the to a real jaffa from Mackrell, the Road were 96 for 5, and still needing a miracle to escape.
The two new batsman at the crease, Swann and Majeed, point blankly refused to play any shots at all, they clung to their wickets like limpets. In the context of the game they put together an epic partnership lasting 20 overs. The Badgers tried crowding them, giving them space, fast bowling, spin bowling, part-time bowling, nothing worked. Bit by bit the pair gradually started putting bat to ball, and after what seemed like an age Swann finally hit one in the air to Blaiklock at mid-on who made no mistake.
167 for 6; 16 overs remaining. In to the tail, but the Badgers were tiring. They had been in the field for 29 overs the previous day and now 74 on the second day, bowlers and fielders alike were suffering. Morse was brought back into the attack after his destruction of the tail in the previous innings and didn't disappoint, skittling the number 8, Keating.
182 for 7; 11 overs remaining. The Kings Road had a lead for the first time in the game. The Badgers would need to bat again. Morse and Mackrell were charging in hard, and found another breakthrough.
195 for 8; 7 overs remaining. Morse bags another. Majeed having played an unbelievable innings, 35 from 102 balls, finally makes a mistake attempting to flick the ball round the corner he succeeded in feathering it to the 'keeper. The umpire stood unmoved, but Majeed showed himself to be a genuine sportsman and a gentleman, and walked.
197 for 9; 3 overs remaining. From here we refer to the testimony of onlooker Chris Shone. However it should also be mentioned that the Badgers had now been the field for 87 overs that day. The slip cordon had been in position throughout, and only one half chance had carried to it throughout the weekend. However, a certain Alex Shires had been in the captain's ear constantly asking for stints at first slip.
Outstanding. Incredible. Magnificent. A little arousing. All of the above and so much more.
Mackrell strides to the start of his run-up.
Shires stands at slip.
Mackrell turns. He snarls. The King’s Road quiver.
Shires waits at slip.
Shires expects at slip.
Shires demands at slip.
Let’s put this in a little context. There are 3 overs left in the match. KRCSC are 17 runs ahead. They have one wicket remaining. The Badgers have dominated but it’s going to be a draw. The orange-caps are joking around on the boundary edge. They’ve pulled off another escape. It even feels like a victory.
The Badgers have to strike now. Two overs is enough time to knock off these runs. One over? Probably not.
It’s last-chance-saloon and the sheriff’s name is Alex Shires.
…express pace from Mackrell. He finds the edge. Shires dives from 1st slip. It can’t be caught. It’s too fast. It’s a rocket. It’s gone for 4.
But wait. It hasn’t.
A blur of white. A shiny new haircut. Body falling. Arm rising. Liezel screaming.
Has he caught it? The spectators can’t tell. Shires is on the floor. He seems to be holding something aloft. Bodies are piling on top of him. We can’t see him. We can’t see the ball.
And then he emerges. Grinning. The cherry in his hand. He’s plucked it out of the air. His final game before moving abroad. The Hollywood finish. The fairytale ending.
Badgers knock off the runs with one ball to spare.
God I wish I’d been playing in this one.
Alex, you leave as a Badger legend, best of luck in Switzerland, you will be sorely missed.