The countdown to the first weekend of November, for our now traditional annual trip to Menorca, is always a long one but one that’s well worth the wait! Most of the players arrived on Friday, with some in the morning to work “from home” and others in the evening after actually slogging it out at work. The nine of us there went for a curry and a few drinks in the port in Mahón.
It was a very windy weekend, with temperatures having suddenly dropped to give it a properly autumnal feel, albeit it was still warm enough when in the sun. With the recent change of the clocks, an earlier than usual start of 11am was agreed to. For the second year running, the Saturday game would be to compete for the Manners-Paterson trophy, with our Balearic hosts holding it having beaten us comfortably last year. With a stronger team at our disposal this year, and some better form behind us, we were confident of taking it home this time around! Umer Razi started well by winning the toss and deciding to bat (/ let most of the team relax/ let himself watch the Pakistan vs New Zealand game). Maroof Shaikh and Zeeshan Dildar opened the batting and very quickly the bookies were slashing the odds on the “Next wicket: run out” option. The inevitable eventually happened with the score on 20, as Zeeshan set off for a quick single that wasn’t on, slipped and was helpless as the bails were removed from the non-striker’s end. Captain Umer came in and left the World Cup game for a whole two balls before sitting down again. Maroof accumulated from one end whilst wickets tumbled at the other, Damien McMullen (caught and bowled) and Nathan Blyth (hilariously run out in exactly the same fashion as Zeeshan) both scoring 7. When Maroof skied one to point for the fifth wicket we were only on 57 and starting to make early afternoon back-up plans. Fortunately, Shriram Bhosale and Jack Jewson had only ideas of us playing cricket as they fashioned a 83-run partnership, with Shri getting a third fifty of the year at rapid pace and Jack playing more of an anchor role at the other end (he barely got to double figures by the end of it!). Shriram (67) eventually played a false shot and was punished for it. Jon Wong, sat getting pad-rash for so long, was naturally LBW first ball. Jack accelerated for a bit longer before being dismissed. This brought James Bentley and Leandro Español to the crease in what turned out to be the last partnership. James blasted the ball all around Biniparell on his way to a quick 34 with Leandro finishing on a useful 7*. We ended up on a respectful 193/8, a good recovery from where we had been!
After a delicious tea/ lunch, we were back out in the field and were pumped up following a rare attempt at fielding drills(!). James and Zeeshan opened the bowling well, but the first half of the innings turned out to be the Tom “Hot Dog” Coulthard show. Having brilliantly caught the dangerous Adam Levin in the deep, he was brought into the attack alongside Sam Phillipps and proceeded to blast through the upper and middle order in his six-over spell. Two edges through to Jack behind the stumps were followed by catches by Damien and Shriram before the best caught and bowled you’ll ever see as he claimed a maiden BICC 5fer. This left Menorca on 80/6, which shortly became 91/7 when Shriram got in on the act. Confidence was high, but we knew Menorca batted all the way down to 11 and were not out of it. Joe Brayne came in at 9 and steadied the ship for a bit with Billy Johnson, before he was run out by Sam from third man to make the score 120/8. This merely brought Simon Cotton to the crease and the two of them made a brilliant 68-run partnership. That was only broken when Umer brought himself into the attack late on and bowled Simon. Stalwart Roy Sturgeon played out the rest of that over before Joe completed the win with a boundary at the start of the next. Another Menorca-BICC classic, with the hosts this time coming out on top by just one wicket, with only three overs left. We were naturally dejected but soon cheered up with the festivities and barbecue at the ground, despite having to hide in the pavilion to get out of the ever-stronger wind!
Sunday was due to be more of a friendly affair. This time Umer lost the toss against Sunday captain Markus Dow and we were asked to bowl. The wind had died down a bit overnight but there were still strong gusts going around. James and Zeeshan again opened the bowling. We were much more sluggish in the field today, despite actually getting a relatively early night on Saturday! Our mood was not helped by many, many missed chances and the Menorcan top order taking advantage of our mistakes. Zeeshan got a wicket early on, but that was followed by two 80+-run partnerships taking the hosts to 184/3 and the potential of a big score. We managed to restrict the lower-middle order’s scoring rate, with Shriram claiming 3/32 helping massively. Menorca eventually set us 241 to win from our 40 overs.
After another great, expansive (end-of-season “everything must go”-style) tea we set about the chase. Despite them managing a much bigger score than we’d seen the day before, we knew their strength today had been their batting and we were hopeful of chasing it down. Jon, on a king pair, opened with Leandro, in his last game before moving to Madrid in a bit of a mix-up of the order. They got us off to a solid start, with Jon registering his highest BICC score (34). The third wicket partnership was a big one for us, with Umer and Maroof both scoring big fifties. Umer was rather hogging the strike as he approached his illusive maiden century, and the pressure clearly told when he played a horrible swipe and was given out LBW on 95. D’oh! Better luck next time, Umi, great 50 though! Maroof was now the undisputed senior batter and had a more willing runner in Nathan Blyth at the other end. He also surpassed his highest BICC score (72) whilst Nathan contributed a “famous” (his word) 15* as we won the game by seven wickets with just over four overs left. We would at least return to Barcelona with a win, even if not the trophy we might have liked!
Tom was chosen as player of the weekend for his 5fer on Saturday, and alongside Sam, was kindly gifted a Menorca CC floppy for his efforts. We’d like to thank Menorca again for their ever-improving hospitality and for the two great games. November 2nd 2024 is only 362 days away!