Henfield vs Kenya Kongonis
Thursday 1 August 2019
Kongonis 251-7 (Ochieng 53 no); Henfield 249-7 (Paine 120) Match drawn

Report provided by Kenya Kongonis

Who said time cricket is boring? This game came to an exciting climax over the last 12 overs that saw Kongonis snatch a draw from what had appeared to be an inevitable and heavy defeat. 7 overs and 5 balls into the last 20, Henfield were cruising at 191-0, and all Kongonis’ bowlers had been tried. But skipper for the day, Andy “Rev” Gandon had other thoughts, making the breakthrough with one of his floating off breaks, and Henfield went downhill from there, as pressure built on incoming batsmen to keep the score up to the required run rate of 5 runs an over while the Kongonis bowled tightly, caught everything catchable and fielded like demons, including a brilliant run-out and an outstanding catch.

More detail of that finish is in subsequent paragraphs, but Andy Gandon had won the toss and elected to bat on what was a cool but sunny morning. James Whitnell and David Waters opened the innings, but James was out to the third ball of the innings, missing a straight one, as he described it. Every other batsman but one then got himself in – and managed to get himself out before he could accumulate a substantial score.

The wicket in the first part of the game was prone to uneven bounce and David got one that “popped” and provided the bowler with an easy caught and bowled. No 3, Alton Rego, played some lovely shots in his elegant style, but was caught when he had scored 32. Tom Gibbs, a friend of James Whitnell, batting at No 4, hit the ball hard and far (four 4s and a 6 in his 28) but was bowled attempting another aggressive stroke. Chris Newson looked very comfortable and correct in scoring 18, but he was then the first of Howard Chick’s three wickets – Howard is a “Nairobi” Kongoni who hails from Henfield and plays against us every year and had played for us at Wisborough Green the day before – caught down the leg side.

Luke Devereaux, a tall (6ft 6in) New Zealander who also plays cricket with James Whitnell, likewise became one of Howard’s victims, in rather unusual circumstances. Howard has a tendency to stray down the leg side when he bowls, and Luke prodded at one that was drifting wide and the wicket keeper and slips immediately appealed for a caught behind. The umpire said “not out”, but Luke, decided he had to walk, knowing that he’d hit it. He told us a bit later that he had asked James before the game whether this was the sort of cricket in which one “walked” if one knew one was out and received a confirmatory response. So he knew he had to go, however reluctant he might have been to bring his innings to an end.

Neil Trestrail, match manager for the day and having retired from Kongoni cricket a few years ago, had been drafted in to help make up the numbers, was next in, and reminded us just how good a player he had been in his prime, but, having scored 19, he whacked another leg side delivery from Howard Chick straight at backward square leg. That brought in our scholar for this year, Tony Ochieng, who proceeded, once he had played himself in, to play a very mature and disciplined innings, his square cuts in particular being a highlight. Lakhdeep Babra, another Kongoni originally from Kenya (but now based in Bangkok), kept Tony company, scoring an entertaining 22 (with three 4s and a 6) before he was LBW, and the skipper then helped Tony push the score to the psychologically important 251 and declaring.

Interestingly, we had received 50 overs in 3 hours and 40 minutes of play, a pretty slow over rate. Partly this was due, though, to some pretty wayward bowling at times – there were 20 byes, all down the leg side, 10 no balls and 8 wides (and 2 leg byes) – and extra at 40 were the second highest score in our total.

By the time Henfield batted, the wicket had become firm and dry, and little that our bowlers did was able to disturb the opening batsmen. Rather as in our innings when batsmen managed to find a way of getting themselves out, nothing seemed to go our way in the field, as the one or two opportunities that presented themselves didn’t quite go to hand or were thwarted by the umpire. David Waters, who bowls off a short run these days, bowling little seamers/swingers, caught and bowled one of the opening batsmen, but had been called for a no ball just before – quite possibly an unreasonable call, as David pointed out after a few more no ball calls, which led to a discussion between the umpire and our captain and between the two umpires (the umpire concerned made rather a meal of an incident that could have been dealt with in a much more low key manner in a game of friendly cricket – something else to blame league cricket for). And we thought we had the opener who scored a century, caught behind – we all heard a snick, the umpire’s finger went up, but the batsman was very reluctant to leave the wicket – but Alton Rego, the ‘keeper, standing up, did the decent thing and pointed out that the snick was ball on pad rather than on bat.

But once we had that important break-through, the tone changed. As so often happens after a large partnership, No 3 came in and was quickly yorked by Tom Gibbs who soon got rid of Nos 4 and 5 as well. 191-0 had become 192-2 and 228-2 had become 228-4. The real game changer, though, came with a brilliant run out by Luke Devereaux, swooping in from forward square leg and, throwing himself horizontal as he underarmed the ball from 10 yards, made a direct hit to run out Tom Paine, the century maker. 236-5! Luke Devereaux had come back into the attack by then and, together with Tom Gibb, bowled very tightly and took another two wickets, one with an outstanding catch by the skipper, leaping to his left in the covers, knocking the ball up and catching the rebound, the last off the penultimate ball of the last over, off which only two runs were scored: 249-7 as stumps were drawn. A run a ball for the last few overs had become too much for batsmen seemingly intent on trying to get the ball to the boundary rather than looking for the ones and twos that were available to a more calculating mind set. How rabbits panic when caught in headlights; and how cricket is played as much in the mind as on the field of play.

At the end, it transpired that we had bowled 54 overs, with most of our bowlers bowling off short runs. Tom Gibbs took 3-49, Luke Devereaux 2-61 and Andy Gandon 1-31. Tony Ochieng bowled 10 overs extremely tidily, taking advantage of some coaching from Howard Cohen to extract more turn and bounce than previously, and Lakhdeep Babra bowled the other 3.

Once the excitement had died down, it only remained for our captain to thank Henfield for their contribution to an outstanding game; to thank the umpires, scorers and caterers for their help; to hand the man of the match Tusker to Tom Paine for his century (his second against us since we restarted this fixture five years ago); and to hand Luke Devereaux the Tusker for the champagne

moment – walking when he knew he had hit the ball but the umpire didn’t. With Alton’s recall of Tom Paine before he had scored his century, Kongonis had demonstrated once again why our opponents always like playing against us and what the spirit of cricket is all about.