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Thursday 27 January 2022

The weather threatened.

The atmosphere built.

For four cold, barren years, Thoiry had held the John Hardy Shield, but now, having won the first of three games the weekend before (lead by the brilliant Nisseem, having the finest of seasons) Standard had won the first game and entered Sunday's game passionate to win, and bring The Shield home.

The atmosphere built further, our covid-exiled captain Alastair, was back. Rejoice! Better still, he won the toss; we would bat.

And bat, in the rain, we did.

Their bowlers were solid but our openers held strong. Steve Byng stroked some glorious shots that deserved four but brought only ones in the sodden outfield.

Our three, four, five - all quality play-makers - took the game by the throat with Amarjit's 33 (worth 80 in the dry!) a shining light in the gloom and drizzle before Alistair came in and then was joined by Niseem.

The old firm. The proven warriors. With calm heads, deadly eyes, deft hands, and ... well ... aging legs, they worked the field, bided their time, milked the overs, and set the foundation.

Then they (Niseem) struck. 4 6 4 6 (some 1's and 2's, but it was wet) 6 6! 

A magnificent 63 not out, his sixth half-century for the season, finely supported by Al and then Shakeel, running hard and swiping, at the end (that's Shakeel running, not Al, but both swiping).

Standard Athletic 1st XI: 174 runs from 35 overs. Relatively meek on paper but given the conditions, worth 300. Game on.


The Second Innings: Thoiry.

Make no mistake, the John Hardy Shield was created to give a name to the fierce rivalry between the two clubs. 

We love it, we thrive on it - battling for the honour and tradition of the Standard Athletic Club - and in this game, more than ever it was on show.

The sun came out, the ground dried and Niseem and Shakeel swapped their bats for the ball and we dived in.

Pressure, pressure, pressure.

Shakeel, as always, was beating the bat ... then Nis struck, then Steve bowled an inspired spell of swing and bounce, hitting a consistently nasty length, removing their number three, and their key hitter who'd already raced to a threatening 50. They'd lost a leg, now we had to lean on them until they fell over.

So lean we did. Jyothy, as always, was the most difficult of off-spinners in France to get away. Seven overs for next to nothing, and equally important, he affected two run-outs both built on the pressure.
Suddenly they were behind the run rate, despite our meagre total, and then Anser's precision bowling clawed more mistakes from them - three quick wickets!

With the sun shining through they were on the ropes and Jan came on to finish them off, the final wicket a great catch in the deep to Amarjit.

Victory, and for the first time, the John Hardy Shield belonged to Standard!

Then both teams went off to the Rose Garden and had some drinks and talked about cricket (and Alastair gave a fine speech then prattled on about the World Bank).
Good times!

More than any other game this captures the essence of Standard as a true British sporting club; hard-fought, built on tradition, then celebrated for what it is with the opposition after the game.

An honor and joy, and big congratulations also to the undisputed player of the game: Niseem. Bravo!