Sporting Alfas beat their closest rivals Alcorcon to claim the ECCL Division One title in La Manga last weekend. Match report courtesy of Sporting Alfas CC...
SACC showed once again their strength in depth to fight back from an early collapse to claim another league title.
An overnight downpour at La Manga, combined with a groundsman under the misapprehension that cricket is best played on a sheet of standing water and setting the sprinklers to soak an already drenched strip on the morning of the match, left winning the toss and bowling first a crucial benefit.
The coin fell in Alcorcón´s favour, and SACC were duly inserted. After some early sparring, batsmen and bowlers cautiously sizing up their opponent and the tricky conditions, it was Alcorcón who landed the first blow, tempting Brook into an airy drive taken beautifully at short cover. Muñoz came and went, given out caught behind off Mazaar Abbas he stormed back to the pavilion, protective gear and bat thrown in disgust, seemingly annoyed by the fact that the umpire had given the correct decision!
From the other end Nabir began an excellent spell by dismissing both Crompton, the curse of the red cap striking again, and captain Fletcher, flunging at a ball later described by the standing umpire as the ball of the century.
This should however be taken with a pinch of salt, as umpire Bacon is prone to exaggeration when attempting to defend a fellow Bear. Nabir continued his excellent morning by dismissing Pennick, leaving SACC in an awful mess at 40-5.
The league trophy had been flown in by helicopter on the morning of the match, to be presented in the case of an Alfaz win, but with half the team dismissed in the first 10 overs this was looking unlikely to say the least.
Fortunately for Alfaz they have a long batting line up to call upon in times like these. Cometh the hour, cometh Jamie and Shaz to begin the fight back, firstly with sound defence and becoming more expansive as the pitch began to dry out and they got their eye in. Together they pushed the score passed 100 before Shaz fell to a tight lbw decision.
Chairman Laundon fell caught behind, and with 4 overs remaining Basharat strode to the crease in search of a few quick runs. Living up to his nickname/surname, "Basha" threw the willow in his own inimitable style, smashing two straight sixes in the final over and pushing SACC past 175 for an extra batting point which could have proved crucial come the final reckoning.
Jamie Roper completed his finest innings to date with an unbeaten half century, coming in under huge pressure and difficult batting conditions and guiding the team to what would prove to be a winning score.
The Alfaz bowling has been their strong suit all season, and defending a total of 177 was a real possibility, particularly after Roper followed his batting heroics by cleaning up opener Abbas for a duck, and then took a sharp catch, safely pocketed in his midriff, to remove the dangerous Tariq off a cleverly disguised wide long-hop from Laundon. Spain´s opening batsman dismissed again looking to impose himself from the start and attempting to smash every ball to the boundary whilst turning down obvious gaps left for a single.
Maybe one day he may conclude that playing himself in isn´t really such a bad idea, especially when chasing a small total. Either that, or he was just in a mad rush to get back to Madrid, quite understandable really in mid-August with so much traffic on the roads.
Chairman Laundon continued dismissing batsmen at regular intervals, the salmon orange cap for top wicket taker clearly sitting easy on his head, as Alcorcón found themselves in a situation not dissimilar to that in which SACC had found themselves earlier, floundering at 60-5.
But unlike Alfaz, they were unable to turn the tide, Pennick again bowling a tight spell and picking up his customary 1 for not many, Shahzad nipping out 3 and Muñoz appearing in the wickets column for the second consecutive week. Best figures went to Laundon who took an impressive 4-29 off his 9 overs.
The final scoreline, a win for Alfaz by 54 runs, made it seem as though this was a regulation victory. But at 40-5 on a seaming and spitting track it took every member of the team to dig deep and find that little bit extra to record the win that gives SACC the title with a game to spare.