Midi’s road trip hits brick wall after first league victory

Midi CC, buoyed by a season-opening one-run victory over the formidable Catus CC,
embarked on their first road trip of 2014 with hopes high, but soon learnt that life at
the top can be short lived, going down by one wicket in a desperately close match to
Toulouse and then by five wickets to Armagnac-Bigorre.

Midi faced their first double header with the rare distinction of first place in the Midi-
Pyrénées/South Division after picking up 27 points at home the previous weekend.
While realists pointed out it was the division’s first match of the season, Midi had a
week to bask in the glory of a first league victory in four years.

But Midi ominously headed west to Seissan on 10 May with a depleted bowling
attack in the absence of the in-form Patrick Dubois and spinner Neeraj Obhrai and
with warhorse all-rounder Dom George playing with an injured ankle.

Vice-captain Paul Rogers stepped in as captain for Alex Lalljee and immediately had
to explain to his team why he lost the toss against Toulouse and Midi had to bat first
in the 40-over match on a cloudy but fine day.

It didn’t get any better for Rogers when he fell LBW to Philippe Fermanel in the
second over for a duck leaving Jason Armstrong, who survived a catch off a no ball
in the same over, to hopefully provide another foundation for Midi’s innings.

The man of the match against Catus with a stirring 88 not out was joined by Nick
Allison and the pair plodded along to 37 after 10 overs, the run rate not helped by a
slow outfield which saw Armstrong’s fine glances and cuts restricted to singles.

Just when it seemed that Midi had survived the early onslaught from Christophe
Srikanth, Fermanel and Mitish, Armstrong was well bowled by Rajesh for five and
Midi were 42 for two after 14 overs.

Allison, whose partnerships with Armstrong have been a feature of Midi’s season so
far, was the only batsman at ease with the Toulouse attack and as he accumulated
the team’s highest score, he watched helpless in the face of the Usual Midi Collapse
(UMC).

George departed for eight, Martin Eede followed on five, both victims of an on-fire
Skrikanth who went on to destroy Midi’s middle order, sending back President Marc
Dalling (0), Ram Kumbhar (0) in the same over with the score on 72, then removing
American import Ken Miller (0) in the next.

Midi had slumped from 58 for two to 72 for seven and only some dogged late support
for Allison from Joe Whitworth (5 not out), supported by David Amoros (5) and Pierre
Ziavanovic (5), enabled Midi to post a three-figure target of 101.

Allison’s was the eighth wicket to fall, another Skrikanth victim, but he had scored a
vital 38 with four fours, the only Midi batsman to post double figures ahead of
George (8) and five other batsmen weirdly on five apiece. Skrikanth finished with the
remarkable figures of six for 16 runs.

A crushing defeat looked in the offing but George and Rogers pegged back the
Toulouse openers and Pierre Zivanovic took a brilliant skied catch off Rogers’ first
over to give Midi some early hope.

Rogers’ tight bowling was matched by Midi in the field and he got his second wicket,
caught by Ram, to restrict Toulouse to 32 for two after 10 overs.

Rogers was joined in the bowling attack by Ram whose shorter run has oddly
produced genuine pace and direction and he bowled Amit Singh on 18 to leave the
home side tottering at 34 for three.

Rogers’ inspired spell had Toulouse foundering, and he took another two wickets,
one a tumbling catch at point by George, which saw half the home side out for only
41.

Midi were beginning to dream the impossible dream when Ken Miller struck to
remove Mitish for four with the score on 47.

But they had not reckoned on Skrikanth who followed up his brilliant bowling spell
with a solid innings that edged Toulouse towards the target.

Rogers had to ring the changes with his occasional bowlers after he, Ram and
George had bowled their allotted eight overs. The score moved to 81 for eight when
Dalling atoned for his duck with the wicket of Fermanel, caught again by Ram at
extra-cover from a ball that even the President admitted left a lot to be desired.

The last wicket pair faced a target of 20 and, with overs to spare, sensibly moved the
score along slowly and it was man-of-the-match Srikanth who broke Midi’s hearts
with a match-winning four off Miller and his team’s high score of 38 not out.

Rogers was the pick of the bowlers with exceptional figures of four for 10 runs while
George took two for 26 and Ram one for 13, the trio getting Midi so close to their first
win on the road for nearly five years.

Midi, rightly aggrieved that they hadn’t finished off the job, had – for them – a
subdued night on the town (Auch) before confronting Armagnac-Bigorre on a day
that dawned with rain and a possible cancellation.

Midi went into the match without George who decided not to risk further damage to
his ankle so had a further reduced bowling attack against a team who are arguably
the strongest in the division having recruited a number of players from last year’s
champions, Noé-Gascogne, who no longer play.

Under an overcast sky, Midi won the toss and Rogers boldly decided to bat, his
audacity heightened by the quick loss of four wickets for 24 runs – Dalling and the
Captain himself for two runs and runmakers Armstrong and Allison for two and three
runs respectively.

With opening strike bowler Preetham taking the first three wickets and threatening to
run through the side, Midi needed a miracle in the shape of a thunderstorm or similar
climatic intervention.

Alas, the gods served up the UMC (Usual Midi Collapse) and Midi plummeted from
41 for four to 45 for eight with wides providing the only scoring sideshow for the
beleaguered visitors.

The ever improving French junior Pierre Zivanovic injected the one bright note into
the sorry litany of failures with a breezy 12, the only player to score double figures,
taking the final score to 70 before he was out LBW.

Midi went into the defence of the moderate target without wicketkeeper Eede who
tweaked a calf muscle in his innings. Dalling stepped into the breach as Eede nursed
the injury with a frozen paella kindly donated by Rogers from his mobile home fridge.

Armagnac-Bigorre were never really threatened in their run chase after the opening
stand posted 34 runs. A brief lapse of focus saw the home side slip from 55 for two
to 64 for four but they eased to a five-wicket victory with 22 overs to spare.

Rogers was once again miserly, returning one wicket for 10 runs off four overs, while
Pierre’s younger brother Lucas surprised everybody, particularly batsman Andrew
Gatsby, with a first ball clean bowled and figures of one for five off 1.2 overs.

Midi can take encouragement that next Sunday’s return match against Armagnac-
Bigorre at St Pons de Mauchiens will be much more competitive with the return of
some key players and home ground advantage.

President Dalling was heartened by Midi’s application in the field in both matches
and was confident that the team would surprise Armagnace-Bigorre after the
weekend setback.

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