Report by Daniel Mortlock:
Following on from yesterday's game, played on the tiny Newenden ground on what was the hottest September day on record in the UK, it was like a breath of fresh air to arrive at Gills Green with the temperature some five degrees lower and a sense of space, with the large ground surrounded by open fields on most sides. Out in the middle for the traditional, if pointless, pre-match meeting - as if working out the prevailing wind direction is going to stop you missing a straight one - Daniel made the off-hand observation that the ground seemed about about the same size as Lord's similar-shaped playing surface. This ill-informed comment could in principle have been allowed to pass through to the 'keeper - which, technically it did, as Chris Barras grabbed onto this claim with the sort of fervour he normally reserves for an outside edge. Having assessed it as an unacceptable falsehood, he immediately escalated to DEFCON2. His version of a missile launch was to immediately offer to stake his ski chalet on the bet that Lord's is (considerably) larger than Gills Green. This power move that was sufficient to have Daniel reconsidering even before Tom Hall used his Google Earth expertise to quickly establish that Lord's is only twice the area of the ground we were playing on today.
While conditions were milder than yesterday it was still pretty warm, so the toss was less about cricket and more about which team would be able to have most its players stay cool in the few pockets of shade . . . except there was no toss, as we were somehow about to deploy a strange transitive guilt trip in which we argued that our opposition should field first today on the grounds that we had made the equivalent offer yesterday. Astonishingly, Gills Green - or at least their captain - bought into this impromptu pyramid scheme, and thus their players dragged themselves out into the field with the sun at its highest.
That immediately put our top order batters up against Gills Green's star player Ben Tomkinson, who wrecked innings in the equivalent fixture last year with an opening spell of 5 overs, 2 maidens, 3/3. (His overall PlayCricket career stats are pretty impressive too: 4633 runs at 37.36; 289 wickets at 16.45; and 65 catches, albeit mainly playing league cricket for Marsden; he's only played a dozen games for Gills Green, so is effectively a ringer they bring when faced with the might of the FAS.) Numerically, Ben had the upper hand again today, taking 1/9 from his 4 overs, although the reality was that our top order largely got themselves out, the first four wickets each coming from an aggressive shot to a fielder in the ring. Or, in the case of Dave Kittow (22 off 34 balls, the only one to make it to double figures), an aggressive shot to two fielders in the ring: he looked to have split the small gap between the non-cricketer at mid-off and the regular player at, er, slightly wide mid-off; the former predictably spilled the chance, only for the latter to grab the rebound.
After 18 of our 30 overs we were in trouble on 64/4, at which point Gills Green decided to finish us off by bringing on their not so secret weapon, Joss Dare, legitimately playing for them as a local. Joss was presumably quite happy with his spell, which included a couple of tight maidens (settle down) and the wicket of Tim Prifti (2 off 12 balls, an innings he found sufficiently frustrating that he immediately re-declared his cricketing retirement). But the real story of Joss's spell was his head-to-head battle with Tom Hall, who was initially circumspect against Joss's well-flighted offies - he was 4* off 11 balls at one point - before deciding he'd had enough, launching two enormous "maxima" into the fields and eventually scoring 23 runs from the 15 deliveries he faced from Joss. With good support from Charlie Prifti (17* off 32 balls), Tom then kept up this pace for the rest of the innings, eventually being bowled for a barnstorming 81 (off 73 balls) in the final over. With just two deliveries left it didn't really matter who went in next, so the protracted "after you" politeness battle between Chris Barras and Joe White was particularly pointless. Chris eventually won, a victory which was justified by Joe's two-ball innings of 8*, consisting of a boundary and an all-run four. Thanks mainly to Tom's rescue effort - he scored more than half of our runs - we doubled our scoring rate to score 91 runs from our last 72 balls, finishing up with what felt like a defendable total of 155/4.
Gills Green's innings started much like our own, as their top order also perished to a sequence of catches, two of which were also from scoring shots but two of which followed genuine edges off Joe White (1/14 at this stage) and Charlie Prifti (3/29) that were well held by 'keeper Dave Kittow. Mid-way through the 11th over, Charlie's third wicket saw Gills Green reduced to 48/4 and we were starting to become sufficiently confident about winning the game that some attention could be paid to individual achievements . . .
. . . which on the 2023 FAS Coronation could mean only one thing: the bowling averages. The epic tale, covered in full in the tour report, had seen Jamie Dare pip Harry Houlder for the top spot by taking a wicket off the final delivery of the Cotswolds leg, only to cede his position when he went wicketless yesterday. We'd all assumed that was that until Charlie's flurry of wickets today meant that, with figures of 3/24 after 5.3 overs, top spot would be his (and, more importantly, no longer Harry's) if he could take a wicket from one of his remaining three deliveries. With a new batter at the crease he was surely a chance . . .
. . . except the new batter was the aforementioned Tomkinson, who from his first ball seemed to be batting in a different game, a bit like KP at The Oval in 2005. Full balls were punched through the covers; short balls were pulled with control into the gaps; and the (admittedly rare) good balls were defended with ease. Our response was to almost immediately fall apart, with messed-up field placings, arguments about who should - or shouldn't - be bowling, and a general sense that the balance of power had been completely flipped. With two deliveries remaining in the 15th over 48/4 had become 84/4 (i.e., Gills Green had scored 36 runs from the last 3.2 overs) and Tomkinson had raced to 29* off 13 deliveries. One could almost sympathise with Justin Langer's thoughts about Virat Kohli in The Test when he lamented "How the hell are we gonna get this guy out?" Certainly BK (1/34) was presumably feeling something along these lines, as he'd borne the brunt of the attack and had rather lost his rhythm as a result. Still, he steeled himself, ran in again, put the ball on a decent length, meaning another immaculate drive from Tomkinson . . . but a bit of extra bounce meant an edge straight to where first sleep had been . . . and where DK was now, having dived full-length to catch the ball in his glove . . . briefly, as it then popped out . . . but he was eventually able to clasp the ball between mitt and tit. It was a brilliant match-winning moment by the Kittows, a superb example of FAS living up to its name.
With Tomkinson gone, we could get back to thinking about the tour bowling averages, for which Jamie Dare was making a belated charge with two wickets in his first four overs; he, like Charlie an hour earlier, was in the situation of needing one more wicket to go top . . . but it didn't come, meaning he had to be content with still tidy figures of 2/19 from his darts (which he'd been free to bowl in a "safe space" with Cliff absent). From there we coasted home with Daniel (1/19) and Faruk (1/11) both taking wickets, and only some last over slogs off Joe (1/26 in the end) seeing the margin as close as 12 runs.