U21s defend 99 to win MDL opener!
On Sunday the U21 MDL returned. Taking place over Ramadan once again the tournament is an exciting combination of coloured clothing , overseas pros , and  fasting. Having been knocked out in a nail biter against southgate last year, the Stoke Newington boys, playing under the pseudonym 'Hackney CC' were keen to give a strong account of themselves in a group that some people (me)  have termed 'the group of death.' Winchmore Hill were to provide the first challenge of the tournament whilst the fellas at Hackney Council were to provide the first pitch. Everyone was excited, everyone was keen, a classic days cricket was on the cards.  
Overnight rain changed little about the complexion of the pitch down at Hackney Marsh, which some people (me) have likened to the WACA in the  past. Superstar Scott Doody didn't bother turning up on time and so temp skipper Zabehulah Mohammad went out to the middle for the toss. He promptly lost and as a result Stoke Newington found themselves in the unusual situation of having to bat first.
Scott turned up in the nick of time and partnered Robert Chadwick at the crease. Progress was slow with both batsman struggling to find the middle of the bat with any degree of  regularity. Disaster then struck as Scott turned for a quick two, momentarily forgetting about the weight he had put on over the winter,  and was run out by a yard for 12 runs. Robert then followed suit , somehow contriving to hit a ball sliding down leg to cover. Unfortunately this poor start set the tone for a poor collective effort. H.Omar batted well for his 28,  but other than that the Stokey batsman followed the example set by their opening pair, and got themselves out. Indeed if it wasn't for some late resistance from Gus Walsh and Zabeh the score could have been a lot worse. As it was Stoke Newington finished on 99, one more than Scott scored by himself against CRS Cardinals the week before.
Lunch was dominated by a Winchmore Hill side cockahoop with their bowling effort, their japes and laughter drowning out even the sound of Scott's voice, a remarkable  achievement in itself. The food was first class and supply outweighed demand thanks to the fasting portion of the Stoke Newington team. Winchmore Hill stuffed their faces, thinking victory assured, a tactic that they may now regret with the benefit of hindsight. 
When play recommenced, the sun was at full strength, there was limited cloud cover and the wind was a mere wisper. Stoke Newington were also wearing their black shirts, which generate an ungodly amount of heat. In short , as they strode out to the middle looking to defend  99 not a lot was going there way.
I'm not sure Zabeh or Gus know the meaning of the term 'under- dog' and if they do, they certainly don't care that that was what we were at that point. They ran in and bowled with freedom and generated pace, real pace. The opening 10 overs were an exhibition in fast bowling, the like of which Hackney Marshes may have never seen before. Gus bowled around the wicket to the left hander, a la  Flintoff. He swung the ball in and nipped it away, the ball beating the bat more often than not. At the other end Zabeh bowled faster than he has all season. Hitting the batsman in the grill with a bouncer that was frankly rapid. Wickets fell, two to each bowler. Sarafat Ali took an excellent catch at first slip whilst S. Mohammed also caught well at square leg, tumbling away to his right. By the time the two openers had finished, Winchmore Hill were reeling at 34-4 and faced an uphill struggle to wrestle back momentum in a game that was rapidly slipping away from them.
Gus 07-02-23-02, Zabeh 07-02-22-02... Irfan Mohamand replaced Gus and Khawlpak Zazai replaced Zabeh both of them looking to maintain the early pressure created. Both bowled well , not giving away any runs, making the opposition work for everything they got. The overs ticked by and eventually , the pressure told. The Winchmore Hill lads had to change something. They went after Zazai in an attempted to hit their way out of trouble, a tactic that could have worked if it wasn't for some exceptional fielding in the deep from Stokey. Wickets were tumbling when Zazai bowled what must be an early contender for ball of the century. Coming around the wicket to the left hander he drifted one if, pitching it on leg before watching it tickle the bail off off stump. Stoke Newington were at this point storming to victory with nothing but a few technically questionable tailenders standing between them and a famous win. Buoyed by the wickets going down at the other end, Irfan charged in harder than ever, skittling their number ten before having their number 11 stumped thanks to some excellent keeping from Scott behind the sticks. The game was over, Winchmore Hill bowled out for 65 in one of the best games of cricket in recent memory. There were high fives all round before the chaps left the field to shake the hands of some shell shocked north Londoners , all of them still struggling to reconcile themselves with the events of the previous hour. Zazai finished on a remarkable 5-1-0-4 whilst Irfan finished with 6-2-8-2. If the batting performance had been our nadir, the bowling performance was our zenith. Hopefully we can take this momentum into our game next week, against current champions North Middlesex and give them a real run for their  money. One thing for sure, its going to be a belter.