A mixed team of Bashers assembled to play a Chinese team of university students at Songjiang University on Saturday, March 28, having organized the match following the SCC 6s last November as a pre-season warm-up.
The match was played on a rolled out matting pitch in a football field, surrounded by a running track, out at Songjiang University. That made for short square boundaries, but the unpredictable bounce of the pitch promised to even the contest for the bowlers. The enthusiasm of the Songjiang team was evident in their 8.30am practice ahead of the friendly 20-20 scheduled to start at 12 noon, and the crowd of happy students assembled along the boundary to watch the match.
Bashers skipper, Mei Chunhua, won the toss and chose to bat first. The Songjiang captain, Feng, a left hand swing bowler, picked up a wicket in the first over. It was a sharp piece of bowling as he set up the Bashers opener with three deliveries swinging away, before bringing one back in to hit the off-stump. The fine first over was followed by a maiden in the next, and spoke volumes of the potential China has for cricket. The supporters on the sidelines, calling “jia you” at every dot ball or diving fielder, lifted their side. Soon the Bashers were under some pressure at 31/2 in the fifth over.
Adam Baker launched a huge six out of the stadium that hit the building across the street, on his way to top score for the day with a dashing 26, but the Songjiang team kept up their intensity in the field. The Bashers have a reputation for their sudden collapses, and a run of wickets from Gao, who picked up a tidy 3/13, reduced the score to 98/7 in the 14th over. The momentum of the game was in the balance, until Mei put together an elegant 21 not out, crisply timing a series of boundaries to wide long-on. Somehow the Bashers had managed to scrape together 140/8 off their 20 overs.
The afternoon was warming up, and the game promised much as the Songjiang opener, Jiang, began with a crisply struck straight drive for 4. Unfortunately, in the following overs the batsmen struggled to turn over the strike between the big shots, and the scoring slowed. Pat Wilkinson, bowling his loopy medium pacers, picked up two wickets in his second over to finish with 2/10 off his spell, and after 10 overs Songjiang had stuttered to just 54/4.
The skipper Mei bought herself on to bowl after drinks, and began with a fiercely rising short ball that lobbed off the gloves to the keeper. Her second ball kept low and caught the batsmen on the back pad. The umpire took his time, but the finger eventually went up for LBW. The field came in, excitement was in the air, and Mei delivered a slower full delivery to the batsmen. It lobbed off his tentative defensive shot, and Mei took a stunning return catch at her ankles to take a hat-trick. She added a fourth wicket to finish with 4/2, and with that the game was effectively over. The Songjiang University side innings ended on 62 two overs later, to give the Bashers a win by 78 runs.
Such was the excitement of the match that the Songjiang skipper asked for his side to bat out their 20 overs, so the Bashers stayed in the field until the arriving football team took over the pitch. The excitement continued in a flurry of team and group photographs, until the Bashers finally made an exit on the team bus back to the city center. A thoroughly enjoyable day of cricket, and a fixture that needs to be repeated soon.