Finding form with Bedford Pakistanis

Phil Johnson is presented with his Bedford Pakistanis cricket shirt

Phil Johnson is presented with his Bedford Pakistanis cricket shirt

Six weeks into the season with my adopted club and I am slowly beginning to come to terms with the cricket, the language and the lifestyle in this hubbub of British Asian culture.

Perhaps inevitably though, my form and confidence with the bat has slumped – the result of batting on poor wickets against decent quicks gunning for every wicket. After one ball screams past the grille from a good length and the next bounces ankle-high, it is just a matter of time before I succumb to the demons in the wicket.

But the insecurity is somehow liberating: an excuse to go for the big shot, be expansive, inventive and adventurous without repercussion. I quickly realise how my team-mates first formed their boom-boom style of batting.

This realisation itself may have sparked a revival in fortunes. Desperately looking for our first league win of the season, the game against taxi-company-sponsored Bedford Ambassadors was a key encounter.

With the early summer drought at its height, however, the pitch at Mowsbury Park was a minefield, only to get worse as the game wore on. Batting first, our opponents threw the kitchen sink at us from the outset, reaching 80 for 3 from 10 overs. My military medium wobblers took particular punishment. After 26 eventful overs, Ambassadors were all out for 163 and we caught our breath by nipping to the local chippy during the tea break.

Reaching 50 for none, all seemed to be going swimmingly with the classy Rajan Nandha making conditions look easy, before his demise sparked a clutch of wickets and the pitch, seemingly becoming more devious with every fall of wicket, became unplayable. I arrived at the wicket at 90 for 4 and having sensed my circumspect batting would earn me bruises rather than runs, I decided to have a go Pakistani style.

Twenty minutes later I was out for 35 but the attacking knock both restored some impetus and much needed confidence in me and the team. We eventually scrambled home by one wicket despite at one point needing 20 with 5 wickets intact.

The timing of this renewed impetus could not have been better as the Bedford Midweek League season began in earnest. My team, Bedford Pakistanis, is gunning for a fifth title in six years in a format the players relish. The 16-over innings set the scene for blistering displays of power-hitting that many of the more conventional sides are unaccustomed to.

Our season starts with a comfortable victory at Kempston where we chase down 95 with ease. But we are then ourselves on the receiving end of a batting hurricane as former Bedfordshire all-rounder Andy Milne smashes a brutal 80 not out in a 20-run defeat to Thurleigh.

With both League campaigns now hanging by a thread, fortunes may have to change quickly if my season for Bedford Pakistanis is as fulfilling to my teammates as it already has been for me.

Bedford Pakistanis beaten by the Azad Kashmir upstarts

On debut with Bedford Pakistanis: Urdu in unusual surroundings

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