Following the celebrations of the 150th anniversary event, it was back to league business as we hosted Westcott for our first league match in August. Although they were languishing near the bottom of the league table, we knew our opponents had some potentially destructive batting and therefore the game was unlikely to be dull.
With skipper IC finding himself better things to do on a Saturday, Barry was at the helm and made us look very professional as we went through some warm-up drills, and had to be dragged away to conduct the toss. He did a sterling job as the Westcott skipper called incorrectly and Barry wisely chose to insert them on a day when showers were forecast.
Mabbs and Ryan barely had chance to bowl an over each before the first shower of the day and we made the first of what would prove to be many dashes for the covers. The first shower went as quickly as it came and we resumed with no reduction in overs. Mabbs and Ryan continued to hit good areas and runs were less forthcoming than votes for the opposition at the recent Zimbabwean elections.
Another rain break reduced the match to 43 overs per side and while we were being kept interested in the field, clear-cut chances were rare. It was, therefore, a surprise and disappointment when Colin made what could politely be called a hash of taking a routine nick to the ‘keeper. It didn’t proved too costly as one opener chipped a catch to NiB at point and then the other toe-ended one to Ryan at short cover, who casually took it one-handed thinking it was a bump ball until the rest of the team asked the question of the umpire, who correctly sent the batsman on his way.
In the meantime Alimar Khan was playing himself in and starting to look in ominously good form, picking the balls to hit and dispatching them powerfully. Another ominous feature was the dark cloud that was approaching the ground, and we had thankfully got the covers in place before it absolutely belted down and we took shelter in the club. On removing the covers we saw that the two ends of the track were pretty dry, but the lack of a waterproof cover for the middle had left it decidedly damp. The umpires were unconcerned and we resumed with Westcott being in the unfortunate situation of having their innings cut by 10 overs, so we were down to 35 overs per side and only 8 remaining for Westcott.
There then followed an exhibition of high catching from Stewie, fresh from his final ball heroics in the anniversary event last Sunday. Three times the ball was hoisted in his direction, and three times he made significant ground, steadied himself and made catching the damp ball look as easy as stealing food from Timmy Lane’s plate at tea. Less secure was Will’s grasp of a chance at second slip just one ball after Barry had moved him there, but at the third attempt the catch was held. Ryan also got into the act for boundary catching as he took a top quality effort low down running forward.
As the innings drew to a close, Rehman Ullah once again showed us what a clean striker of the ball he is and we breathed a sigh of relief as he sliced a drive to NiB at point off Barry’s bowling. With Barry and Will picking up three wickets each in the rather frantic conclusion to the innings, the final score was 157 for 9. Mabbs, Mikey and Chaz each claimed one wicket and Ryan deserves a mention for a miserly spell of five overs for just eight runs.
After we were treated to a fruity tea by Dave Spencer, NiB and Colin started our reply. Colin looked in good form but rode his luck as he was dropped four times in total, once by the ‘keeper down the leg side, once a steepler behind midwicket and twice drilling it back at the bowler. After a shaky start even NiB managed to get the ball off the square a couple of times before failing to get forward to a ball that kept low and being bowled off his pads for 13.
This brought Barry to the crease, but he wasn’t there for long before another shower interrupted proceedings and we wondered whether that would be it for the afternoon. Thankfully it wasn’t and the two batsmen took full advantage, Barry in particular unfurling his full repertoire of shots as the run rate rocketed, helped by his consecutive sixes off the Westcott spinner. The prospect of buying a jug proved too much for Baz as he holed out for 49 off 31 balls, but Colin had by now passed his fifty with an imperious cover drive on his way to 69 not out, a score that amused some on the sidelines. With help from Mikey and Spence the target of 158 was reached off 24.1 overs for the loss of only three wickets, just before 7.00pm as we pocketed 29 points on a day where we could easily have been rained off
During the post-match analysis, Mikey took his role as fines secretary far too seriously as he read out the damage from a list he had been compiling during the day. Even absent skipper IC owes £1.
Pig’s ear: Colin’s dropped catch won out over Chaz failing to clear the fence when returning the ball from the field
Champagne moment went to Barry for his enormous six. Catches from Ryan, Stewie and Will also received nominations
Man of the match: no rock, paper, scissors required this week as Barry’s runs and wickets earned him the gong ahead of Colin’s 69* and Stewie’s hat-trick of catches
TFC: convincingly won by Timmy Lane. The closest he came to doing anything in the field was watching Colin’s dropped catch and his batting services were not required. A stint on the scorebook couldn’t save him