After a week of topsy-turvy weather and a couple of very pleasant days at Lord’s, this scorer inspected the pitch to find evidence of it being affected by the weather with a slight amount of ‘give’ and a tinge of green. A good toss to win, he thought, and time for a trundle.
Having greeted the umpires and Tunbridge Wells colleague ‘Little Em’ who was suffering somewhat from being ‘nicely, nicely’ on a birthday bash in Madrid, the two scorers made their way carefully to their scoring position amongst the squash court building work to await the result of the toss. Praise the Lord and Beckenham won the toss and, as expected, chose to field first.
From the outset, it was obvious that the ball was most likely to be the dominant factor as runs were hard to come by. The first breach came when Mahi Mahfuzul, quickly brought into the attack after two Stuart Binny overs and fooling the home scorer who was in the middle of a story and not paying attention, caused Mike Waller to play on for 5. Will MacVicar, meanwhile, was steaming in at the other end and very soon laid the Wells top order to waste. Mark Mclean was trapped in front and then skipper Chris Davis and Will Stickler were castled in successive deliveries. The repair job was instigated by Julian O’Riordan and Alex Williams who carefully advanced the total to 63 before the returning Binny had the former beautifully held by Johan Malcolm at slip. At 63-5 in the 27th over, Beckenham were well on top against their closest rivals at the top of this year’s rather open Premier. But, with Ian Mclean scampering singles and Williams getting ominously into his stride, Wells were fighting their way back. The hundred was passed in the 35th over before Maclean tried to launch Malcolm’s off-spin only to be safely held on the boundary by Will MacVicar for a valuable 23. A direct hit run out by Malcolm and Dave Smith being bowled by Binny without scoring put Beckenham back in the driving seat. South African Ari Karvelas then joined forces with Williams who had opened up to reach a splendid fifty from 76 deliveries. The pair added 37 before Ross Piller ran Karvelas out having been sent back and the final wicket was that of Williams who had his stumps made a mess of by MacVicar for 68, an excellent knock containing four sixes which gave Wells a final score of 166 which would take some getting. With another ‘fourfer’ for MacVicar (4-18) and a brace for Binny, this had been a good performance by the home side with the fielding excellently marshalled by skipper Alex Senn.
After his splendid knock last Saturday, Rithik Hari opened the innings with his skipper and again demonstrated his marked improvement as a batsman. Senn began brightly and a promising partnership developed. Enter the metronomic Dave Smith to spoil the party as Senn chopped on and Hari edged behind to make the score 44-2. The potential match-winning partnership of Will MacVicar and Alex Blake was kept in check by some superb Wells bowling with left-armer Isaac Bepey impressing. It was the little all-rounder Ian Mclean who made the crucial breakthrough when he seemed to have MacVicar in two minds to hit the stumps. Blake, meanwhile, was playing an innings totally out of character and was steadfast in his chosen anchorman role. Visiting skipper Davis then pulled another ace from the pack and introduced Matt Barker who ran in energetically to bowl at a good pace in nailing Johan Malcolm in front with his first ball and then bowling Binny shortly afterwards to leave the home side in trouble on 95-5 in the 32nd over. The fair-sized crowd was then treated to an example of what Beckenham Cricket Club means to Alex Blake and a display totally befitting a capped County pro. The incoming Ross Piller dropped easily into the partnership and, guided by the Kent man, played himself in carefully. The Wells fielding and bowling were of the very highest standard and any runs scored by the home pair were patently going to have to be earned. With Blake as solid as a rock, Piller began to use his long reach to hit the ball over the close fielders and a nice stand developed. This was tense stuff with the tension being eased by Piller, no longer the ‘plinker’ of old, getting the ball away to bring victory in sight. Blake, for so long the different player who had blasted Steve Finn into oblivion at Lord’s recently, finally launched Bepey for 10 in successive balls to level the scores before missing another big hit to be bowled off the last ball, much to his obvious annoyance. This had been a magnificent innings and this popular and much-loved cricketer was warmly welcomed back by the crowd. The winning runs came rather disappointingly from five wides in Barker’s next over to leave Piller unbeaten on 35, a superb knock that had given the innings the impetus it needed. Tunbridge Wells had played a full part in this magnificent game of cricket which was enjoyed by everyone and poses the question as to whether the Championship is ‘coming home’ for the second time in three seasons with three games to go. To end this story, it was pleasing to report that ‘Little Em’ was back to her usual top billing well before the end!