After a hearty breakfast at the King’s Arms, this scorer ambled down to the Quay at about the same time as the Beckenham team was boarding the minibus for the journey to the delightful home of Sandwich Town to close the first half of the season. After a most pleasant read and listening to the amazing and varied callings of the parrot in an upstairs window, the short journey to the ground was made with a good, firm pitch on which to do battle.
Town skipper Matt Van Poppel won the toss and elected to bat while the delightful Claire and yours truly settled down for the start. And what a start it was! Zack Fagg opened the scoring with a crisp four from Will MacVicar opening from the Delf Stream end. From the last ball, Fagg flicked at a leg-stump delivery with James Balmforth moving across to take the catch. Worse was to follow in MacVicar’s second over as Finn Beaman was castled and Academy star Jordan Cox was nailed in front first ball; 7-3. The left-handed Tom Chapman had dug in and was batting well with Kiwi keeper Cameron Fletcher proving a worthy ally. The repair had been started when Stuart Binny held a brilliant return catch to dismiss Fletcher and MacVicar followed up with another victim in Alex Smith before resting with Town in serious trouble on 46-5.
After another fine, accurate spell, Binny also rested and the former Blackheath pair of Shojib Ali and Mahi Mahfuzul joined forces. The former hadn’t bowled for three weeks but hit an unerring line and length immediately striking twice to remove Ben Smith and Ashley Cox; 75-7. Chapman, however, remained a model of concentration and thoroughly deserved his fifty from 74 balls. The tide now began to turn as leg-spinner Jan Gray started to show similar determination and, between them, they began to repel the Beckenham advance with great style. The hundred was passed and the fifty partnership before the returning MacVicar found Chapman’s edge in his last over to complete his second ‘fivefer’ in as many weeks. As the overs began to run out, Gray completed a deserved fifty and, in the process, gave Town a reasonable total of 190 to defend.
Just when his season seemed to have taken off with a couple of decent scores recently, visiting skipper Senn was sent back by Ashley Cox. At the other end, ‘Disco’ Dan Hardy, fresh from Glastonbury, dropped anchor while Will MacVicar openined his account with a fusillade of scorching boundaries. As MacVicar began to set the pace, Hardy began to open up in his most substantial innings yet for his new club. For Town, Van Poppel marshalled his young side really well with the fielding superb and the bowling accurate. MacVicar’s inevitable fifty duly came and he was then sent packing by the leg-spin of Gray.
Alex Blake did not produce the pyrotechnics on this occasion and, after a couple of boundaries, departed at 101 to a boundary catch by Chapman. With Johan Malcolm for company, Hardy went on to complete an excellent workmanlike fifty – his first for the club. He then became Town skipper Van Poppel’s first victim when he holed out to Ashley Cox for 54. The situation now was far from settled as Beckenham stoos on 164-4 with five overs left. Malcolm now took charge in vintage fashion as Town fought like tigers to defend their lead. Another tragedy befell the visitors with the run out of Binny who is trying desperately to find batting form. With Ollie Barnes following in quick succession, the pressure was really on. Thankfully, some of this pressure was relieved with a tragic misfield leading to a boundary before Malcolm ended the proceedings with a four and a two which took him to a splendid fifty.
This had turned out to be a superb game of cricket and was an extremely hard-fought victory for Beckenham. All credit must go the Matt Van Poppel’s young team who never gave up and have a worrying injury list and upcoming demands of soccer. It has to be hoped that they rise above these obstacles as they are an object lesson to all cricket clubs in producing good-quality cricketers and retaining them.