Another week, another load of selection problems for me to deal with. Oh how I love the start of the cricket season!
After struggling to find an 11th player, Kevin Barber thankfully agreed to help us out and we headed over to Little Waltham with a slightly under strength side however one with a lot of potential.
Losing the toss, we were put into bat and Gunnar and Sappy set out to get us off to a flier. However for reasons unknown to many including himself, Sappy, who has probably been hanging around with Stimmo too much, decided to leave one on off stump and it nipped in and took his middle stump. After that, it didn’t really get much better. Elliot joined Gunnar and both found it hard to score runs as a result of some good bowling. Gunnar was rapped on the toes and he too was soon on his way. Shortly after, Lew got an absolute peach and was clean bowled and Manno followed a few balls later in a similar fashion.
Matt Earing came to the crease with us 34-4 and he and Elliot set about rebuilding our innings. Matt again played very maturely, coming in and holding up an end to bring some stability to our innings, taking us to 65-4 at drinks. However, the old saying ‘drinks breaks bring wickets’ came true and shortly after, Matt was gone. Elliot followed without us adding a run, having battled his way to 25, after unluckily deflecting a ball that was harmlessly travelling down leg onto his stumps. I didn’t last much longer and it was left to Walker and Albert to try and rescue us. Walker did well but he was bamboozeled by the spinner and Kev joined Albert on his debut with us 97-8. Intelligently, he blocked anything that needed to be and picked up a few singles so that at the other end, Albert could push us up towards the batting points. Making it look like a completely different pitch, he dispatched the Little Waltham bowlers around the ground including one big six over cow corner to take us past 125. Nearing 45 overs, Kev looked to push the rate along and was clean bowled to leave Cyril to join Albert.
Providing us with one of the comedy highlights of the day, Cyril set off for a single down the hill but in cartoon fashion, he could not stop himself and ended up taking a tumble as he got past the stumps much to the amusement of the fans and players. With the advice of his skipper still ringing in his ears, (“Make sure we bat the full 45 overs and get an extra batting point”) Cyril looked to biff their bowler over the clubhouse and sadly only found mid-on to leave us 149 all out and Albert stranded on 43* after playing a really important innings to take us to a respectable total.
After an interesting tea, we emerged to bowl and after 2 terrible deliveries from Lewis, we had our first wicket as the Little Waltham opener chipped a long hop to Elliot at cover. However, we did not take advantage of the luck we had been handed and continued to bowl a bad line and were punished with boundaries coming all-round the ground. Walker pulled up injured after one over and Cyril took over and was rewarded for a decent line with a wicket, bowling their danger man. He should have had another soon after but old habits crept in with Elliot dropping a catch at cover. Elliot made up for this soon after though and Cyril had his second, again the ball being lofted to cover and Elliot taking a difficult catch.
I came on and kept it tight with a nagging line but I could not find a breakthrough as Little Waltham worked their way up towards 100. Albert came on and quickly broke through the defences of their opener who had slapped his way to 47 but the game looked to be getting away from us. Kev Barber took over from me and bowled some probing balls but the Little Waltham batsmen still found it all too easy to score and we could not seem to take wickets at a regular basis. Until a moment of magic.
First, Albert enticed the batsman into a big shot and he lofted the ball down the ground into Manno’s grateful hands. As the new batsman came in, Sappy and Whiteley worked their magic behind the stumps and Albert did the rest, cannoning the ball into the pads for his second. With 3 slips in place, a silly mid-on and off, we waited for the batsman to get his pads on and watched him scamper out to bat, dropping his gloves along the way. Like a rabbit caught in the headlights, you could sense his fear and a sense of inevitability as he finally got to the crease to a barrage of banter from the slip cordon and keeper. Albert ran in, fired the ball past the bat, splattered the stumps and set off on a Monty Panesar like celebration round the pitch, much to the delight of the whole team! Surely it will be one of the moments of the season.
With 15 runs to win and 3 wickets to get, Little Waltham looked all over the place and it suddenly became a different game. Albert continued to beat the bat and I brought myself back on to search for a wicket. Straight away, I found an edge which was guided kindly to Walker at slip but he could only fumble it onto the turf. A few balls later I found the edge again as the ball flew to Gunnar at point, but again the ball popped out onto the ground and you sensed maybe we had blown our chance.
We dragged the game out for a few more overs as the batsmen nervously prodded their way towards our total but we could not finish them off and eventually, they got over the line with overs to spare. Very disappointing!
Batting wise, we need to improve again as we were probably 50 short of what would have been a good score. Too many of us were guilty of not digging in and waiting for the bad balls and we were punished as a result. In the field, we were much better and kept up the pressure well for most of their innings as we made it difficult for them but old habits crept back in and as the saying goes, catches win matches! I expect to see as many as possible practising their catching tonight, we will not improve until people start taking responsibility and putting the effort in.
Next week we host Rayleigh Fairview and I hope we can kick-start our season with a good win and push on from there!