We set off to Little Waltham on Saturday in high spirits excited by the start of the new season and after following an Ice Cream van for 20 miles through the Essex countryside, we arrived to some bad news. Frustratingly, last minute negotiations regarding a one match contract for Shammi (similar to Dwayne Bravo’s ill-fated cup final appearance for Essex), broke down (literally!) and so we were forced to take to the field with 10.
Nozza and I opened up and took a little time to adjust to the slope which resulted in a few early boundaries for their openers. Deciding to entice the batsmen into a big shot with some absolute filth, I started digging it in resulting in their skipper flat-batting one down the ground to Sprulesy who carried on the Second’s tradition of dropping catches early season. Thankfully though, it didn’t hurt us too much as eventually, he creamed one straight to Gunnar at point who held it well.
At the other end, Nozza started to find his range and managed to sneak one through the gate of the other opener. Stimmo banished the yips long enough to replace me and he settled in well to his new bowling role with a few jaffs. A Mark Wood-esque yorker clattered into the batsman’s pads and a review would have shown it to be taking middle stump out the ground but annoyingly, we had run out. To add to our problems, Wildo then dropped one of the easiest catches you’re likely to see but luckily saved face by taking one of the hardest catches you’re likely to see shortly after. Cricket eh!?
Ed Allen came into the attack and after settling in, him and Wildo started to dry up the runs with some tight bowling. With the run rate dropping, the Little Waltham batsmen went on the attack and fell into Wildo’s trap as he tossed up a moon ball which clattered into the stumps. The boys continued to bowl well and were rewarded with a few wickets between them as the middle order began to struggle. Ed managed to knock a couple of poles over and Waring took a good catch off Wildo after dropping a couple of hard chances standing up which left Little Waltham looking at about 220.
As their lower order started to free their arms, the gaps in the field started to show and despite James ‘Jonty Rhodes’ Sapwell’s best efforts, they started to find them, quickly approaching 250. Like the ruthless King Cobra I am, I returned at the death to snaffle a couple of helpless tail-enders and get us some extra points and so Little Waltham ended on 252-9.
After an excellent Chicken Biryani and Samosa tea (So good Sprulesy asked for a doggy bag), Gunnar and Sappy went out to knock the runs off. After a good start with some booming drives from both of them, Gunnar was cleaned up and Sappy was left to rebuild with Sprulesy. They both took us to 55-1 in 14 overs; a good platform to build from however in true Bentley fashion, we were suddenly 79-6.
Sapwell and Sprules were both bowled before Ed Allen and myself, clearly suffering from a dodgy curry, came and went without troubling the scorers and Munch fell victim to one of the best diving one-handed catches I have ever seen at this level. Tough to take but not good enough from the top order!
Thankfully, Waring, Stimmo and Wildo stopped it from getting embarrassing and started to knock the Waltham bowlers around with Wildo particularly playing a few lovely cuts in his 28*. After an entertaining 20 from Waring including of course a reverse sweep, he was bowled and Stimmo was left to pump the opening bowler back over his head a couple of times to leave him 27* and take us to a more respectable 164-9 in our 45 overs and secure us a couple of points.
Not the best way to start off the season but a decent performance in the field and with the ball especially considering we only had 10 fielders and were missing an opening bowler. I think with 11, we’d have given them much more of a game and would have been chasing nearer 200 but with 10, no matter how well you bowl, there are always too many gaps. Credit to Waltham as well for bowling very tight lines, we could definitely look to follow suit and cut out the extras next week! The main thing though was a few starts for batsmen but someone needed to go on and make a big score for us to be in with a chance. Hopefully this is something we can improve on for next week against Havering ate Bower and get our season under way!