After slaving away over a hot stove till gone midnight and rising at the crack of dawn to finish off my splendid tea, what I really didn’t need was to lose the toss for the 92nd time this season. Little Waltham immediately put us into the field and as I walked back to the changing room ready to face the baying mob, a quick glance at the scattering of black trainers and Armani baseball caps on show reassured me that we would probably be fine bowling first. A quick glance at a bleary eyed, hungover Stimmo told me actually, we’d probably be in the field for a full 45 overs and then be all out for 120 chasing 310!
I opened up from the Dump end and immediately started unintentionally digging everything in. Thankfully, Waring was absent this weekend and so without the constant heckling from behind the stumps, I eventually sorted my lines out and bowled a peach of a slower ball to clean bowl their captain. As I started to find my rhythm, I enticed a few edges which were subsequently dropped/missed by Manno and Sprulesy.
At the other end, the old Nozza returned after a hiatus last weekend and quickly found his length eventually forcing the other opener to chip one back to him after a 17 over 26. This was just after Sprulesy had dropped yet another dolly at slip and was forcibly removed from the cordon. In the background, Ed Allen could be seen head in hands wondering why he had once again been tricked into giving up his Saturday to play with this bunch of muppets.
Meadows had replaced me at the other end and from the first ball, he bowled brilliantly, hitting a probing length and getting some turn from the dry pitch. Soon after, he had his first as Gunnar scampered round from point after launching his cap into the sky like a fighter pilot pressing the ejector button. More followed as their number 4 launched Meadows straight to Manno at cow and suddenly we were in.
Charlie came on and he too looked much improved from last week as he too snaffled a caught and bowled and then enticed the batsman into a lofted drive which I gobbled up at long on. Meadows finished his impressive spell and was replaced by Ed who quickly found the right line and length. Manno took a sharp low catch at midwicket and it looked like the Little Waltham innings was about to drop off for little over 150. After Yorkey had his 3rd caught down the ground by Greeno, I came back on to clean up the tail.
And clean them up I did as I got one to find the edge of the number 10’s bat and Sappy took the catch behind. Except to the disbelief of the players and crowd, the batsmen in a move reminiscent of Stuart Broad vs the Aussies, refused to walk. With us all out of reviews and Nick Hammond’s outburst from the boundary sadly proving unfruitful, we could only watch on in horror as the big screen replays showed the batsman had indeed middled the delivery through to Sappy. As I threatened to join Kagiso Rabada in the ICC’s bad books with a few choice remarks, I stomped back to my mark and thundered in to unleash a rapid bouncer which the batsman could only fend away awkwardly to gully. With my judgement clouded by rage, I decided that a slower ball bouncer might do the trick in removing the tailender. Instead, the ball sat up wonderfully and I was embarrassingly pulled over mid-wicket for 6.
At the other end, Ed managed to get him to chip one up and with my head well and truly gone, I dropped him coming in from long off to compound to my embarrassment and increase the ever deafening hisses coming from some unidentified fans located towards the left-hand end of the clubhouse.
Even a late wicket for me, caught by Meadows at deep square leg could not hide the fact I had been alpha’d by their Armani cap wearing number 10. After hoicking Ed into the Hammond’s pool, I was ready to explode but luckily I exploded with laughter as he ran himself out off the last ball of the innings to give us max bowling points and see them finish 182 all out.
After the ‘Tea of the Season’ (Stimpson, Sapwell, Green et al, 2017), Gunnar and Sappy strode out purposefully to get us under way. Within a few overs, Gunnar was motoring on 25* with Sappy at the other end also motoring on 0*. Eventually to the relief of the crowd, he got off the mark and started to find his feet cutting away through the offside as Gunnar pulled a few short ones through square leg.
After Gunnar was bowled for 33 and Greeno for a duck, the Little Waltham tails were up and they fancied their chances at 56-2. Luckily, Sprulesy had come to the crease in a typically nonchalant mood and Sappy was determined to grind out some runs. Together they took the pressure off us and took the game away from Waltham with some delightful boundaries from Sappy and some beautiful thugs from Sprulesy.
By the time Sprulesy departed for a powerful 37 to leave us 129-3, the game was pretty much won. Sappy had a bit of luck after a poor drop from cover but after a couple of delicious lofted drives off the spinner, he passed 50 and looked more and more comfortable with every ball.
Manno did his best to give Waltham a sniff, chipping one to cover but comedically, 2 fielders converged and then left the ball to one another as it landed in between them. With a few shouts from the boundary to 'see us home', he dug in but at the other end, Sappy had decided to cut loose and in 7 overs, he scored 41 runs as he pulled a few meaty hits to the midwicket fence and cut anything wide of off onto the 3rd team pitch.
In the end, we cantered home in 37 overs and won by 7 wickets. The catching could have been better but Meadows and Yorkey were back to their best and once again, Sprulesy came in at a pivotal moment and steadied the ship, taking the game to the opposition. Sappy's performance though was most pleasing as all could see how hard he was trying to grind out the runs and make sure he got a score. Up to 50 was by his own admission unconvincing but after that, it was a classy knock and commendable to see him step up like that in a must-win game!
Another good win but next week is the biggy against Havering who are 3rd. We need a win to start putting some distance between us and them in this battle for 2nd. More boys will be needed to step up if we're to have a chance so bring your A Game lads and lets go on another win run!