In the absence of both our regular match report writer Oliver Beaney and last week’s able deputy James Sapwell, it was left to James Waring to provide his insight and analysis on a closely-fought encounter with Ingatestone:
It was real game of ifs, buts and maybes for the seconds as we were narrowly beaten by Ingatestone this past Saturday. IF only we had 11 fit players….we might have won BUT for a couple of dropped catches…..MAYBE Greg Larkin will remember the start time of a cricket game one of these days (It’s 1pm Greg, best to aim to get there around 45 mins before!).
Having been deserted by the ‘Renegade Master’ due to work commitments, we once again looked to defy the odds and continue our promotion push with 10 players. As if that wasn’t a fitting enough tribute to the ‘King in the North’s’ bold leadership, stand-in skip Ash duly lost the toss and we were asked to bat first on a very sticky-looking wicket.
With our token above-average rig Greeno absent and his able replacement Larkins to be found anywhere between Southampton and Scunthorpe, Ash was left to assess the ruins of his ravaged middle order. Munch may not have been the hero Ash deserved, but he was the hero he needed, as he courageously volunteered to accompany our returning-resident opener Gunnar at the top of the order.
After a watchful and cautious opening first 5 overs on a wicket that displayed variable bounce, the game saw its first incident: Larkins strolling into the ground, beaming with excitement about telling anyone and everyone that he had been on a night out the previous evening. Meanwhile, myself and Yorkey looked on in horror, as we realised we were the victims of the first alpha-ing of the day: having been sent out to umpire, with promises of batting order promotion, only to be swiftly demoted on Larkins emergence. Once again, Ash providing a fitting tribute to the skipper’s fluid batting order policy, that this writer has felt the brunt of all too often this season.
After a solid start, Gunnar departed for a hard-fought 23 and he would soon be followed by Ash and Rhys, as our stroke-makers found it difficult to find the middle on a surface offering variable bounce. Credit to the Ingatestone attack, who showed excellent consistency in putting balls in the right areas and keeping our batsmen honest.
At 69-3, with 17 overs left, our innings was in danger of petering out and us not having a defendable total with which to play with. Thankfully, Larkins arrived at the crease and made both his tardiness and his persistent moaning about all the beers he’d had the night before worthwhile, as he and a dogged Munch set about constructing a defendable score. Both made contrasting but equally valuable half-centuries, with Munch dropping anchor whilst Greg adopted a more aggressive approach. Munch only fell when attempting an ambitious second run off the final ball, but by then the pair had put on the best part of 100 between them. Yorkey and I, having been patiently padded up for half the innings, further alpha’d.
166 may not have seemed like an impressive score, particularly after Albie broke down injured after his second over leaving us needing to find 8 overs. Just as we seemed to be drifting to a fairly comprehensive defeat, Whelan found the breakthrough, albeit in slightly fortuitous circumstances, as their opener played on to the final ball of his initial spell. It was no less than Sean had deserved, with the openers seemingly happy just to survive as he bowled with good pace and found some handy swing. This was quickly followed by the departure of their numbers 3 and 4, trying far too ambitious lofted strokes off Ash only to be caught in the ring. Chaz then had their skipper caught by Albie for 49 and all of a sudden, at 80-4, our persistence had brought us back into the game.
The game then ebb’d and flowed, as Ingatestone put together a couple of handy partnerships only to be pegged back as Whelan, Ash, Yorkey and Joe Dean all bowled superbly to give us a chance. Sadly, a couple of easy dropped catches put paid to our chances, as myself, Greg and Ash all squandered chances. Greg and my drops particularly proved crucial, passing up simple catches of their number five, whose 42 proved pivotal in seeing them all but home.
As the game reached its dying embers, Ash rotated his limited bowling options as frequently as Larkins bemoaned his hangover, in search of the wickets we needed to pull off an unlikely win. Ingatestone were left needing about 20 to win with 3 wickets in hand. I will refrain from commenting on incidents towards at this point, as things took a slightly unsavoury turn and in the end, Ingatestone squeezed home with 2 wickets and 1 over to spare.
The result leaves us 18 points clear of 3rd place in our hunt for promotion with 4 games left. This is an excellent position to be in, however it cannot be taken for granted. We cannot afford to be taking the field with 10 players anymore. The attitude of the players on Saturday was first class, but I know many, including myself, were very frustrated that we were hindered by not having a full-strength team. Boys must be doing all they can to make themselves available for these 4 games, or we risk undermining all the hard work we have done up to this point. There has been plenty of talk about achieving promotion but there is only one place that can be done, and it is on the field, starting with Chadwell Heath this Saturday.