A disappointing, but undoubtedly deserved, first defeat of the season against a good Havering Atte Bower side that batted better than we did. A nice, timely reminder that we need to be at our best all the way through games to win matches in this league.
The match started as the 4 others have with me winning the toss. For the first time, I was a bit unsure what to do - I'm still not sure if I made the right choice or not. A sporting (but certainly not bad) wicket with short boundaries is always confusing!
We started pretty well, as Dinesy mixed a nagging line and length with the occasional hilarious slower ball bouncer. In partnership with Cilla though, we made sure that Havering-Atte-Bower didnt get off to a quick start even if the wickets didn't quite flow as they have done in previous weeks. A couple of well built knocks from the Havering top order gave them a good platform, but Cyril (on the money straight away this week!) and Albert ensured that the only runs really came from the occasional big hits.
A couple of good pouches from Cilla and Azza off well-set batsmen kept them in check, but unfortunately by this stage I had gone over on my ankle and was next to useless (yes, yes). Somehow, their well set batsman contrived to hit the ball in the air into the yard-square area that I could cover and we had another important wicket which once again pegged Atte-Bower back just as they looked to be cutting loose. Some late order hitting hurt us though, and suddenly the score was 230 when 215 seemed more likely with about 5 overs to go. A couple of stumpings from Loz in the last over ensured we picked up maximum bowling points again.
With a quick rejig to the order, Loz and Azza put on a decent partnership for the second wicket and looked relatively comfortable until Azza top edged a bit of a heave to third man. A succession of poor dismissals on our part followed, as the disciplined Havering bowling stifled the run rate and really ramped the pressure up. Almost all of the top 9 got in, but nobody could make the big score that we needed to overhaul a 200+ run chase. When Cilla went, a touch unluckily having deflected a legside ball onto his stumps via his thigh pad, our last chance was pretty much gone. By this time, I had hobbled to the wicket and my injury meant that I was struggling to get the ball off the square even more than usual. A decent last wicket partnership, mostly thanks to Cyril, ensured we got an extra batting point and deprived Havering of a bowling point, meaning that we won a little battle even if the war had been comprehensively lost.
A little bit to think about moving forward - mostly, that we need a few more 50+ scores if we really want to start to stamp our authority on the division. However, we are taking wickets regularly every week, fielding pretty well and are still top of the league, so its a case of start again next week and build again.
Report by Steve Coleman