Our last season in the Wetherby Cricket League started with a repeat of the fixture we had last year. Once again we were to open the campaign with a fixture against local rivals Ledsham. Though this year we were to be the hosts. The similarities to 12 months ago was spooky, both days were in no way had cricketing weather. The run up in the week had been poor and the morning had been showery. Fortunately the Swan Croft was holding up much better than the bog that Ledsham had been.
A very youthful Milford looked keen & eager, a pre-season build up would hopefully pay dividend. The last friendly the week before had been played in fantastic sunny & warm weather put typically today was cool (11c) with blustery showers all around. The covers had done their job and kept the wicket nice and dry and as the clock turned 1 we had a dry weather window which enabled us to start on time with no loss of overs.
Milford captain, Paul Hebden, started the season well by winning the toss and made the no brain decision of asking Ledsham to bat.
Off we go. Last year our bowling attack had been hit by a string of injuries but today we had just Sam Thomas on the sidelines, his shoulder still recovering from an operation over the winter. Hopefully he may return towards the end of the season.
Steve Winspear and 2018 Wetherby League Junior Cricketer of the Year Joe Raynor opened the bowling. Joe bowling from the pavilion end made the perfect start, picking up a wicket with his 2nd ball. Rich Taylor picking a ball inches off the ground at point. Amazing considering his glass back.
The bowling run ups were a bit slippery today which seemed to give Steve a few problems, he never settled down into a consistent line & length. Joe though had no problems and tied up the Ledsham batsmen. His 6th over produced a brace of wickets and at this stage had conceded only 1 run.
With the Ledsham batting struggling with the conditions and the tight Milford bowling veteran skipper Paul Hebden took the opportunity to switch out his bowling. Dan Ward replaced Steve and was straight on the money. His hard work over the winter in the nets proved to be time well spent. His new shorter run up seemed to make him better balanced when releasing the ball and for once looked fluid all through the bowling cycle. Always a good sign. Four wickets in 3 overs knocked the stuffing out of the visitors middle order.
Only Ledsham’s wicket keeper Sam Wright provided any fight. He topped scored with 36 which included smashing Liam ‘Ken’ Barlow for 14 in his first 3 balls. What a start to a league season. To Liam’s credit he didn’t let that onslaught deter him and together with Dan he cleared out the Ledsham tail. He finished with 2 for 30 off 7 overs, not bad when you consider those first three balls. Dan was the pick of the bowlers today and a Michelle in the first game was a fine reward for some excellent bowling. 5 for 35 his final figures.
So Ledsham all out for 99 inside 28 overs, the weather forced us off twice during the innings but at the tea interval we still hadn’t lost any overs in the match.
First teas of the season were provided by Liam Barlow and if we are still comparing today’s match to the same game last year the teas he made were as different as night & day. Where as the Ledsham tea 12 mnths ago had been very poor, many having to go without anything, Liam’s were a credit to him. Stand out items the delicious roast ham sandwiches and the marinated chicken legs. I will admit to having 2 chickens worth of drumsticks. His home backed cakes & buns weren’t too shabby either. The bar has certainly been set high already for the season for the rest of the team who have yet to do teas.
The Milford innings was delayed by a heavy shower which sprang up just as tea finished and we started to bat, so we got to watch the SMCC Covers Display Team in action. Their opposition pass the highlight of their display. Fortunately the interruption after just 2 balls didn’t seem to effect the two Milford openers, Alex Ward & Harry Jackson too much.
So after a delay of around 45 mins (and still no reduction in overs), the game restarted. Never easy for either batter or bowler after a rain delay. It seemed as though Harry wa. s going to play the holding role while Alex let his more natural attacking style come to the fore. He had a couple of lives before getting caught by Ledsham skipper Freddie Dewhirst, another good low down catch which did carry.
Chasing low totals can be tricky as you never know how to attack them. Do you go hell for leather trying to keep the opposition under the cosh or do you patiently knock them off a couple of runs an over playing the patient game ?
Ben White was in at three and was soon back to the form that saw him win the first team batting awards last season. He lost his parter Harry with the score on 42 when Harry was judged LBW. A gritty innings and an early pace setter for the Snail Award with a strike rate of just 17.8, though I am sure there will be ‘better’ innings once the season is well underway.
Typically with a Milford innings there were a few wobbles, next man in Rich Taylor only managed a single before holing out. Then Ben was given a life when he was dropped on 35. It was to be Milford’s day and this was proved when Joe Raynor was clean bowled off a no-ball.
These errors signalled the end for Ledsham as Ben & Joe knocked off the runs. Ben claiming his first half century of the year and Joe a nice 16 not out.
So as last year Milford come away from the opening game with 6 points and gap to the majority of the division as all but 3 games got played.
The lads in the first team often bring their girlfriends down to the matches and this week Dan Ward's girlfriend was down. As she passed the score hut she kindly asked if we would like a warm drink. Yes please I replied. A bit later down at the pavilion she was asked who the mug of coffee was for, 'That old chap in the score box' she replied....... Oh well, so much for the hipster vibe I was trying to pull off.