We are now reaching the final stages of the 2019 season and with the higgledy-piggledy nature of the fixtures this year are only playing Rufforth for the first time. Must admit I didn’t think we would even be setting off for the game having seen the weather forecasts all week. But Friday wasn’t as wet as predicted and so far it hadn’t rained so there was no reason to call it off. If we could get the game completed was another thing all together. Heavy showers whizzing through on near gale force winds were shown to be expected all afternoon, with it only improving come evening time.
Milford probably had what most people would say was their strongest team on show today, veteran skipper Paul Hebden was back in charge, Aussie all-rounder Sean Nesbitt refreshed from his hols, opening bat maestro Pete Barry back to bolster last weeks dodgy batting and we swapped around the Bramley boys with Charlie replaced by elder brother James.
Rufforth is arguably the biggest ground we play at but we have managed in the last couple of years to have some high scoring games there, not always coming out on the right side of the result. The damp wicket & outfield suggested it might be a lower scoring game today and the strong wind blowing almost directly across the ground might cause all the bowlers problems. A good toss to win and for once Paul got the call wrong. Rufforth asked us to bat.
No way was I scoring outside today so I scooted up to the score box ready for the start. Sadly the strong winds had stopped the usual aerial activity just over the boundary at the gliding club. Nobody in their right minds would venture aloft in one of those fragile things today. Turned out it was going to be a one man job today as their scorer had gone sick at the last minute. Rufforth offered cash if their book was completed and it was agreed that would go into the end of season curry night kitty. A couple of bhuna’s + sundries on the opposition, proper job.
So surprisingly we got started on time with Pete Batty & Alex Ward opening the batting. Unsurprisingly we were back in the changing room 15 mins later when the rain arrived. Rufforth had proper covers scattered around the ground but they must be in a poor state as they laid a large white plastic sheet to cover the wicket instead. It did a reasonable job and we were back playing by ten to two, loosing 3 overs in the process.
With the wicket now even damper the bounce seemed even lower which seemed to suit Pete’s style more than Alex. Alex perhaps prefers the ball to be coming on to the bat a bit more. (Listen to me, as if I know anything about it. Picked all this up from listing to TMS, my dear old thing). Still he stuck with it but was caught out by one from Chris Green which re-arranged his wickets. Not his day today, shame he hit a boundary just before loosing his wicket as he was well set to eclipse the long standing innings of Harry Jackson first match of the season which is currently in pole position for the prestigious Escargot Award.
Ben White replaced Alex and today played a very mature innings. Ben had gone through a dip in form in the last month after getting off to a cracking start in the first half of the season. This was the more sensible Ben today, not trying to hit every ball to the boundary. Just as it seemed the pair were getting on top we had to come off again for rain. A much heavier shower this time and we were delayed much longer than the first interruption. As a result we lost six overs this time making it a 36 over game per side. The plastic sheet didn’t do as good a job this time as the wind blew the standing water off it to leave a big puddle at the side of the wicket at one end.
Fair play to Rufforth as soon as the rain was blown away they were out trying to get the game re-started. With their mid-table position they could quite happily have settled for a point but they beavered away to get us back underway.
On resumption Pete reached his well deserved 50 and looked set to go large but once again Chris Green managed to sneak one through the defences, Pete out for a very attractive 54.
The Wetherby League rain rules are by no means perfect and seem to favour the team batting 2nd, especially if the overs are reduced once the match starts. It means the team batting first may suddenly need to up the over rate if the innings are greatly reduced to set a decent target in the second innings with a challenging run rate. This may have been in the back of our minds as once Pete was out we lost 4 more wickets pretty cheaply. Joseph Barr committing the cardinal sin of running out the set batsmen when he left Ben White too much to do to get back in. Usually laid back Ben was quietly steaming as he trudged back to the pavilion. Unfortunately for Joe he couldn’t manage to stay out in the middle while Ben vented as he was out the same over. Probably a Paddington hard stare was directed his way in the changing room.
Just when it seemed our innings might be slipping away veteran skipper Paul made an inspired decision to promote Dan Ward up the order. In no way could Dan be called a ‘proper’ batsmen but he has fantastic hand eye co-ordination and if it is his day can score very quickly. With permission just to swing from ball one he made hay while the sun didn’t shine. He was soon joined by Paul and together they put on 44 for the 7th wicket. This pushed our total over the 150 and by the time our innings closed we had scored a very competitive 179.
We have had some great teas at Rufforth over the years and though pleasant today’s didn’t reach those highs. Plenty on offer but nothing to get really excited about, plus the sweet stuff looked all bought.
So fed & watered we started the 2nd innings, the weather looked better and most phone apps suggested we would escape rain free for the rest of the match. As I said earlier we had set the home side a challenging target but the run rate was only 4.97 per over which wasn’t that hard if we didn’t bowl well. The WCL rules state for a result to be declared the second innings needs to be a minimum of 20 overs, so to win Rufforth needed to be 100 by then just in case the rain returned and the match was abandoned.
Steve Winspear & young Joe Raynor opened the bowling for us as usual and after just 3 balls Joe was back in the wickets, opener Rich Exley finished for the day. A second followed in his third over when he managed to find the edge and get it to carry to Pete Batty at first slip. When Steve finally joined in the wicket fest it looked like we were going to clean Rufforth up pretty quickly. They were 18 for 3 in the 8th over at this stage.
I should have learned never to count the chickens too early and today proved that as Rufforth skipper Jack Doyle started the fight back. Together with Cam Sanderson he started to find the middle of the bat and scoring rate began to shoot up. Both opening bowlers were taken out of the attack to give themselves a chance to recover from the battering from the wind. Often this season this has signalled danger for Milford as the none strike bowlers have struggled to keep the lid on the opposition on occasions. Today both Sean Nesbitt and spin wizard James Bramley didn’t fair too badly, Sean breaking up the promising Rufforth partnership when he bowled Sanderson in his third over. His slightly quicker Yorker doing the damage.
Still the dangerous Jack Doyle was batting and growing in confidence, helped by Pete Batty dropping him twice is the space of four balls while fielding at close cover point he raced to 50. The second drop been an almost identical replay of the first. If lady luck wasn’t with Pete it certainly was with Sean, he managed to get a finger end onto a fierce drive from Doyle which ricocheted onto the stumps leaving his batting partner well out of his ground.
Eventually Milford managed to hang on to a chance off Doyle, veteran captain Paul Hebden showing the rest of the team how to do it at deep extra cover. A heck of a catch in today’s windy conditions. It looked like this might signal the end of the Rufforth resistance when their captain was out. 98 for 7 with 8 over left. Joe Raynor was brought back on and once again picked up a wicket in his first over but the Rufforth tail proved pretty determined and they managed to hang on till the end of the shortened innings to deny us the full 6 points. Jim Ledgeway & Steve Jackson blocking it out for 3 overs.
Not the greatest day of cricket, pretty much spoiled by the unseasonable weather. The win keeps us with a mathematical chance of still been league champions but the likelihood of unbeaten Kippax loosing 2 of the last 3 games seems remote. The return game against Rufforth last match of the season could end up been a bit of a damp squib. Hopefully not and we end our Wetherby League era with another win.