Blazing late August sun set the scene for a close encounter between these two local sides. Visitors Byfleet still had an outside sniff at promotion and with Vandals had pride and form to play for having being relegated the week before at Merstham.
Weybridge Vandals won the toss and opted to bat on a day where the thermometer broke 30°C.
The returning Nav “Big in Japan” Jinasena opened up with Connor “Boston Tea Party” Baker and they made it to 39 before Nav (9) saw the lights and crashed the ball down the throat of the deep mid-wicket fielder. Connor continued where he left the week before, putting the bowlers off their lengths and scoring quickly. He and Garry “Stuart Broad 169” scored at a decent rate until Gaz decided, given the choice to hit a long hop anywhere, to drill the ball hard back at the stumps and the Byfleet bowler was on hand to “Mark Wood” (run out at the non-striker’s end) Connor for an entertaining, cleverly-constructed 50.
Garry and Sam kept the board ticking over until Garry (27) was removed by an outstanding one-handed diving catch from Liam Blake, who showed he still has it after all these years!
Tom Neville came and went for a quick 14 and when he departed, Woo “Grumpy” Powell joined Sam at the crease to try to help move the scoreboard along.
With Sam struggling to score quickly on a pitch which appeared to be slowing down and losing a bit of life as the innings progressed, he and Woo intensified the running between the wickets, something that everyone probably feels the side could improve on in the last few matches and into the future.
Sam (38) eventually was caught on the extra cover boundary trying to increase the scoring rate, but a late bit of assistance from Jimmy (3) & Mark (14*) helped Woo (18*) to close Vandals innings on 201/7 from 50 overs.
Byfleet’s reply began at quite a pace, with opener Tim Richards not wasting any time to try and get the run chase completed. After Mark “Shark” Fenton cleaned-up Alfie Mickley (4), familiar overseas player Tyron White helped Richards accelerate, with Byfleet scoring at around 8 an over for the first 10 overs.
Somewhere in the opening overs, Chulana had to leave the field with a nasty hand injury; the ball splitting the webbing on his hand. Chulana’s since had stitches but that injury has put paid to his season!
Tyron departed for a hastily-made 51 off 40 balls when a dreadful, half-tracking slower ball from Sam Buckell eventually reached off stump. Richards (44) returned a catch to Garry not long after, leaving the score 116/3 and with plenty of the match still to go.
From there, Woo Powell inspired Vandals to a charge at a once-unlikely looking victory – in between mini-grumps at his captain, the fielders, the balls he bowled, the field he’d set, the field he hadn’t set – by taking 5/33 in 10 overs. All five wickets were bowled and the seasoned campaigner Woo was setting the standard for how to bowl on a pitch offering something for the bowlers.
Vandals, having experienced a lot more defeat than victory this season, knew that the match would only be wrapped up truly once the tenth wicket was taken. An obvious statement at face value, but at 167/9, requiring 35 for victory, you could have possibly excused Vandals for thinking the game was up for Byfleet; not least in the wake of Woo ripping out their middle order.
So it was that the final pair of Jones & Black batted exceptionally well for Byfleet. They played cautiously but still put away the bad balls. Vandals threw everything at them with their premier bowlers Mark & Jonny “Biffa” Powell having a go to wrap up the match, but Byfleet held strong and crept over the line to win by one wicket.
Overall, this fixture provided an entertaining game of cricket which was fun to be a part of, despite Vandals being on the wrong end of the result.
Vandals had to manage most of their fielding innings with ten men, due to Chulana’s injury, which was unfortunate but always makes fielding 9.091% more difficult at least. They will be frustrated not to have held on to a few chances but credit also must be given particularly to Byfleet’s bowlers, particularly the youngsters, who kept the score down and their final pair who carefully chased victory at the end.
Credit on Vandals side must go to Connor, who again thought about his innings and where to score, along with Woo who ran well between the wickets and bowled brilliantly.
The template for the batting was solid and if Vandals can add some more runs here and there, they’ll be confident of winning their final two league matches and going into next summer.
All in all, it was a good game of cricket.