Our U13 boys played Southwick in their first league game of the season on Thursday amid the early season gloom that has a tendency to haunt these April fixtures. After losing the toss, we were asked to bat first and our openers, Tristan Hepburn and Jack Smart strode out to the middle.

Jack was quickly into his stride, exuding calmness and control, one straight drive in particular drew admiration as he built an excellent opening stand. At the other end, Tristan was more circumspect but was adept at rotating the strike and giving Jack the opportunity to find the boundary regularly. Jack retired for 25 from just 15 balls as Adam Drew joined Tristan in the middle. Adam’s stay was a sadly a short one as he skewed a drive that got a little big on him to point where the fielder took a straightforward chance. Freddie Fortune restored calm to the innings and rebuilt with Tristan. Freddie played one lovely shot for four early on, but just as he was finding his feet and looking to accelerate he was bowled for 7. Thomas Ashdown, promoted up the order to number 5 made a solid start to his innings, playing a couple of lovely defensive shots before being hit by a full ball on the foot. Painful and unsettling, this had the unfortunate knock on effect of Thomas being dismissed next ball as our innings stuttered. Toby Lewis had other ideas however and got off the mark with a huge 6 over cover. At the other end, Tristan was beginning to find his range having hit a couple of fours but again we found ourselves pegged back as Toby fell to a superb catch by the Southwick skipper. Tristan retired shortly after for a patient 25 and it was left to Ryan Armstrong and James Rose to see out the innings as we ended on 83 for 4.
After a very quick turnaround and with the light closing in, we took to the field in search of wickets. A steady couple of overs from Freddie and Toby saw everyone settle before the introduction of Mark Johnston saw us make our first breakthrough, Jack Smart reacting with lightning reflexes to snare a stumping. Nate Jones was next into the attack and a mix up between the two batters saw Mark involved again, this time completing a run out to leave Southwark 10 for 2. James was introduced into the attack and he made an instant impact as the ball bounced higher than expected and the batter could only scoop up a catch which Jack pouched comfortably. Next ball, James sent a full delivery crashing into the stumps and was a whisker away from a hat-trick as he delivered a fantastic over. Ryan was next to claim a wicket with an excellent delivery, again disturbing the batters furniture and dislodging the bails and Nathaniel Tomsett followed up Ryan’s maiden with another tight over, unlucky himself to not pick up a wicket. Tristan snared the Southwick number 7 with an inswinging yorker to leave the batting team in trouble at 22 for 6. With the light fading rapidly, Nate came back on to bowl and produced a great delivery which the batter missed and Jack was on hand to whip the bails off to claim his second stumping of the game. Ryan claimed the wicket of our opposition’s skipper with a beautiful inswinging delivery which smashed into middle stump. James was then back in the action to pick up his third wicket as Toby ran around from first slip to pouch an outside edge before Mark finished things off, courtesy of another Jack Smart stumping.
A top performance from the boys who looked pleased to be back on the pitch at last. Southwick gamely battled in poor light conditions, one of the pitfalls of early season matches, and conducted themselves very well, we will look forward to visiting them later in the season for the return fixture. Their bowlers caused some of our batsmen issues and they looked like a tidy outfit in the field. Our opening partnership batted very well and several of the other batters hinted at more to come during the season. The bowling was of a very high standard and it was good to see so many of the boys pick up wickets. Freddie and Toby bowled without luck and will inevitably take wickets during the season. James is a real threat and was well backed up by Mark, Nate and Nathaniel, all of whom seemed to have benefitted from the winter training along with their own commitment and dedication to working hard and all seemed to enjoy the game. Jack is a real livewire behind the stumps and brings confidence and stability to the team along with a quiet determination. While Adam and Thomas had quiet games, they were both involved in the field and will look forward to better days with the bat and ball. Ryan produced the ball of the game for me, the ball that claimed the wicket of the oppo skipper was a joy to watch from the best seat in the house as umpire! Tristan led the side well, as he has for some time now and it was pleasing to see him deliver with the bat, which he threatened to do on occasion last year.
Thank you to Tom and Charley for scoring and also to Wendy for organising teas for the boys. It was really pleasing to see the boys all involved in setting up and putting everything away, so thank you all for your help in taking care of that side of the game. Thank you also to all who came and supported the boys, I think we might need to hang on to those blankets for another week or two yet!