A manic start to the evening ensued with an eleventh hour injury to Adam Drew throwing our best laid plans into chaos. Fortunately, with the cupboard of reserves bare, Adeline Preston came to the rescue to fill the gap in the team and as the clouds gathered at SJP, our eleven players gathered for the game against Steyning. Our opponents won the toss and elected to bowl first, so Tristan Hepburn and Jack Smart took to the middle and began with caution. Jack was quickest out of the blocks, although Tristan was the first to find the ropes with an angled shot away to third man as the two boys made steady progress. Unusually, the outfield was slow and this frustrated Jack as his well timed shots were held up inside the rope for the fielders to retrieve. It wasn’t to be long however before Jack increased the pace of his innings, a slap through mid on for four was followed by a fantastic hook shot for six out to deep square leg. Another couple of flowing drives followed as Jack upped the run rate and following on from his magnificent knock of 70 for the fourth XI at the weekend, he retired for an excellent 30. This brought Adeline to the crease and she was off the mark with a scampered single early on as she and Tristan traded the strike. Tristan got another ball away to the boundary before one of the Steyning bowlers decided to try Adeline out with the short ball, which she promptly whipped away to the fine leg boundary out of the middle of the bat. From there she grew in confidence, hitting the bad ball away, particularly severe on anything leg side, running quickly between the wickets as well as smashing 6 boundaries on the way to equalling Jack’s score of 30 not out. Freddie Fortune replaced the retiring Adeline and he and Tristan carried on the good work, improving their running between the wickets. Tristan hit his third boundary and looked set for another not out, but perished for 19 in the search of quick runs as the rain started to fall, caught at mid off. James Rose came in and supported Freddie well, who was now driving with fluency and picking up more runs as he also pierced the infield and hit the ropes. There was time enough for James to also register a four, a lovely flick off his legs down to fine leg taking him to 5 not out. Freddie ended the innings on 19 not out as we closed on 130 for 1 from our 16 overs.
At the halfway point we were doubtful of completing the match, but both teams were keen to play if we could and the rain eased slightly to allow a resumption. The boys were under instruction to get through the overs as quickly as possible but also to bowl within themselves to ensure not only their own safety but that of the Steyning batters. We made a breakthrough in the first over as an erroneous call from one of the Steyning openers led to confusion and Adeline swooped at cover to pick up the ball and claim a run out. Adeline is an absolute gem in the field covering the ground quickly with an accurate throw – it is a testament to her skill and ability that she has claimed over 50 run outs in her cricketing career! The boys continued to bowl good lines, not easy with a wet ball, and with the lively Jack Smart keeping well, scoring became increasingly difficult for our opponents. Harry Heath bowled well on debut and beat the bat on several occasions and all of the bowlers found good deliveries. Nobody bowled badly because we were trying to get through our overs in wet and bleak conditions. Our second wicket came when Freddie destroyed the stumps with a full delivery before Adeline picked up her second run out of the evening with a terrific throw from the deep which left Jack the task of completing the run out. It then became a question of trying to get the game done before the light went and with the weather closing in further we completed our 16 overs with Steyning finished on 83 for 3. I was really pleased with all of the bowlers and nobody should beat themselves up for any wayward deliveries. Bowling with a wet ball is very difficult, especially when battling against the light as well as bowling off shortened run ups! Fielding was also tricky but there were a number of excellent stops in the field and on the whole mistakes were kept to a minimum. Finally, well done to Tristan who led the side well and kept talking to the bowlers and encouraging them to keep to their shorter run ups, making sure that the safety of the Steyning batters was foremost in his consideration.
Thank you to Steyning for sticking at it and completing the match. These fixtures in May are very tricky and when the light starts to go it isn’t easy for either side. Thanks to everyone who came to watch and support, we may get some nicer weather soon, but then again, I think that we’ve all been watching cricket for long enough to know that it isn’t guaranteed! Also thanks to Lynne Simmons for scoring at short notice, especially considering she hadn’t scored before! And as ever, thanks to everyone who helped with the food and cups of tea, most welcome on a cold, damp evening. We wish Steyning well for the remainder of the season and look forward to the return fixture.