A sunny afternoon greeted us at last as we made the long trek to the beautiful West Chiltington ground for our U13 hardball pairs league fixture. A few selection issues had presented us with some problems but these were overcome by Hannah Johanson volunteering to take on the wicket-keeping duties and Molly Hepburn stepping up from the U11’s to play her first hardball match. West Chilt won the toss and elected to have a bat, a decision that looked to be a good one as their opening pair rattled along in their first four overs before retiring with 29 on the board without loss, Lucy McNiven and Amelie Palmer-Brown the bowlers who had been thwarted in their search for early victims. The tide turned in the fifth over as Lily Freeman picked up a wicket (bowled), before Louise McLaren snuck a ball past the batter’s closed face to grab our second wicket of the game. Amy Read followed suit with an almost identical wicket with the same batter on strike. Molly took the eighth over and with just her third delivery she picked up her first hardball wicket and after a pause, celebrations followed! 226 for 4 after 8 overs. Katie Read bowled an excellent, tight over and then Louise grabbed two wickets in her third over to register superb career best bowling figures of 3 for 1. Not to be outdone, Molly picked up a second wicket with a beautiful leg-break that pitched outside leg stump and clipped the top of off. Amy was unlucky not to add to her wicket, keeping Hannah interested behind the stumps with some great deliveries. The final pair came in with the score on 218 and Lily was back in the wickets grabbing 2 more in her second over. Katie bowled another economical over before Lily claimed her first ever 5 wicket haul (all bowled) with 2 more victims in her third and final over. Katie finished proceedings off with an excellent maiden as West Chilt finished on 204 for 11 wickets. A brilliant bowling display with all 11 wickets bowled and great to see Lily’s fantastic achievement which was well backed up by all of our bowlers. Hannah Johanson was absolutely fantastic behind the stumps and our fielding was also pleasing, Louise McLaren in particular involved in a lot of good fielding as were Lily, Amelie and Katie.

After drinks our new opening pair of Amelie and Lily made their way to the middle to begin our reply and after a tight first over, Amelie missed a looping delivery and was bowled. Another wicket followed in the third over before the girls found their feet, running well between the wickets and Lily flicking the ball away to the square leg boundary for the first four of our innings. Louise and Amy were next in, batting with caution and blocking some dangerous deliveries. Louise switched off momentarily having missed a full ball and the talkative West Chilt keeper wasted no time in completing a stumping. Louise made up for her lapse of concentration by paddling the ball to the fine leg boundary, unfortunately this was sandwiched between two dismissals for Amy as she attempted to emulate Louise’s scoring shot. Hannah and Mollie came in at third pair and Hannah was quickly on her way with a cracking boundary. Molly was very nervous and received a good delivery which crept through her defences and bowled her but recovered well and looked more solid as time went on, running well between the wickets with Hannah. They walked off with the score on 231 after 12 overs having put together a stand of 17 runs after Molly’s dismissal without losing another wicket. Katie and Lucy were our last pair and with Katie taking the strike she wasted little time in finding the mid on boundary, swiftly followed by a lovely cover drive which also resulted in four runs. A third boundary, down to fine leg took her into double figures along with a handful of singles for both girls as we closed out the game on 258 for 6, Katie totalling an impressive 14 not out.

A great game against an impressive West Chilt side, the progress that they have made and the hard work that Sarah has put in is clear to see, it’s so good to see clubs developing their girls sections and also enjoying games and playing with smiles on their faces. Our thanks go to Sarah for umpiring and for teas and we look forward to our return fixture later in the season. Thanks also to Nikki Freeman for scoring and to our fab travelling support, I am always thrilled to see so many parents supporting our girls and making noise! And on a personal note, thank you to all of our girls and supporters for making Molly feel at home in the U13’s! It’s particularly pleasing that we can pull a performance like that out of the bag despite not being at ‘full strength’, but I would actually argue that we have more talent and ability than perhaps we realise, twice this season already we have had two U11’s playing up at various levels and not looking out of place, not to mention the numbers of U13’s who regularly play for the U15’s. The fact that we can also ‘afford’ to have one of our main bowlers keeping wicket and still take 11 wickets points to strength in depth and bodes well for the future. Well done girls, a fab display!