With 3’s wins rarer than a Karius save in a Champions League final or an insightful piece of Glenn Hoddle commentary, we set off for a short drive to a sun-kissed Whitemans Green in high spirits, buoyed by our previous performance and looking forward to trying to build on last week’s win. Selection issues allowed us to say hello again to the returning Simon Maskell, Izzy Deamer and Grady Pummell along with Josh Daniels and Ukesh, while keeping faith with the remainder of the team.
Elph tossed successfully and elected to bat, essentially because no one wanted to field first in an environment that felt suspiciously like Africa, minus the wildlife. Cowden were missing a couple of late arrivals and with a pair of Hepburns striding to the crease we looked to get off to a good start. It’s fair to say that the first five overs of the game were quite bizarre, Alec receiving five head-high full tosses in the first over, four of which were dispatched to the square leg boundary. Charley watchfully navigated the first over from the other end, helping herself to a brace of runs, which were less welcomed by her senior partner. Alec continued to score freely, cutting and pulling like a chubby Gower in his prime, before suddenly falling to the last ball of the fifth over for 42 from 24 balls. Grady’s return to the batting line up was short lived, an aggressive shot missing its intended target and the death rattle behind him sending him on his way. Joe Hartley came to the crease, quietly nursing a suspicious finger injury, carrying on his good form from last week, rebuilding the innings with Charley. Disaster struck when Joe cruelly flicked the ball straight to square leg and called Charley for a quick single, stumbling in his running like a Love Island contestant over a word with more than two syllables. Charley produced a dive to no avail, probably a full Charley-length short of her crease, so about 25cm short.
Andy McNiven took up the watchful role while Joe batted as only Joe does, striking some aesthetically pleasing shots mixed with large slices of luck. All joking aside, Joe is rapidly maturing into a reliable batter and his form this season is testament to the work he puts into improving himself. He continued to score quickly all around the wicket and at drinks was within striking distance of his first 50 for the club. Sadly, it was not to be as he was unable to resist temptation and was bowled attempting to hit the ball into the middle of next week. It’s fair to say that everyone was gutted for Joe, even Charley who by then had begun to mellow. Ukesh came in at 6 and made a quicker exit than Germany at the World Cup, slapping a ball to mid on. Curly batted with the singular goal of scoring more runs than Grady, which he achieved before departing, caught for ten. Andy and Elph then began to increase the scoring rate, punishing the bad ball with Andy playing a beautiful flick away through midwicket, which raced across the quick outfield to the boundary. Andy went for a well-made 25, looking in much better form than earlier in the season having accumulated 86 runs in his last four innings. Simon Maskell put his golfing technique to good use, launching some lusty, bottom-handed blows to the boundary along with Elph who continued to confidently stroke the ball around. With Josh coming in and swiping a useful 10, we passed 200 for the first time this season, Izzy finishing unbeaten on 2, thanks to a neat, late cut.
An Elphick tea was taken and enjoyed, at least until the lack of bowling options became apparent, with Andy ruled out from turning his arm over having hurt his back cleaning the kitchen. On the flat Whitemans wicket, the experiment of Alec opening the bowling failed this week, despite a reasonable first over. The lack of turn meant that the ball not only sat up and said ‘hit me’ but it also gave the batters a little pat on the back and a confidence boost as they did so. Josh bowled impressively at the other (non-pavilion) end but Cowden still went off quicker than a teenage boy on a first date. Alec was replaced by Charley who pegged back the scoring rate, the batters showing her a little respect before Josh made the first breakthrough, Cowden’s opener electing for one big drive too many and having his off stump pinged back (at least that’s what it looked like from fine leg, where I’d been banished, alone, following my ‘first’ spell). There was to be no panic in the Cowden ranks as they continued to score freely, prompting Curly to twirl his arms, trying to catch the skipper’s eye who thankfully ignored him, and following an unsuccessful spell for Joe, Grady was brought into the attack picking up a wicket almost straight away, Curly completing a Pummell combo with a well taken catch at mid off. Had we had the option of playing music at the game it would surely have been a moment worthy of The Hollies song ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother’.
Charley continued to weave away at the pavilion end, bowling well despite suffering with a pollen allergy that led to her spending the evening in A&E after the game. Grady snared a second wicket, castling the Cowden keeper cheaply, much to Elph’s amusement. Josh returned from the opposite end and picked up his second wicket to snatch us another point before Cowden comfortably passed their target in the 33rd over.
In hindsight, we were probably 30 or 40 runs and a bowler or two short but that shouldn’t detract from another committed and encouraging performance. Our batters are generally all chipping in, we just need someone to think for a minute and then go on and get a big score and take some responsibility. Don’t get me wrong, we are making progress but we need to push it a bit further now. The riddle seems to be how we take that next step. Those who bowled did so gamely and another wicket or two might have made it interesting. Izzy did a cracking job behind the stumps and the efforts in the field were enthusiastic despite the conditions. Thanks to Justine for the teas and to Colin for umpiring, also to our small band of supporters who come along each week and listen to the drivel that we spout during the course of the game (food scented perfumes a particular highlight). Despite the defeat the game was generally played in good spirits and apart from the Love Island discussions at the start it was an enjoyable afternoon. Turners Hill at home next, wouldn’t it be good to get another win?
Finally, for those of a certain age, excluding the reference to The Hollies song, there are 12 titles of 80’s ‘hits’ in this match report. A pint goes to the first person to find them all.