The weather again threatens to disrupt carefully-laid plans, but Reigate confirm that our fixture will go ahead, barring monsoon conditions on the morning itself. The venue is a new one for us, at one of their out grounds, and the journey takes a bit longer than some of us are anticipating, so we arrive in dribs and drabs. While playable, conditions are still fairly temperamental and, with the toss won, the oppo decide to put us in to bat first. They have a fairly youthful side and decide to aim for early wickets to put us under pressure in a 40-over game.
Our opening partnership is probably our strongest available – Skip and Blainy – and they prove very accomplished in the situation. Skip is watchful, while Blainy is the more attacking. The result is an opening stand of 65, which sets things very nicely, with Skip departing for 16. Camo is again our number 3 and looks pretty decent before being pinned plum leg-before for 10. He is not best pleased at this outcome as the bowler in question (a debutant for them) has a ‘distinctive’ action. Vice is next and plays his best knock for a while, smashing 22 off 15 balls before being bowled. By this stage, Baliny has gathered pace and is nearing a well-deserved century when disaster strikes and the ‘distinctive’ bowler gets one through his defences to clean bowl him on 98. Stumpy Dave is in at 5 and shows a good array of shots for his 25 off 34, including a lovely 6 off his penultimate ball. The only blip is Slates at 6, who has been in decent touch over recent games, but holes out off his second ball for an uncharacteristic duck. Alex East then carries things forward at 7, with 14 off 16, but doesn’t ground his bat properly and is run out. The last pair is Scrappy and me, who put on 9 runs together in the remaining nine balls to finish on a very competitive-looking 221 for 7.
If their bowlers have found conditions tricky, then ours do not, with Slates and Matt Utlley opening the bowling in very tight fashion. It takes until the fifth over for any runs to be scored and, even then, a wicket comes very shortly thereafter – Slates taking their number 2 for a duck. Ryan then gets the other opener for 10 with the last ball of his first over and they are 16 for 2 off 12 overs. It was going to take something special for them to chase down this total after that start and it never comes to pass. Ryan takes another wicket (their number 5 goes for another duck) and Sash chips in with two more to end his recent dry spell. At the midway stage, they have reached 46 for 5, making it very much a question of when, not if victory will come.
However, at this stage, Skip decides to test the depths of his bowling resources (or give them a chance to put some runs on the board, whatever) and informs me that I will be bowling after drinks. ‘Just bowl your usual medium-slow rubbish’, he says and I due deliver. The first over starts typically for me: a run, a boundary, a dot, a wide, and a dropped catch (straight to Camo but quickly so it goes through his hands). What happens next shows just how unpredictable cricket can be. I lob another one down to their stand-in skipper (and ‘keeper), he plays through it too early, pops it up and Ryan takes the catch. Jubilation! This brings to the crease the bowler who has earlier caused problems for several, including Camo, who is itching to bowl at him. Being a debutant and, we guess, not a batsman, he has one of the shiniest new bats we have ever seen. I deliver a fuller ball, hoping (as if I have this much control over my bowling) that the wind catches it and it does something in the air. It does indeed and he plays a nothing sort of shot only to be bowled through the gate (there might have been a touch of inside edge – I was too busy running off to celebrate to analyse it at the time). Two balls, two wickets. It is now (cruelly) suggested by some and, it transpires afterwards, considered by Skip that I be thanked and removed from the attack while on a hat trick. This does not happen, thankfully, but I am nevertheless brought back to Earth with a bump when the first ball of my next over goes for a boundary. Oh well. I do take another wicket, neatly taking the edge and being safely held behind the stumps by Dave, and Alex East, who has bowled really well without reward for five overs, takes the last two wickets in his sixth over to end things for them on 94 from 31 overs. A very good win for us and a good day all around, given the hospitality and good chat with the VI-Kings.
Given the distance to travel home from Reigate, we decide to head back to the Malt Shovel, rather than joining the oppo at their local. There are already some clear runners and riders in the awards discussion, so the decisions are not tricky to make.