After two weeks when we could not get sufficient numbers to put out a side, Stone CC is back in business with an away fixture against Bredgar. Putting together our XI did, admittedly, involve asking the barman from our local hostelry to turn out for us, but it all worked out in the end. Slates is able to join us after breaking free of the cycle of extensive plans put on place by his good lady wife. The fixture also sees the return of Lord Rossington as (stand-in) captain and, never one to shirk responsibility, he took the wicket-keeping gloves for the day as well. The Second Coming of our Lord got off to a slightly wobbly start, alas, as he lost the toss but the oppo were keen to bat first anyway, as they have a slightly weak side (including a debutant player of mature years). So, it’s game on under cloudy skies in a 40-over contest.
It becomes apparent within a few overs that, while they may indeed be somewhat weaker than they might have preferred, Bredgar are still able to put out some players who know what they are doing. Their opening bat (and, mirroring our situation, also captain/wicketkeeper) Stevie proceeds to hit anything a bit wide or short to the boundaries with a vengeance. Walkie bowls quite tidily without any breakthrough, while Sash gets two wickets in his five-over spell, including their Number 3, who looked in very good nick before being taken by a great boundary catch by “Buckets” Boyling. We have a lot of bowling options so Ross ensures that everyone gets a go in search of wickets. Richard takes his almost-customary caught & bowled chance in his second over to remove their Number 4. This brings in a chap who “hasn’t played a lot of cricket recently” but, after dispatching two massive bottom-hand sixes in an over (pinging the neighbouring houses and losing both balls in the process), admits that he has been playing a lot of hockey. This fourth wicket stand is worth 94 and, spoiler alert, basically takes the game away from us. Slates, George and our new man Dewey go for a fair few runs during this period, until George holds on to a brisk caught & bowled chance to get rid of their opener for 75. His partner goes soon after, clean bowled by Dewey, for 41. This leaves Bredgar on 153/5 and this position improves further still in the space of three overs – Dewey takes two wickets in consecutive balls (both clean bowled again) to get rid of Numbers 7 and 8 without troubling the scorer, then Double-0 Dino gets their Number 6 lbw for 12. Their situation is now 165/8 and there is a glimmer of a chance, but their ninth wicket partnership comprises experience, youth and ability, putting on a stand of 34 and getting them to with a whisker of 200. Things must be looking hopeless as Ross throws the ball to me. This does the trick – Sash takes a fine catch at point to dismiss their Number 9, then their debutant (after scoring 2) misjudges his back foot position and is stumped by Ross. They finish on 201 all out. Our own debutant Dewey is the pick of the bowlers, with 3-31 off his 5 overs.
After tea, we set about chasing this tricky total. In theory, we have plenty of time/overs to do so, but that’s not usually a factor in the Stone batting equation. Richard and Dino bravely volunteer to open the batting, since we don’t have our usual opening pair (who are off enjoying the pleasures of Amsterdam) and Ross has been keeping wicket. Their start is pretty solid in the face of some decent bowling, particularly from Jack Louden who only concedes 7 runs from his opening spell of six overs. The wickets start to come in the fifth over, when Jason Cockell draws a false shot from Richard and he is caught for 4, then clean bowls Slates for a three-ball duck. Dino lasts another couple overs before being bowled by a good ball from Louden for 3. Things take another swirl around the shitter when George is run out for a four-ball duck, running for one that wasn’t really there as Sash watched on at the other end. The match situation is now 28-4 from just over 10 overs. Sash plays a few really nice shots for boundaries (including two 6s) but, joined by Walkie and then Dewey, then more-or-less drops anchor for the next 24 overs. Walkie scores a few boundaries for his 12, before being caught at the end of the 17th over. Dewey can’t really get the ball away and, by the time he is dismissed lbw, we are 110-6 in the 32nd over. Now, during that time, a subplot has developed. Sash, as we know, likes an appeal while we are bowling. The oppo, during his batting spell, return the compliment in what is initially good humour. At some point, however, the exchanges at the wicket acquire more of an edge to them, particularly as Sash was batting well (albeit gradually) and closing in on a maiden 50. An attempted mankad both sums things up and fuels things further. It doesn’t, fortunately, prevent Sash from getting his 50 (in 99 minutes from 81 balls, with four 4s and 2 6s). He is then dismissed on 57, leaving us 115/7 with just under 6 overs remaining. Ross comes and goes for 3, Ed for a golden duck, but Gav throws the bat around well and scores a commendable 12 off 17 balls before being bowled. I am 0*
Overall, then, it was a reasonably comfortable win for Bredgar. There were some positives for us – Dewey’s debut 3-for and Sash’s maiden 50 for the club. We had a chat with them about the niggle in the middle and it was resolved in the right spirit, which is very welcome. We will have to reverse this trend of losing to Bredgar, though – that’s four in a row that they’ve walloped us now! Awards are done (sort of) – Ross insists on a three line whip for the Golden Poo, which goes to George for his run our and departing early. Big Pat is not awarded (not really sure why not), but it might otherwise have gone to Sash for his maiden 50 and 2-27.