The start of September saw us welcome a new opposition to Oakfield Park, with King’s Hill CC sending their 4th XI to replace Tonbridge Foresters CC (who seem to have been facing some problems with player availability, an issue that bedevilled us too earlier in the season). We also welcomed Mrs Sash to her first Stone game – she had opted to bring a book, just in case the match did not prove sufficiently gripping. The oppo won the toss and opted to bat first in a 35-over game.
Their lineup was the usual blend of experience and colts that we face regularly throughout a typical season and, as such, is often a decent contest for us. However, this is not the only aspect of the subsequent batting display that seems familiar, namely that the efforts of one or two well-set oppo batsmen have cost us wins in games that were frustratingly within reach. In this case, a solid 51 from one of their openers and good knocks by their skipper at Number 3 (35) and their Number 4 (24) meant that they posted a total of 153 for the loss of six wickets. Our bowling was generally good, but their batting was disciplined and wickets were slow to fall. Ryan proved to be the most incisive with figures of 7-1-22-2 (including the two openers), while I took 2-25, Slates took 1-10, and Walkie finally took a wicket with the final ball of the innings (well caught by Muttley).
No tea provided this week, albeit there were some refreshments from the pavilion all the same, so the turnaround was reasonably timely. Once again, Richard volunteered to open the batting with our skipper. However, the oppo provided some testing bowling and Billy went towards the end of the third over, caught off a nothing sort of shot. This turn of events brought to the crease the mainstay of our innings, both for better and for not so better, as Stumpy Dave settled in for the long haul. Wickets proceeded to fall around him like leaves from the soon-to-be autumnal trees, with the run rate acquiring an unseasonably glacial character. Once Richard departed for 2 (from 26), in the 15th over, a succession of players tried to push things along in pursuit of what was an eminently gettable total. Lord Ross (7 from 9), Ryan (4 from 9), and Dan (7 from 9) did their best, but we were left at 57 for 5 from 24 overs. Muttley then provides a dashing cameo, striking 25 off 14 balls (five 4s) before playing all around a straight one and being clean bowled with the score on 90 for 6 off 29.2 overs. Slates tried to keep up the momentum with an 8-ball 8, but snicked behind to the ’keeper in the 32nd over.
This brought to the crease Walkie, who (for the second week running) had been stalking the sidelines for the preceding 20 overs and bitching about the fact that we weren’t chasing the total properly. Lo and (shock) behold, it isn’t as easy when you’re out there in the middle against what has proven to be a pretty decent bowling attack – Walkie proceeds to hit 3 off his 14 balls and things peter out. We fall some way short of their total and King’s Hill win by 32 runs. Dave finishes on an average-aiding 45* (110 balls, three 4s), which is a good (if slightly frustrating) effort in the circumstances.
The oppo are, understandably, very pleased with the result and it seems churlish to complain too much about what is after all a solid win for a youthful side (by-and-large) who have played the game situation well. We retire to the pub where there is an extensive autopsy of proceedings, which leads to Dave winning both of the prizes available, despite a few protests about the centrality of his innings to our efforts. Fortune, fickle fate, fuck it… roll on tour next weekend.