Following our fantastic away win last week, Stone returned to the Oakfield Wok to play Gravesend CC 6th XI in suitably sizzling heat. A much-changed team due to romantic getaways and European Conference League hangovers saw Ben make his Stone debut and Muttley captain the team for the first time in his first appearance of the season. There was another season debut for Matt Blain, returns to the side for Reece Lightning and Walkie Talkie, and Karthik answered the emergency Friday evening call to step in last minute.
Muttley won the toss and took the decision to bowl first (greatly influenced by Walkie) – a chance to see if the opposition could handle the heat of the wok. Lord Rossington overcame the perils of the A2 and so, with only a minor delay, we set about trying to remove their opening batsmen. A very tidy opening over from Walkie Talkie gave us a taste of what to expect from the pair – a steady approach from one and an aggressive swinging approach from the other. Tempers flared in the second over when their Number 1 and Sashi exchanged a few words after a morally questionable run out attempt. Battle lines drawn out and a fierce duel followed. The opening bowlers kept the run rate low and runs were only found through a series of edges evading fielders by inches and finding gaps. A fierce drive was too hot to handle for Matt Blain at midwicket and the opening spell finished wicketless with 39 on the board.
A change of bowling at the pavilion end saw Tom P come into the attack. As usual, his opening few balls consisted of a couple of customary wides to loosen the arm as he tried to find line and length. On the final ball of the over, the breakthrough came, with the victim looping a ball to Reece Lightning at mid off who took it fantastically at the second attempt leaving a large bruised mark in his inner elbow. Dedication at its best. Skipper for the day Muttley brought himself on at the other end and had an extended opening over, playing a lovely game of catch with Stumpy. His second over was more productive, having lulled his victim into a false sense of security and prompting a loopy block which was taken beautifully for a ct&b dismissal. Momentum was shifting the way of Stone and it didn’t take long for Tom to strike again, finding an outside edge which was nonchalantly plucked out of the air one-handed by Stumpy. Wickets 5 and 6 soon tumbled with Muttley taking another fine catch at forward short leg to dismiss the wild swinging opener off the bowling of Tom who then grabbed his fourth wicket moments later with an inswinger which hit the ground, completely died and knocked over middle stump. A spell almost as hot as the Wok itself meant Tom finished on a season best [so far… – ed.] 4-26. Typical there was no camera this week to capture it.
Meanwhile, at the other end, Paul was working his magic and was finally rewarded, after seeing one effort dropped on the boundary by Walkie Talkie, when Karthik held a good catch. Gravesend had gone from 75-3 to 84-6. Debutant Ben came into the attack from the pavilion end and, after dusting off the rust, removed the tricky left-handed captain, with a fine diving catch from Muttley sending him packing. A very tidy spell from Reece Lightning was also rewarded with a wicket – Paul taking a catch on the move at mid off. Walkie Talkie and Sashi came back into the attack to try and skittle them out, but some good blocking by the tail meant their innings finished on 163-8.
After a quick tea in the cool of the pavilion, the sun was still glaring down as Stumpy and Matt B went into start the run chase. Very soon it was clear we were in for a tough time with the opening bowlers swinging the ball all over the place. A confession from the Gravesend hierarchy that these lads should probably be playing 3rd/4th XI cricket did little to reassure and despite, dispatching a lovely 4 through the leg side, Matt was bowled next ball – a corker between bat and pad. Karthik came in, and was duly sent back to the shade of the pavilion by an inswinging delivery that rattled the stumps. Rossington came in to face the youngster on a hattrick and survived to ease a bit of pressure. A partnership of 14 was brought to an abrupt end when Stumpy nicked one onto his stumps. A cameo appearance from the skipper saw him hit a lovely 4 and then fall just a couple of balls later. Ben came in for his debut and completely ignored the advice from Rossington to just relax, play himself in and block by going for a big shot – straight to the fielder. The scoreboard looked bleak at 38-5, but a fantastic partnership of 50 between Rossington and Sashi gave us hope in our chase, despite Sashi’s best attempts to run Rossington out! Finally the partnership was broken by the bowling of Peter Pahal, an frustratingly accurate and quick spin bowler who beat Rossington with a straight one. The pavilion balcony stood up to applaud a very well battled innings of 34 and also to welcome Reece into the attack. Before the game Reece had posted in the group chat about whether he should get a regular or a golden duck this week – the prophecy fulfilled two balls later when he was back in the comfort of his shady chair. Walkie Talkie and Sashi kept the runs ticking over moving the scoreboard up to 120, before Walkie became Pahal’s third victim. With closing time at the park looming Sashi and Tom’s wickets soon followed resulting in a total of 121 all out.
It was a very difficult game in the hot conditions but shoutouts got to Muttley for his captaincy and three catches, Tom for his 4-26, Rossington for his 34, and Sashi for his 20. With the closing time for the Wok looming, all that was left to do was hand out some quick awards. Tom received his second Big Pat on the Back, and Sashi receiving Shitbag for almost starting a fight in the second over and nearly running out Rossington three times.