vs Hartley Cricket Club – 16/09/2012

With the poor summer lingering on, a chilly Sunday in Hartley staged the penultimate fixture of the season. With two guests from Chelsfield Exiles and two from Hartley, it was an unusual Churchleigh Cricket Club line up, but one that made the 35 over game last a bit longer than we’d all expected.

After winning the toss and consulting with his team, captain James Webb reluctantly chose to bat and walked out to the middle with opening partner Ray Dyal. Despite the long break since he last held a bat, James got straight back on to it, edging his third ball for a single and then refusing/not quite managing to play another scoring shot for 6 or 7 overs. Meanwhile, Ray began with an imperious brace of boundaries only for extras to outscore both batsman combined. The steady start never got more than steady and even when James launched a massive 6 over long on, to the surprise of everyone (no-one more so than himself), the scoring rate never got above 4. The real highlight for some, and lowlight for one in particular, was when James threw his bat at a wide one and it flew off the edge to the slip fielder who, left unsighted by the keeper, couldn’t prevent the ball making an almighty thump as it hit him hard… in the down-belows. A ten minute lie down momentarily suspended the game as his sympathetic teammates laughed endlessly at the poor man massaging himself furiously.

Soon enough, the cricket continued and a spinner came on to fox both batsmen with his not quite so straight arm. After being dropped by the slow bowler first ball, Ray ended up getting frustrated (unlike him) and skied one to the keeper and the stand of 46 was broken, Ray departing for 19. On his Churchleigh debut, Clive Puttock cut his way to his first boundary, before missing a straight one from a young seamer on 6. Number four, Joe Woolgar, didn’t last long before repeating Clive’s trick and mssing a straight one to depart for his second duck of the season. James was still plodding along with the odd boundary and a growing number of leaves when Jon Woolgar joined him. It wasn’t long before James was out too, as he tried to repeat a straight drive from the previous over, only to drill it straight back to the bowler who held it with ease. In fact, it was all so simple that he merely turned and walked back to his mark with no reaction or celebration, resulting in some confusion as to whether it was actually a wicket – but James was on his way for a slowly compiled 30. When Graham Woolgar matched his son’s efforts of a two ball duck, the score had plummeted to 74 for 5.

Ali McNab joined Jon and flayed one or two singles, before finally picking out a fielder for 4. Jon tried to get the innings going with some glorious drives as Nick Leviton, on loan from Hartley, joined him. Jon fell for 13 as the not-so-straight arm slow bowler returned for a twirl and bowled him. Shiv entered the fray, clobbered two boundaries with (not a lot of) elegance before bowled for 8. Andrew Woolgar managed to cut a ball so late it was nearly off his stumps for one before being bowled himself for 1, leaving other Hartley loanee Danny Redwood to come out and join his Hartley colleague with one over left. He didn’t get to face a ball though as Nick was the seventh player to be bowled as the returning opening bowler castled him for 7, leaving Churchleigh all out for 115, with extras second top scorer with 27.

Early wickets are the key to defending a low total, and Danny Redwood steamed down the hill as Churchleigh CC looked for a breakthrough. A steady over got things going, but it was Shiv running up the hill who managed it. After his first ball was smashed for 4, he induced a mis-hit drive to mid-off where James took a signature tumbling catch. Not long later, Danny turned traitor as he broke through the defences to bowl the number 3 of his own team. The very next ball, the off stump was sent flying as the number 4 departed for a golden duck. It must have been a real quick one as the hole in the ground was ripped apart and the stump refused to stand up again. After a delay while the pitch was repaired (by a jug of water!), Danny could only send the hat-trick ball down the legside.

Not to be outdone, Shiv returned with a couple of wides, one going for 4, before finally finding his line and a faint edge through to the keeper as Hartley were stuttering on 26 for 4. Hartley needed a partnership to settle things down as Jon was called upon to replace Shiv after a very successful 4 over spell, which could have been even better has Ray held on to a loopy catch at second slip. The ball spiralled over his head, flicking his outstretched fingertips as he just couldn’t quite get there. Jon proved very difficult to get away and the run rate started to slow. Danny was replaced by new boy Ali who began with two successive maidens. The pressure was building on the batsmen and a single was called as the ball was pushed to cover where James sprinted in, managed to pick up the ball cleanly and land a direct hit, finding the batsman short. With the score at 48 for 5, the Hartley captain strode out to the middle to sort out the situation. He began cautiously, prodding and poking as his batting partner swished wildly at one or two while trying to forget his discomfort from his earlier blow while fielding.

With runs beginning to flow, Danny returned for his final two overs to try and break the partnership, as Ali ended his four over spell for just 11. He couldn’t quite manage it, but finished with very respectable figures of 7 overs, 2 maidens, 2 for 18. At the other end, Jon maintained his control and very nearly removed our bruised opponent just missing out on two very difficult return catch chances. Then as he made the batsman run past one, Joe couldn’t quite gather the ball in time to make the stumping and Jon finished with a luckless 7 overs, 1 maiden, none for 25. With victory in sight, both batsman started to let loose and Shiv suffered. Graham got through one over for 7, before the winning runs came in Shiv’s last over, leaving him with figures of 5.3 overs, 2 for 44.

Hartley survived the rather big wobble at the start to cruise home in the 25th over. Not a bad showing considering that Hartley fielded throughout with 12. With a bit of luck (and an extra fielder!) it may well have been closer.

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