Game 2 – Vs Yarl C.C. – Saturday 10th May 2014

HOLD THE PRESS: CHRUCHLEIGH COME OUT ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF A NAIL-BITER.

With the recent rain that had been threatening the match, it was somewhat of a surprise to find the pitch in a reasonable condition and after a good 20 minutes of rolling by Charl and Adam (using the rollers, not our own bodyweight I might add), the wicket was in as playable a condition as it was ever likely to be.

A rag tag bunch of opposition arrived in dribs and drabs and eventually the captains walked out to the wicket for the toss. After a quick glance skywards and a brief discussion, it was decided that given the “variable” weather conditions that would go on to plague the match throughout, a shortened game of 30 overs each was the best chance of seeing a result.  The opposition won the toss and opted to put the home side in to bat first.

The game started promptly at some point between 2.25-2.45pm and opener Graham Woolgar went about the business of posting a target by hitting a four off the first ball.  From the other end Adam Bicker fended off a couple of balls before finding the gap and taking a single.  Both openers were keen to prove the lessons had been learnt from the previous week by watching the ball intently and waiting for the bad balls to score off. The right tactics given the ball was digging into the softish pitch and popping up higher and slower than anticipated.

Having seen off the first spell of both the opening bowlers the score was moving along nicely with a mixture singles and boundaries, with Graham playing some lovely pull shots and typical thwacks over mid-on for four and Adam hitting some well timed sweep shots for boundaries off the spinner.  In the ninth over with the score on 29 the pair became unstuck as Graham skied one and was caught at square leg for 20.  This brought another new Churlieghist to the crease in Haseem who made his intent clear from the start with some nice front foot drives through the covers for four. The pair rotated the strike but in the 13th over Adam hit one in the air trying to pull the ball from just outside off into the huge gap in the field on the leg side and was caught at mid-on for 13.

Charl Haden was in at four and after putting his bat in the way of a couple of balls in a vain attempt to prove he can actually play a defensive shot, he smashed the ball over cow corner and into the hedge for Six…. New balls please.  The following over he went to his favoured cow corner again hitting it even further for six and in the succeeding ball that bounced a touch higher than expected outside off, he hit a slap shot of the handle to short mid-off and was out for 12.

This brought in Joe Woolgar to pair with Haseem however the following over Haseem chipped one up and was caught on 17.  Brother Jon came in to form a sibling partnership and the pair worked together to try to rotate the strike but were finding it hard to time the ball on an ever softening wicket. In the 22nd over Joe miss timed one shot too many and was bowled playing across the line for 6.

This meant a rare appearance from Ian Ashby, carrying Charl’s hefty club to the crease. “Yaaah, the ball just needs to touch any part of the middle and it will fly Bru!” and having been informed by Charl about the magical powers of his bat, Ian managed to then find every other part of the bat but the middle.  After facing a number of balls Ian connected with the ball on the toe of the bat sending vicious shock waves into his wrists causing him to drop the bat, you could have felt the vibrations in Jamaica. A change of bat brought about a change of fortune and Ian started to find the boundary and rotate the strike with Jon who hit a couple of beautiful sixes. With the pair having pushed the score to 122 and with 2 overs to go, Ian missed a quick ball coming down the wicket and being a little bit slow walking back to his crease the wicket keeper flicked a soft under arm that managed to remove the bails. The rest of the fielders and the bowler were already returning to their positions and it was only when Ian was two thirds of the way back to the pavilion that everyone on the pitch realized he was out, stumped for 14.  A mixture of a very sporting gesture and an attempt to get out of the ever-persistent rain and wind that was making conditions quite cold out on the pitch.

Another new Chruchleighian Paul best was in at 8, who saw out the remaining overs with out scoring and Jon finished a good knock on 30 not out.  After their scheduled 30 overs, Churchleigh finished on 129 for 6 and everyone took a break for sandwiches and cakes.

With the condition of the pitch deteriorating slowly and the persistent cloud bursts of drizzle, short run ups were the order of the day for the bowlers, apart from Charles Haden who opted to open the bowling from the hedge end off his full run up of 4 paces. From the other end new boy Haseeb showed some decent pace just missing the edge of the bat on numerous occasions. With some tight bowling from both ends applying pressure on the opposition, Haseeb got the breakthrough getting their opening batsmen to knick one through to the new boy Paul Best at keeper.

Not wanting to be outdone, Charl got the other batsman to hoick a big cut shot into the air towards the boundary just in front of square, which was picked up on radar of Ian Ashby who dashed round from deep extra cover to take a wonderful catch on the move, comfortably 4 yards inside the boundary.  So pleased was Ian with the catch he set off on a victory lap, wheeling left and skipping over the boundary rope to celebrate with the adoring Churchleigh crowd which hadn’t turned up this week.  Unfortunately the momentary laps in concentration meant he had carried the ball over the boundary and so it had to be recorded as a six against the bowler’s name.  However this was only brief stay of execution for the batsman, as a newly fired up Charl clean bowled him 3 balls later.

With Charl bowling out his remaining overs Haseeb was rested for Joe, who kept it tight but was unable to take a wicket in his 3 overs. Graham had more fortune from the other end, who managed to twist the ball off the sticky wicket bamboozling the batsmen. With the batsmen looking to push the score on they were taking more risks and after a near run out from a throw from Charl, the batsmen tipped one to the leg side and tried to steal a single not realising the tiger like reactions of Jon Woolgar were at work at square leg who pounced on the ball throwing it to his farther at the bowlers end, running out the batsmen (Wollgar-Woolgar #1). Then in the next over the one ball that popped up short was swept safely into the hand’s of Jon at square leg (Woolgar-Woolgar #2).  Ian Ashby was brought in to replace Joe and although he had a number of balls slip down the leg side, which were well stopped by Wicket Keeper Paul, many of them were recorded as dot balls which helped build the pressure on the batsmen. In his second or third over Ian finally bowled his first ball on target and sent the middle peg cartwheeling of a rather annoying batsmen who kept walking down the wicket like some 4ft Kevin Pietersen wannabe. He also took another wicket with the batsmen skying one to the safe hands of Jon.

With the opposition starting to find the boundary with more regularity and moving closer and closer to the target needed, Captain Jon Woolgar stepped into the fray with a never say die attitude.  After the first 4 tight opening balls of his over, the batsmen topped edged a looping catch that was comfortably taken by Adam at point.  A rather nervous looking batsmen then stepped to the crease and was promptly sent back to the pavilion, clean bowled first ball on the last ball of Jon’s over.  Ian then bowled an over from the pavilion end, which may or may not have included one of the wickets described above.  Had Jon realised the situation, he may have looked a little less nonchalant as he caught and bowled the batsmen with a one handed leap to his right, on the first ball of his next over recording his hat-trick, a feat that was only pointed out by Joe to Jon and the rest of the team as they came together following the wicket.

With the last 2 batsmen in and 28 overs bowled showing on the scoreboard, a discussion ensued for 5 minutes between 8 or 9 Churchleigh members and the scorers, as the number of overs bowled could only have been an odd number 27 or 29 at that point. To the delight of the batsmen and horror of the fielders the overs on the scoreboard were wound back to 27. Three overs remaining, about 11 runs to get and one wicket remaining, it was heading for a nail biting finish.

Haseeb was brought back in from the pavilion end and managed to keep it tight only letting a few runs go and with only 2 balls bowled by Jon of the penultimate over, the heavens opened and the resulting mixture of horizontal rain and bright sunshine made it almost impossible to pick out the ball so the players came off the field for 5 minutes and a cigarette. Upon returning, the opposition continued to creep towards the total and with the last ball the batsmen managed to pull Jon away towards the boundary in what looked like a certain four.  Loud cheers were heard from the opposition in the pavilion as that would have meant the win for them, however the Churchleigh pitch did us a favour and the ball held up 2 yards short of the rope, with the celebrating batsmen only realising at the last minute and only able to scamper through for a single.

The last over was given to Haseeb, with 3 to win and one wicket needed.  The first ball missed the bat for no run.  On the second the batsmen fended down a rising ball and the non-striker called for the single and ran like mad, but the batsman didn’t budge and they both ended up at the same end, Charl collected the ball in Gully and with a crown green bowling action your granny would have been proud of he rolled the ball to Hasseb who dispatched the bails and secured a 2 run victory.

It was a scintillating match that had it all in both emotions and weather conditions, with the strip resembling a world war one battlefield at the close.  For those who remember the narrow defeats of last season it was nice to come out on the right side after such a long wait.  Special mention goes to Jon Woolgar for an undeniable Man of the Match performance, with a hat-trick, 30 not out and some great catches in the field.

Despite the defeat the opposition enjoyed the contest and offered us a return fixture at their home ground in Ealing… I think I’m washing my hair that week.

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