Match 1 – vs Old Whitgiftians – 19 May 2012


After a month of rainfall and waterlogged pitches, the frustration finally ended as the 2012 cricket season got underway on the back pitch, hidden away behind the shed and nets… way beyond the class and style of the first XI.  Determined to demonstrate their own mix of unique style and skill, Churchleigh began the season by losing the toss.  Was that a sign of things to come?


Captain James Webb led his team out to the field, forgetting how this worked and that he’d have to set the field and pick a bowler.  Sprightly Lee Wilkinson was thrown the ball and once a field was set, play got underway.  A nagging offside line greeted the two youngsters opening for Old Whitgiftians, with one stray ball being put away to the short boundary.  New boy Shahid was given the ball at the other end on debut and, after one or two nervy looseners, settled in to his rhythm.It wasn’t long before the boundaries began to flow though and it needed something to kick Churchleigh into this new season.  Unfortunately, Adam Bicker at mid-on couldn’t quite manage it as he dropped a firm-ish slap that was hit straight to him off Lee, before Dilo DeAlwis tumbled at point, failing to cling on to a chance off Shahid’s bowling.  With one or two other uppish shots not quite going to hand, there was a danger that the game might get away from our heroes as the scoreboard reached 35 inside 8 overs.  However, a change of bowling bought a change in fortune as Graham Woolgar began his season with a wicket maiden, finding some sharp turn to beat the opener’s defences and bowl him.

Not to be out done, Lee Wilkinson forced an error from the other opener in the following over, who skied a simple catch to James at cover.  The wickets continued as Graham produced another wicket maiden, as the number four hit the ball straight to Adam at midwicket, who, keen to make up for his earlier drop, did his best to drop a sitter, running forward to a ball that was heading straight for him, but somehow managing to reach up and cling on.  It was possibly the worst catch ever taken.  Graham nearly made it three wicket maidens out of three when the key wicket of the attacking number three was on offer as he top edged a sitter to Dilo at square leg who matched Adam’s attempt by running in to a ball that was heading straight for him.  Unfortunately for him, he’d run too far so could only shout an expletive, fall/dive backwards with his arms and legs everywhere and watch the batsmen run two.  To rub salt into the wounds, the next ball was hit for four.

The wickets continued to fall steadily, as the number three held up Churchleigh’s march with a mixture of staunch defence and measured attack.  Eventually, Graham had his man though, finding a way through to castle him for 18.  Lee then took over, first getting  batsman to prod at a ball and loop a catch to Rusty at silly mid-off who, before taking a dolly, decided to do a little shuffle in panic as he thought the ball was rocketing to him.  A foxtrot on the spot couldn’t prevent him from taking the cath though and Lee soon followed it up with his third wicket as he bowled the number 6.

After Lee’s marathon 10 over spell of 3 for 30, another change of bowling bought another wicket as the captain bought himself on, his tactic surely being to make those fielders who had dropped sitters feel better by bowling to a much lower standard himself.  Somehow resisting the urge to bowl properly, James let the ball fly anywhere and everywhere with no pace, skill or execution.  With his 7th ball of a 10 ball over, a double bouncing delivery forced an error from a confused batsman who drilled the ball straight to Ray ‘the Cat’ Dyal who plucked the ball with little difficulty at silly mid-off.  Somehow managing to bowl an even longer 12 ball over, James wisely bought the Cat on for some of his hand grenades.  It was Uncle Ray who brought the innings to a close with two wickets for no runs in his one and a half overs as ten-man Old Whitgiftians crumbled to 95 all out, with Graham ending with 3 for 24.

Chasing such a small total on a small pitch would surely be straightforward, but the captain had other ideas.  To make a game of it, he ran the hapless Dilo out before he’d faced a ball and then watched from the other end as Adam missed a straight one to compound his day by falling for a duck.  With his three duck eggs from last year, Adam seems determined to fill an entire egg carton.  Two wickets down and the 2012 duck club already had two members, as Churchleigh were 2 for 2.  Rusty strode out to join James in the middle and started things with a couple of airy swishes and a leading edge that fall two feet short of a fielder who couldn’t quite be bothered to move.  James got the innings going with some trademark pulls behind square on the leg side and pushed the score along with some ones or twos before Rusty broke his shackles with a confident lofted drive over the bowlers head for four.

After settling things down, Rusty and James began to lead the charge to victory, each playing some exquisite off-side drives and a number of leg side swats.  When tea was called at 4:30pm, Churchleigh were 64 for 2 – James on 37 and Rusty on 25 – with plenty of time left in the game.  Despite some opposition players encouraging their captain to delay tea until the end of the game, the players marched off for a 45 minute break.

Upon resumption, Rusty cracked two boundaries, before James responded with one of his own before a single gave the strike back to Rusty who clobbered another.  With 20 coming from the first two overs after tea, 12 were needed and with Rusty on strike after James called him through for a bye on the last ball of the second over, it seemed clear that he would win the race to 50.  Particularly when the new bowler called out in his run up, “You need two 6s to win… here’s the first.”  The ball was tossed up and Rusty’s eyes lit up.  Not quite managing a 6 off the first ball, he settled for a 4 before rekindling his ‘six-hitter’ moniker the next ball to leave him one shy of 50 with 2 to win.  The next loopy ball was suitably despatched past square leg for 4 to take him to his first Churchleigh 50, leaving James not out on 42.

Churchleigh had won by 8 wickets in no time at all.  It took just 15 balls after tea to score the 34 runs that won the game.  An emphatic win to begin the season despite the calamitous fielding and dodgy second change bowler.

James faces up at Old Whitgiftians CC

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