WHCC 108 AO
Epsom 95 AO
by David Gibney
Renewed self belief together, some inspired captaincy and a fine bowling and fielding display combined to bring the bulldog spirit back to the 2nd XI as 13 unlikely and crucial points were bagged against Epsom. It was W&H's first win since May 31st and sparked scenes of jubilation seen all too rarely at Brewery Road this season.
Epsom won the toss and invited W&H to set a target, their decision based on reluctance to have to bowl W&H out second to win the game, as they had three regular bowlers missing and an opening bowler who had never bowled at this level before. This was reflected in the way that new opening pair Jayson Bird and Mark Surridge set about the start of W&H's innings, with 35 runs on the board after 8 overs including one mighty straight six clattered by Jayson. However when Jayson was adjudged lbw, the batting demons of the past few weeks returned, as Gibbers, Po and Hobbsy were all out to indifferent shots in quick succession. Debutant Uzman Zafar had betrayed his nerves to his teammates before the start of the game, but proceeded to play a calm and careful innings as he and Mark attempted to build an innings-saving partnership. Mark had batted well for a top score of 28 when he was out to a rush of blood and a skied catch, and from there the end came all too quickly, as Uzman (for 27) and Qaiser fell in quick succession, the old guard of Steady and Deano failed to stage a rescue act, Shiraz was out to a great running catch at cover and Ben played a defensive shot round a straight one. The team realised that once again they had batted like clowns - all out for 108 on a decent pitch that begged for a target of around 160. The vital win looked a very distant prospect.
Hobbsy had seen the damage that had been done by Epsom's medium paced and slower bowlers and decided to open up with Steady and Gibbers, and the old ball. Ed achieved the important early breakthrough, bowling one of Epsom's dangerous openers, but then with two experienced players at the crease playing well and not many runs to play with, Hobbsy showed his personal desire by braving his injured calf and taking the new ball with Ben. Ben struggled with his line, but Hobbsy embarked on an accurate and skillful spell, nipping one back to bowl Epsom's other opener. With Shiraz now displaying his precocious talents again and applying pressure at the other end, Hobbsy gained the reward of another wicket, and when the second to last ball of Shiraz's 5 over allocation - a beautifully disguised slower delivery - earned a caught and bowled, W&H began to sense that the game wasn't beyond them and that Epsom were feeling the pressure generated by tight bowling and fielding. The score had crept to 85-4 though, with only 24 needed for victory when Hobbsy brought Gibbers back in to the attack, and almost immediately a catch was skied to Hobbsy at mid-off, the next man was bowled, and then a brilliant running catch was taken by Ben over his shoulder. When Hobbsy bowled the next man first ball there was suddenly more excited expectation than hope, but Epsom's skipper was still there - a good player who could win the game on his own. In Gibbers' next over he took 4 crucial runs with two sweep shots, so Hobbsy set a leg trap (it wasn't just for bad bowling, honest) and next ball the same shot brought a sharp catch from Steady at short square leg and the game was almost won. Then with Hobbsy bowling at a very nervous colt who had the hard edge of the second XI (Storey, Smith and Faulkner) chirping in his ear, Po took a fine low catch at frist slip, Epsom were all out for 95 and an incredible victory was completed.
Whether the win will be enough to avoid the drop back to division 2 remains to be seen, but more of the same fight and determination shown in the second half of this game, as well as a few more runs over the next couple of weekends will see W&H give themselves every chance of retaining their current league status. Next Saturday is the 26 pointer against Whitgiftians where nerves are sure to be tested again, but after today this team knows it's up to the challenge.