Close but no cigar
As this was the first day of summer the team were moaning about the heat – confirming the accusation that we are never happy as a nation. New skipper Cochrane did what he could to calm the moans by winning the toss and opting to bat. A mixed bag would be the best description of what followed, in Quality Street terms a few toffees as well as a number of unfortunate coffee creams (no-one I have ever met likes them anyway).
The side opened this week with Matt Allan and Paul Bennet. Paul stepping up to the responsibility without complaint. Both started slowly against some very tight bowling, with a slow outfield also contributing. Paul (0) was unfortunate to get caught lbw early in his innings trying to work a ball to leg that kept a little low on him. To extend the sweets metaphor shamelessly this brought the biggest toffee of the day to the crease. Dave strode out with purpose in the sunshine and got to work nudging and cutting as only he can. By contrast the combative Matt Allan (10) went about bashing the ball around before he fell, caught in the covers, having been let off a tough chance in the previous over.
Dave continued to play the openers well and was joined by Albert, briefly, as Albert (0) fell to an inside edge off one of the wider looser deliveries from the impressive Ashfordian opener, Thusha. Things were looking fairly bleak at this point as the side looked at a score of 20 odd for 3 off around 10 overs. Dave, seeing the opportunity for a grinding innings that his personal hero Boycott would be proud of, knuckled down. Gribler (33) joined him as Albert exited stage left and went about a Pietersen to Dave’s Boycott. The side then recovered on the efforts of this double act to a far more respectable 90 odd for 3 when Gribler fell, bowled as he looked to inject further pace into a slow wicket and slower outfield.
By this time Dave was well on his way to his first 50 of the season and coached the ever more correct Jerry Allan in a dogged display of accumulation. Jerry supported the old boy well as he started to open up a little to the now tiring Ashford side as the side crept past the 100 mark. Again looking to push on Jerry started to drive Ferrari the way a machine of this stature should be driven – hard and without mercy. Unfortunately the Ferrari in question is nearer to being a vintage machine than an off-the-production-line supercar, and in the fierce heat, the thoroughbred was starting to steam a little. Jerry (8) was run out as he pushed on for the team and Dave was joined by new boy Ed Strang. Ed, as with many colts who have benefited from both recent coaching and genuine application, showed excellent technique and appropriate attacking shots, scoring a quick 16, again finding scoring opportunities tough given the combination of returning openers and the slow field. The side were now in the 140’s but had taken nearly 50 overs to get there. The ever impatient Cochrane started to pace more and more, willing the ball over the ropes and the batsmen down the track, regardless of line or length. He ably demonstrated the faults of such a technique as he replaced Ed. The first ball lifted sharply and not put off Cochrane tried a trademark ugly mow which, equally trademark, ended with stumps all over the place. After a small amount of declaration chaos (sorry Peter A) the side returned for tea having achieved a slightly under par 150.
Following a short pep talk the boys took the field after tea full of vigour. John Hargan (29 for 1 off 11), in his second game for the Sundays, bowled another tight opening spell in combination with Matt Allan (12 for 0 off 7.5). Both were very well supported by excellent fielding from the rest of the team – a now familiar sight on a Sunday and a real tribute to the attitude of all of the players. Jerry, Albert and the recovering Ferrari were particularly active and effective early on. Although the first seven overs were tight, with chances for the side; a missed run out, Cochrane concentrating on dive execution at the expense of taking the catch and some tight LBW decisions, Ashfordians managed to escape without loss.
The first wicket fell to a super slip catch from Dave off the bowling of John. Ed then replaced John and shortly afterwards had the other opener caught by Lloyd. Ed was another new and welcome addition to the side, bowling a good mixture of line and length and maintaining control through his spell. Smithy (36 for 2 off 8) replaced Matt at one end and started well although the Ashford opening bolwer Thusha started to open up, increasing the run rate against the odd short ball. At the other end Lloyd (30 for 1 off 4) bowled horribly to the same batsman, allowing Ashfordians to get away and relieve the pressure, although taking one wicket off a long hop – the law of the bad ball still in existence. Smithy started to exert some pressure and took 2 wickets, and was unlucky to not take more through some narrowly missed catches and a strong LBW shout. This tipped the balance back to W&H a little as a couple of the oppo were out cheaply. The momentum turned again as David Halle started to hit the ball hard and increase the rate to relieve the pressure. Although he and Thusha fell with around a dozen runs still needed, increasing the pressure again, the 6 and 7 bats managed themselves home against good returning spells from Matt, Ed and John to get the target in the penultimate over.
All in all an exciting game that could have gone either way at various points. A disappointing result for the home side but relief that they were able to play game in the sunshine and get rid of a few cobwebs. And Peter Allan had a cigar anyway and no-one else smokes them so no real damage done