Every now and then PCC is involved in a brilliant cricket match. One a simple report will never really do justice. Saturday was one of those days when you just had to be there to appreciate what excellent sport it was – in every sense of the word. Combative, unyielding and testing yet fun, engrossing and well-spirited.
It didn’t start all that well though. As Captain for the day, I was in the dressing room waiting on arrivals. I didn’t hear my phone ringing. It was a team mate desperately trying to get hold of me because the opposition skipper wanted to toss the coin. Why he couldn’t check the pavilion to see if I was in there first I have no idea?! So, the toss was duly lost without both Captains present. An issue exacerbated when my preference to field first was denied by him electing to bowl. So Steve Britto and Adam Barraclough put their pads on…
The bad luck continued as Adam slapped his first ball, a wide long hop, straight to point and Steve was joined by Chris Ovens. Both opening bowlers were excellent, bowling good lines and good lengths. A pernicious wicket was helpful, admittedly, but you still need to put the ball in the right areas, and this they did. The uneven bounce playing on both the batsmen’s minds as they dug in determinedly to see off the new ball. Steve, as he so often does, did this masterfully. Which made it all the more frustrating that as soon as the first change bowler came on, he threw his wicket away with a loose shot and was easily caught at mid-off. From there on things didn’t get any easier for our batsmen. The first change bowler was a genuine medium (possibly even slow) bowler who continually hit a really nagging length, aided by awkward bounce. The second change bowler was a genuine threat. In fact, he bowled his 9 overs straight through for only 19 runs. An indication of just how tight the bowling was. Chris hung on grimly for 20 odd before nicking off and being well caught behind the wicket. Paul Hynes tried to build a partnership with Nick Ridgway, who was out cheaply in the presence of his folks yet again, but actually found a willing partner in Steve Hamer. Paul and Steve dug in, hoping that the 5th and 6th bowlers would be a bit easier. They were actually but, as is so often the case, looser bowling leads to more wickets falling. Paul fell for a well-made 30 odd and Grant and the returning Henry Webster came and went trying to push things along. I think we’d made just over a 110 with about 9 overs to go, so it was time to push on. If we got bowled out cheaply then so be it but propping and cropping was getting us nowhere fast! Helped by some amateurish captaincy (he hadn’t realised some had bowled out and was left looking for overs from random sources – quite a good leggie bowled just one over, for example) myself and Steve upped the ante. I found the same garden I had a couple of years ago and, well set on 35, lazily didn’t commit to a shot and was caught. Steve (36*) pushed on though and opened his shoulders a few times and ran for virtually everything with Liam Gray. We eventually finished on 162 and had a bit of momentum. Given the circumstances, we were happy enough we had something to bowl at.
Tea was bang average but notable as one of the opposition had to be taken to hospital suffering from chest pains (later confirmed as bad indigestion).
No-one wishes injury or illness on an opposition but the fact we only required 9 wickets to win definitely gave us a little more belief. The only thing worrying the skipper was a lack of front-line bowling (just 3 recognised bowlers). Someone was definitely going to have to step up. Ross Lonsdale and I opened the bowling. Ross was excellent and he really set the tone, hitting the right length and line and repeatedly beating the bat. I bowled a bit too full at the other end for my first 3 overs but eventually found the right length and had their opener removed by a rising delivery he could only fend round the corner. Ross had picked up the other opener in the meantime. Enter their No. 3, comfortably their best player. He rode his luck at times but batted superbly, punishing anything even slightly loose. It was very clear he was the key man. After the opening bursts, Liam came on and bowled pretty well. He picked up a wicket and made it hard for the batsmen to get him away although with that good bat in they were ahead of the rate and going well. So all I could do was mix it up a bit and hope that by doing so the batsmen would have to work hard for their runs and never feel settled against any one bowler. Like I previously mentioned though, we needed someone to step up. Cue Nick Ridgway! Pip will be the first to admit that his bowling can be erratic. When he gets it right, however, he is genuinely threatening. Fortunately for us it was one of Nick’s good days. Yeah, he still bowled the odd 4-ball (who doesn’t?) but in the main part he was excellent. He bowled 8.4 overs from the top end and, ultimately, won us the game. It was really squeaky bum time though! With the rest of the bowlers rotating at the other end in short spells, Nick ran in with real purpose and just kept chipping away at their batting order. Yet, the No. 3 persisted. He’d cruised to an effortless 50 but his concentration was beginning to wane as he tired. We should’ve dismissed him a couple of times as tough catches went begging and it really did feel inevitable he’d reach his century and win the match for his team. Ridgway Jnr had other ideas though and, courtesy of a well held catch at slip (I left him there as we needed wickets) from Paulie he got him out. The batsman instantly fell to his knees, distraught that he hadn’t got his team over the line. So, we picked him up and rightly applauded him from the field for his efforts. 6 runs required, with a rabbit and a ferret at the crease. Helmets were donned for silly mid off and short leg, fielders closed in and the chat got louder. 3 runs required as they somehow squirted one into the outfield. Countless plays and misses followed and I have to admit to wondering if it wasn’t going to be our day. You have to keep believing though and never accede to defeat. In that situation, all it takes is one good ball. Which Nick duly delivered – a yorker that hit the base of off stump, which set us off into wild celebrations and brought him a well deserved 4-fer. It was comfortably the best he’s bowled all season and his parents were delighted to see him finally perform on a cricket pitch – I was equally pleased for them! It must also be said that Park Hill were very sporting about the whole thing (making a mockery of their behaviour at previous fixtures). They must’ve felt aggrieved they were down to 10 and probably felt with an 11th man they’d have won the match. It’s also never nice to be on the wrong end of close-fought matches like that. Lord knows we’ve suffered enough over the years. They held their heads high and shook every hand though. I think both teams realised and appreciated what a decent battle we’d just had.? So, we won… By 2 runs! A result which pushed us up to 3rd in the table.
Just a couple of observations…
When batting, I don’t feel we do enough to rotate the strike. I appreciate it’s not that easy against good bowling but pushing the ball into gaps is something we should all practise. If the non-striker is in tune and ready to go and you pick your fielders, it’s amazing how easy it is to “steal” singles. When bowling, we all still bowl too many loose deliveries. Leg side wides kill us in the League and 4 balls in low-scoring matches never help. We must work hard to eradicate these from our game.
Having said that, let it not take the shine off what was an excellent performance in really trying conditions. Every one of the eleven players should be commended for their efforts and contributions to the day.
It seems we may have found a little bit of form again, Ploughmen… Let’s push on now and win as many matches as we can before the season ends!