Saturdays arrive 52 times in a year. Cricket Saturdays 22 times of those 52. Top of the table clashes occur even less often. Now sitting pretty at the top of the table for a prolonged period of time, The Plough are becoming more and more accustomed to being challenged in the biggest games. This time out, Ottershaw were the challengers to the Plough’s top spot. Preparations were good and so was availability with The Plough fielding another very strong side.
Conditions on the day were perfect for cricket, warm and dry with a bbq on the adjacent fields, although torrential rains in the week preceding the game was bound to play a part. With no covers on the Hollies, it was always going to be a slow wicket with plenty for the bowlers. Credit where it is due to the groundstaff, despite being affected by the rain, the bounce was true and there was no sign of the unpredictability that has plagued the pitch in years previous.
On a wet wicket, The Plough won the toss and captain for the day James Tisato gave Ottershaw the chance to set a target, knowing in reality he was just giving his astute bowling line up first go on a track that was likely to improve as the day went on. New guard opening bowlers Bolshaw and Gray took the ball, with a wicket in the first over for Bolshaw. Inswinger, pitched up and through the gate not leaving the batsmen much of a chance, Ottershaw were 0-1. The Earl bowled well and deserved better than his return of 0-26 off 5. Ottershaw’s other opener and number three however, played some good strokes, alongside some questionable heaves off good balls that found the boundary at regular intervals. Bolshaw again struck at a key moment removing the number 3 and skipper caught brilliantly by Adam Barraclough running backwards at cover. As is customary these days, there is no let up from change bowlers at the Plough.
The depth in bowling is really peaking with no real weak links in any Saturday side that is selected these days. The Plough really do have an embarrassment of riches in the bowling department. Club Stalwarts Ash Paul and Tom Lonnen tightened things up when coming on and took key wickets. Ash, removing the number 4 and Tom, the threatening opener, to make sure the Plough remained on top in the game. In slight contrast to recent performances, the skipper then turned to spin. Ed Beesley, in his second game since returning from major knee surgery, was on it from ball one and looked every inch of the man he was before his operation. His passion for not only the game but also sliding on his knees and thumping the ground in anger are there for all to clearly see. A wonderful example to those around him. Pretorius also matched Beesley’s quality and bagged himself two well deserved wickets. The amount of turn on show from Duray, as ever, was exceptional. Beesley however, was the star of the show. 4 wickets for 19 runs off his 7.3 overs with two caught and bowled and catches for Lonnen and Bolshaw.
All in all, Ottershaws batting whilst showing promise at the top, did not have the depth to match the Plough line up nor the ability to pierce holes in a very strong fielding side. All out in 34.3 overs for 121.
Captain Tisato and the evergreen Steve Britto opened up for us in our response and after a cautious start seeing off the new ball, the two began to up the ante. Without looking in any danger the two put on 119 for the first wicket and were unlucky not to see us home. In his knock of 52, Steve showed his true class, hitting his 1,000th 4 for the club and hit his 50th 50. He was also two runs shy of hitting his 50th not out for the club. True class from a man who really deserves to be knocking off all these records. The skipper polished things off reaching 50 not out by hitting 4 through mid-wicket and bringing an end to a great performance from the Plough. We dominated in all three facets of the game and it really bodes well for the rest of the season if we can keep performing this consistently.