Days like Sunday happen… Even with The Plough on a roll, we’re going to lose games here and there. That’s the nature of sport. The frustrating thing about this loss is, whilst the oppo were a solid outfit, they were far from spectacular, and one would like to think if the fixture is organised for next season, we have more than enough talent within our ranks to set the record straight. I think every Ploughman who played on Sunday just knows we underperformed, particularly with the bat. Still, like I said, losses will happen and it’s a mark of a Club and its players how it comes back from such disappointments and having the ability to cherry pick positives from an otherwise frustrating afternoon.
We were on The Hollies and the wicket played as well as I’ve ever seen it, with only the odd delivery keeping low and actually offering some assistance to the bowlers with a bit of bounce for a change. So there’s a positive.
I lost the toss and we were asked to take to the field. With four spinners in the team it seemed sensible to open with one of them – Ajit Prasad (3-0-20-1), the obvious choice, having done a good job with the new ball a few times before. Unfortunately, AJ was struggling with tennis elbow and struggled to find a consistent line and length and was removed from the attack after 3 overs – he did take a wicket for his troubles, courtesy of a decent catch from Paul Hynes in the gully. At the other end, Kiwi Andrew McEwan (8-0-33-1), ran in with real purpose and his quick arm and the hard ball made it a bit uncomfortable for both batsmen at times. A little bit of aggression from the pace bowler, belying his gentle nature, pleasing his Skipper on the day greatly. Drew’s a lovely chap and bowls with good gas. Hopefully with a few more net sessions and games under his belt he’ll start to convert the good balls into good spells and do some real damage. The wicket he took a good indicator as to what he can do, as he hurried the opener into fending a shortish delivery straight up in the air for Tom Parrish to take an easy catch with the keeper’s gloves on. So that’s another positive.
We continued to take wickets at regular intervals, Lonnen (8-3-12-2) consistently beat the bat and removed numbers 3 & 4 with assistance from Carson and Prasad at Mid On and Mid Off respectively. Sunday stalwart, Nigel Stephenson (8-1-35-1) bowled his allocation in one very good spell. Being honest, Nige isn’t the best cricketer in the Club by any stretch. However, he’s mature enough to understand that and only does what he knows he can do and, with each passing week, seems to get better and better. His control of his line and length and subtle changes of pace and flight these days mean he’s not all that easy to get away and it’s lovely as a Captain to have a guy you know you can rely on to stem the flow of runs but also take wickets in the middle overs. That’s a positive.
20 overs in and keeping duties were handed over to Kesh and a combination of Carson (3-0-26-1), Hickson (7-0-31-2) and Parrish (3-0-23-1) huffed and puffed as an obdurate 7th wicket partnership started to push the oppo’s score towards 200. All three of those bowlers got some reward for their efforts with Alex’s 2nd the highlight of the day. Paulie had been switching between Third Man and Slip as the one remaining batsman looked to farm the strike but he stood at a wide(ish) 2nd slip as Hickson pounded in towards their No.11. The delivery was sharp, caught a thick outside edge of the bat and flew off to my right. Instinctively Paul launched himself to his weaker side and was genuinely horizontal, six inches off the ground, with the ball basically already past him, when he miraculously snaffled a very fine catch with his weaker hand. With some better camera work (shoot landscape, people!!) we may have all been able to witness its brilliance. See WhatsApp for my reaction at 1st slip (as I went full on Stuart Broad at Trent Bridge 2015), the only pointer to just how good a take it was. I’ve played for this Club for over 20 years and I’m very hard pushed to remember a catch that beats it (that I’ve witnessed myself). A truly sensational effort of which Paul should be very proud. So there’s another positive. Royal Challenger’s innings ended on 188 as the returning number 8 (retired hurt previously) was run out off the last ball.
Tea was the usual DSG fare. Lucky the dog appears to have lost some weight too. Another positive.
Probably the less said about our reply the better. The bowling was accurate but not particularly threatening. Just once the rot started it became impossible to stop. Every single chance snaffled (even ridiculous one-handed efforts!) and pretty quickly it became apparent it wasn’t to be our day. Kesh (21) battled manfully only to fall to a good nut from the very last delivery of the opener’s eight over spell and that man Nigel (16*) making a decent case to be pushed further up the order with a spirited knock. One more positive. Nine innings in single digits tells the story though and credit must be given to the opposition for rolling us over in such economical fashion.
We know we’re much better than we displayed on Sunday and I’m marking it down as a mere blip as The Plough continues to march on strongly through the season, looking for countless more positive moments to report on.