Despite the fact that this fixture felt like it should’ve been part of the Outer Hebrides Cricket League Division 2, eleven Ploughmen granted the Skipper his one wish and all arrived in plenty of time. From afar it looked like a pretty decent set up; a cute little pavilion, a large outfield in a picturesque setting and a wicket that was cut (a vast improvement on the previous week’s match!). On closer inspection, however, the wicket didn’t look entirely flat and there were a few ominous looking areas in and around a good length. As it turned out, it was up there in the top ten worst wickets I have ever come across! Sometimes you play on decks like these and revel in it as a bowler. Just put the ball in a good area and the pitch will do the rest. This pitch most definitely did the rest… and some! It did everything you wouldn’t want it to and even some things I’d never seen before – it leapt off a length, it shot along the ground from half trackers, it stuck in the pitch, it bounced like a tennis ball, it rolled like a ten pin bowling ball. Frankly, it was absolutely diabolical. Which is probably why, after losing the toss, we were sent in to bat by the opposition’s Skipper.
Messrs Jullienne and Lane opened and it was tough going from ball one. The bowlers didn’t seem particularly threatening at first glance but the state of the pitch meant that for large parts of the innings they were. One of those days where batsmen knew that there was a demon out there and it was very likely to strike at any moment. In those situations you can’t do much more than cover your stumps, prepare to get hit and just grind it out.
Laney looked like he got a pretty decent nut, to be honest. He propped forward defensively and had his off bail removed. Fair enough! Will Stevens had started the season well. He had replaced Tom early on and he very clearly puts a price on his wicket. He takes his time to get in and he doesn’t play many loose shots. In a way, the wicket was playing to his strengths that day. He’s quite an attritional, battling, cricketer and this was a battle on an attritional wicket! So it was a little surprising that his stay was relatively short-lived as he mistimed one completely and was well caught for 12.
Cake battled on gamely for a very well constructed 37. 37 runs he had to properly graft for, and so he was pretty tired by the time he was stumped, having got bogged down somewhat by the raft of good deliveries, interspersed with completely unplayable ones. Michael Ainslie has also impressed so far this season. He’s a man who clearly has one eye on the ‘Loves To Bat’ Award on our weekly podcast. He looks technically sound with a solid defence and just waits for the ball in his areas – not that he got many of those because of the myriad of tricks this wicket was playing!
Upon Cake’s dismissal, Captain Lonnen strode to the crease to join Michael and the pair set about trying to put something respectable on the board. It was far from pretty but they were effective and managed to piece together a 92-run partnership. Meeting in the middle to discuss their plans after each over, only to change them again the very next over, before eventually deciding that the best thing for the team was for both to stay in. It would take any incoming batsman far too long to get used to the vagaries of the pitch and so, with them both well set, the pair opted to play conservatively and simply take what was on offer which, fortunately, did include some really loose deliveries that were duly dispatched.
Tom was first out having brought up his 50 in the 37th over and Michael followed not long after having made 30. It may not have seemed like much but in the context of the game a final total of 162 for 5 felt like a real triumph. In fact, looking at his nicely rested bowling attack limbering up and raring to go during the tea break, the Skipper confidently announced we had at least 40 runs too many.
We actually had about 90 runs too many!
After we’d all munched our way through the various supermarket meal deals we’d had to bring with us (except Lewis, he bought some rather lovely looking cake from the cafe next to the ground) we set about devouring the Burgh Heath batting line up. So good was the 2nd XI attack that day, Lonnen was able to keep his own powder dry completely and didn’t even need to unleash Azharul’s booming in-swingers that had taken a 6fer the week before, as only four bowlers were actually required. Spence, CRS, Drew Withers, and the aforementioned Daisy Duke set about ruining eleven blokes’ day. The latter three doing all the damage.
Lewis (6-2-18-3) got us off to a great start, castling one of their openers, and from that moment I think we all knew it was only a matter of time. He took another two easy as you like before being replaced by Drew Withers. Spence was a little unlucky not to pick up a wicket or two before he was replaced by Ratty and it was then over to the pair of Antipodeans to show their class and why, quite rightly, it wouldn’t be too long before they would be knocking on the door of the 1st XI.
‘Peacock’ Withers (6-1-25-4) made very light work of it to claim 4 scalps, two of them caught and bowled, and then The Rat (8-4-8-3 !!), having ground the batsmen down with his unerring accuracy, eventually got his rewards too. Along the way they were ably assisted by Michael Ainslie who took two sharp catches behind the sticks.
We were utterly ruthless and absolutely revelled in it as Burgh Heath could only muster 75 ao. Surely there would be tougher tests to come in Division Two but at this point in time we were very happy to be sitting top of the pile with three solid wins out of three games played.