Death and taxes (and legside wides)
By: Will Chipperton – Saturday Captain
Glorious sunshine and a healthy looking pitch greeted both sides upon their arrival at the home of cricket. After both sides went through the rigmarole of meeting the various Covid 19 guidelines, which included sourcing individual drinks/food, purchasing wipes and sanitiser and attempting to find 11 players, the season could finally begin in mid-July!
In true Park Hill style, the visitors won the toss and elected to bat. Who’s to say whether this was due to their confidence gained through securing promotion last season or noticing that we only had 8 people changed and ready 10 minutes before the start of play? Good to see that some things never change…
Hill’s XI for the afternoon consisted of 2 sets of siblings and 2 debutants, although we opened up with two stalwarts in Bhups and Prem. A combination of aggressive stroke play and generous fielding meant that the Sharks raced to 70 inside the opening 10 overs. Both bowlers threatened the stumps and lured both batsmen into aerial shots, but ultimately they toiled in vain. Luckily for the hosts, our trusty metronome Jeavons ended the opening partnership with a little help from a sprawling catch from Barry. A second scalp for Jeavons followed after a couple of overs with Bhups hanging on to a high catch.
Having lost both openers, Spencer started to rebuild their innings and we grew into the game and started to bring the run rate down, with Barry ably supporting Jeavons from the other end. Hill’s next breakthrough came courtesy of Clare’s bowling and a magnificent diving catch from Stupples, who was patrolling the boundary at cow corner. Not many backed the tortoise to take the catch when they saw him ambling in off the rope, but his full length dive led to collective cries of disbelief and animated socially-distanced celebrations. Buoyed by this, debutant Chris claimed his first wicket for the club by trapping his victim LBW.
After pegging the visitors back to 140-4, we were punished during a 5th wicket partnership that yielded over 100 runs. Several key catches went down during this stage of the game, whilst the Sharks’ batsmen rubbed salt into the wound with some lofty blows that led to the captain concluding “we’re gonna’ need a bigger boundary.”
In spite of the warm conditions and long break since playing, we continued to work hard in the field and were rewarded with a late flurry of wickets. Firstly, Clare returned the favour by clinging on to a catch from Stupples, and Jeavons claimed two more wickets. Finally, Barry was rewarded for his patient first spell as he picked up his first wicket of the season following a stumping.
Tasked with chasing 285, Hill knew that they would need a big contribution from W.Ides. The reliable performer duly obliged and we raced to double figures inside the opening couple of overs without using the bat. However, this did come at a cost. Firstly, Stu was deceived by a straight one after a spate of wides. Secondly, the debuting Rob looked to pull off the shot he had dreamed of on his return to cricket, rocking back and bludgeoning the ball into a nearby garden – sadly the execution wasn’t quite right and the ball looped up to point.
Faced with an already sizeable task, Mackay and Stupples came together at the crease with the score at 9-2. They made a positive start to the run chase by seeing off the good balls and punishing the wayward deliveries. Both looked to take the game to the visitors and played with fluency and freedom, with regular boundaries and a steady stream of extras to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
Mackay narrowly beat Stupples to the first 50 of the season, and the latter’s followed in quick succession as the possibility of an unlikely victory started to materialise. With around 100 runs required in 10 overs, both batsmen accelerated and took more risks. This cavalier approach led to Stupples’ demise, as he was trapped LBW on 65 when attempting to use the sweep that had served him well in his excellent innings.
Bhups joined the action for the final 10 overs, with Mackay at the other end in the early 80s and closing on a century. Mackay, evidently keen to avoid any unnecessary running between the wickets, made the most of the short boundary by launching some impressive maximums as he neared the century mark. He was eventually caught in the deep for 108 in the final over; an excellent and entertaining knock. This meant I had the unenviable task of facing the final few deliveries with the game beyond our reach, although it seems Bhups also had dreams of preserving the average as he finished on 38*.
All in all, a highly enjoyable game in which over 500 runs were posted across the 80 overs. More importantly, some excellent individual landmarks and achievements meant that we were spoilt for choice when it came to enjoying the post-game jugs, with all 11 players staying on to toast to our return!
Fielder of the day: Dave S