By Will Chipperton
The now-customary scramble for players carried on until Saturday morning as holidays and self-isolation continue to ravage our membership. Keen to avoid last week’s fate of playing with 10 against (then) league leaders, we managed to field 11 players in our clash against second placed Sutton Challengers.
The captain regrettably won the toss and so could not rely upon the opposition captain electing to bat first, so he dutifully opted to bat and sent out Stupples and Bhups to open up. The visitors did not make life easy for us and both batsmen lived charmed lives, at times, following some fortuitous dropped catches. In previous weeks, the openers got off to a slow but steady start before accelerating the run rate at around the 15 over mark, but even the change bowlers continued to bowl nagging lines and rarely offered up gifts to the batsmen. When Bhups fell for 30, Hill found themselves labouring on 68 from 23 overs.
Clearly the second half of the innings needed to yield more runs if we were to post a competitive total, so hearts were temporarily in mouths when Mackay chipped his first ball straight to cover. As previously mentioned, the visitors’ fielding was not as tidy as their bowling, much to Mackay’s relief as the gilt-edged chance was dropped. The drop looked a costly one when, shortly afterwards, Mackay danced down and deposited the ball into a garden along Ruxley Lane. Ably supported by Stupples, the pair neared 100 when Stupples was caught on 39.
His dismissal brought Keating to the crease and ‘The Titanic’ was thoroughly unimpressed with Mackay, who put him to work instantly and had him scampering home for quick singles and twos. The former sought to exact a measure of revenge by bamboozling Mackay with some Afrikaans dialect (“Yaah”) which almost led to a comical run out. However, they succeeded in accelerating the run rate and Mackay raced to 31 from 23 deliveries, before Bhups dubiously adjudged him to be LBW. Morten was the new man at the crease and he was charged with breaking an unfortunate duck-streak and continuing to push up the run rate…no pressure then!
Morten belied his nerves and form by batting fluidly from the beginning of his innings and he registered 30* from 24 deliveries. Along with Keating, the pair navigated us to 160 before Kyle was eventually caught in the deep as he looked to replicate another booming shot. We were able to eke out more runs in the final couple of overs and ended with a reasonable total of 180; this gave us something to bowl at and we could be encouraged by our victory against Spencer in similar circumstances.
The evergreen Prem opened the bowling in tandem with the skipper, as Hill looked to make early inroads. Sutton Challengers were never going to die wondering and the openers attempted to put willow on leather at any opportunity. Hill’s first wicket materialised due to a combination of this cavalier approach and poor running between the wickets: a top edge off the captain’s bowling went into the air and, despite Stupples calling for the ball, dropped harmlessly in front of the stumps. Fortunately for Hill, the batsman had already set about returning to the pavilion for a cold drink and he was run out instead. Hill managed to contain the visitors for the first 15 overs or so, as they struggled to the 50 mark without any further losses.
Jeavons and Bhups were introduced and the latter soon struck as he cleaned up their number 3 after some close LBW calls. The former then made the next breakthrough in a bizarre chain of events. To contextualise, Jeavons’ choice of expletive to describe his own bowling performance that afternoon resembled the outcome of shouting Clare Hunt too quickly when offering the bowler’s name to the scorer! Despite producing “the worst spell I’ve ever bowled”, the scorebook indicates that his two victims were bowled and caught behind. In reality, the first victim inexplicably booted the ball into his own stumps after almost playing on and the second hacked a long-hop straight into the air and Stupples made no mistake in gobbling up the chance. The Metronome has clearly taken notes from the master and opted to follow the modus operandi of one Phil Nacmanson in how to buy wickets!
At 81-4, Hill were undeniably still in the contest. However, Sutton Challengers rebuilt their innings with their fifth wicket partnership and the game threatened to get away from the hosts. Spells were shared out between Jones Snr, Mackay and Clare as the heat took its toll, but a revitalised Bhups eventually disrupted the partnership and left them on 149-5 with around 10 overs to spare. Prem was also rewarded for his efforts and cleaned up the batsman to claim a deserved wicket.
Ultimately, we fell short as they chased down the target with 6 overs to spare, but this was not through any lack of effort. This was another week where we managed to field 11 players (apparently only 10 in the previous game…) and there were some impressive accolades shared around. Noticeable among these were the consistent contributions of the top 5 batsmen – particularly Morten and Keating in making their first league runs for the club – and the excellent fielding from debutant Sinder!
I’m sure we will be riding the victory train again imminently…
Fielder of the day: Sinder