The 2s arrived at a sunny North Midd ground to be a confronted with a flat deck and a very short boundary down the hill on one side as well and straight. The returning captain Baggs won the toss (for a change) and decided to field.
After the warm up of the season JLG and Swan took the new ball. It quickly became clear that anything beating the infield on either side of the wicket would be 4. Swan came around the wicket to their left handed opener and the pressure started to build. After one near miss run out he pushed the ball into the covers and set off. Hicks swooped from point and threw down the stumps at the non-strikers end to get TCC on the board. The pressure continued to build and the other opener slapped a good length ball from Swan to the tumbling Munday, fresh from a month long sabbatical looking after Andy Murray, who took a good catch for the second wicket.
Swan continued to bowl around the wicket at the left handed no 3 and went passed the outside edge over and over again. After many plays and misses and 4s through third man, one very close call (and convincing appeal from the cordon) and in the 30c heat, Swanny was ticking. When the edge finally came, Smith at 1st slip was celebrating before the ball had even reached Baggs and this perhaps contributed to the subsequent uncharacteristic fumble. Smith regained his composure sufficiently to palm the ball up and caught it at his second, and the team’s third, attempt. If this had been dropped, Swan’s swede would have popped.
The innings then settled into a pattern. Sweepers went out and the bad balls were put away with conviction but the game never got away from us. The scoreboard was ticking but considering the short boundary and flat pitch concerns were limited. R Bennett bowled tightly from the pavilion end their captain hit a very clean ball in scoring a rapid 56 before JLG took a good catch to get rid of him. With Munday finding the bottom end tricky to bowl from Baggs turned to Hicks’ mediums and a well spread field. Combined with Bennett a few tight overs brought a waft at a short wide one and a well taken catch by BB standing up. Smith replaced Hicks and Bennett wheeled away, snaring their no 4 for a well made 68 thanks to another good catch by JLG.
With the field well spread North Midd started swinging from the hip, Bennett/JLG combining again for his third. After another half pitch run out to Hicks at third man attempting to get the set batsman on strike North Midd surprisingly decided that 270 wasn’t enough and batted on past 50 overs. After 5 dots balls in the 50th over JLG took the final wicket. Given the short boundaries and good pitch, a strong display in the field.
In his first game with more than half hours sleep, Gardiner was LBW early. After promoting himself to 3, Baggs and Austin started to get the scoreboard ticking, Austin picking off the short ball with aplomb, including one huge mixer. At 73-2 ambition got the better of him when aiming a lofted on drive off the opening bowler. Poles splattered for a boundary filled 33. Smith continued to keep Baggs company, playing risk free cricket to add another 60, staying well up with the rate before a good ball from their opening bowler held its line to clip the off bail. Another 40 partnership with the incoming Meek followed as the required runs ticked down, the tiring Baggs starting to play more freely and finding the boundary with ease. With North Midd literally putting every fielder on the boundary, Meek plinked one to long off.
After spending almost every ball on the field in the heat and with a hundred nearing, Baggs aimed a swipe over the pavilion and was castled for a superb run a ball 91. Hicks joined Bullon at 206/5 with 7s needed and they calmly picked up singles to add another 30 before Hicks holed out to long on. JLG came and went first ball thanks to an unlikely over the head one handed grab at mid wicket.
The tension rose as Bennett arrived with victory still the target. Bullon continued to pick up singles and a streaky Bennett 4 through the vacant slips brought cheers from the watching 3s. When Bennett was castled with 25 needed Munday strolled out with the target adjusted firstly to reaching the 265 needed for the winning draw. He was trapped LBW as Stef watched from the other end and despite a trademark straight Swan 6, he too was trapped in front with us still requiring 16 with 10 balls left.
Thanks to Ealing drawing at Richmond we remain top of the league by 4 points with 2 timed games and 4 limited overs games to come. Bring on Eastcote next weekend…
Author: Simon Hicks