The Kite and the Ravens Settle for a Draw.
The ground crew had mowed, rolled and manicured the ground into perfect condition on Friday afternoon. But Saturday had been a little wet. You may remember? The tarpaulin had been laid across the wicket and all seemed immaculate as the cars rolled in on Sunday. Dry though the surface may have appeared, underlying moisture had softened the wicket and added volume to the outfield. The wicket was in the centre of the square and the new boundary rope was stretched to its maximum extent. Batting was going to be a challenge; pitch guru Pettit said “ stick ‘em in Skip”.
Johns, Floyd and Springer were sent out to investigate the behaviour of the wicket. Dabby, wind behind and Ansil into the wind bowled tidy opening spells. Springer was in expansive mood, Having faced five balls he had 12 runs to his name including an impressive straight six from the first ball of the third over. Sadly the fireworks spluttered out, as for the second week running he was caught at square leg. The other John followed soon after, caught behind.
Mark Ford-Langstaff, (still the right side of 50) was joined by Seril Shah to rebuild the innings. Seril played a glorious off drive from his second ball, square of the wicket and from the middle of his bat. The lush outfield struck back, what has seemed a certain four was only a brace and a pattern was set for the afternoon. Many a boundary bound shot was played, but only a few made it across the rope. Mark was patient, waiting for the loose ball. Mark is a keen exponent of the square cut. Today the pace of the wicket upset his timing. Again and again Mark played the shot. Again and again the wicket keeper collected the ball. Fortunately Mark was more in touch on the leg side and picked up four well timed and placed boundaries as his innings persisted.
At drinks MSCC were comfortable at 66 - 2. With an hour and a quarter left to bat a good total was in reach. Are Ravens a good omen? Mr Petit pointed out a pair, apparently they abound in the park and on the local farms, mobbing a Kite to the south of the ground.
Immediately after drinks both Mark and Seril were dismissed, Mark to a very smart catch at short cover. They were soon followed by the unfortunate Stevyn Jackson who chopped the ball down onto his foot and then his stumps. This left the two Tims, House and Riley batting. Tim H was the more aggressive venting his wrath on the slow bowling of J Roles, hitting five fours and a very, very straight six. Tim R was more intent on taking short singles, one of which ended in a very confident shout for a run- out from all 11 of the visiting team. M F-L standing a square- leg was not convinced and Tim H survived.
Ben Breaker joined Tim R, when Tim H succumbed to his nemesis, the very, very slow straight ball, Ben ran well and added 20 runs with a now more expansive Tim R, who had decided that reverse hits were the best way to score runs. Asif Kamal and Simon Petit both helped the total move on, before perishing in the quest for quick runs. Paul Wordsworth crunched his only ball toward the boundary to finish 1 not out.
167, a score recorded by the ever reliable Chris Greer - for whom we are always grateful looked good value as run scoring remained difficult. Tea continues to be of the “provide your own” variety. I can assure you that my chicken sandwich washed down with tango was expertly prepared.
As is the case with many of our opponents the batting order is not always conventional.The strongest players are not always at the top. Simon P and Asif took the new ball. Simon bowled well, but missed the vital ingredient of any bowler, a little bit of good fortune. Many times he beat the bat or found the edge, but he remained wicketless in a first spell of nine overs. Asif struck with his first ball, a wide full pitch delivery that the batsmen thick edged spiralling upwards to the fielder at cover. That fielder, Ben Breaker, had yet to take a catch in a match of any kind, I can report that he held the catch and was congratulated by all, not least the bowler. Asif removed the second opener in his third over clean bowled.
The Bushmen’s third wicket partnership proved to be obdurate. Roles T and Roles J frustrated the Middleton attack, at this stage more content with survival than chasing the game. Paul W replaced Asif, and although he was a little more expensive than Asif, he like Simon bowled without luck.
It took the golden arm of Seril Shah to break the partnership. Now into the last 20 overs he trapped T Roles LBW. MSCC needed 7 wickets, Bushmen needed to score at 5 an over and their captain was newly arrived at the crease. The intent was clear. It was make or break time for the visitors. J Roles started to open his shoulders, the running between the wicket became more urgent. Riley replaced Wordsworth and found turn with his first ball. With his second the Bushmen skipper counter-attacked, struck hard and high, into the safe and waiting hands of House at deep mid on. The fielders closed in, the ball beat the bat, but did not find the edge or hit the stumps. John Floyd became the third bowler from the Farm end, he too beat the bat at least once an over but could not make the breakthrough.
A fifth wicket fell when J Roles mis-hit a long hop to M F-L at extra cover having scored the day's only half century. The overs were running out for both teams. Batting at 7, Ansil looked the most fluent of the visiting batsmen. He had been left with too much to do. A half chance was spilled by a diving Tim H, and Paul W nearly pulled off a remarkable run-out. M F- L limped from proceedings with five overs remaining - a fetlock sprained - allowing Gus Floyd to prove the importance of a 12th man. Bushmen came within 11 runs of a winning score, but in truth Middleton had always been able to control the run rate and were never in danger of having their total matched.
An honorable draw for both sides concluded just in time for the wet weather to return. The sun had shone all too briefly. Let's hope for better weather in time for next week's match.