We welcomed WGC to the bottom pitch on another very warm evening, under bright skies and a whisper of a breeze.
This was our final game of the season’s HJL round robin fixtures, where we would need a minimum of nine points to top the league table and progress to the quarter-finals.
Skipper Jack won the toss and elected to bat on what looked like a pretty dry wicket.
Spencer and Ollie opened our account in very confident mood, as Spencer clubbed three boundaries from the first over!
Both boys looked like they weren’t going to bother with singles – presumably due to the heat – opting instead to deal in boundaries and taking advantage of a pretty fast outfield.
Some lovely on- and off-drives, cuts and pulls saw both boys retiring around the 11-over mark; first Ollie for the third time the season, and shortly afterwards, Spencer for the fifth this season!
It’s worth mentioning that this is the second time we’ve enjoyed this opening pair retiring in any given game – well done boys, extraordinary.
Jack and Dan did their best to continue the momentum but the combination of some tight seam and spin bowling pulled-back the scoring rate and the pressure eventually told as first Jack was bowled and then shortly afterwards Dan was caught not pulling hard enough over square leg.
With the score on 94-2 at the end of the 17th there was a sense that an opportunity to put on another big score had passed-us by.
But then we all enjoyed a marvellous fight back from Freddie and in particular Josh, who between them put on 25 runs for the last three overs – Josh smashing a couple of boundaries and a mighty maximum (hard to believe it’s his first), which just cleared the cover boundary fielder.
Freddie was bowled last ball as he attempted to clear the boundary but the entertaining cameo had dragged the scoreboard back to a more defendable 119-3 from our 20 overs.
Following a brief break, Jack asked Thomas and Dylan to open the bowling attack, the latter wasting no time at all, bagging a wicket with his first ball as Nav took a great catch lunging forward at square leg.
Thomas responded a couple of overs later, bowling the incoming batsman with another of his cracking line and length deliveries.
Cal and Freddie were on first change, and on more than one occasion did the ball just whistle past the outside edge or skim over the bales into Charlie’s gloves without success.
But while Jack kept a tight field, the visitors played really well to maintain their run rate at around the 6-per-over mark, helped in no small part to some uncharacteristic fielding errors and a significant number of bowling extras.
So with the visitors slightly ahead at 76-2 after 12, Jack brought Dan and himself into the attack.
The move proved to be close to a stroke of genius, as Jack bowled brilliantly taking a wicket in his first (Freddie cupping a straightforward catch at cover), then consecutive wickets (bowled) in his second – but the incoming batsman held his nerve on the hat-trick ball as the excitement built to a climax.
Dan couldn’t replicate the thrills at the other end but the batsmen were only able to score one genuine run (with one or two extras in between) off his last three overs as we headed into the final over, by which time our guests needed only three runs to clinch a brilliant victory. Who’d want to bowl this over?
The field tightened and in came Jack: single…dot…single…dot. The tension was right up there as the scores were now tied with two deliveries to come.
The penultimate delivery, however, sent the tension needle deep into the red as a somewhat controversial run-out by Jack had the visitors’ No.9 batsman wandering to the crease with the small matter of having to score some sort of run to take the win off the last ball.
The field tightened again but the new batsman showed no sign of claustrophobia, clipping a lovely shot through mid-wicket to the boundary to take a very well-deserved victory.
Credit should also go to two of the visitors’ batsmen – one of the openers, Angus, who retired and their No.4, Adam, who came ever so close but finished on 28 not out. Both these boys batted with great patience, as WGC closed on 123-6 from their 20 overs.
Boys, we were deservedly beaten by a better team today not because they scored more genuine runs (their 84 versus our 106), but because we gifted them 39 extras – roughly a third of their total runs – compared with the 13 they gave us.
That said, we shouldn’t forget there were some great performances again today: Spencer, Ollie and Josh with the bat and Thomas, Dylan, Jack, Charlie and Will in the field, the latter deserving notable credit for defending the boundary with his life on more than one occasion.
The result was enough to see the boys through to the quarter-finals where they will play Radlett at home on Thursday. (NB not Friday as originally posted)