In a rain affected game, reduced to 29 overs aside after just under an hour and a quarter off the pitch, the 4s won a thrilling run chase against Hitchin, the current league leaders. Despite the difference in league positions this season, the games between The Park and Hitchin frequently seem to be close and particularly in rain affected games (Hitchin won by 1 run a few years ago in pouring rain).
Starting the game in light rain after skipper Jonathan Cirkel won the toss and put the visitors in, the bowling was opened by Richard Wheeler and Ethan Murrill. Both bowlers generated good pace and Richard generated a fair amount of lift on several deliveries too. The opening batsmen for Hitchin got off to a good start with Stuard Gadsden (who has history of scoring good runs against us) punishing anything slightly short outside off stump and Mark Brooks hitting anything drifting onto leg stump. Richard (6-1-35-1) however made a key break through when Gadsden was trapped LBW with the score on 32.
Drew replaced Ethan (5-1-15-0) for the 11th over and Bella replaced Richard in the 13th but with rain getting heavier Brooks took advantage of some short of a length bowling and rapidly progressed the score to 64 before play was suspended. On the resumption, Drew (6-0-11-0) continued bowling tightly and Bella came back refreshed and with a tighter length Hitchin scored slower but still reached 108 before the dangerous Brooks played on to Bella for a well made 66. With just 8 overs of the shortened allocation of 29 and with plenty of wickets in hand it was obvious that Hitchin would start to try to accelerate.
However, some excellent work by The Park kept the runs under control and managed to keep wickets falling – first with a fine catch by Catherine at mid-off from Ian’s bowling (replacing Bella) and then Alex taking a stumping from Catherine (2-0-27-1)having replaced Drew. This was followed by a fine bit of fielding with Jonathan getting a direct hit to claim a run out from mid-off and Ian (4-0-19-2) getting his second innings bowling Hobson.
The Hitchin innings closed on 154-6 leaving a chase for The Park of just about 5 runs an over.
The reply started on target with Phil powerfully hitting to short balls to the boundary in the first over and Richard one in the 2nd. Although the Hitchin bowlers regained a level of control, Phil continued to punish anything loose. Richard fell to and edge for 10 in the 8th over bringing Richard Wheeler to join his brother. The two of them kept the run chase on target with both players hitting a decent 6 and batting sensible with rotation of strike when possible and the pair took the score to 99 before Richard was bowled in the 19th by the pick of the Hitchin bowlers (S.Warren 5.4-0-15-1).
Jonathan joined Phil (on 51) and they continued the chase needing another 55 from the remaining 10 overs. Jonathan doesn’t often deal in singles and when possible kept the chase on target with several 4s.
Things then took a turn for the worse when Phil when pulled his hamstring. Obviously in pain and struggling to move, the next couple of overs slowed but with the rules allowing for a runner (and in full agreement with Hitchin), Richard returned to act as a runner for Phil. Despite the obvious complexities and normal confusion expected with runners, Jonathan, Phil and Richard worked well and with Jonathan continuing to strike boundaries and the singles still being taken, a nail-biting finish was set up with 8 needed off the last 2 overs and with the first 5 balls only going for 2 the pressure was relieved with JC hitting a 4 on the last ball of the penultimate over.
Phil faced the last over and with an unfortunate leg-side wide on the 3rd ball followed by a single, the Park got home with 2 balls remaining with Phil’s 66* being the back bone of the innings supported by Richard W’s 34 and JC’s 35*
It was an excellent team effort to win but despite the enjoyment gained by beating the league leaders, the more important aspect was the great spirit in which the game was played even when nerves were building. A great advert for the league.