|Date||27 May 2017|
|Opposition||Wanstead & Snaresbrook|
|Venue||Nutter Lane, Wanstead, E11 2JA.|
|Result||W (Wanstead IIIs 134, Brentwood IIIs 191)|
Wanstead IIIs 134, Brentwood IIIs 191
Brentwood won by 57 runs
Brentwood maintained their barely believable start to the season with a third consecutive maximum-points victory, this time at the home of reigning champions Wanstead.
If the first two matches might have been written off by those with a jaundiced eye as hollow victories against opposition of questionable strength, returning from the traditionally unfriendly Nutter Lane with 25 points suddenly ranks Brentwood as serious contenders for honours.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There is a long way to go yet and after the struggles of recent seasons, it was not wholly inappropriate when someone asked whether three wins meant the team were now safe from relegation.
A major hold-up on the M25 did its best to halt the IIIs juggernaut but most had arrived in time to see captain Ryan Pocock lose his third successive toss and again be asked to bat first (will they never learn?).
With the sun beating down on a ground with a fast outfield and small boundaries, it looked like a day for a team to settle in and score 250-plus.
After Janhoi Bean had his poles re-arranged in the second over by the handsomely named Finlay Chesney-Brown, Brentwood made good progress through Richard Walford and Nigel Bacon.
The track was far from straightforward, some balls rearing up and others staying low, but Walford unleashed some fluid drives, his big backlift coming down unerringly straight and crunching the ball straight past the bowlers, while Bacon opted for meaty carves through gulley and the covers.
After the score had reached 40, that man Chesney-Brown trapped Bacon lbw for 24 to prompt the start of a wobble. Haseeb Chaudhri had surprisingly chosen to open the bowling up the Nutter Lane hill and started to show why when, in quick time, he produced a seaming beauty that bowled Jack Payne (7), cleaned up Walford (30) with one that kept low and then trapped Ryan Pocock (7) lbw.
Brentwood were 90 for five from 20 overs and 250-plus was looking a long way off. Mick Davis was still there though, demoted to five after arriving belatedly thanks to the M25 carnage, and continuing his good form after the previous week’s 63.
Watching Davis bat, you would never realise he was returning to cricket this season after a decade-long break. With an impeccable eye for length, he dispatched anything loose to the boundary and nudged the good balls for singles, reducing Chesney-Brown to a swearing wreck by hitting him for three successive fours.
With the scoring rate a healthy five an over, the intention had to be for someone simply to stick with Davis but after Billy Hull (lbw for 14) and Luke Brailey (bowled) had departed to successive deliveries from Chaudhri, the plan was failing.
Irrespective of plans, Paul Degg knows only one way to play and started to fight fire with fire, connecting with some lusty blows. Unfortunately, in the course of running a sharp second, it turned out that Davis’s hamstring was not in as good condition as his eyes and he pulled up lame. A few balls later, he collapsed in a heap in the process of slog-sweeping a six off the left-arm spinner.
With Brailey as a runner, Davis bravely carried on but soon lost an angry Degg for 28 to a miscue off the left-armer (he threw his bat further than the ball travelled) to make it 170 for seven. Luke Wells edged behind and when Davis was last man out, lbw for an excellent 64, Brentwood had finished on 191 from just 35.3 overs.
It was not the position Brentwood had wanted and without the talismanic Dave Balroop in the attack, the smart money would have been on Wanstead.
Despite the early end to the first half, a splendid tea was laid on, suggesting the money Wanstead save on not repairing their sightscreens or showers is ploughed into refreshments – perfect if you are a bowler with a body-hygiene problem.
Degg and Hull opened the Brentwood attack but despite beating the bat, could not force an early breakthrough and Wanstead moved on to 35 in good time.
Hull, running in up the hill, stuck at it though and gained his reward with an lbw and quickly followed up by dismissing the other opener with a caught behind.
Runs were starting to dry up and when Wells replaced Hull and snared two wickets in two balls, one caught behind, the other lbw, Wanstead were 60 for four and Brentwood smelt blood.
Peter Bainbridge had been engaging in a personal Test-style duel with the young No4, each trying to outbore the other during a succession of maidens. Eventually, the No4 cracked and played a loose shot which caught the edge, clattered into Davis’s chest at slip before popping into his grateful hands.
The batsman at the other end had been swinging the bat with gay abandon, which prompted a change in the bowling attack, Payne’s off-spin replacing Wells. The move took two balls to pay off as the batsman wandered down the wicket, missed and was stumped by Pocock.
Bainbridge claimed a second wicket to make it 90 for seven and the end was nigh, although five-wicket Chaudhri showed bowling was not his only skill by hanging around with the equally obdurate Chesney-Brown.
Hull returned to the attack and produced a beauty to knock back Chaudhri’s middle stump and then Luke Brailey had Chesney-Brown caught at slip. The honour of the final wicket went to Brailey when the No10 patted a full toss to Degg at midwicket.
Another superb bowling performance, well captained and backed up by a fielding display which was as good as could be expected from side which contained more invalids than healthy bodies by the end of the game.
Report by Peter Bainbridge
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