|Date||10 June 2017|
|Venue||Brentwood Cricket Club|
|Result||W (Brentwood 159, Upminster 132)|
Brentwood IIIs 159, Upminster IIIs 132
Brentwood won by 27 runs
Brentwood’s incredible start to the season continued with victory in a peculiar game on the back pitch.
This fifth successive victory means that Brentwood have already won more games than in the whole of last year. With the country’s politics in turmoil, first-season captain Ryan Pocock could probably stake a credible campaign to be the next Prime Minister (Aaron West is already referring to him as Sir Ryan Pocock).
Any successful knight needs the backing of trusty cohorts, and that is certainly what Sir Ryan is getting from his troops. On a tricky pitch, Brentwood’s cavaliers dug in and battled to a fighting score before cutting through the opposition line-up, sending limbs flying as they swung their broadswords…OK, OK, enough of the metaphors. Anyway, Brentwood bowled and fielded superbly and a rout was only averted by a 50-run 10th-wicket partnership.
Pocock lost the toss (fourth out of five) and was not particularly disappointed to be inserted on a pitch that been used the previous week and was looking a little worn.
George Bull, a centurion in his previous innings, opened with the similarly in-form Roger Mahadeo and immediately discovered a two-pace nature to the wicket. Bull popped up a catch to slip, falling for eight, enabling Nigel Bacon to join Mahadeo in a relatively comfortable, watchful 50-run stand.
Mahadeo was playing some pleasing shots but when he found himself slightly bogged down by a naggingly accurate attack he eventually lost patience, wandering out of his crease and being stumped.
Bacon played in typically bullish manner, punishing anything that allowed him to free his arms, smacking off-spinner Kullar for a big six over midwicket. However, when he had reached 37, he top-edged a Kullar full toss and the square-leg fielder took a good running catch. That made it 80 for three, and from there Brentwood subsided to 130 for nine as the hardness came off the ball and it became increasingly awkward to score.
Sir Ryan (14) played on, Luke Brailey (0) left his second delivery and was bowled, Mick Davis (16) got a leading edge to be caught at mid-off, Paul Degg (4) hit one big four off Kullar before holing out trying a repeat, Luke Wells (1) got a good one from Kullar and was bowled, Dave Balroop (13) hit another Kullar full toss straight to mid-off.
That left No11 Peter Bainbridge joining No10 Grant Smith with 10 overs still available. Smith likes to get on with things but listened to his partner’s counsel and reined himself in to try to see out the full allocation – also because it was 2.40pm and tea was not being delivered by Greggs until 3.30pm.
However, when Kullar dropped one short, Smith was in his rights to punish it. Unfortunately, he top-edged the ball straight up in the air, immediately cursed in a very loud voice, and started to walk off, flinging his helmet to the floor in the process. A sad way to finish the innings – well, it would have been if the fielder had taken the catch. Instead, the ball slipped from his grasp. Watching team-mates alerted the fuming Smith to the drop and he had to turn round and meekly walk back to the crease, picking up his helmet on the way.
Bainbridge was also dropped, this time off an even easier dolly, and when the last pair reached the 48th over on 141 for nine, Bainbridge told Smith he could release the shackles. Smith immediately hit a six and a four off Kullar to bring up the 150 and the score had crept up to 159 when Bainbridge (7) lobbed up a catch that was taken at mid-on in the 49th over, leaving Smith stranded on a very useful 24.
The stand meant there was only a slight wait for the Balroop-organised tea to arrive, the highlight of which was the collection of assorted doughnuts, which is exactly what I imagine King Arthur and his knights would have eaten before putting rival armies to the sword.
In fact, doughnuts are obviously an inspirational foodstuff for Balroop. Opening the bowling, his first delivery was a viciously inswinging yorker that pole-axed opposition captain Paul Middlemiss’s stumps.
Balroop followed up by bowling the other opener with one that kept slightly low, and when Bainbridge induced a wild yahoo from the No3 that was well taken by Smith, it was 10 for three and plain that 159 was a formidable target.
Bainbridge got one to pop off a length that caught the No4’s glove and looped up to gully, where Bacon went down in slow-motion and, with an outstretched arm, held on to the catch – 20 for four after 12.
It looked like a spinner’s wicket, so Brailey was called into the attack early despite predicting he would bowl badly. Against his own expectations, he befuddled the previously guarded Adam Quested in the flight and bowled him. He then repeated the trick with Kullar, who might have been stumped if the ball had not clipped his wickets.
Paul Degg joined the party, removing the potentially obdurate Bobby Mack, caught by Balroop, and then Wells got the No8 to sky one for Smith to claim another steepling catch.
When Smith completed his third catch, the pick of the three, running in at deep mid-off from Degg, Upminster were 82 for nine and drinks had not even been taken to signal the start of the final 17 overs.
However, as the oppressive heat took its toll and victory seemed a foregone conclusion, Brentwood were possibly guilty of taking their foot off the pedal. Upminster’s last pair edged the score along, occasionally popping the ball up to where fielders had just been removed, and, with seven overs to go and 33 runs needed for an unlikely win, nerves began to jangle.
Sir Ryan had swapped his attack around and brought back Balroop. Summoning up the last milligrammes of energy from his glazed doughnut, the Caribbean all-rounder forced the No11 to pop up a catch that was taken, fittingly, by a relieved Sir Ryan.
With second-placed Chelmsford losing, Brentwood are now 44 points clear at the top of the table. And virtually safe from relegation.
Next week, Sir Ryan and his merry men travel to Hutton.
Report by Peter Bainbridge
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