|Date||24 June 2017|
|Venue||Brentwood Cricket Club|
|Result||W (Buckhurst Hill IIIs 144, Brentwood IIIs 145-5)|
Buckhurst Hill IIIs 144, Brentwood IIIs 145-5
Brentwood won by five wickets
Brentwood made it seven wins from seven with an ultimately comfortable victory at the OCG but the 20 points did not come without a few uncomfortable moments, most before the game had started.
There are several Twitter accounts purporting to be from lowly club cricket captains who post barbed comments such as: ‘This is how bad work is at the moment. I’m looking forward to a 110-mile round trip to a ground with shared changing facilities.”
Or “If I wanted to play with 10 players I’d have said so at selection. But now stuck with injured 1s bowler who’ll leave at 5pm for a wedding.”
Or “’Marital problems’ no reason for pulling out on a Friday night. On the contrary - it’s the main reason I play cricket every weekend.”
Well, Brentwood captain Ryan Pocock might well have been entitled to post a few frustrated tweets of his own as his carefully crafted team selection was chipped away at during the week.
Two players were called up to the second team, one on the morning of the game, and a third revealed he had to leave at 5pm to “watch a mate in a charity boxing event”.
Thus, out of semi-retirement came the legendary Chris Boon, with the proviso that he might be late and would probably have to look after young son Stan while he played. And James Bainbridge, who had failed to make himself available earlier in the week because he had misplaced his phone, was initially on standby to be a fielder from 5pm, but then 30 minutes before the start was informed he was needed to play the whole game.
So, it was not entirely the smoothest of run-ups to the start of a match for the runaway league leaders.
Nor did the game begin in ideal fashion as Buckhurst Hill raced to 40 for none from six overs. Both openers were intent on all-out attack, particularly so Adhiraj Gandotra who smacked Peter Bainbridge over the deep midwicket boundary and then twice blasted Dave Balroop back over his head. What has happened to respect these days?
With the late-arriving Boon eventually giving Brentwood their full complement of fielders, Balroop gained his revenge when Gandotra launched another exocet but failed to gain sufficient altitude and the drive flew at head height to Harry Hobson at mid-off who held the catch in front of his face before carried backwards for a few steps by the momentum of the ball.
The new batsman lasted three deliveries before inside-edging a Balroop inswinger into his stumps. When Bainbridge induced an edge from captain Shaid Mohammed in the next over, Buckhurst Hill had lost three wickets in the space of six balls and the complexion of the match was changed for good.
Bainbridge gained a fortuitous wicket when a full toss was inside edged onto the batsman’s stumps, and then Harb Pabla began a tight nine-over spell that strangled the run rate from one end, while Luke Wells pounded in from the other, relishing the bounciness of the pitch and soon having the batsmen hopping around.
Balroop took a smart catch at second slip to give Wells his first wicket, and Nigel Bacon defied his years and the doubts of team-mates by sprinting backwards from point to hold onto a tricky catch off Pabla.
Buckhurst Hill No5 Chris Pelham was showing admirable obduracy, especially so as on the bounciest track of the summer so far, and with Wells regularly digging the ball in, he was wearing spectacles and a cap – reminiscent of David Steele defying the Aussies and Windies pacemen in the Seventies.
Pelham hooked a Wells bouncer off his nose for four but failed to deal with the follow-up yorker and had his stumps rearranged, departing for a gutsy 31.
The lower order looked unconvincing and it seemed just a matter of time before Brentwood mopped up the tail. Somehow, No8 Mohammad Ali hung around, much to the purists’ disgust as he was wearing a combat-type cap favoured by five-year-olds and Action Man dolls.
After wafting his way to 26, he played around a Boon delivery and was bowled. Wells then picked up the final two wickets, the last with a slower ball that the batsman initially tried to duck under before it hit the base of his stumps.
On a fast and true wicket with a lightning outfield, the total looked at least 100 runs light, so it was a contented Brentwood who returned to the pavilion – their contentment increasing even more so when it transpired half the Buckhurst Hill team were observing Ramadan and thus leaving their tea entitlement for others to enjoy.
Brentwood’s innings started with the traditional Hobson fireworks. Twice in the first over he tried to pull opening bowler Maan and top edged for four over the slips. The fun did not last long, though, and the final ball of the first over rapped his pads and he was given out lbw – 10 for 1.
Wells, promoted in the order to allow for an early getaway to the boxing, suffered an early knockout and edged behind – 15 for two.
Roger Mahadeo had done well in taking most of the strike from the dangerous Maan but failed to survive another lbw appeal – 41 for three.
When Pocock, watched by a dozen family members, was bowled for a duck, illiciting cries of ‘Ooh, no, what a shame’ from his supporters, Brentwood were 47 for four and far from home and hosed.
Thankfully, Nigel Bacon was clearly in form and as Maan tired, and the change bowlers looked ineffective, he and Luke Brailey put Brentwood back in command.
Both regularly found the boundary and Bacon brought up his 50 with a six over long-on. Brailey was in a positive frame of mind and drove attractively through the covers. As the scoring rate rocketed along, Pocock felt able to relax and quaff from a bottle of Prosecco brought along by his fans.
Bacon smacked a second six to reach 75 and was weighing up his chances of making three figures with only 28 runs needed for victory. His hopes were ended when he charged down the pitch seeking another big bit and was stumped, to end a match-clinching 70-run stand.
Balroop had time to play one of his crowd-pleasing trademark lofted extra-cover drives before hitting the winning boundary with a beautifully-timed cut, finishing unbeaten on 16, with Brailey on an excellent 32. The win had come in the 25th over, suggesting a target of 250-plus would have been needed to make a game of it.
The victory means Brentwood remain 44 points clear of Chelmsford, who they play next Saturday in what can only be described as a 40-pointer at Chelmer Park.
Report by Peter Bainbridge
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