|Date||19 May 2018|
|Venue||Brentwood Cricket Club|
|Result||W (Brentwood 202, Hornchurch 125)|
Brentwood IIIs 202, Hornchurch IIIs 125
Brentwood win by 77 runs
On a sun-drenched golden afternoon fit for a Royal wedding, Brentwood’s defence of their Premier Division title began in regal fashion.
After the false start the previous week of the miserable, rainswept abandonment at Hainault and Clayhall, this was a welcome return to normality as 25 points were taken against newly-promoted Hornchurch.
The result extended an unbeaten run for Brentwood that stretches back to August 2016 (Chelmsford away), which is so long ago that Prince Harry and Meghan had been dating for just a month, Barack Obama was still US President and, even more more amazingly, Sir Ryan Pocock was a fourth-team unknown.
The margin of victory was comfortable enough but it would have been a different matter if not for the enduring excellence of Nigel Bacon. Bacon arrived at the crease with the score at 21 for one in the ninth over after Brentwood had been invited to bat and George Bull and Arun Gautham had made a cautious start. Both were troubled by opening bowler Freed, and Bull was eventually bowled for four. Gautham was caught behind for 14 off the other opening bowler shortly after, bringing Australian new boy Ash Medell to the crease.
After the playing and missing of the early overs, Bacon suddenly made batting look easy, taking a particular liking to first-change bowler O’Sullivan, who went for 42 from four overs as the pressure suddenly released.
Bacon did have a life when, on 30, he was dropped at cover but that did not stop his flow and the partnership with Medell had reached 58 when the bearded Antipodean left the second ball delivered by off-spinner Green on the basis that his first had not turned. This one nipped back to bowl him for 14.
Luke Brailey and Ryan Pocock did not hang around, both being caught off mishits, perhaps victims of a pitch that was showing signs of being two-paced, but with Bacon in full flow, three times smiting Green over the mid-on boundary for six, the score kept ticking along.
At 126 for five, Paul Degg marched to the wicket and struck a quickfire 17 before being caught at deep mid-off. Luke Wells ran himself out for nought and Harb Pabla missed a full toss to be lbw for one, leaving Brentwood at a not massively healthy 163 for eight in the 39th over - and Bacon still needing two runs for a deserved century.
Having a batsman of the ability of Dave Balroop striding out at No10 is not a luxury afforded many third elevens and if Hornchurch thought the end was nigh, they were mistaken.
Bacon safely reached three figures to vindicate his decision to turn down FA Cup final tickets (if he had known he was going to score a century, he would surely have turned down an invite to the Royal wedding, too) and, though visibly tiring, built a crucial partnership that took the game out of Hornchurch’s reach. Balroop struck a sumptuous six over long off as the score passed 200 before Bacon was bowled for 111 in the 49th over, becoming a fifth victim for Brooks.
The innings ended in the last of the 50 overs and Brentwood, knowing their bowling attack was their trump card, took tea in a satisfied state.
Expectations of early inroads were high as last year’s league leading wicket-taker Balroop opened the attack but it was Peter Bainbridge at the other end who struck first, having left-hander Butler caught behind by Pocock in the fourth over. Hornchurch were struggling to make headway, resorting to chancey aerial shots for any runs, and it was no surprise when Balroop induced another edge for Pocock to take, and then Bainbridge was twice struck straight to Degg at mid-off to leave the score at 19 for four after 10 overs.
That became 19 for five when first-change Degg clean bowled the No5 with his fourth delivery. Degg added a second when totally befuddling the No6 with a slower ball that clipped the stumps several second after the bat had come down.
Hornchurch’s wicketkeeper was proving to be a nuisance in more ways than one. After a constant verbal barrage during the Brentwood innings, he then outstayed his welcome when batting, delaying the inevitable by swiping 28 before top-edging a swirling chance off Wells towards Degg at fly slip. Degg declined to move, preferring to allow Pabla, who had replaced Gautham at second slip a few second earlier, to run back and take a fine catch over his shoulder.
The eighth-wicket pair proved a tad obstinate and Pocock turned to the spin of Pabla and Brailey. However, it was Bull and Degg who combined to break the partnership, Bull diving at point and pushing the ball to Degg, whose throw over the stumps left the batsman well short of his ground.
With Hornchurch showing little appetite for blocking, Brailey eventually gained some reward when Gautham took a good catch from a skied shot to square leg, and Bainbridge returned to wrap up the innings in the 34th over, watching a full toss hit straight to Gautham at midwicket.
So, the season is up and running. Man of the match honours went to Bacon whose 111 was the highest score of the day by the improbable margin of 83 runs. After Brentwood batsmen recorded one century in the whole of last season, Bacon’s ton was the second of this fledgling season, following that of new signing Toqeer Ahmad in the previous week’s wasted effort at Hainault.
Brentwood’s bowling attack again looks formidable. Let us hope availability remains strong and, though a repetition of last season’s all-conquering feats is surely impossible, another campaign at the right end of the division seems most likely.
Report by Peter Bainbridge
|Name||Squad number||Position||Runs||Dismissed||Wickets||Overs bowled||Runs conceded|