|Date||7 July 2018|
|Venue||Brentwood Cricket Club|
|Result||W (Brentwood 268-7, Harold Wood 147)|
Brentwood 268-7, Harold Wood 147
Brentwood won by 121 runs
WARNING: Report contains strong language, even though Paul Degg was not playing.
As England’s footballers delighted the nation, another exciting, vibrant young team with a messianic leader achieved their goal on Saturday afternoon when Brentwood IIIs bounced back in style from their shock defeat of the previous week.
After batting first, Brentwood set a formidable target based around a 116-run sixth-wicket partnership between Ryan Pocock (76) and Dave Balroop (66no) before dismissing Harold Wood for a paltry 147.
With the nation in It’s Coming Home fervour, the well-intentioned plan had been to start the game early enough to watch the football during an elongated tea break. Unfortunately, Harold Wood could countenance bringing the game forward by only 30 minutes. Combined with an extra drinks break on a sweltering day, and the regular dispatch of balls into the undergrowth beyond the boundary, it meant the players were trooping back just as the roof lifted off the pavilion to mark Harry Maguire’s opening goal in Samara.
Still, it all ended well and those gentle souls walking home from the high street and shouting obscenities (at least “You cricket benders, you should have been supporting England” makes a change from “Howzat!”) as play resumed had no idea that the teams had been cheering England on, too, and had even managed to do it without drinking seven pints of strong lager, fighting with themselves and carrying around their bare-breasted girlfriends on their shoulders.
Earlier in the day, captain Pocock had been happy to win the toss and avoid fielding during the hottest part of the day, although as he ended up batting during most of it, the decision backfired on him to some extent.
It was a much-changed Brentwood line-up and opening duties went to the new partnership of James Berry and Roger Mahadeo. Berry, making his seasonal debut for the club, crashed one savage cut to the boundary before being judged lbw, slightly dubiously, by umpire Ollie Valentini. Berry, being a phlegmatic sort of character, took the disappointment in his stride but spent his ample time on the sidelines plotting revenge on his old chum Valentini, an act which paid off in spades later in the game (details to follow, bad-language alert).
Nigel Bacon’s run of poor form continued with a three-ball duck and when Mahadeo chipped up a catch to square leg, the score was a worrying 34 for three.
Mo Aqeel, a prolific scorer in the lower XIs, brought his ferocious hitting instantly into play, deciding the best way to get Brentwood out of trouble was by smashing the ball as far as he could. He did it, too, and as the field spread, he managed to somehow whip one back-foot drive for six over long-on and hit another maximum over midwicket. He had reached 40 off 16 deliveries when, sadly, he missed with another big swing and was bowled.
Pocock had been the minor player in the 52-run stand but was embarking on a crucial sheet anchor role in the stifling heat. He added 38 in decent time for the fifth wicket with Joe Philpott, who looked in good nick before giving a return catch to Caitlyn Harrison on 16.
That brought Balroop to the wicket. For those of us who have played with him once or twice before, there are few more reassuring sights, although to the uninitiated, doubts about the ability of a third team No7 who walks out with a non-club cap are perhaps understandable. Hence, there were a few muffled guffaws when 15-year-old Louis Barrell asked: “Can Dave bat?”
Can Dave bat? Is the Pope Catholic? Aaaah, the innocence of youth.
The mood in the Harold Wood camp must have been similar to that in the Sweden dressing room later in the day as Balroop and Pocock took the game away from them a la Maguire and Dele Alli. Balroop played a few of those exquisite, inside-out lofted extra-cover drives. Pocock smashed a few heavy bottom-handed mows over the bowler’s head.
Considering his previous highest score for the IIIs was 29 (and as he said himself, that was at Woodford Wells, so doesn't really count), this was a timely knock by Pocock and a century would have been on the cards if not for the fact he could barely run by the end. He was eventually bowled by the returning opening bowler for 76 off 103 deliveries, having hit 13 fours.
Barrell joined Balroop for a close-up view in case he was still in doubt whether Dave can bat. However, he might not have been much impressed with the Caribbean king’s running, as an exhausted Balroop managed to turn possible quick twos into walked ones. Barrell, something of a live wire between the wickets, must have eventually lost patience and was run out for 13.
When the innings closed shortly after, Balroop staggered off unbeaten on 66 from 73 balls.
Six an over was always going to be a big ask for Harold Wood even though the Brentwood attack was without top wicket-taker Degg, banned after an “incident” the previous week at Harlow.
Balroop took the cherry and bowled two off-side wides in his opening over (“it ain't swinging”) before cleaning up an opener in his next with a trademark hooping, inswinging yorker (“that one moved”).
Barrell was bowling tightly from the other end and after the No3 had played a couple of shots that suggested he might be dangerous, he chipped the ball up in the air off his leading edge. Barrell managed to dive and twist at the same time and clung on to a brilliant one-handed catch - the type of manoeuvre that only a 15-year-old off his own bowling can do.
Balroop gave way to Valentini after four overs and it was at this point that Berry revealed his cunning plan for vengeance. Fielding at mid-on, as he passed the ball to Valentini, he asked whether the bowler was aware the non-striker kept calling him a c*** between deliveries. After the next ball, a shocked Valentini challenged the batsman about the insults.
“Why are you calling me a c***?”
A sniggering Berry then revealed his little jape. “I was just trying to fire you up.”
Thankfully, the batsman took the misunderstanding in good heart, although Valentini looked mortified to have accused him.
Anyway, the game went on. The required run rate was shooting up until Peter Bainbridge relieved Barrell and bowled three overs of filth. Thankfully, Nirav Parekh was doing better from the other end, the left-arm spinner throwing the ball high and bamboozling the batsmen. He was rewarded when his straight ’un clipped the top of the No4’s off stump.
Bainbridge by this time had managed to reset his radar and eventually ended up with four wickets, two balled with off-cutters, one caught in the ring and another producing a fine running catch in the deep from Philpott.
The last three wickets fell to the returning Balroop (one) and Valentini (two), all clean bowled, as the innings petered out in the 37th over.
The result leaves Brentwood second in the Premier League, but some way behind Upminster who will need to mess up big time not to take the title away from the Old County Ground.
|Name||Squad number||Position||Runs||Dismissed||Wickets||Overs bowled||Runs conceded|