Saturday morning, weather set fair again and what turned out to be a pretty successful weekend for the club, with three wins from four games on Saturday, with a win and a loss on Sunday. Having waited until the end of the British Lions game before setting off for the club (just making it in time for the scheduled meet) I was again in the first team this weekend.
The firsts entertained neighbours C&R Hawks in a highly entertaining game, eventually winning by one wicket in the first game played in front of our new electronic scoreboard. Batting first, excellent bowling and fielding from us saw C&R reduced to 33-4 before useful contributions from Lee Evans (27) and Shazhad Malik (38) in support of ex-England man Kabir Ali who top scored with a fine 97 took them to a promising 200-5 with nearly 15 overs remaining. However, a cluster of wickets saw the visitors dismissed for 206 with Shafiq Ahmed (3-16) and Laeq Chishti (4-40) excelling with the ball. Handy contributions from Ishaq Mohammed (30), Mohammed Ishtiaq (33) and Rana Hassan (38) appeared to have us well placed at 109-3 before a middle order collapse – we don’t like doing things easily - saw us in a spot of bother at 137-7.
However, 20 from myself (at a somewhat Boycottian strike rate) and Shafiq Ahmed with 28 along with Rizwan Gulzar who held his nerve and batted impressively to finish 27 not out saw us to victory by the finest margin in what was a great game to be involved in, played hard but in the right spirit throughout – a vital win which lifts us out of the relegation spots halfway through the season.
The second team made the reverse journey to C&R, and dismissed their opposition for 136 with Gary Pope (3-35) and Joe Oakley taking 4-26 on his return to his former club doing most of the damage with the ball for us. Despite the now almost customary middle order collapse, 25 from Paul Szewczyk and 26 not out from Ian Brown was enough to see us record a valuable win which keeps the seconds in touch with the promotion places at the halfway point of the season.
The third team hosted Highcroft and Great Barr, and narrowly failed to make it a clean sweep of wins for the club, being defeated by just one wicket. Batting first, Penkridge were bowled out for 150, despite 28 from Jacob Ratcliffe and 38 from Vickas Maher. Imram Bashir (2-39), Liam Kettle (2-32) and Nadeem Tariq (3-30) made Highcroft work extremely hard for their win, coming as it did with nine wickets down.
Old Wulfs were the visitors for the fourth team, who restricted their opposition to 96-9 thanks to an excellent bowling display. Ian Turnbull (2-13) and Joe Hinder (2-8) provided excellent support to Myles Davis (4-13) with the ball, before openers Thomas Axcell (25) Will Hinder (37) ensured a comfortable six wicket victory, proving that holidaying captain Rob Baker would appear to be surplus to requirements…….
On Sunday, Alrewas were the visitors for the first team fixture and posted 253-5 when batting first with William Parkinson top scoring with 94 not out. The wickets were shared amongst our bowlers with Chris Green, Ben Marson and Ross Parker taking a wicket apiece in support of Joe Hinder (2-34). Only Joe Marson with 33 showed any real resistance in the top order, before Green with what must be a career best 25 not out and Will Hinder with 44 equalled the club record partnership for the tenth wicket as we were dismissed for 192 and a 61 run defeat.
The second team travelled to the attractive ground of Nether Whitacre, and recorded a victory by seven wickets. Fine spells from Sam Beeken (2-22) and Richard Birch (5-32) meant the hosts were dismissed for 201. Youngsters Thomas Axcell (23) and Harry Turnbull (26) got the innings off to a good start, before Richard James (36 not out) and the evergreen Mohammed Shafiq with 84 not out saw us win with some 15 overs to spare.
As mentioned previously, I played in the first team game – which swung from one team to the other throughout the match. Having scored again in possibly the worst pre-match football game you’ll ever see (clearly over the line despite the opposition’s protests!) I thought I kept wicket reasonably well, taking a couple of catches (one of which was a pleasing one handed diving effort) and a good stumping. It was also nice to be able to contribute some useful runs in a situation when they were really needed, although it’s fair to say I wasn’t exactly impressed with myself when I got out with four runs still needed to win.
Still, with plenty of players from the second and fourth teams, as well as a number of spectators up at the club watching the climax to our game, the nerve wracking ending can only have been good for bar takings! Plenty to play for in all of the teams as we start the second half of the season this weekend.