The penultimate weekend of the season, and with a weather forecast that varied between showers, light showers and heavy showers depending on which one you read, we were lucky to get any cricket at all as the season builds towards a climax.
On Saturday, the first team entertained promotion chasing Halesowen, and were on the end of a rather comprehensive defeat. Batting first, we were dismissed for 134 with only Mohammed Ishtiaq (22), Rana Hassan (27), and Andy Jones (34) offering any real resistance in the face of some disciplined bowling from the visitors. Despite a wicket apiece for Ishtiaq and Arslan Shahid, Halesowen comfortably reached their target with nearly 20 overs to spare.
West Bromwich Dartmouth hosted the third team in a game that was abandoned after a heavy downpour. Batting first, we totalled 179-9 in a reduced innings of 35 overs, with Jack Pope (29), Will Hinder (32), Steve Jones (35) and Ross Parker (54) all contributing well with the bat. After Josh Baker and Parker had both taken an early wicket, the hosts were looking well placed for victory at 101-2 before rain forced an early finish.
The fourth team travelled to Rugeley and came away with a winning draw in another rain affected game. Youngsters Thomas Axcell (40) and Harry Turnbull (37) ensured that we posted a reasonable total of 152 all out. Tom Porter, Myles Davis and Rob Baker then took a wicket apiece as Rugeley finished on 113-3.
On to the second team, and our journey to play Bridgnorth…..
After last weekend’s disappointment, we were determined to keep our promotion chances in our own hands which meant picking up a minimum of six points from the game. After a good warm up, including a game of football where the route one style employed by the “whites” cruelly and unjustly defeated the cultured passing game of the “blues” in a game notable for Jon Price keeping goal between the wrong set of goalposts, an opening goal that wouldn’t have been out of place at the Nou Camp, and a cruel late winner (no prizes for guessing my team was the blues…), we were asked to bowl first. Unfortunately, whilst we were getting changed and ready to field, the heavens opened and the start was delayed.
All of this allowed Paul Szewcyzk the opportunity to visit the nearby Sainsbury’s (other supermarkets are available), by taking the short cut across the ground. Setting off in a torrential downpour and a borrowed coat at least a size too small, he reached the gate in the far corner of the ground only to find it locked, which resulted in him having to return to the pavilion and take his car instead (narrowly avoiding a parking ticket). This would have been bad enough, had he not been told by our hosts when he returned that the gate in question was indeed unlocked and open all the time!
The rain delay gave us the opportunity to watch some of the Test Match from Lords as well as the Manchester City v Liverpool Premier League game, before an early – and quite frankly spectacular tea - which we luckily had plenty of time to digest. Once the pitch had dried and we had woken our captain Richard James from his nap, we were able to finally take the field and play some cricket, eventually securing a win by three wickets off the penultimate ball of a game reduced to 23 overs a side due to the rain. Fine opening spells from both Chris Green (1-21) and Joe Oakley (2-17) made early inroads for us, and when Gary Pope (4-32, including two hat trick attempts and a “wicket” off a free hit) reduced Bridgnorth to 77-7 a comfortable victory looked on the cards.
However, a late rally saw Bridgnorth post a testing target of 130 which looked a distance away after we lost a couple of early wickets at the start of their innings. Paul Szewcyzk (28) and Ian Brown (38) then put together a useful partnership, but when Richard James (17) was also dismissed, it was left to Joe Marson to redeem himself - having earlier being the subject of a no ball call for being the third fielder behind square on the legside - to see us to victory with Joe Oakley, leaving our promotion fate solely in our hands ahead of next weekend’s final league fixture.
Thanks must go to Bridgnorth for their hospitality, and their efforts to get the game on when it would perhaps have been easier to have given up and gone home!
A couple of catches for me of varying difficulty – one a decent low diving effort off an inside edge, the other a rather straightforward one off a top edged sweep, before I didn’t bat after being dropped down the order which resulted in a slight (!) strop, and a fine in the somewhat brutal fines meeting after the game! All in all though, a very enjoyable day and game – all eyes now are on next Saturday as we host C&R Hawks in a game which could hopefully see us promoted, which in turn will result in the drinks funded by the fines money tasting all the sweeter!
With no game on Sunday, there was a six a side tournament at the club – won by Tom Porter’s team of himself, Nathan Harris, Michael Hartwell, Josh Baker, Joe Hinder and Ross Parker. We also sent two ladies teams to the softball tournament at Fordhouses, with both sets of Penkridge Panthers performing well on the day.
And finally….congratulations to our President Pete Price and first team scorer Dave Jones who both attended the Staffordshire Cricket OSCAs, also held at Fordhouses. Pete was highly commended in the Lifetime Achievement Award, whilst Dave won the Heartbeat of the Club award and will head to the National Awards at Lords later in the year, both men fully deserving recipients of their awards!