I don’t recall an innings of a match report done by somebody who wasn’t even there to observe it, although it has been a season full of new records. But after arriving at the picturesque Springhill venue, it didn’t take too long to get a grasp of the match situation.
The last time Alex Nunns won a toss, colour television hadn’t been invented. To be precise, it was the first game of the season against Sportsman, way back on the 18th April. I think if the skipper ever decides to appear on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, our advice would be….don’t even bother taking your 50/50 lifeline. However, it has to be said, Alex has had a superb season as Captain. Settling into the role easily, leading us to plenty of memorable victories. But more importantly, keeping the atmosphere fun and light hearted, often sacrificing himself, in order to get everyone into the game. An extremely selfless Captain…..Thanks Alex, from everyone at WHCC.
Now after hearing the 1st innings analysis from various self appointed pundits…..”We were going really well until….” the “until” part being the key word here…… In other words, the Springhill No5 batsman, Safdar Matloob came in and hit a blistering 128, off 48 balls, including 13 sixes. This pretty much tells its own story. The sheep in the neighbouring field would have found an air raid shelter quite useful, as the ball was launched in their direction aplenty. After a good start from Father/Son duo, Sam (2-25) and Dave Stephens (1-24) who opened the bowling together for the first time in a while, and a luckless spell from Dan Armstrong, it was the innings of Safdar which turned the game in Springhill’s favour.
John Nicholls and Dave Clive picked up a wicket each, but it was JP, who must have arrived at the venue feeling very charitable …..delivering a spell of 3 overs 0-69…. Ouch!! The only thing missing here was a Just Giving page. On a small ground with a batsman well set, and seeing the ball so well, it wasn’t easy to contain the situation. Nathan Reeves produced yet another whole hearted effort in the field, which has been the story of his season, high energy and total commitment to saving runs from start to finish. The Chairman, Rick Jarrams, making his 306th appearance for WHCC, almost grabbed a great catch, taking a real stinger to the finger, which soon turned a shade of black and blue. Another big hand must go up for Rick here, stepping in at short notice to ensure we had 11 players for our final game of the season. Springhill concluded their innings at 275-5 off 35 overs.
After tea was taken, Dan Armstrong and Gort began our response. Earlier in the day, Dan had predicted….”I’m going to hit a ton today” He definitely looked in the mood to deliver his promise, getting off the mark with a big 6. The opening partnership reached 54 until Gort was bowled by Arnold for 6, followed by Sam Stephens for 1 to the same bowler. At 56-2, and facing such a big total, Alex started really well, hitting some quality shots, with Dan continuing to plunder runs from the other end. But the key moment came, when Alex was caught at mid off for 24. The skippers dismissal brought Nathan Reeves to the crease, who had earlier told Sam Stephens that he now has three shots. I’d be a bit concerned if this comment got back to those people who formulate the Trade Descriptions Act. Nonetheless, Nath hit a lovely boundary, before being caught for 4.
With the score on 114-4, the run rate climbing, and the clouds looking blacker than Rick’s finger, the Springhill Specialist, Andy Mcklay joined Dan Armstrong for his first knock of the season. Andy, who had already taken a good catch earlier in the day, batted really well, sharing in an entertaining partnership of 75 with Dan. This proved to be exactly the support Dan needed, as he closed in on making good his century prediction. As he reached 95, a nice leg glance for 4 inched Dan to within one run of three figures. But by now, the light meters were coming out, and the rain was falling quite heavily. But to everyone’s relief, a misfield at cover led to a quick single, giving Dan a very well deserved 3rd century of the season, which included 5 sixes and 14 fours. This was a historic moment. The first time anyone has ever hit three hundreds in one season for the club. A brilliant effort again. After finally being bowled for 113, Dan walked off the pitch smiling more than Emma Raducanu. I think he might just have enjoyed his day.
Our innings concluded on 196-5. Well short of the required target, but with Andy Mcklay staying deservedly unbeaten on 11 not out, and Dave Clive, who picked up a nice red inker, to finish off a really good first season for DC. Well batted lads.
The final fines committee of the season was a strange one. Most people took a shine to throwing 20 quid into the pot. Now I know the pandemic has caused most prices to go up, but this was ridiculous. John Nicholls was all smiles, after being told he had picked up his 141st DNB. After a quick calculation, Jonty made everyone aware….”So that is 10 seasons where I haven’t had a bat” We all said farewell to the 2021 season, leaving Gort with the real head scratcher of finding 18 quid change for 90% of yesterdays XI. Best of luck Andy…..HSBC opens at 9am mate.
The final home game of the 2021 season took place in lovely sunny conditions, and it proved to be another great contest with our friends from Lapworth CC. Before we start, a big hand must go to Nicka, and everyone at Rushall for helping us enjoy another great season at Carter Park. Thanks lads, its very much appreciated.
The first landmark moment occured before a ball had even been bowled, as our youngest ever Captain, Dan Dunn, led his team out to field for the first time in his WHCC career. Lapworth started briskly, but the new skipper kept a cool head, making a few early field changes, which proved the catalyst for the first important wicket of the day. Ellis Rose, who was already looking dangerous on 21, hit a skier to Richard Fell who was fielding out in the deep. With everyone aware that if this chance was taken, Fell would join Rick Jarrams in becoming only the second player in the club’s history to take 100 catches. There was plenty of thinking time, but to be honest, like so many of his other 99 catches, it never really looked in doubt. Despite admitting to a few morning nerves, and not wanting “Catch 100” to descend from the sky with snow on the ball, it was still taken with clinical ease for the historic century.
Now as a WHCC bowler, when that red ball goes up in the air, there are certain fielders where you may aswell just trudge back to your mark for the next ball, cursing your luck and muttering a few after the 9 0 clock watershed remarks, unless they ever change the laws of cricket to allow…..caught Green Grass bowled Nicholls/Oliver/Stephens etc as a legal dismissal. But then there have been other fielders like Rich Fell who you just automatically think, yeah he’s got that. And pretty much every single time, you would be proved right. Big hand for all the years of consistency in the most under-rated part of the game.
This memorable first poach proved to be the start of The Elf taking control of the game. The next few wickets fell at regular intervals, with Dave Stephens taking 4-29, including a great yorker to bowl Dickson for 22. Dave said afterwards “He just loves playing Lapworth at Rushall” Not surprising really, when you consider his figures for the last 2 games against them stand at….16 overs 6 mdns 49-10. Well bowled Dave.
Dan Dunn did a good job in rotating his bowlers to keep Lapworth on their toes. Richard Fell, still on a high from his milestone moment, bowled well to despatch Williams for 17. Greg Philpott and Dave Clive picked up one wicket each. We had the annual caught D.Preece bowled J.Preece moment. While John Nicholls had one of those “How did that miss” days. Although Jonty came so close to taking a diving caught and bowled effort, from just the second ball of his spell. Prompting Dave Stephens to go all X-Factor on us, breaking out into a rendition of “There’s a Hole in my Buckets” As all the hilarity died down, we all retired to tea, contemplating a Lapworth total of 174-8.
The Club Pro decided to unleash experienced campaigners, Ian Chuck and David Preece to get us off to a good start. But thanks to a spectacular catch at slip by Tanveer, DP departed for 4. Skipper Dan Dunn, decided to place himself in that key position of No3, and worked hard to get himself in against some decent Lapworth bowling, but was given out lbw for 7. With our score at 53-2, and both Preece and Dunn back in the hutch, the contest was evenly poised.
Andy Carrick walked out to the middle to join Chucky. Now on one of the last occasion’s we saw Andy, it was over at Aldridge’s top pitch against Sportsman. That game was more like an episode of Holby City than a Sunday Friendly. Ambulances and paramedics on the pitch, after a nasty dislocation to the Carrick shoulder. So there was a collective wish amongst the team for Andy to do well. His partnership with Chuck began promisingly. Chuck registered his 24th fifty for WHCC, to move to outright 2nd on the all time list of half century makers, but perished a few balls later for 52. Just 3 runs short of reaching 4,000 runs for the club with just one game remaining in 2021. I think Chucky might just be “available” next Sunday.
Suddenly, from a commanding position of 95-2, Nathan Reeves and Greg Philpott joined Chucky in the pavillion, leaving us wobbling on 108-5. Dave Clive looked in good form, until being caught on the boundary….131-6. This match was fluctuating as much as the current Test series. However, losing a few partners didn’t seem to affect Andy Carrick’s concentration. Andy looked rock solid from the first ball of his innings. Rotating the strike well, and hitting some really nice boundaries, which included a lovely late cut for 4, to take us past 150. Meanwhile, David Preece, decided to show off his multi tasking skills, taking charge of scoring duty, whilst applying for the role of WHCC poet laureate….
“If Andy Carrick stays in. The Elf will win”…..was David’s opinion of the match situation
We now had a storm brewing….it was time for T.Fell (bowler) v R.Fell (batsman). And it proved to be the decisive moment in the game. R.Fell went after T.Fell, hitting four boundaries, there were overthrows too, it all got a bit ragged in the field, as we closed in on the victory target of 175. With Andy Carrick on 48 not out, just 2 more runs were needed to wrap up victory. But sadly, the winning runs were conceded with four byes, robbing Andy of a well deserved maiden 50 for the club. A great comeback game for AC, calm, composed, chanceless. Well batted mate. The unbeaten partnership of 45 with Fell just what the Doctor (or paramedic) ordered, when the game was still in the balance.
Fines Committee was chaired by the man with a 100% win record Dan Dunn, and there were some interesting observations.
Dai Preece expressed his concern about the whereabouts of our Director of Matchday Photography, Lizzie. It seems Lizzie has gone all Eastenders on us, last seen disappearing in the back of a black cab 3 months ago, or in her case, a black Renault Clio. But like most characters, the door has been left open for a comeback. Lizzie’s Key Lime Pie tastes far too nice to be completely written out of the Elf Soap Opera
Now poor old Alex Nunns said to me a while ago, he was disappointed he didn’t win the bails award last season. Well he might just get a second shot at the title. There seemed to be confusion about the selection of a player, who didn’t know he’d been selected, and isn’t even on the Elf Whatsapp group. Now last time i checked, Rushall talisman… Andy Clayton or AC, didn’t look much like Andy Carrick. There were several comments throughout our innings….”Andy Clayton is batting really well today” It confused Dan Armstrong so much, he had to go for another lie down. And if you check Lapworth’s scorebook, Andy Carrick is Andy Caddick according to them. Even I’m puzzled now.
Dave Stephens, happy with a return to the wickets column had a puzzled look on his face, before posing the question. How do we ever lose when we have Josh Butler and Andy Caddick at the club?
Dan Dunn endured that really awkward moment. How much shall i fine my Dad? Sadly, the Club Pro took the standard 2 quid option, after Nicka gave him the stare, then announcing….”Remember who is taking you, and picking you up from the airport next week” Talking about Nicka, our Pringles Champion had a busy afternoon, cutting the football pitch over the far side of the ground. Nicka was still toiling away as the game was about to finish, enabling David Preece to join the contenders for quote of the season…..
“I didn’t realise they made motability scooters that big” (All in good spirit)
Peopleton CC (175 – 4) defeated Walsall Health CC (172 all out) by 6 wickets
Walsall Health made the trip down the M5 to Worcestershire to face Peopleton hoping to get back to winning ways after defeat to Poppyfields the week before. It was to be a day for the records to tumble. There was some doubt as to whether the game would go ahead, but thankfully it did.
For the third week in a row, Walsall Health came out the wrong side of the toss and were put into bat on a wicket that was so green that some Health members wished their lawns were just as green. The two openers Dan Dunn and Dan Armstrong strolled out hoping to set down a marker. However, nobody told the Peopleton opening bowlers who bowled with great accuracy and kept the Elf pair tied down in the crease with the only scoring shot being a boundary. The breakthrough came in just the third over when Dan Armstrong was caught behind off the bowling off Thirlye for 4. Dan had looked composed at the crease, but it was a ball that he had to play and it swung away at the last minute. Unlucky Dan. This made the score 4-1.
The next man in was vice-captain and celebrating his 100th game for the club, Ian Chuck, who was still complaining about people breaking on the motorway, the reason why he was late. Was it the best decision by captain Nunns to ask Chuck to go in so early, considering his state of mind? Only time would tell. Chuck strolled out to the middle to meet an in form Dan Dunn hoping to build a good partnership. They went about their business in a calm and collected way with a mixture of good running and convincing shots that went to the boundary. The two were settling down building a good partnership, when, all of a sudden, on 38 -1, opening bowler Cliff removed Dunn for 24. It was a valiant effort from Dunn, who played with great control and technique. It was just one ball he didn’t manage to pick.
Rob Hewlitt, who was looking to reach a personal milestone of 2000 Elf runs entered the crease, knowing exactly what was needed. After the first ball jitters, Hewlitt calmed himself down and started playing the only way he knew. That was to go after the bowler through his powerful hitting and speed between the wickets. As he edged closer to the 2000 run mark, it was mentioned in the player’s enclosure that it would be great if Rob “reached the milestone with a 6”. Right on cue, Rob strode forward and hit a superb boundary to bring up 2000 runs for the Elf. He was congratulated by the on-field umpire ‘Stato’ himself, Chris Hall, who looked thoroughly delighted at his teammate’s achievement. However, his stay at the crease was ended a few balls later when – at 93-2 – he was bowled by Smith for 19. On his return to the pavilion, Rob was given a standing ovation for a milestone well deserved. Well done Rob.
The departure of Rob saw the introduction of Alex Nunns. This was a bowler’s nightmare; two batsmen, one left-handed and one right-handed batsman, occupying the crease. This was surely going to see constant field changes. The two started batting with intent, hoping to increase the run-rate. Good running between the wickets coupled with controlled boundary hitting propelled the Elf to 123-3. Just as the two were building a good partnership, Chuck (currently on 47) played a shot down to mid-on and followed it with a call of “yes”. As soon as he set off, the Peopleton fielders sensed an opportunity of a run out and quick reactions saw the end of Chuck’s innings when he was closing in on his 50. The frustration was there for all to see. This was followed by Chuck’s comment “Why did I run? There was no run there”.
That left the score at 123-4 off 28 overs. If the Elf were going to post a competitive total, a few more boundaries were needed. The loss of Chuck brought wicketkeeper Andy Gorton to the crease. Gort went about his business with intent, hitting his only two scoring shots for 10 runs. A magnificent 6 followed a controlled shot for 4. Before we knew it, Nunns and Got had moved the Elf onto 142 for 5, with the hope the two would add more to the score. Unfortunately, just as Gort was settling in, he skied one off the bowling of Harrold and the catch taken by Cliff, who had already been successful with ball in hand.
Mark Reynolds came in for only his second game for the Elf at number 7, where he hoped to make a telling contribution to the total score. He batted with a mixture of assurance and flair that moved the score onto 170-7 by which time Nunns had been caught off the bowling of Ash for 18. Reynolds and returning gem G. Philpott steadied the ship with a few lusty blows from both batsmen, before a contentious decision saw the removal of Reynolds after he was bowled by Powell for 17. It looked from the boundary as though it should have been called a no-ball, but the umpires were having none of it and Reynolds had to go.
That left the score on 170-7 and out walked the stalwart that was Dave Stephens. Could he add to the score? However, one ball was needed and DS was on his way back to the pavilion after he tried to go over the top, but didn’t catch it right and was caught off the bowling of Powell for 0. On his way back, DS mentioned to the next man in, JP (who had been hoping to edge nearer to Johnty’s DNB record) “Hardly worth going out for”. JP came in and the first ball he faced almost took off his head. That was the first of two successive no-balls by Smith, but the third ball (first legal ball) did the trick and JP was back in the sheds for a golden duck after he tried to score on the on-side but only succeeded in the finding the fielder (a very similar mode of dismissal as the last time he batted). That was two wickets in two balls. Was Smith going to make it 2 in 2? He sure was. His victim was C. Hall (who was bowled) when he lasted just as long as the two previous batsmen for the same number of runs. The Elf finished on 172 all out. A total that was going to be tough to defend, but one they felt comfortable in doing so.
So it was down to the bowlers to try and keep it tight and make People work for their runs. When asked who was opening the bowling D. Preece snr stated with an air of confidence “D. Stephens with a ‘ph”. That was then followed with “Sorry. That is Dan Anderson”, just as Dan Armstrong was coming in. Opening batsmen Miller and Billington were undeterred and went about knocking off the 172 runs needed for victory. They batted with composure and flair finding the gaps and causing Nunns more difficulty than he had experienced all season. No matter how Stephens and Armstrong bowled, the batsmen had answers for everything. At the end of their spells, Dan Armstrong finished on figures of 0-27 off 5 overs and DS finished with 0-40 off 8 overs. While neither of them took wickets, they could feel unlucky in not making the breakthrough. On another day they could have both picked up a couple of wickets.
However, the one thing that the Elf have is a man who takes wickets in his sleep. Nunns was able to call upon ‘the ice man’ Chris Hall who was aiming to surpass the all time leading wicket taker for the Health, the late Tim Oliver, who took 387 wickets. Hall only six weeks ago was contemplating not playing until April 2022, worked his socks off to get back playing only 7 days earlier. The opening batsmen were clearly in the mindset of getting the game won. C. Hall who was biding his time, struck to remove T. Billington LBW for 29 and in doing so moved onto wicket number 387, level with Tim Oliver. A mixture of relief and elation broke out as all on the park of the Elf persuasion sensed a new milestone nearing. However, there was still work to do.
The all-important wicket was not far in coming. The number 3 batsmen A. Billington came to the crease. After a steady start making 9, Hall had his man and he entered the record books. After his first wicket in April 2002 against Newbold with a bowled in his wickets column, 19 years and 387 wickets later, the mode of dismissal was exactly the same. It read ‘A Billington – bowled Hall’. He later mentioned that he got it the way he wanted to get it. Tremendous effort Chris. You deserve all the accolades you got. However, that was not the end of Hall, as he picked himself up to remove Hamid for 1. There were some that thought a 5-for might have been coming. Unfortunately, that was not to be the case and Hall finished on figures of 3-63 off 8 overs.
The story has it that Chris was introduced to WHCC by fellow player R. Fell, who encouraged him to get back into cricket after he had taken “several years out the game” because as he says now, “I wasn’t enjoying it”. He came on to bowl and as Fell predicted, 4th ball of his first over, S. Pryde was bowled by Hall. It was an inspired decision and thus a future Elf legend was born.
While Hall was doing his bit, the bowlers at the other end were doing their best to keep it tight. First, I Chuck, who had earlier made a well played 47, came on to replace D. Stephens. He bowled a tight line and length and was constantly tempting the batsmen, but in their efforts, very few went to the boundary and most went for ones and twos. Chuck’s control and guile eventually paid off and he got his man. Mason, trying to hit Chuck out of the ground only succeeded in finding the safe hands of G. Philpott and he departed for 7. Philpott, a fielder that every bowler would feel confident of taking every catch that came his way. Chuck finished off with figures of 1-21 off 3 overs. His bowling figures don’t reflect how well he’d bowled. Chuck was replaced by JP, a man who was still on a high from joining the 100 wicket club for the elf only a week earlier. He came in knowing the game was probably up, hoping they would not hit the winning runs off his bowling. His first over went for three runs; also bowling a decent length, but his seventh ball went for 6 and thus ended the game.
Despite the XI on the field succumbing to their third defeat of the season, there were plenty of celebrations for the milestone makers in Rob on his 2000 runs and Ian on his 100 appearances for the Health. But the day and occasion belonged to Chris, who after reluctantly leading the players off, was greeted by a ‘Dai-hug’ minus his Goldfish coat. Superb effort Chris. Hopefully, there are plenty more wickets to come your way.
Another new fixture for the 2021 season, saw Poppy Fields arrive at Rushall for the first time. A very well supported club, with plenty of friends, family and pets in attendance, including a very fleet of foot black labrador who saved a well timed Ian Chuck drive from reaching the long off boundary, much to the amusement of our Matchday photographer Lizzie.
Captain for the day Chuck, won the toss and elected to bat, throwing debutant, Tom Bentley straight into the spotlight, with last weeks Centurion, the Club Pro, Dan Dunn. From ball one, Poppy Fields kept things very tight, bowling a good line and length, making it difficult for our batsmen to establish any momentum. After Dan Dunn departed for 10, Dan Armstrong and Tom Bentley steadily took our score past 50, in the 17th over.
The young leg spinner, Brotherton, bowled extremely well. Tying Dan Armstrong up in more knots than a cub scouts tea party, finally getting his man, caught and bowled for 33. From this point onwards, wickets fell steadily. Tom Bentley (14) Nathan Reeves (4) and the second debutant of the day Abz Hayat (8) were all back in the pavillion with our score on 88-5. But that cunning Saffa, Ian Chuck, had cleverly put himself and Gort down the order, for a counter attack, with the thought of giving everyone a game also in his thoughts. Gorts 23 off 25 balls, moved our team score into three figures, before perishing to a caught and bowled effort from Parks.
With one half of the “Steady the Ship” duo gone, the responsibility rested on Chucks shoulders to carry his bat and marshall the tail through to 40 overs. Dave Stephens hit a handy 21. Josh Butler looked rock solid until being well caught at short cover. But it was the returning Chris Hall, who caused some hilarity amongst the galleries, particularly DS and Gort. Batting at number 11, and confronted with facing the final ball of the 38th over. Chally, not really in any position to be running quick singles, insisted before walking out to bat….”I’ll just block it and Chuck can do the rest” It was a rather curious attempt at a block, with the ball fizzing off Rick Jarrams bat for four. Predictably, it was mentioned in fines. The skipper finished on a well made 37 not out, closing our innings on 172-9. The general consensus being, if Poppy Fields batted as well as they bowled, it was going to be a tight contest.
Well the WHCC brains trust got it spot on. Poppy Fields started their innings strongly, and its fair to say we were always on the back foot. Dave Stephens bowled his usual tidy spell, picking up a 2-for. Chucky had a luckless 4 over opening salvo (which included a first ball that went for 7) as did first change, Dan Armstrong, who cut Hayhurst in half with a jaffa. One of those “how did that miss moments” Back in travelator territory, Chris Hall, not really looking much like Chris Hall, bowled 8 very slow, steady and controlled overs picking up a wicket to move just one behind Tim Oliver’s all time club record, thanks to the ultra safe hands of Dan Dunn.
But to be honest, the “Main Event of the Day” was developing at the other end of the pitch. JP, who began proceedings on 97 wickets for WHCC, moved onto 98, courtesy of Gorts nifty glovework. Although later on in fines comittee, Dai Preece, a man who never minces his words, described the ball as “absolute rubbish” (that’s the parental guidance version) Number 99 soon followed, thanks to Chucky, who really was in no mood to be dropping important catches. So after years of toil and 110% effort, the door was now wide open for a historic moment. As Poppy Fields No6 batsman, Hadley misjudged the JP flight, the ball was in the air. Once again, it was Captain Chuck who sprinted in from the boundary like a man possessed to take a very good catch, giving a true club legend the moment he deserved. He has been called all sorts of names in the scorebook over the years…J.Breeze, J.Priest are the two that spring to mind, but lets be in no doubt, it was J.Preece who became only the 11th member of the 100 wkts club on Sunday 1st August 2021.
After all the on pitch celebrations ended, Poppy Fields closed the game out for a well deserved 4 wicket win. A great bunch of lads, who bowled, batted and fielded just that little bit better than us. But the result was immaterial. After the customary handshakes, a well deserved Guard of Honour was given to JP as he walked off the pitch. The career figures say it all…..
Walsall Health participated in another entertaining game when they travelled away to face Lichfield Nomads at Walsall Cricket Club. For a few of the Health members, it wasn’t the first time they had played there, but it was possibly one of the most entertaining games they had taken part in.
Just like last week, captain Alex Nunns came back from the toss having lost it and Walsall Health was put in the field. It was to be the only call that Nunns got wrong all day. This was all taking place as Health legends appeared from nowhere. Regulars John Nicholls and Rick Jarrams were in the crowd, but another famous face in Health circles made an appearance in one Steve Fell, father of current player, Richard. However, Uncle Tim wasn’t able to make it.
So the Health went out to the field knowing they needed a strong start if they were going to make early inroads in to the Nomad batting card. That job was given to DS and new boy (not so new now) Dave Clive (DC). Dave Stephens was set to bowl the first ball of the game. He charged in with the control and guile of – well, a man in control. The ball whistled past the opener Gardner and was snaffled up by keeper Andy Gorton. There was so much force behind the attempted shot that the bat went further than the ball. However, after that surprising start, things calmed down. Gardner and opening partner and keeper Rolfe buckled down and batted in a fashion that showed they wanted to be there for the long haul. A magnificent opening partnership of 71 had everything; good running, controlled shots, flashes to the boundary and some cagey running between the wickets. No matter what Clive and DS did, the batsmen had an answer for everything. Despite no wickets being taken, both bowlers could hold their heads up high with encouraging figures of 0-15 off 8 overs for DS and 0-19 off 6 overs for DC.
The first change came when Dan Armstrong replaced Dave Clive in the 15th over (for one over). His introduction could have caused a potential problem, if Dan’s first over was anything to go by, the batsmen were going to find it hard to score. However, the breakthrough came from the second change 7 overs after the first (of two) drinks breaks. Andy Ince (replacing D. Armstrong) got the breakthrough when opener Rolfe skied a good length ball straight up in the air where serial fielder of the year winner R. Fell steadied himself (hoping to claim his 100th elf catch) when all of a sudden bowler Ince took it upon himself to call “mine” and took the catch comfortably. After a good start Rolfe and Gardner made, the Health had got the breakthrough. After 21 overs, the score read 71-1. Could the Health build on that success? Like the opening bowlers, Armstrong and Ince looked composed and confident. New batsman Brannigan was hoping to build the same sort of score as the opening pair did. However, this was not to be the case as wicket number two came soon after. Once again, Ince showed his quality with the ball as he removed Brannigan for a 6 ball duck when he bowled him and sent the bails flying. Ince was on a roll. Could he make anymore inroads to the Nomads innings? Unfortunately, the answer was no, but he left his side in a more positive position than when he entered the fray. His final figures were 2-35 off 6 overs. Good spell Andy.
While Andy was taking all the glory from the car park end, it was tougher for Armstrong (who by this time was bowling up the hill), where he huffed and puffed and toiled for 6 overs for 32 runs without any success. However, despite not getting a wicket to his name, he probably felt he deserved partial credit for the fall for the next wicket when David Preece, fielding at point, threw a pinpoint accurate throw to keeper Gorton who whipped off the bails and removed the opener Gardner who had played so well for his 47. It was great fielding all round and Gort’s reactions showed just why he is so reliable behind the stumps (no matter what gloves he is wearing). While the credit went to D. Preece (and probably deserved), it was all down to the build up of pressure by both Armstrong and Ince. Super teamwork.
All those of the Health persuasion felt the tide was turning. From a strong opening 20 overs of patient batting, for the next 6 overs, the score went from 71-1 to 110-3. Still a good score, but the Health had just pulled it back a little. Nunns felt the atmosphere on the pitch change and decided to bring on the other half of the Preece double act – Jonathan Preece – to see if he could add to his 95 wickets he had taken for the Health. Preece, not always the most consistent bowler started off decently with 2 runs off his first 5 balls. However, his 6th ball couldn’t have been more perfect. He came in and bowled, batsman Loxley’s eyes lit up and missed it. The ball crashed into the stumps and JP had his first wicket of the day. Unfortunately, the control that JP showed in that first over went missing for the next 6 overs. Despite being hit for more 4’s (8 in total), Preece picked up his second wicket of the day in the same fashion as his first wicket. JP finished off with figures of 2-58 off 7 overs.
Preece was ‘supported’ at the other end by Health stalwart R.Fell, who for the first time in almost a decade, was performing in front of one of the Health originals and legend that is his father Steve Fell, a man who represented the Elf with great distinction. Rich kept plugging away at the car park end, where the batsmen were intent on going over the top time after time. His first 4 overs went for just over 5 an over. After that his luck began to change. However, not before a 6 cleared the boundary and then the main stand at Walsall. A change of ball obviously did the trick. The very next ball, Turnbull, tried exactly the same shot, but the middle stump went flying. However he wasn’t satisfied with the one wicket. The very next over, he removed Mahmood after he was caught brilliantly by R. Hewlitt for a destructive 64. If Mahmood had stayed there to the end, the game might have been tighter than it ended up being. Well batted, and well bowled Rich for that crucial wicket. Fell finally finished on 3-49 off 7 overs when, with the last ball of the innings, he clean bowled Westwood for 13 who tried to clear the boundary with one big swipe.
After 40 overs, Lichfield Nomads finished with the respectable total of 218-8. A total that was competitive, but by no means unreachable. It was rumoured that Fell sr stated that he witnessed “a bowling master class”, before adding “until the last two came on”. We will have to see what comes of that.
It was Walsall Health’s turn to bat after the tea interval. It was a call that Nunns had to get right if the Elf were to make a decent fight of it if they were to knock all 219 runs off. So he decided to go with two batsmen, who on their day could take the game away from the fielding side; D. Armstrong – with his powerful, no-nonsense hitting, and D. Preece – the grafter. Health needed a good solid start to calm any nerves. It started positively with a boundary off the first over from Armstrong. However, that would be the only scoring shot Armstrong would enjoy as he fell with the score on 5 after he tried to bludgeon the ball to the boundary but only succeeded in finding the hands of Mahmood for 4 off the bowling of Bryars. Not the start the Health needed, or wanted. But one thing that the Health can count on, is their formidable club pro; Dan Dunn. He strolled out to the middle with the knowledge that another quick wicket, and Lichfield Nomads would have their tails up. If Dan felt the pressure, he didn’t show it. The second ball he faced was dispatched to the boundary for 4 and Dan was off the mark. While both Dan and Dave Preece were going about their business of knocking the runs off, a fascinating conversation was brewing in the stands where both players and fans were seated. The conversation was to decipher who actually hit the shots. Both batsmen looked a similar build and they both wore blue helmets. It was decided the batsmen could be identified by their bats. While one observer stated David had a lighter shade of blue helmet, another mentioned “At least it’s not Tom or Greg”, at which the family enclosure erupted into hysterics. This was not to be the only time they were to break out into fits of laughter. Shortly after, bowling machine Richard Fell, fresh after the departure of his family, came to the conclusion that if he was to have another child, they would be called Tripton! (Unorthodox, but it’s got a good ring to it.) How scorer Andy Gorton managed to keep concentration while all this was going on was exemplary.
D. Preece and Dunn were motoring along nicely. After every ball, the confidence was growing. They played sensibly, with flashes of brilliance. It was one of the few things that Dai Preece managed to see with clarity, even if he couldn’t tell who was who. An example of the flashes of brilliance was when on 75, Dan Dunn hit a magnificent 6 over mid-on and towards the Health followers. If it hadn’t been for one Mrs S. Preece, some might have been nursing cracked bones in the aftermath. Her quick reactions enabled her to catch the ball and return it to the field of play. The first major milestone came when firstly Dan Dunn reached his 50, shortly followed by former captain Preece to record his fifty. The next milestone came in the 19th over where they got their 100 run partnership. It was neck and neck as to who would blink first. It was then that mumblings of records being broken. There were still over 20 overs to go, but neither of them looked like getting out. No sooner had that been mentioned, David Preece skied one and the on rushing keeper Rolfe called it, but was unable to steady himself and take the catch. Thankfully, for the Health perspective, David took full advantage of his second opportunity. Both batsmen grew increasingly confident as their scores progressed and it wasn’t long before Dan reached his maiden century after hitting a sumptuous 4. Could they bat to the end? The next major milestone was reaching the 200 run partnership with 10 overs to go. There was hope both could go all the way.
While most were reasonably confident of victory, there were some who still thought of a potential ‘England-style collapse’ even with 19 runs to get and 9 wickets left. One remark from Gort was “If we lose from here, I’m never playing cricket again”. Just as he finished that, Preece was caught behind off the bowling of Westwood for a well deserved 71, but he was to be outshone by Dunn. In to replace D. Preece at number 4 (a promotion up the order) was another former captain R. Hewlitt. He entered the crease possibly hoping to be there at the end of the innings. Unfortunately, his time at the crease didn’t last long, but still came away with one more run to the total. He was bowled unluckily by Westwood, where it hit Rob’s bat, trickled down and spun back onto his stumps. After his recent performances, he would have felt confident of batting to the end, but unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. Really unlucky Rob.
That left the score at 212 for 3 and in walked Alex Nunns to finish the job off. Only 6 more were needed and D. Dunn was still at the crease. After scoring his century, could the ‘club pro’ hold out to the end? However, it turned out to be one shot too many for Dunn who succumbed to Hughes for a magnificent 108. It was a tremendous knock and he received a well deserved standing ovation from all who watched. Not only did he reach his maiden Elf century, but he also contributed to an outstanding second wicket partnership of 206. Super knock Dan. It was left for the captain Nunns and opening bowler Dave Clive to knock off the runs and pull off an exceptional win. Although the final two only contributed 8 runs (with DC getting all 8), both men were invaluable. Dave’s tidy bowling at the very start of the game set the foundations for the Nomad’s innings and Alex’s all round performance as captain making tricky calls and a quiet encouraging word for anyone he felt needed words of wisdom – or should that be Wisden.
After the dust had settled, after the celebrations had died down, the overall assessment of the game was that it was played in the right spirit and win, lose or draw, everyone had a great day out.
This week saw the elf’s faithful make a long journey to Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, to play Bayshill. This fixture was originally mean to be the resurrection of the club tour but a certain virus has put a spanner in most people’s plans. Anyhow, The elf made the 100 mile round trip to play a game in what many can only describe as one of the most picturesque grounds we have ever had the privilege to play at. With a view of the Cotswold hills and a castle, this ground had it all, and the game was not a disappointment.
After a 10 man elf side turned up to ground, and cars were parked in the designated spots, Alex Nunns and the opposition captain, walked out to toss the coin. On a baking hot day where shade was sparse and fiercely contested over, Alex Nunns walked back looking dejected after losing the toss, the elf were bowling! Dave Stephens and Dave Clive opened up. It all looked so promising in the first over when Dave Stephens bowled a beautiful delivery which the opener Pritchard fended off and the ball looped to short cover, where Chuck made a desperate dive, the ball went in, then bounced out and Chuck earned a lovely graze on his elbow and a few jibes from self-proclaimed slip catching expert, D. Armstrong. Meanwhile, Dave Clive bowled from the other end but struggled to find his rhythm. After 4 overs, the elf had their first breakthrough when Horner was bowled by Stephens. The next wicket fell shortly afterwards when after a few excellent deliveries, DS claimed the second wicket of the day when Van Dyke skied a ball to the ever-safe hands of Alex Nunns who took the catch at mid-off. Bayshill seemed to build scoring a few lusty blows from both Pritchard and Pierce, against the elf taking them past the first drinks break at 10 overs on 40-2. After drinks, Dave Clive was asked to have a blow and on came Dan Armstrong. Meanwhile at the other end DS continued to whittle away and was awarded with his third of the day when Pritchard hit another ball straight in the air down Alex Nunns throat again. With 3 wickets DS had his tail up and after a six and four, he was soon rewarded with the 4th wicket as Liley was bowled by DS. The host on 56-4. Meanwhile Armstrong continued his excellent line and was rewarded trapping the dangerous looking Pierce for LBW for a well batted 34. With DS having bowled his full quota of overs it was time for the spin twins of Josh Butler and JP to have a go. All the flight and guile proved to be ineffective against S. Liley and S. Price who batted watchfully and put away bad balls. The score proceeded nicely past 100. Eventually Josh was rewarded when S Liley hit a blow to Chuck at mid-wicket who snaffled it gratefully with the hosts on 109-6 after 26 overs. With less than 10 overs remaining Bayshill sent out Young Harding who tried to reverse sweep Butler first ball and was met with howls of laughter from around the ground, pride damaged but wicket still intact, Harding then proceeded to support Price adding a few lovely, technically correct shots that saw him quickly arrive at 22. With a few overs remaining and the spinners all bowled out, the ball was tossed to Chuck, who in uncommon fashion decided to bowl seam. His first few overs were unsuccessful in finding any breakthrough. Dave Clive was brought back on and was able to claim the young Harding for 22. The final over of Chucks went for 10 after a couple of hits to the boundary and the hosts trudged off the pitch with the score on 158 after 35 overs, with Chuck vowing never again to bowl seam again in a match.
Tea was a quiet affair with a delightful view. Please see pictures attached.
After a few refreshments the Elf made their way out to the middle with the 2 Dans trying to chase the score down. Armstrong set about his usually aggressive stance and quickly found himself on 38 before he hot one to many in the air down Deep mid wickets throat and a catch well held saw the elf lose their first man for 63. During this time the wise heads of Bayshill rotated the bowlers trying to find the breakthrough but had no reward. As the old saying goes, one brings two and soon Dan Dunn found himself back in the hutch for 16 after being bowled by Harding. Rob Hewlitt and Alex Nunns then carried on accumulating the runs, with some excellent running between the wickets (who would expect anything else with Rob at the crease) and the heaths score found itself on a healthy 145. Next calamity struck with only 13 runs needed Nunns departed after being bowled the usual Jaffa, a ball that moved both ways and clipped the bails. It mist be noted that during the run chase the Elf were well informed of various sporting events with the Formula one, Golf and Cricket commentaries being broadcast on multiple devices, thank you to the wonderful technological era! With promises of the bar being opened at 5pm, Armstrong was loitering like a teenage youth outside a convenience store, waiting for the chance to quench his thirst and hangover from the night before. Bayshill had one more trick up their sleeve, when Gorton in uncharacteristic style walked past the ball to be stumped for a duck…his excuse “I wanted a reason to get the duck trophy this year” (not everyone was convinced by this). Chuck walked out to the middle and proceeded to hit the next 2 balls for 4. 8 off 2 what has happened to the Chuck from Alrewas?? (A reminder it was 28 from 82 balls!!). With the last over Rob Hewlitt struck the final boundary and the game was over.
Naturally The elf stayed for fines and many a good laugh was had with our opposition. A big hand to Chally for finding an absolute peach of a ground and a great bunch of guys to play against.
Next week sees the Elf playing away against Lichfield Nomads. Keep your eyes open for the next exciting match report.
Today saw the Elf host visitors Trent Valley at Carter Park. A huge hand to our opponents for wanting to get the game on in what can only be described as a scorcher. On Friday, with there being no fixture, a massive hand to Chris Hall who slaved away tirelessly to get a fixture. Both teams had 10 men each, with the elf lending a player to our visitors, David Preece was chosen to play for our opponents. After Alex strolled out to the middle and lost the toss, the only person who seemed slightly happy was Chucky, who was relishing the opportunity to try on the gloves for the first time… I think we can all guess where this is going.
M James and Dave Preece (Ex-health captain and 3 times batsmen of the year award) opened up for Trent Valley. The Elf opted for a star man with the ball and a man whom it can safely be said we were all pleased to see return to the field, welcome back Dave Stephens! Meanwhile at the other end A Dunn opened up bowling a maiden in true Nicka form. The pair continued to toil away for no reward for a few overs. It must be said at this point Chuck had already let 12 byes past him and had broken Gorts new gloves after only one full games use…this could become a costly fines for Chuck. James and Preece continued to dispatch balls away to the boundary and after 10 overs the score was nicely poised at 43-0. Both Stephens and Dunn bowled out with figures respectively (8-2-38-0) and (8-2-23-0). With the visitors set on 77-0 after 16 it was time for the Elf’s first bowling changes, step up Club Pro and the first son of the day, Dan Dunn. From his favourite end, he came up the travellator to release a barrage of furious bowling which was rewarded with 9 runs for the opposition in his first over. From the other end the second son of the day Sam Stephens came on to bowl and bowled with some pace and aggression that has not been seen for a week since Armstrong’s excellent spell against Lichfield Nomads. The second over from Dan Dunn saw the first wicket of the day, with the ball bending like a banana and seaming equally as far, it was by either luck or no luck that Dan had yet to claim his first wicket. Dann bowled the ball and James who had been batting well, skied the ball into the hands of Armstrong. In came Wooba, who looked solid, but against the pace of Stephens eventually fell for 8. In came B Sherriff who looked tidy but snicked off to a ball from Stephens and Chuck who behind the wickets had already conceded a fair few runs in byes held the chance. Meanwhile David Preece at the other end who survived an early edge to slip, continued to pile on the runs quickly approaching his 30. After about 20 overs, Nunns made the decision to bring on Jonny Preece to hopefully break the deadlock and claim the precious scalp of his brother. JP bowled his 8 overs with excellent control and some fantastic spinning deliveries but was unable to claim the all important wicket of his brother. Dave Preece on the other hand was proving masterful at finding the gaps, sneaking singles and dispatching balls to the boundary the score quickly progressed to well into the 70’s. At the other end Ash was also useful at rotating the strike and running well between the wickets. The opponents score was progressing higher and higher into the hundreds and approaching the double hundred. After a beautiful cover drive brought up his 100, David Preece took the honourable decision to retire and allow some of the other players the chance to bat. A massive hand to David, word cannot do justice to how well David played, offering very few chances and looking in supreme form. Hansh came into the crease and hit a few lusty blows to the boundary. With Stephens finishing his spell, Alex threw the ball to all-rounder Dan Armstrong who bowled with some pace and accuracy to remove Hansh for 12 runs. Next in came Beck who hit a nice boundary before he hit the ball into the air to the safe hands of Dan Dunn ‘Club Pro’ on the boundary. Nando was the next batsmen in who sadly fell to a good delivery off Armstrong for 0. The final batsmen who made it out the crease was B Sherriff who scored some excellent runs and supporting Ash was able to take the visitors to a very good total 234-6. On a good Rushall wicket with a fielder light, the elf went into tea feeling optimistic.
After a hearty lunch, it was the Elf’s turn to bat, Armstrong and Chuck opened up. After 2 overs Armstrong fell to a full delivery as he stepped across all 3 stumps only to hear the dreaded thump and A Dunn found no reason not to give him. Armstrong departed and in came Nunns. Chuck and Nunns set about scoring runs from some hostile fast bowling from young B Sherriff who bowled with good pace and set up a few traps for the batsmen, who were lucky not to fall into them. While at the other end Timmis bowled a handy line and length to the batsmen depriving them of any easy scoring opportunities. At 10 overs young Sherriff was taken off and can feel hard done not to have a wicket to his name. Spinner Beck replaced Sherriff and bowled a tight line to both Chuck and Nunns and continued to apply the pressure to both batsmen. Timmis was replaced by Nando who bowled stump to stump giving away even fewer scoring chances. After 14 overs the score progressed to a handy 68 -1.
Then disaster struck, Chuck who looked set on 37, struck a ball straight down mid-on’s throat who took an excellent catch on his shoulder. For the next 4 overs wickets fell every over. First Rob Hewlitt who played a Kane Williamson esque shot, played late, a touch too late and the ball tickled the stump and removed the bail for the first duck of the innings. Next to fall was Nathan Reeves who tried ‘the shot’ off Nando’s tight bowling to only be rewarded to hear the stump clunk, Nathan dismissed for 0 and the second duck of the innings. Next to fall was Alex Nunns for a well-played 31, he tried a big shot for the ball to go higher than the Eiffel tower and to fall into the hands of mid on who had made a superb catch low down to dismiss Alex. After that was Dan Dunn, similar to Rob’s dismissal, played the ball so late that he was similarly rewarded to see the bails removed for 0, the third duck of the game.
At the crease now were the father son batting pairing of Sam and Dave Stephens. Some big hits from Sam and Dave saw the elf total creep up beyond 100. Sam tried to continue his tactic of smashing the ball further and further out of the ground but was sadly dismissed after being caught at long off for a very well played 30. Dave Stephens was shortly dismissed after for 12. With the opposition circling like sharks around a wounded seal, Step up JP! JP played a few magnificent shots, including a drive that would have had certain members talking about this shot for years to come, and was rewarded with a few boundaries. Alan Dunn scored 1 more run than his son, making him outscore his son 2 days in a row…this could be a long week for young Dan Dunn. JP was finally dismissed by Hansh for 9, with no sign of Paddy Merrick in sight, the handshakes were all given and the game was over.
Once again, a huge hand to Dave Preece for his batting performance and general spirit on and off the pitch.
Some facts and figures for our readers.
This hundred is the 5th Hundred for Mr D Preece (whether this classes as Elf runs is a debate for another time). He has scored 2000 runs and is only the second person to achieve this feat with an average of over 40. A true reflection of a class cricketer.
3 Ducks on this game mean that our Duck trophy is suddenly up for grabs to few more contenders…who will be the (un)lucky person to achieve this highly sought trophy???
Tune in for next time! The Elf make their way up to a new fixture, Draycott and Handbury. A game I am sure will be another exciting game…if the weather holds out.
The Nomads arrived at Carter Park for our 30th fixture, 19 years since our first meeting back in 2003. So with cloud cover and humid conditions, it was a good toss for our friends and rivals to win. Nomads skipper, Dave Rolfe had no hesitation in opting to take the new ball. The first hour of this game was to prove very important to the final outcome.
The Nomads opening bowlers, Bryars and Mahmood bowled well, giving Chucky and Dan Armstrong some tricky moments to negotiate. Bryars getting one to cut back, trapping Chuck for a huge lbw shout. But after long consideration from umpire Hall, the finger of doom stayed down. Chucky then smashed a customary square cut, straight to Nomads legend Paul Fearon. But the ball didn’t quite stick. It was a big moment, as this was the last mistake from Chuck for quite a while.
After 16 overs of building a solid platform, Dan Armstrong departed…lbw for a good 40, leaving the stage clear for Dan Dunn to enter proceedings. This proved to be the match winning partnership. There was plenty of analysis from the sidelines, “Best I’ve seen him bat” felt like the majority verdict. One DD shot in particular stands out, a late cut for 4, angling the bat, using all the pace off the ball. Dan played with real confidence from ball one, and I think its fair to say we all enjoyed this lovely knock from the Club Pro.
Chucky was also picking up the pace, maybe sensing an opportunity for another 3 figure score. Sadly, Chuck and Dan’s entertaining partnership of 152 came to an end when Dan skied one for 68. His new highest score for the club. Followed by Chuck, who perished for 96, so close to a 9th career ton. However, this was another classic I.Chuck performance. Grafting through the early overs, before cashing in as the bowlers began to tire. Well batted…. Our innings concluded with Rob Hewlitt 7* and skipper, Alex Nunns 10* smashing a few boundaries to keep up the momentum. Both men finishing unbeaten despite severe cases of pad rash. It was a tale of two halves, after 25 overs we had 107 runs on the scoreboard. However, the last 15 overs saw a further 133 added to the tally. A brilliant effort, once again, from our top order. 240-3
Chasing 200 plus runs down in 40 overs is never easy. So that difficulty factor cranked up even more so, when a pumped up Dan Armstrong took the new ball, focused and motivated to do some damage. This was one of the best opening spells since the Sam Stephens at Hewell CC days. There are times when words aren’t necessary. So instead, take a look at these figures….6 overs 5 maidens 2-2. Dan was pretty much unplayable. Clean bowling Nomads legend, Pete Gardner for 3, and winning the key battle of the game with Barker. Obliterating his defences for 12. It was a case of job done for Dan. Well bowled mate.
When any opening bowler produces a spell like Dan’s, its just a case of keeping it tight for the rest of the game. Our fielding was really good again. Here’s a question for you? Does Nathan Reeves ever have a bad game in the field? Once again, the Mini Doc was full of energy, and stopped anything that came his way. Dan Dunn and Greg Philpott, both took tricky skiers. While the skipper, Alex Nunns, has this supernatural ability to position his fielders in exactly the right places at exactly the right times. Richard Fell looked like he enjoyed his return to the role of wicket keeper, reminding us all of his excellent glovework skills. JP picked up the 2 wkts he was aiming for on the day. The second one, courtesy of an absolute blinder of a one handed diving catch from Alex, to win us the game, prompting a mass pile on, orchestrated by Greg and Dan Armstrong. This victory was our 6th consecutive win, and a new club record for the best start to a season. So a big hand to Skipper Alex, and all the players who have been involved in this exceptional early season form.
But the final word has to go to John Nicholls. Starting the day, with a career tally of 397 maidens for WHCC, I’ll give you one guess what his figures were……3 overs 3 maidens 2 wkts. Which included a Jonty Jaffa with his first ball. (No La La’s this time) Now there have been some seriously good bowlers at the club during the past 35 years, but none of them have managed to amass a total of 400 maidens. An outstanding achievement from Jonty. Our original line and length bowler. Well done John.
After the game, we finally managed to hold the PU, we were unable to have last year. It was a light hearted get together, with the usual “stitch ups” of a few players, and a special guest appearance from England centurion Rory Burns. The awards were presented to the following….
Fav Match Report……Alrewas
Fielder of the Year…..Alex Nunns
Batsman….Dan Armstrong (2nd consecutive year)
Clubman……Nathan Martin & Chris Hall
Duck Trophy….Andy Gorton (plumb)
The Grand Finale of the evening was the eagerly awaited “Pringles Challenge”…..Alex, (with Rachel entering the contest just because she felt a bit peckish) Chucky, Dan Dunn, Nicka, Josh, Gort and Chally, all gathered to find out who would be the quickest to eat a full size tube of mass calories.
Nathan Martin was our independent adjudicator, immediately stamping down on a “Village” error from Josh Butler, who brought the incorrect quantity size, incurring a 20 second penalty. This was serious business, so after plenty of trash talking, the contest began. Our Senior Club Pro Nicka, boldly selected Salt and Vinegar flavour to go to war with. Now this raised a few eyebrows. Too much salt will cost him dearly in the closing stages was the general assumption by some self appointed experts. But what a bunch of mugs they all were, as Nicka demolished his tube. Taking care of business in a staggering 9 mins 8 secs, to become our first (and probably the last, judging by the tortured expressions on a few of the contestants faces) Pringles Champion. Nicka even found time to stare down a visibly broken Chuck, during the final few victory munches. A truly devastated Ian Chuck had been soundly defeated, but vowed to be back to take the great man down, but I don’t fancy his chances too much. Dave Stephens also dropped a subtle hint that he may fancy a shot at the title. Maybe this story has a few more miles in it yet?
See you all at Rushall on Sunday.
PS….have a scroll back up to the title photo….Wasn’t it a nice gesture from The Mitchell Brothers (Centre pic) to make the long trek up from Walford, just to see who won the Duck Trophy.
Walsall Health CC (139-9) def. Alrewas CC (135 all out) by 1 wicket.
After an enforced two-week break thanks to the British weather, Walsall Health returned to the field in a match that meant more than most fixtures to certain members of the Health. It was the first fixture between the two sides since the passing the late Andie Oliver (who was highly respected by both sets of players). They were also trying to keep their unbeaten start to the season going after winning 4 from 4. The weather was superb, as was the atmosphere and that was before the game even began. Plenty of Health representatives turned up (without kit), which showed the number of people whose lives’ Andie touched and wanted to pay their respects. It was mentioned by certain members of the Health that it was the largest crowd they had ever played in front of.
Before the game, both captains came to a gentlemen’s agreement that Alrewas would bat first. Due to the numbers present, the elf were in a fortunate position to have rolling subs (with 14 players available), all of who made a contribution to the team effort.
So the first Elf XI, was lead out by captain for the day and club stalwart Richard Fell, who was intent on making the day one to remember. The opening bowlers were none other than true legends with a combined 657 wickets between them – Chris Hall and John (Johnty) Nicholls. This was to be J. Nicholls’ first game of the season, but he looked as though he’d never been away. The class and control was there for all to see. Hall’s first 4 overs went for a total of 2 runs (including 3 maidens), the start that any side would dream of and this great start was backed up at the other end by Nicholls who in his first four overs went for 12, but crucially got the breakthrough in the 8th over, trapping opener M. Burns LBW for 6. The Elf were on the board.
The 10th over saw the first set of rolling subs, which saw the introduction of Jonathan Preece, Andy Gorton (who was later to show his abilities in the field) and Rob Humphries. One player who stayed on the pitch was the golden oldie, Nicholls, who quickly picked up his and the Health’s second wicket bowling Moss with his deadly ‘la la’ ball in which the batsman did not read and the ball clattered into the stumps. This threat by the opening bowlers was supported flawlessly by another Health legend; with 210 wickets, 4,415 runs and 125 catches behind the stumps, the one and only ‘Doc’ – Gary Reeves. Once again, a player who hadn’t donned the gloves since the last game of last season (against Alrewas) made it look ever so easy, as though he too had never been away. While Johnty finished with figures 2-35 off his 8 overs, C. Hall finished off his spell, bowling superbly without reaping the rewards that he duely deserved finishing with figures of 8 overs, 3 maidens, 0-11.
The first bowling change saw J. Preece (affectionately known as ‘The King of Spain’) replace Nicholls in the 15th over. His first over brought spectators of the Elf persuasion to cover their eyes with anything they could find, as he leaked 9 runs. Thankfully, for all concerned, this was not to be repeated. His next over saw a marked improvement in which he conceded 2 runs, but importantly, picked up the wicket of opener T. Aston, who had just reached his 50. JP was to finish with 5 overs 1-21, figures he could have only dreamed of after his first over.
Dan Dunn, the club pro was to replace C. Hall in the 17th over and with the exception of his first ball, Dunn jr definitely lived up to the title bestowed up on him. His first over went for 4 runs but took the vital wicket of D. Stewart, for a well batted 21, caught incredibly well in the slips by Andy Gorton, who it could be argued, was in unfamiliar surrounds, but took the catch as confidently as a shark in water. However, the next wicket was the one Dan really craved for as he took wicket number 39 after Orton fell to the same combination (ct A. Gorton b D.Dunn) as Stewart, but for 12.
Having taken that wicket, the club pro was quaking in his boots, as three overs after drinks saw the introduction of Senior Club pro Alan ‘Nicka’ Dunn. As captain Fell claimed, it was to be “…the battle of the Dunns” (one of 3 father-son involvements for the Elf on the day). At this point Dan had moved on to wicket number 39 for the ‘elf while Nicka was stuck on number 37. However, this was to change soon after as Nicka joined the party, picking up the wicket of O’brien for 10. He’d been threatening it ever since he came on, but kept missing the bat and into the gloves of Reeves. But a straight ball did the trick and O’brien was on his way after his stumps were dislodged. Soon after, Nicka caught up with son – Dan in collecting his 39th wicket of his Health career. It was a wicket he didn’t appeal for, but those behind the stumps did. Unfortunately, the batsman had to go without scoring. The impression was that Dunn senior didn’t want, but ‘they all count. Were either Dunn’s going to reach the magic 40. They tried, but with no more success.
Fell had had enough. He turned to the youngest member of the side who was making his debut, the much talked about George Fell who started on the road of gaining Elf immortality. Although he bowled 2 overs, George kept the batsmen on their toes, where his unique variation made it difficult for the two men at the crease to get the ball off the square. Definitely an Elf legend in the making. To top it off, he was the best performing Fell of the day with ball in hand, going for a miserly 4 runs off two overs with 1 maiden. Super effort George. There will definitely be a few nervous figures in the Elf ranks when future selections are made.
George was supported at the other end by a novice from the Elf’s bowling academy. This was to be Nathan Reeves. Not known for his bowling exploits, Nathan came on to show what he could do and he didn’t disappoint. He took his first wicket after bowling Walker for 1. Could this be a new beginning for Reeves as a bowler? He didn’t have to wait long for his second wicket where he once again bowled the batsman in the same fashion as the first for 1 again. As the two wickets went down the man with the gloves down the other end could be heard saying, “only another 200+ to go”. By the end of his 4 overs, Nathan had taken 2 wickets for 23 runs. His bowling deserved more than the two wickets he came away with. However, he hadn’t even batted yet.
The final bowling change was to see the captain Fell bringing himself on. With one wicket still to go and with Nathan keeping it tight at the other end, Rich started to weave his magic. Eventually, Rich’s endeavours paid off by getting the final wicket through the quick hands of ‘the Doc’ who stumped N. Turner for a hard fought 20. Fell tossed one up and Turner tried to end the innings with a 6, but only succeeded in connecting with fresh air. Alrewas finished on a competitive total of 135 all out.
Tea was a delightful affair with everyone getting a chance to catch up with friends (both old and new). This included more Elf legends who had not represented the Health in years, but were always mentioned in stories of bygone days. It was like a who’s who at the ‘All England Tennis Championships’ at Wimbledon, where the camera scours the stands for famous faces. Instead of David Beckham and Trevor Macdonald, the onlookers included celebrities like the meticulous Ian ‘Fozzy’ Forrester, who was quick to use his experiences as a top bowler (314 Elf wickets) to lecture Dan Dunn in the art of batting, the agile Frank Jacobs and 007 himself, Roger Moore. The attendance of these members saw all surviving members of the 200 club appear at some point during the afternoon/evening.
With tea over, it was down to the batsmen to attempt to knock the runs off without too much difficulty. Fell thought it a great opportunity to go with club pros Dan Dunn and father Nicka. It was a chance for potentially a good opening partnership. After listening to advice from the I Forrester coaching manual, Dan Dunn strolled out into the middle only to stroll back two balls later without scoring. You wonder what the advice was. It was to be mentioned later that Nicka had told Dan to “…remain at the crease. It is a great opportunity to get some runs”. He was to be replaced by Health’s man of the season so far, Dan Armstrong, who admitted that he wasn’t in the best state to bat. Despite this confession, he went out and after two dot balls, hit a magnificent 6 on his way to a reasonable 15 off 13 balls, something he has been accustomed to in the early part of this campaign (some suggest he has fewer runs than bottles of beer). The pair seemed to be getting a decent partnership going, but just as things seemed to be going smoothly at 19–1, the 2nd wicket fell. Unfortunately, Armstrong’s time at the crease came to an end when he tried another big hit off the bowling of Walker, but only succeeding in finding Parker. Armstrong was on his way. Next in was Elf’s all time top run scorer Andy Gorton. After taking two exquisite catches in the first innings, the current first-choice wicketkeeper (sorry Gary) was full of confidence and aimed to stay at the crease for a good while. Andy, along with Nicka set about beginning a new partnership. Andy went about his batting with precision. Unfortunately, he did not last long enough to impose himself on the bowlers when on 34-2, he was caught off the bowling of Sherratt for 5 (a catch that drew applause from batting partner Nicka).
New batsman, Rob Humphries, a player that was well known to both Rich Fell and Chris Hall for a long time, entered the crease. He came in with all the enthusiasm of a hyena at feeding time, ready to leave his mark on the game and spend some time at the crease. He batted doggedly to keep the Alrewas attack at bay. While Rob was still adjusting to the conditions, he could only stand and stare as the experienced Nicka Dunn was forced to leave the field after being bowled by Orton for 9.
The next batsman to join Rob at the crease was a sight to behold. Another Elf legend entered the crease, by the name of Rick Jarrams. After a slow start, making sure nothing breached his defences, Jarrams came to life with a fabulous 4 which would have had David Gower awestruck at the precision and timing of Rick’s shot. A raucous cheer erupted from a small section of the Elf contingent. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before another wicket fell when Humphries was caught off the bowling of K. Turner. While he only amassed 1 run, Rob made a valid contribution making the bowlers rethink how they were going to bowl. Without even realising at the time, Humphries had set a foundation for which the incoming batsmen could work from.
If the Elf hadn’t been showing signs of panic yet, at 39-5, it was definitely playing on their minds. At this point, victory seemed a long way off. They needed a calming influence to join Rick at the crease. Enter – Nathan Reeves!!! To bring that stability that was needed. Only a few weeks ago did Nathan shock spectators by adding two new shots to his increasing repertoire; the forward defensive and the leave. Credit to him, the first ball was a leave, the 2nd ended up one bounce over the rope for 4. As Nathan was getting ready to go the aerial route, Rick – playing the more measured game – was bowled by N. Turner for 5. While he only scored 5, he, like Rob, stemmed the flow of wickets and provided morale boosting support not just to Nathan, but to the cause as well. This left Walsall Health at a perilous 60-6. Nathan kept on going and with new batsman Lewis Portsmouth at the crease, the two started to amass a decent partnership. This was Lewis’ first game for the Elf since 2011. He wanted to make up for lost time and he surely did that. With the score at 73-6, Nathan eventually tried one shot too many and was bowled by Rick’s conqueror, N. Turner for a very exciting, but more importantly, significant 24. There was still a further 66 runs to get with only three wickets remaining, but Nathan had occupied the crease well. Cracking batting Nathan. There was hope.
Joining Lewis at the crease was ‘the ice man’ Chris Hall, who was experiencing batting for the first time this season. Was there to be any rustiness from our opening bowler? Absolutely not! He set out his stall early playing each ball on its merit. He began to build a telepathic understanding with Lewis and very quickly the number of runs needed started to decline at an alarming rate for the home side. A mixture of smart quick running and the occasional foray to the boundary helped the batting side. As the finishing line was in sight, Elf lost their eighth wicket. Lewis Portsmouth, who had played an outstanding innings in the circumstances was bowled LBW by Sherratt for a well earned 25; a match winning innings. After the game Chris stated that Lewis’ 25 was really important and he “…enjoyed batting with him”. While Chris was knocking off the runs, from the comfort of his seat on the boundary, with beverage in hand, Rick claimed that he deserved half of the runs Chris had got stating “…after all, it is my bat”. It was left to Hall and Rich Fell to finish the innings off. At 120-8, next man in ‘Doc’ Reeves was contemplating having to go in and “bat out for the tie”, but unfortunately for him, the two at the crease were dogged and would not throw away their wicket. Great sensible batting by the two safely got Walsall Health over the line with Hall finishing on an impressive 37 n/o and Fell finishing on a more modest (but still invaluable) 3 n/o.
The ‘Ice Man’ C. Hall with the bat that led the Health to victory
Despite only getting 3 runs, Rich must be commended for his captaincy for the day. It must have been difficult for him to make sure everyone got to play a part whilst only being allowed to have 11 on the field at any one time. A big hand must go to him for the way he managed the occasion. Top stuff Rich!
It was agreed that at the end of the game 139 years, after the original Ashes had been burnt, a new set were being formed in honour of Andie, where his bat would be cremated and the ashes from it, would be played for each year. A fantastic idea.
While Walsall Health won this tight encounter, it was generally agreed that cricket was the winner and it was a game befitting of the occasion. As several people remarked, both before, during and after the game, Andie would have approved of the whole day, the atmosphere and the fantastic weather. Well done all who took part both on and off the field.
Andie’s highest score and best bowling figures for WHCC…both against Barry on Tour. Great memories.
This Sunday, saw Abbots Bromley visit the Elf at our home ground of Carters park in Rushall. After what can only be described as a typical English Saturday’s weather, 24 hours of non-stop rain, the Elf and Abbots Bromley were both keen to get on the pitch and play some of the real beautiful game. A special notice must be made to the many players from the Elf who were happy to volunteer for Abbots Bromley to play the match and credit to our opponents for getting the game on. After a bit of heavy labour from our more experienced members, the toss was made and Abbots Bromley elected to bowl.
Up first to bat were Andy Gorton and Ian Chuck, could the pair continue to add to their tally of runs for the elf? Unfortunately it was not meant to be. Andy Gorton flicked a few down the leg side , before he was trapped in front by Ian Mitchell for 6. Out walked Andy Ince, well wintered and raring to go. Ian Chuck on the other hand, was steadily accumulating runs hitting a few lusty blows off the opening bowler s, before he succumbed to a full toss smacking it straight down mid-off’s throat. Out walked Alex Nunns who in true Nunns form ‘leant’ from the front . The partnership of Nunns and Ince accumulated runs at a good rate and even gave a few interesting moments when both men skied pulls, off the same bowler in the same over, only to see both fall safely. At 102 runs and approaching the drinks break, Abbots Bromley finally claimed the 3rd wicket when A Nunns pulled a full toss, yes another wicket on a full toss, to the man at square leg who took a catch that will have him raving to his son for many a year, rough luck Alex. With Ince set on 50 and looking dangerous, out walked Rob Hewlitt, who continued his fine form with some excellent shots, punishing full tosses, Chuck and Nunns were vigorously taking notes, and some excellent running between the wickets the score for the health continued to climb. At 153, Ince sadly fell to the bowling for Lowther for a well earned 80, Top knock Andy.
In strolled N Reeves who set about his usual direct approach of punishing any ball bowled at him . Nathan played his shot and sadly picked the fielder out in the deep and departed for 5. In walked D Armstrong, with the 193 still fresh in his mind, he continued his outstanding form quickly, striking any delivery in his zone to the boundary. The score from the elf was now in the 200 with 8 overs left. A few members wondered whether the elf could break their record of 276 runs in 40 overs. With the score on 227 after 34 overs the record was set to be broken. Sadly the loss of Hewlitt, saw a loss of momentum with only 2 runs coming from the next over 229-6 after 35. In went D Preece who was methodical in his taking of singles in the last few overs of the match kept the scoreboard ticking and Armstrong being well…Armstrong, biffing bad balls away like they were beach balls, the race was on to see if the elf could break the record. The most surprising moment was watching D Armstrong ‘farming the strike’ claiming a single on the last ball in the 36th, 37th, 38th and 39th overs, something his batting partners will be mindful of in the future. That left the score at 262 with one over left. The record was 276. D Armstrong was batting…it could happen. 1,1,1 ok so 11 off 3, less likely but still possible. Another run, record gone! Maybe next time! Sadly Armstrong had not finished his running yet, optimistically calling a 2 and ending up a few long strides short, he continued his run all the way to the clubhouse. That left R Fell to face 1 ball, with the Duck trophy always happy to claim members in this scenario, Fell made sure he would not be in the running yet allowing the ball to pass his leg side the score ended up on 266-7 after 40 overs.
Tea times are much less of an extravagant affair nowadays with players being encouraged to bring their own teas, a special note must be made to Lizzie Tancred, who baked a sublime Key-lime pie that had many players of the Elf returning for seconds and some thirds.
Abbots Bromley came out to bat with Ronson and Lowther opening up. Club pro D.Dunn started up and was successful in his first over claiming Ronson for 0. C Hall had similar success from the other end claiming Lowther for 0 with a sharp catch at mid-on by Nunns. With some good disciplined bowling from the openers, and some excellent fielding notably from R Fell and N Reeves , Abbots Bromley struggled to get going. Eventually, C Hall claimed the wicket of Mitchell after he took a particular liking to the club pro’s bowling. The first change bowler R Fell, bowled well all game to be fair but was not successful in claiming the wicket he sought. Meanwhile at the other end, the right arm slow of Chuck, we can hardly call them spinners at the pace some of those balls came down, set about picking holes on the Abbots Bromley batting, claiming 2 wickets in his first over. He continued to bowl tight, with the exception of when young S Davies began to send the ball disappearing over Chucks head with increasing frequency, many a cries of “toss the ball higher” seemed to fall on the deaf ears of Chuck. After some grumbling, he eventually got Davies when he walked down the wicket and Gorton, who in his usual form of whipping the bails off at every convenience to keep the guillotine sharp, stumped the youngster for a well batted 11. Haywood at the other end was very watchful and pushed the ball into gaps more often as the game progressed provided the visitors with some means of accumulating runs but when Chuck claimed the 4th wicket LBW of Bexon, things looked pretty dire for the visitors. Armstrong removed Haywood for 18 but Abbots Bromley continued to fight with some excellent rear guard action by Kirkland and Cantrill seeing them make their 40 overs with wickets still to spare, despite some tight bowling from Armstrong and Dave Preece. Abbots Bromley finished on 90-9 after their 40 overs.
Overall an enjoyable game on what turned out to be a rather nippy day but great to be playing cricket as always. Great to see some legends of the club popping down to support the team and a huge hand to both sets of supporters for enduring the cold weather. A special mention to Lizzie Tancred who seemed to be taking to her role of director of match day photography, though half the photos of the buzzard may not have been called f or, A big hand for some of the shots claimed today.
Next week sees the Elf visiting Lapworth, any chance R Fell never likes to miss to see his long lost relative in only name T Fell. Good luck fellas!