v Penn CC (H) 07/07/22

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A Trilogy for the Ages.

The Godfather. Lord of the Rings. Fury vs Wilder. Walsall Health vs Penn. They all have a ring to them. The latter trilogy might have been over in terms of a best of 3 with Penn having already beaten the Health twice this season but this was by no means a nothing game with the Health hoping to avenge a couple of tight defeats earlier this season and hoping for a change in their luck.

Some things that never change this summer though are baking temperatures following Walsall Health games and captain Nunns losing the toss on the hottest of days, Penn gleefully batting first.  The Penn openers were rightly cautious early on with the greenest part of the field reserved for the 22 yard stretch between the batsman and opening bowlers Armstong and Stephens. Both bowlers bowled a tight line and length giving hardly anything to the visiting batsman who themselves dug in well to negate the spells of the prolific Health opening bowlers. The two bowlers will still be wondering how they came out of the 16 over spell with only 1 Penn wicket between them, a wiley slower ball from Stephens chopped on by the Penn captain Bywater for 18.

With the score at 64-1 after 16 overs something had to give after a tense opening exchange and as Clive came in to bowl the Penn batsman made their intentions clear to begin making up for lost time and accelerate the scoring. The next over would be bowled by last minute addition and debutant Bateman who wasted no time writing himself into the Health record books, and gave unofficial club historian Chris Hall hours of fun trawling through the clubs stats, by becoming (potentially) the first person to take a wicket with their debut ball for the Health. The wicket with a fine catch taken by Stenson, himself quickly turning the clubs catch of the year award into his own personal greatest hits reel, this time a superb sprinting catch coming round at cow corner and with it putting the game into the balance.

The new batsman Ricky and Mangat soon took to the Health bowlers though with some fine footwork and hard hitting to the boundary side of the drinks break, leaving the Health bowlers with some undeserved damage to their figures. With 300+ looking a real possibility the Health called on Butler and Ince to finish the innings off. The change brining a good result as Buttler too took a wicket with his first ball of the game a fine catch in the outfield taken by, yepp, you guessed it, Jack Stenson (one drop and a one caught over the boundary would follow but that’s a problem for the fines committee, not the match report)  Mangat continued the attack and declared on reaching his century. Wicketkeeper Mac then produced a fine stumping from Butler while tight and threatening bowling from Ince somehow didn’t yield a wicket for the returning club pro. The two kept the scoring to 273-4 at the end of 40 overs.

With a fast start needed, two of the top performers with the bat this season in Armstrong and Stenson went out to open and immediately got the Health up with the required rate of almost 7 an over. The two batsmen looked set and were scoring well against a strong bowling line up. As is the way with the wonderful Rushall bounce though, no batsman is ever truly in on the track and Armstrong was soon walking back for 28 LBW from a low and straight ball, no possible way it could’ve been anything other than out with the umpiring finger of Dave Stephens given a rare raising.

This wicket bought Nunns to the crease who managed to carry his form with the toss over to this game but couldn’t bring much of the fine batting from this season as well, unfortunate to be out for 9 off a fine delivery, an even finer edge and the ball hitting every part of the opposing keeper before nestling in the gloves. Ince came in next at 4 and wasted no time showing his class, some fine cover drives keeping the Health up with the rate and in with a chance of chasing a tough score, a long partnership seemed inevitable but just as the two batsmen had looked set, Stenson was bowled through the gate for 27. Lauchlan then came to the crease just before the drinks break. With two opposition fielders missing and a set, ex semi pro batsman at the other end all he had to do was bat sensibly and keep Ince on strike, so it was no shock to see him throw the kitchen sink at a few, attempt to run his partner out then get bowled through the gate for a well edged 10 runs.

Edmunds then followed in at six, the wickets starting to take their toll on the scoring rate, Edmunds too began to try for the big shots and unfortunately top edged one into the sky, if it hadn’t have been such a stiflingly hot day, it would have come down with snow on it a fine and difficult catch ending Edmunds day.

Wicketkeeper Mac then came to the crease and the job got harder still for the Health as the well set Ince pulled up with a groin injury. Mac took this as a prompt to immediately try for a number of quick singles and at the risk of Ince’s leg snapping and Cheslyn Hay’s finest pub being without their landlord’s left leg a runner was sent for and Nunns returned to the crease. This led to a surreal site of their being 2 less fielders and 1 more batsman out there. The Health soon tried to amend this by taking turns, at running, not running, ball watching and in general trying to remember the ancient art of synchronized running with someone several metres the wrong way.

Butler doesn’t fancy facing that bowling.

Mac was then out for 2 bringing Stephens to the crease who looked to support Ince who scoreboard and injury dictated needed to go for boundaries, he was smartly caught going for a big 6 off the pads, a good catch on the second attempt. Ince could walk off with his head held high and bat raised after a fine knock, Nunns maybe not so much, not that this put the captain off. Stephens and Clive followed the boundary bothering lead, taking on the Penn bowlers with Stephens (11) and Clive (22) eventually getting out the end was nigh as usual scorer and Walsall’s Health’s own Fillius Fog Butler, in the middle of his voyage to go around the world in 80 day savers, swapped the pen and bus pass for a somewhat dusty bat and was the last man out for 3. The Health finished up on 203 all out.

All in all it was a spirited display by the Health against tough conditions, opponents and availability problems in holiday season, like all trilogies the end couldn’t quite live up to the hype for the Health and they look to start a new saga of their season against Birmingham Unicorns at home on Sunday hoping that game is a bit more Return of the King than Godfather 3.

Best of 7 next year, Penn?

Bonus photo – Who said men can’t multitask! Scoring, padding up and smashing a Stella.

v Sportsman CC (H) 31/07/22

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Sportsman CC beat WHCC by 105 runs

Sportsman 256-9….Ben Lester 3-22 Nicka Dunn 3-21 D.Stephens 1-38 M.Smith 1-61

WHCC 151 All out….D.Armstrong 39 D.Dunn (Capt) 26 J.Stenson 18 B.Lester 15

A tough day at the office for the Elf lads against Sportsman, who are always a difficult opposition….here are a few random reflections of the days action.

Nicka Dunn, what a spell from our Senior Club Pro, stepping in to play at the last minute, Nicka’s first 24 balls were all dots. Jonty’s club record of 44 consecutive dots looked in serious danger, until a lucky slog by the desperate batsman evaded the field and went for four. A top opening spell of 8 overs 4 maidens 3-21, taking Nicka to 48 wickets (3 in front of son Dan in the race to 50 contest) The Beaumont legend also has the best current Elf bowling average amongst our active players of 13.95….take a bow.

With the cost of living crisis in full swing, even Dan Armstong’s bowling figures have suddenly become much more expensive. 60 runs conceded from 8 overs…ouch! It was mentioned in fines that Dan’s new nickname (the 276th one this season) should be JP Armstrong. It was certainly a good impersonation of our No1 spinner, a true Bertie Bassett spell that had all allsorts, just less the liquorice. Dan had better fortune with the bat, looking in seriously good touch, timing the ball beautifully, until one stuck in the pitch for a caught and bowled. Dan’s score of 39 was our top score of the day, well batted.

Ben Lester top performance

Matt Smith took two stunning catches, both running backwards. Difficulty level 10/10. Both would not look out of place in our new Catch of the Season shortlist. A big hand must go to both Matt and Dave Smith for helping us out yesterday, along with Elliot Stenson (Jack’s brother) All our new players this season, have had a really positive impact on the club. Ben Lester deservedly got the Man of the Match vote, a seasons best performance with both bat (which included a huge six) and ball (3-22) Big Hand Ben. We’ve now had eleven players make their debuts this season, all eleven have been a pleasure to welcome to the club.

Duck Trophy update….Two more ducks yesterday, taking us up to a phenomenal 18 for the season (just 6 short of the club record) A fuming Jack Lester (he calmed down afterwards) and Nicka, made useful contributions to the quack tally. Nicka’s being a Golden Duck, which according to current Duck Trophy Rules (Golden’s count as double) The rules to this award are quite simple….there aren’t any.

Milestone Men….Both Dan Armstrong and Dan Dunn are closing in on significant personal milestones.

Perfect for a DNB

Dan A….Or rather JP Armstrong is now only 51 runs short of becoming the youngest player to score 2,000 runs. Meanwhile, Dan Dunn, is only 34 runs away from his 1,000th. Double D might just be the youngest player to achieve this, beating Dan Armstrong’s record…its getting complicated now, but date of births will need to be checked before adjudication is completed. Lets throw in another one for good measure….John La La Nicholls only needs 3 more inactive games with the bat, to complete a ridiculous 150 DNB’s

Fines…..Fines Committee was done during Extra Time of the Euro’s Women’s Final. And the best stitch up of the season so far, came in the guise of Dai Preece (who is in Australia at the moment) deliberately ringing Dave Stephens phone whilst fines was in full swing. Heavy penalty time…. Now who had told Dai to do this, remains a mystery, but the plan worked a treat. DS, who had an eventful day, took it all in good spirit, (he still doesn’t know Dai reversed the charges yet) and produced a masterful display of staff training on the new Rushall Card Reader. Dan Dunn decided it was the perfect day to bolster the PU fund, and with swearing aplenty, took his mate Armstrong to the cleaners for a nice round tenner. Ouch again!! A moment of brutality that even left one of the Lionesses shellshocked (see title photo)

DS check your phone bill

This Sunday, we visit Penn CC for the first time, the skipper is back, so if anyone can find a double headed coin, it would be much appreciated.

Chris Hall

Andy Gorton’s 250th Game

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Walsall Health beat Lichfield Nomads by 5 wickets

Summary…..Our 32nd meeting with old friends and rivals Lichfield Nomads proved to be a very enjoyable day, in front of the packed galleries. Gorway is a quality venue, and there was certainly some quality performances out there in the middle. Just how many more miraculous catches is JP going to take? Another brilliant reflex caught and bowled was added to the Preece portfolio, but as ever, the hard taskmaster, Father Dai, (First team head coach) demanded a thorough explanation for the one JP dropped a few overs later.

Some good bowling from the two Dan’s, Jonty, JP, Greg and Jack Lester restricted the Nomads to 158 on a tricky wicket. A mid range total, that could have been a difficult target. However, the quality of Armstrong and Dunn was the deciding factor in the match. Both lads hitting half centuries to help break our all time club record for 50’s in one season. Setting a new mark of 17. The Gorway Guru, Dan Dunn, was particularly impressive at a ground he adores. The Club Pro now averages 95.5 at this venue, and its fair to say that Dan was the only batsman who looked totally at ease, compiling an impressive, match winning 58.

Jay Edmunds became our 7th debutante of the season, producing an accomplished fielding display. Jay also impressed our Head Coach Dai, with a useful batting display against the dangerous Nomads paceman, Marcus Hutton. But the game concluded with a scriptwriters dream, as Andy Gorton, making his 250th appearance for WHCC, hitting the runs that gave us victory, Club legend Gort, becomes only the 4th player in our history to pass this milestone (Click History/Long Service, on our website for full list) As one of the few remaining active players, to have played in our first season in 1987, this was a well deserved moment for Gort, and a testament to his longevity, loyalty, and numerous contributions to WHCC, both on and off the pitch.

A big thanks must go to all the supporters who came to watch, the whole day had a nice family atmosphere. Another big hand must go to the Nomads, who provided a cracking tea for everyone to enjoy. They are always excellent, welcoming hosts, and we look forward to our next meeting in 2023.

C Hall

Another nail biter in the heat

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Walsall Health C C vs Bayshill C C

Bayshill won by 4 runs.

Bayshill 238-4 from 35 overs, Walsall Health 234-6 from 35 overs.

Walsall Health travelled to Bayshill C C this week, based in the beautiful village of Winchcombe in the Cotswold.  With the temperature forecasted to reach record highs many questions were raised before a ball was even bowled, such as will it be too hot to play??, can we have a reduced overs game??, how many drinks breaks will there be??, will Alex ever win a toss on a hot day??, will Dan Armstrong ever be on time?? etc. etc. all of these questions were soon to be answered as both captains made their way out to the middle for the toss, a toss that nearly didn’t take place as neither captain had a coin to use, fortunately Dai was on hand to lend the Bayshill captain a £2 coin, he soon asked for it back once the toss had taken place and we all thought Dai was a Welshman not a Yorkshireman!! Amazingly Alex won the toss! But with the forecast set to get hotter and hotter later in the day he decided to bowl first while there was a nice breeze blowing through.  It was also decided at the toss that we would play a 35 over a side game, with drinks at every 12 overs and for those wondering Dan Armstrong was late!!

So with both teams all set, they made their way out to the middle for what turned out to be another thrilling game of friendly cricket in stunning surroundings.

Here’s how we got on in batting order.

No 1 – Andy Ince (27) – The classy left hander returned to the top of Elf order for his 3rd outing of the season.  Andy batted well but found run scoring difficult on a wicket that was up & down and sometimes 2 paced but still scored at a good rate in an opening partnership of 70 with Jack Stenson.  Andy wasn’t required to bowl but was involved in a couple half chances at slip one of which palmed up of Mac’s wicket keeping gloves but didn’t stick in Andy’s out stretched hand, Andy was also involved in a slightly controversial incident at the end of Bayshill innings whilst fielding at deep square leg Andy attempted to take a catch but was adjudged to have been over the boundary when in control of the ball and 6 runs we’re given, it was a tough call but one that was to prove critical in the run chase.

No 2 – Jack Stenson (42) – Jack continued his good form for the Elf with another classy innings of 42 in an opening partnership of 70 with Andy, he looked set for a big score before being caught behind off the bowling of Saunders.  As ever in the field Jack was reliable and throwing himself around to try and save as many runs as possible, he had a couple of unfortunate bobbles that he couldn’t have done anything about but Jack did take a brilliant running catch on the boundary off JP to remove the dangerous Alex Van Dyke for 53.

No 3 – Dan Armstrong (28 & 0-14 from 5 overs) – A rare wicket-less day for Dan but his spell of 0-14 from 5 overs was one of his best in what is turning into a very good season with the ball for the Elf all-rounder the Bayshill batsmen had no answer to him as they struggled to lay a bat on it.  With the bat Dan came out all guns blazing as he looked to keep the Elf up with the run rate but unfortunate Dan couldn’t keep it going as he was caught & bowled by Bayshill skipper Pierce for a quick fire 28, an innings that gave the Walsall Health innings some momentum.

No 4 – Mac (42 & 1 catch behind) – The day started well for Mac as he took a catch of DS from the first ball of the game, it was a tough day behind the stumps for Mac as he could have had a couple more catches of DS as he stood up the stumps but unfortunately they didn’t stick in his gloves but never the less his head didn’t drop as he continued his impressive debut season for Elf.  Mac came out to bat with Walsall Health under pressure and helped steady the ship with an impressive innings of 42, his top score this season, an innings that included six 4’s and a very flat 6 into the next field.  (well batted Mac).

No 5 – Jack Lester (4) – The younger of the Lester brothers was in at number 5 this week and started well with a beautiful straight drive for 4 off the bowling of Pierce but unfortunately that was all Jack could manage with the bat as he became another victim for Pierce as he was caught behind a few balls later going for another big shot (unlucky Jack).  In the field Jack chased down everything that he could and gave his all to back up the Elf bowlers, it was a great effort especially in the heat.  Big hand Jack.

No 6 – Alex Nunns (46*) – For the second week in a row Elf skipper Nunns found himself in the middle for the crucial stage of the run chase but frustratingly he couldn’t see his side home as Walsall Health fell just short again.  Nunns was in good form again as he scored 46* that included six 4’s and plenty of ones and twos.  In the field Nunns didn’t really have a lot to do but did own up to getting a finger to chance off the bowling of JP, so it goes down as a drop (Elf rules).

No 7 – Ben Lester (0 & 0-34 from 5 overs) – Ben opened the bowling for the first time in his Elf career and settled in well with the new ball but unfortunately he couldn’t make the break-through that the Elf required, he created a couple of half chances but it didn’t go Ben’s way on another day he could have ended with a couple of wickets to his name.  With the bat Ben came to the crease with the score 172-5 with the run rate creeping up and the pressure on, unfortunately Ben was run out for 0 as he attempted a quick run (unlucky Ben).

No 8 – Dave Stephens (23* & 1-33 from 7 overs) – DS was soon into the action as he took a wicket with the first ball of the game, it’s not the first time Dave has done this and I’m sure it won’t be the last either.  But despite the early wicket DS couldn’t add to his tally for the day as he had a couple of nicks behind that didn’t stick and some that just fell short of the fielders none the less DS finished with figures of 1-33 from 7 overs it was a top effort in the heat, DS also continued his good form with the bat has he scored another quick fire 23* in the run chase and added 60 with Nunns for the 7th wicket as the pair nearly led the Elf to victory for the second week running.

No 9 – Dave Clive (DNB & 1-45 from 7 overs) – Dave was nearly back to his best with a good spell of bowling as he took a wicket with his first ball also, it wasn’t the best ball that Dave will have bowled but they all count as DC claimed in fines.  Dave’s spell was full of a mixture of deliveries that included some leg cutters that nearly bowled a couple of batsmen around their legs like Shane Warne used to do in his prime.  Dave finished his spell for 1-45 from 7 overs again it was another top effort in the hot conditions.

No 10 – Jonathan Preece (DNB & 1-48 from 4 overs) – JP added to his tally of DNB’s as he sets his sights on catching Jonty with the most DNB’s in the club (he has a long way to go though). Unlike the previous week JP struggled to find his length as the Bayshill batsmen took advantage of the short boundaries and despatched JP’s first over for 24! But to his credit JP kept his head up and fought back well to finish with 1-48 from 4 overs that included the wicket of Alex Van Dyke.  JP’s thoughts may have been elsewhere as he took a call from his mother Mrs Preece early in the Elf innings regarding his packing for his upcoming holiday, we’ll spare the details but he’s nearly ready to go.

No 11 – Josh Butler (DNB & 1-60 from 7 overs) – Another member of the DNB club for the man from Boston.  Josh was eager to get into the game after seeing a very dry and crumbly wicket to operate on, his left arm spin was used to effect as he found some nice bounce and spin from the start of his spell and started to tie down the Bayshill batsmen as he kept things tight from his end.  His figures of 1-60 from 7 overs didn’t really do him justice as he bowled better than they suggest.  Again Josh was another of the Elf bowlers that on another day he could have easily picked up 2 or 3 wickets but it was still a good spell.  Well bowled Josh.

As the sun blazed away all day and temperature continued to rise the game ended with a nail biter as Walsall Health finished just short of the target of 239 but it was another great game to be involved in as both sides played it in great spirits and shared a beer or 2 after the game and to also arrange the fixture again for next year.

This coming Sunday Walsall Health travel locally to face old friends Lichfield Nomads at Gorway in Walsall in what will be another good game of cricket between the 2 sides.  We hope to see as many people there as possible.

Alex Nunns

Batting
Bowling

v Old Moseley Fitmen (H) 10/07/22

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Walsall Health CC vs Old Moseley Fitmen

Old Moseley Fitmen won by 2 runs

This week saw the Elf welcome Old Moseley Fitmen to Carter Park on a glorious hot day.  Walsall Health’s team chopped & changed several times throughout the week due to a lot of players coming down with Covid but in true spirit of the Health they managed to rally around and get 11 players on the park BIG HAND to Nicka for stepping up on Sunday morning and offering to play despite bowling 13 overs straight through and consuming several cans of cider the day before.

Old Moseley Fitmen’s captain won the toss and had no hesitation in batting first, Elf skipper Nunns headed back to the changing rooms dreading telling his team mates that they had to field first in the heat and wondering if he would every win a toss on a hot day!!

Here’s how we got on.

Batting order

No 1 – Dan Armstrong (0 & 2-29 from 7 overs): A mixed day for the Elf all-rounder bowled a superb spell in the heat up the travellator as he picked up a couple of wickets and bowled with control as he had the OMF batters hopping around at the crease but unfortunately that was as good as it got for Dan as he registered another duck for the season and is now leading the duck race as he was bowled by Assad in the 2nd over of the Health innings some say he was in a rush to get back to the pavilion to finish off his Big Mac.

No 2 – Jack Stenson (72): An unusual quiet day in the field for Jack compared to previous weeks but batted superbly to hold the Elf innings together with a well-made 72.  Jack started slowly as wickets fell around him but soon found run scoring easier with some lovely clips through the leg side for 4 and some good running turning 1’s into 2’s which helped re-build the innings, involved in 2 good partnerships 42 with Mac & 62 with Alex Nunns.  With scores of 83 and now 72 this season I’m it won’t be long before little Jack reaches the big 100.

No3 – Dan Dunn (4 & 0-0 from 0.3 overs): Fresh from a full 90 mins football before the game Dan was setting the example in the field by running around & chasing down everything and also keeping everybody else going in the heat, had a couple of direct hits in some close run out calls, came onto bowl at the end of the OMF innings and was involved in a run out for the 10th wicket as Dan fielded off his own bowling and threw the ball to Andy and Gort did the rest.  Despite also being fuelled by McDonalds at tea Dan could only manage to score 4 with the bat as he became Assad’s second victim as he was caught and bowled to ball that stuck in the pitch and just looped back to the bowler unlucky Dan.

No4 – Will Lauchlen (1): Will was given the difficult task of patrolling the big boundary in the heat and to his credit he stuck to his task well as he chased everything, even balls that he knew he probably wouldn’t catch was also pleased to find some shade as the innings worn on.  But as always Will give’s 110% in the field and never lets his head drop top work buddy.  With the bat Will was Assad’s 3rd wicket of the day as he was bowled by a ball that kept a little low and breached his defence but still avoid the dreaded duck.

No5 – Mac (6 & did not keep): Mac was back fresh from his holiday and also from the previous days’ celebrations for Eid.  Mac found himself without gloves this week so was in the outfield something that he’s not that used to but did not let himself or his team mates down as he fielded superbly stopping everything that came his way and also took a good catch on the boundary off JP, good hands Mac, came into bat with the score 24-3 and the Health in trouble but helped Jack to re-build the innings in a solid partnership of 42 before being bowled by Bal for 6.

No6 – Alex Nunns (65*): Health skipper Nunns came to the crease with the score 66-4 and with plenty of work to do.  He soon got the score moving with a flurry of boundaries as he and Jack added 62 in 10 overs for the 5th wicket and then added another 53 with DS for the 7th wicket before running out DS (Sorry Dave) but despite his best efforts he couldn’t see his side home as they just fell short but Nunns was proud of the effort that everybody had put in despite the tough weather conditions and was certainly in need of a drink or 2 at the end of the game.

No7 – Andy Gorton (0 & a stumping and run out): Andy returned to side after recovering from Covid and still not feeling 100% (he is negative) kept well behind the stumps in the heat as he stood up to the stumps to all of the bowlers and was rewarded with his 50th stumping for the club, I’m certain that’s a record that won’t be beaten.  But unfortunately with the bat Gort became the Health’s second duck of the day as he was plumb LBW to Cuthbert, in fact he was so plumb that I think he practically walked but the clubs all-time leading run scorer is closing in on another record and I’m sure it won’t be long before he reaches that landmark.

No8 – Dave Stephens (28 & 2-12 from 8 overs): The ever so reliable DS was on the mark from the off as always and was unlucky not to have taken a wicket with his second ball as he found the edge of Mould’s bat but unfortunately it didn’t stick but none the less Dave was soon in the wickets as he had Sharif caught at mid-on by Nunns and then bowled Nicks the very next ball to be on a hat-trick with all the Elf fielders surrounding the bat for Dave’s hat-trick ball willing it to happen but unfortunately it didn’t despite the ball wrapping the batsman’s pads and all of the Elf fielders appealing and pleading with the umpire to give DS his hat-trick it just wasn’t to be (unlucky DS) Dave bowled his 8 overs straight threw (big hand) and finished with figures of 2-12.  With the bat DS continued his good form and made a quick fire 28 before being run out by Nunns (again sorry Dave) in a partnership of 53 from 9 overs which nearly won the game.  Top effort DS.

No9 – Dave Clive (13* & 0-81 from 8 overs): A tough day at the office for DC, had 2 spells of 4 overs from both ends but struggled to find his rhythm as the opening bat Mould took a liking to short pitched bowling and despatched it to the leg side boundary but to his credit Dave didn’t let his head drop and continued to toll away and bowled some beautiful back of the hand slower balls, on another day he may have picked up a wicket or 2.  With the bat DC came to the crease knowing that he had to put bat on ball and he did so with a quick fire 13* that nearly saw the Health home in the run chase with Nunns.

No10 – Alan Dunn (DNB & 3-40 from 8 overs): Stepped up at the last minute to make sure that the Health had 11 players but Nicka wasn’t there just to make up the numbers.  He was soon into the action bowling 1st change from the pavilion end and bowled the dangerous Mould for 48 and then followed that up by bowling Thaper first ball to also be on a hat-trick and bring the control back to the Elf unfortunately the hat-trick wasn’t to either for Nicka as the ball from just back of length kicked up and missed the batsman’s edge and thumped straight into Andy’s chest behind the stumps (well taken Gort) despite the heat Nicka was in the hunt for more wickets as he bowled his 8 overs straight threw and was rewarded with 3-40 and now leads the race to 50 wickets between himself and Dan.  Nicka was also rewarded with a Big Mac & fries at tea as he became the 3rd Elf member to tuck into a McDonalds.  Rumours are circulating that Ronald McDonald is in talks to become the clubs sponsor next season.

No11 – Jonathan Preece (DNB & 2-55 from 6 overs): JP the wizard started his spell with some beautiful flighted deliveries that had the batters second guessing whether to advance down the pitch to him or try play off the back foot but they started to work him over and picked up 1’s & 2’s with the odd boundary but JP never one to give in soon had reward as he had the dangerous Cuthbert stumped for 35 it was a key wicket as it broke the partnership between Cuthbert and OMF skipper Martin.  Martin had started taking a liking to JP’s bowling as he swept him for a couple of boundaries to move onto a well-made 50 for OMF but JP like the 90’s WWF wrestler the Mountie always gets his man and had Martin caught on the boundary by Mac attempting another sweep.  JP was also in the action in the field as always nothing gets past him and nobody would dare take on his rocket arm but this JP took a brilliant catch off the bowling of Dan Armstrong the ball hung in the air for an age but it gave JP enough time to steady himself underneath it and he was never going to drop it (top catch JP!) the determination and concentration on JP’s was everything that we all know and love about JP but unfortunately his father Dai missed the catch as he was very kindly getting the drinks ready for the players.

All in all, it was a good game of cricket that went down to the last ball of the 80th over of the game.  Games against Old Moseley Fitmen are always close encounters as years gone by have proven.  Big thanks to those that came to watch and support and a big hand to Mac and his family for the lovely samosas, pakoras and paneers that they brought along at the end for all of the players from both sides to enjoy they went down a treat.

Next week Walsall Health travel to Bayshill in beautiful Winchombe.

Negotiations have begun.

Alex Nunns

Batting
Bowling

v Penn CC (H) 03/07/22

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Blood, Toil and Sweat

Usually the hard work on a home match day begins for the Walsall Health is working out which of the thousands of keys opens the clubhouse doors and keeping tabs on who is the last person to arrive for the game. However this week the toil started much sooner than that. With the news late on Friday that the clubs original opponents Trent Valley were unable to field a team, it fell to club legend Chris Hall and other members of the Walsall Health to scamper through the contacts book and try and raise a team with just over a day’s notice. Penn CC answered the call and after some last minute organisation a 10 vs 10 game was put together and the spirit of the Elf to get the game on no matter what shone through.

For the seamers who did manage to make it they would be richly rewarded with an overcast Sunday morning and a pitch with more than a hint of green to it. Penn CC will have been delighted to have bowled first and get first use of the pitch. All worries of a bowling paradise seemed to have been quashed early as Dan Armstrong opening for the Health after a stunning century last week picked up where he left off taking 13 off the second over of the day including a stunning six off the fourth ball of the over. Penn came back strongly though and had him caught with a sharp catch at backward point off the next over.

This brought skipper Alex Nunns to the crease who continued with a fine season of good form building a 50 partnership with opener Alex McMillan. McMillian batted carefully and assuredly and seemed well on his way to a big score before falling to the leg spin of Morby for 28. Will Lauchlan was next at four but was quickly out for 5, a sharp seaming ball nipping back through the gate and taking the top of leg stump.

Half tonne for Skip.

Joining Nunns at the crease at five was Ian Chuck, himself enjoying a fine run of form. With Chuck and Nunns at the crease quick ones and twos became the order of the day before Nunns fell for a historic 55, the 300th half century in the Health’s history no less, a brilliant achievement for the captain and very fitting that it was the clubs skipper who was the one to reach the landmark.

This brought Ben Lester to the crease, a bit of a rare sight as he seems to be chasing club legend Jonty’s record for most DNBs. Unfortunately he could only add a single to the score before becoming another victim to a sharp seaming ball coming back through the gate, the ball even taking a chunk out the middle stump as it crashed through.

Dave Stephens joined Chuck and a new stump at the middle and soon set to work putting the Penn bowlers to the sword for the last few overs of the of the Health’s innings. 300 half centuries in the clubs history quickly rolled over to 301 as Chuck bought up his own half century, perhaps wishing he had batted 3 instead of 5. The boundaries then started flowing as the two added a quick fire 90 partnership including a superb hit from Stephens, crashing the ball back over the bowler’s head with the umpire nearly giving a maximum without even turning to see it fly out the ground. Chuck was soon gone though for a well batted 63, the bowler Mangat claiming his second with an LBW that nipped back sharply into the pads. This brought Josh Butler to the crease who added a few more runs with Stephens with the Elf finishing on a solid 219-6 from their 40 overs.

With the clouds rolling away, there was risk of a summer’s day breaking out at the halfway point, quick wickets were needed for the Elf with Penn having a number of dangerous batsmen at the top of their order. Dan Armstrong obliged early, superbly bowling the Penn captain Bywater for 8. But the toil (and blood) for the Elf was only just beginning.

With the Elf on the crest of a wave after getting the Penn captain earlier, a sharp ball from Armstrong found the edge of a Penn bat, the edge of wicketkeeper Chuck’s fingers before immediately stopping, with force, on Nunns nose at slip. If solid batting and smart bowling have been the two stalwarts for the Elf this season, blood injuries must be a close third and with Nunns blooded and unable to continue 10 turned to 9 and a thankless job in the field became even tougher.

In the spirit of the Elf though no heads went down and Stephens soon got his reward for his usual consistent bowling with a simple catch and bowled before numbers 3 and 4 for Penn put the Health to the sword. Good bowling in the middle overs from Lester and Jonty was cruelly dispatched as the two batsman made quick work of the Elf’s total and took full advantage of a depleted field and the now bright sunshine, the two batsman manipulating the field well and often bypassing it all together with some good stroke play and lusty blows. Soon Shah (101*) and Prabjhot (58*) retired out in the spirit of everyone getting a game. This brought some reward for the Elf bowlers as Josh Butler was rewarded for some accurate bowling with a high catch from Lester and McMillian recorded his debut home wicket taking the wicket of the dangerous Dhillon for 22.

J Preece came on towards the end and bowled a tight and tidy over but the game was already beyond the tiring Elf players and the game was sealed with superb 6 giving Penn CC a deserved victory.

It was a day where the result might not have gone the way of the Elf but it was a brilliant example of the clubs never say die attitude both in getting the game on in the first place and a high standard of fielding right until the end. The Health are at home again on Sunday as they welcome Old Moseley Fitmen for a 14:00 start and will be hoping for a little less sweat and toil and, especially, a lot less blood.

Report by William Lauchlan 

v Poppyfields CC (H) 26/06/22

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Walsall Health CC (242-7) beat Poppyfields CC (213-9) by 29 runs

Walsall Health returned to their home ground to take on Poppyfields on a day where the weather couldn’t make its mind as to what it wanted to do. Due to the number of supporters the travelling side brought 12 months earlier, the home side decided to put on a lavish tea and make it a real occasion. Captain for the day was club pro Dan Dunn. He won the toss and elected to bat. Here’s how we got on

Batting order

1. Dan Armstrong  (101) : After apparently arriving in a somewhat disillusioned frame of mind, Dan soon put all his fears of a low score to one side as he went out and hit the first four balls for four 4s. He was calm and collected, playing a mixture of attacking shots along with safety shots. Eventually reaching a fabulous and well deserved 100. He also opened the bowling and with his express pace and height finished with figures of 1-19 off 8 overs.

2. David Preece  (28) :  Playing only his second game of the season, David looked comfortable at the crease, placing the ball all around the field and in doing so, building a steady partnership with Dan. David was unfortunately given out lbw by the umpire, a decision he couldn’t believe went against him. He too, bowled at the end of the innings when we were looking for that final wicket, but it just wouldn’t come. His final figures were 0-14 off 2 overs (including a very high full toss).

3. Andy Carrick  (1) : Came in at 132-1, looking to build on a super start by the opening pair, but departed at 135-2 after he was given out lbw. This was a little bit of a shock, as he usually spends a good amount of time at the crease and gets a fair few runs on the board. Unfortunately, this was not his day with the bat. As the saying goes, “catches win matches” and what a catch Andy pulled off, fielding at slip. Many thought he was just saving a boundary, but when it stuck, some teammates had mixed emotions; elation (for the catch) and potential despair when he landed on his shoulder. Thankfully, he landed on the one that he didn’t dislocate. There were discussions that we had seen the catch of the season the week before at Wellington, this was one to rival it. Great stuff Andy.  Better luck next time with the bat.

4. Dan Dunn  (13) : The captain; the club-pro came out with lots going on. Boundaries being hit, wickets falling and smart running between the wickets. Dan batted fluently, getting in early strides and finding the boundary ropes with precision, picking the gaps and putting pressure on the bowler with smart running. Bowled towards the end of the innings (even though) he admitted he didn’t want to), he still ran in with the knowledge that one ball would end the Poppyfields innings. Despite his best efforts, their last stand stayed as rigid and defiant as Jimmy and Monty at Cardiff all those years ago. Well captained Dan.

5. Nathan Reeves  (6) : Nathan went out with so much intent.  This was from the very first ball, as he set out his mark, he swung his bat and the ball went for 6. Good start! Unfortunately, this was not to last as a few balls later, Nathan was back in the shed after he was caught going for another big shot. His efforts in the field were of the highest standards; stopping countless boundaries, that kept coming to him even with the sun’s glare coming right into him. Top work in the field and a good cameo with the bat.

6. Jack Lester  (0) : After some early season runs in which he had a highest score of 40 n/o, Jack (or big Jack as he is sometimes referred as) was in and out quicker than a solar eclipse. In his assessment, he hadn’t done too well (the choice of language used was very different).  He had finally joined the club for the season, but still a few behind the leading contender. Unlucky Jack.  In the field, Jack seems to be getting better each game he plays as he becomes more and more confident. Keep it going Jack and before you know it, you might be a contender for fielder of the year.

7. Ian Chuck  (52*)   :  After some  early season jitters, Ian is starting to find some form. After his fifty the week before, he followed it up with another 50 this week. He came in with the score at 193 and settled very quickly into his stride. One particular member of his entourage could be heard on regular occasions cheering and applauding every run and twice as loud for each boundary.  Due to the absence of regular wicketkeepers, Ian took the gloves and made his role behind the stumps look easy. He took most that came his way and was reward with   catches off the regular spinners.

8. Dave Stephens  (11) : Dave went out with just under 10 overs to go, playing some nice shots and some good running between the wickets (whether he intended to or not). In fact, only one of his 11 runs was a boundary. He was unlucky to get out, as he was caught going for another big shot in an attempt to up the run rate. I expect, if he had been there long, there might have been a few more 4s to his total. He also opened the bowling, and was the bowler to that fabulous catch by Andy later on in the day. He finished with figures of 1-40 off 8 overs. Well bowled and well batted.     

JDB – John Did Bat.

9. John Nicholls  (9*) : John Nicholls currently holds the record for DNBs. It is a feat that I don’t think anybody will catch anytime soon. However, this was one day he couldn’t extend that record. John batting was such a unique occasion that his first ball was caught on camera, as we do not know when it will happen again. But despite that lack of batting opportunities, John defied the odds and stuck around to score a very determined 9 n/o. Well batted John. There will be calls for you to bat up the order. Despite his composure with the bat, John is a completely different person with the ball. He has so often come on and changed the game in favour of the Health. His devious action can put batters of all calibre in a spot of bother. This day was no different. He came on and bowled a magical spell. Although it was only 4 overs, he managed to put the Health in a commanding position, taking three wickets for 6 runs, by far the best figures of the day. Well bowled John. Hopefully a few more of those before the season’s out.

This week’s reporter.

10. Jonathan Preece  (DNB) : JP was not to bat this week due to the clever batting of John and Ian, something he was more than happy with. However, despite making the number 10 or 11 position his own, he still managed to pad up when the Elf had lost their 5th wicket. Some things never change. The day that he doesn’t pad up early, will be the day that he needs to. However, JP isn’t picked for his batting (you wouldn’t believe it by his early padding up), it is meant to be for his bowling (although some are questioning that). JP came on early in the innings, replacing John at the car park end to try and keep it tight and build pressure. I don’t think he did either, but crucially, he managed to remove two batsmen before they got going.  If only he could cut out the wides and no-balls, then his figures could be so much better. He ended up with figures of 2-50 off 8 overs.

11.Josh Butler  (DNB) :  Like JP, Josh was not needed to bat. However, when he does bat, he adds vital runs. Despite the lack of opportunities with the bat this year, Josh could easily bat further up the order. Not only that, but he could also make a good few runs in the process. But at the moment, his magic with ball in hand is unmatched. As with all spinners, batters will always go after them, thinking they are the easier option. But this is where Josh comes into his own and this is exactly what happened this time. Sending down slow left arm spin after slow left arm spin, Josh was able to get the batsmen in all sorts of trouble. Several times, they premeditated their shots and Josh was getting closer and closer. Eventually, his efforts paid off picking up two wickets before they could get going. Well bowled Josh.

Great effort from all!

 

A great day was had by all who attended both players and supporters.  Poppyfields brought a good number of supporters and along with the Elf contingent, the atmosphere was fantastic. With legends from the past making coming down, it was a great opportunity for a catch up at the cricket. Not only was the cricket good, but the teas were super, with everyone pitching in. So much to choose from and I think most of disappeared by the end of the day. Hopefully, this will be a fixture for many years to come.

Batting
Bowling

v Wellington Friendly XI (A) 19/06/22

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WHCC 275-4 (Chuck 50, Nunns 49, Armstrong 48, Stenson 48)

Wellington 158-7 (Philpott 2-19, Chuck 2-27)

WHCC won by 117 runs

Full Album by Liz – https://photos.app.goo.gl/CqBbqRzWkwGetbsVA

The Elf made the lengthy trip to Shropshire to take on Wellington fresh from returning to winning ways at home to Beaumont. A first visit to the magnificent Orleton Park ground on the edge of the Wrekin certainly provided a scenic backdrop to what proved to be an enjoyable days’ cricket.

Under grey skies and with a forecast that looked dicey, the Elf batted first. Openers Jack Stenson and Dan Dunn accumulated at a steady rate as they negotiated the new ball, Jack passing 100 runs unbeaten, following on from his unbeaten 83 last weekend. The pair gradually began to go after the bowling, coming down the wicket on occasion but with the score on 36, Dan would then miscue one from Gunawardena when on 15 to mid-on for a well taken catch by Chohan (one, he reminded those in the scorebox with much dismay, which was the only successful catch of the innings amongst a few dropped efforts!)

This brought Ian Chuck to the wicket and he and Jack continued to play positively and run hard, turning several 1s into 2s and running some sharp singles in the ring. Jack in particular looked to get on with things as he approached his 50 (which would see him retire due to a captain’s agreement), hitting a succession of fours, however, he was bowled when trying to reverse sweep Edge for 48 to leave  the score 77-2 in the 14th over.

Chuck and Andy Gorton then set about establishing another partnership as two of the Elf’s all time leading run scorers manipulated the ball around well on a pitch that was just giving a little bit of encouragement to bowlers with some variable bounce- the long boundaries offering the chance for 2s and 3s. The pair took the Elf past 150 when Chuck ran the single which took him to his 50th run, at which point he retired and unknown at the time, caused chaos in the scorebox for a few overs as skipper Alex Nunns took his place at the non-strikers end and watch Gort (and not Alex!) get bowled by Chohan just 2 balls later for 34 (156-3)

Will Lauchlan came in at 6 and looked to play a shot a ball, knowing he had plenty of depth to come (with Dave Stephens due in at 10- one of the better number 10s in Elf history surely) and he managed to get a couple away to the fence, before being stumped by Recce off Srihivason for a 9-ball 11 (174-4)

One away.

This left Dan Armstrong, unusually batting down the order, to join Alex and both accelerated the scoring rate considerably in the last ten overs with a series of boundaries and whilst Dan started off 11 runs behind, he soon caught up and a series of lusty blows from both set up a tense scenario of the Elf chasing our record score of 276 and both batsmen closing in on their individual half centuries. It was one of them, like the England 500 attempt against the Dutch in Friday’s ODI, where it seemed a long shot but gradually became more likely and with 14 off the 39th over, just 9 were needed to break the record, but a tight last over by Rabani kept it to 7 to leave us one short of equalling out best score (dubious as a wide in the 30th over was not added to the total) and left Alex 49 off 40 and Dan 48 off 30, both unbeaten. The score of 275-4 however, was still an imposing total and gave the bowlers plenty to work with

The Elf reaching new heights

Sadly, there was no tea report as it was bring your own but after what seemed a short interval, we were back out there, still in cold, overcast conditions and we got the perfect start first ball as for the 2nd away game in a row,  DS had a wicket 1st ball, trapping Mullard-Wilson absolutely stone dead lbw.

This brought Gunawardena to the wicket and he had sights on getting them all on his own, as he cracked some blistering shots away. At one stage he had all 24 runs for Wellington and made the most of a couple of lives to race to 48 by the time both DS and Dan Armstrong had finished their 8 over spells. The impressive young batsman, Eli, at the other end was quietly accumulating at the other end and steadily looking to increase his tempo to leave the hosts 61-1 at this stage. Gunawardena got the 2 to take him to 50 with the first ball of Josh Butler’s spell and he was replaced by Willis. The 2 batsmen now looked to take on the spinners Josh and Chuck, but a magnificent direct hit run out from mid off from Jack (his 2nd in just a handful of games) put an end to Willis’ stay for 5. This then sparked a bit of a collapse as the ever-accurate Chuck bowled both Reece (5) and Rowland (via an inside edge for 0) in successive overs to leave Wellington 84-4 at drinks.

At this stage, you might have felt the Elf would run through the middle order, but Eli found a capable ally in Chohan, the pair comfortably seeing out the rest of Josh’s and Chuck’s overs, mixing regular singles with the occasional big shot as they took their partnership past 50, before Chohan was finally undone by Greg Phillpott for 30. Rabani then fell in the same over for nought to one of the all-time great catches from Jack, on the run from long on to snaffle an absolute skier. The fielding award may as well have his name engraved on it already!

The last few overs saw an impressive spell from Dan Dunn to finally remove Eli for 39, taking a catch off his own bowling having almost took a stunner an over or two before off the same batsman, many of the Elf sportingly congratulating Eli on a fantastic performance as he left the field. Gunawardena and Edge managed to negotiate the last 6 overs successfully as Wellington closed on 158-7, still a very respectable effort in itself.

Good game – Great fixture.

What was pleasing is that there were many contributions so picking a man of the match was almost impossible. Whilst the shower club was a lower than in the past gathering, Greg reliably gave it a solid 7/10 and the beautiful double decker pavilion with its balcony gave a nice spot for the fines committee to discuss the days’ events. The bar has a solid section of bottles and lagers, a pity the ale pump wasn’t in action but reasonably priced nonetheless and one that hopefully we get to experience in the future.

So on to Poppyfields down at Rushall on Sunday. They brought a good support last year and made a real event of it. Hopefully the weather will allow for a good game and some food during the day

Up the Elf!

J Butler

v Beaumont (H) 12/06/22

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Walsall Health won by 6 wickets

After the previous weeks wash-out Walsall welcomed Beaumont to Carter Park the weather was set perfect for an afternoon of friendly cricket with the sun shining and blue skies all around even Dai turned up in shorts and a t-shirt! Walsall Health skipper agreed to let Beaumont bat first as they only had 7 players at the ground at the toss with 2 or 3 maybe on the way to make up the numbers.

The 2 Dave’s took the new ball for the Elf and both were soon on the money with very tight lines to create the pressure on the Beaumont openers.  The pressure soon told as DS forced an error from Clinton to play onto his stumps for 1, from the other Dave Clive who had yet to get his firsts wicket off the season was soon in on the act with an absolute peach of a delivery that came back a mile to bowl opposition captain Grainger for 10 it really was a beauty of a delivery think Simon Jones to Michael Clarke ’05 Ashes at Old Trafford a serious contender for ball of the season, it was that good that Dave admitted later on fines that he had no idea how he did it!!!! Both bowlers continued to apply the pressure and DS was in the wickets again as he had Hall caught behind by Mac, it was a superb catch behind the stumps by Mac diving low to his right grabbing it one handed it was just a shame that his family hadn’t arrived in time to see it. Not to be out done Dave Clive bowled Jandu for 0 in his next over as Beaumont struggled to score runs.  With the score on 22-4 DS very unselfishly asked to be taken off to give some of the other Elf bowlers a bowl as he feared the game wouldn’t last very long, BIG HAND DS! DS finished with figures of 2-10 from 5 overs.  Replacing DS was Ben Lester who soon found his rhythm from his first over and continued the good started by the 2 Dave’s.  JP replaced Dave Clive from the Pavilion end after Dave Clive with figures of 2-24 from 8 overs a top spell from Dave and good to see him back in the wickets.  Both Ben and JP aka the Wizard were soon in the wickets also Ben bowled Owen for 6 and JP trapped Jones LBW for 7 leaving Beaumont in big trouble at 34-6 at drinks.  Just before drinks Nicka had arrived with his hangover cure (a Big Mac and fries) but he was soon dashing off to get his kit as he had very kindly agreed to play for Beaumont to give them 10 men, Nicka soon had his pads on and was looking forward to dishing out some long handle treatment to the Elf bowlers but before then Beaumont batters Percival and Price began to re-build their innings as they look to take on JP and get the score moving.  With a few boundaries and a couple of extras Price & Percival had got the score up into the 80’s before Ben Lester trapped price LBW for 20 this brought Nicka to crease and he soon started to strike the ball to all parts of Carter Park with some clean hitting and accelerated the score onto 100.  Jack Lester replaced his brother Ben after Ben finished with 2-22 from 8 overs.  Nicka took an instant liking to Jack’s bowling and despatched the ball to boundary with ease as the score started to race along at the other end JP was starting to take some punishment but the Wizard stuck to his task and was rewarded with this 2nd wicket as he accounted for Percival again LBW for a well-made 35.  Last man Jandu joined Nicka at the crease with the score now on 130-8.  Nicka decided that he needed to up the scoring rate to give Beaumont a chance in the game so he went after the bowling of Lester and JP with 4’s coming regular.  JP finished his spell with 2-52 from 8 overs, replacing JP was Dan Armstrong, Nicka was keen to face Dan and soon showed him the Dunny dab down to 3rd for 4, Dan was not impressed! He was even less impressed next bowl when Nicka smacked back over his head for 4 to bring up his every 50 in cricket, it was a fantastic innings from Nicka and well deserved the Beaumont players were very appreciative of Nicka’s efforts as they gave him a BIG HAND!! Dan soon had his revenge as he got Nicka out in his next over LBW for 55 as Beaumont were all out for 168 it was a good recovery after the struggles at the start.  It was good effort in the field by all the Elf fielders as they chased everything to the boundary and backed up the bowlers well especially Will and Nath who both charged round the field to save every run.

Stenson ready to go.

Dan Armstrong and Jack Stenson opened the innings for Walsall Health and both Elf batters were soon picking up boundaries to get the innings off to a flying start as they looked to chase the target down.  The 50 partnership was soon up for the Elf openers as Dan despatched a big 6 into the neighbour’s gardens.  With the score now on 62 in the 7th over Dan again went for another big hit but could only find the safe hands of Nicka on the long on boundary off the bowling of Percival for 33.  62-1 soon became 77-4 as Will Lauchlan went for 0, Nath Reeves for 1 and Mac for 0 all to the bowling of Percival as Beaumont turned the screw and put the pressure back onto the Walsall Health batters.  Jack Stenson was still at the other end on 30 and looking in touch as he was joined by skipper Alex Nunns to steady the ship.  Jack and Alex started to re-build the innings and get the run chase back on track as they ran well and rotated the strike with some quick singles.  Beaumont rotated their bowlers as they tried to get the break-through but both batters batted calmly and soon the runs started to flow as Jack went to his first Elf 50 once past 50 Jack started to unleash and found the boundary with ease as the score quickly moved on.  Alex at the other end was happy to play second fiddle as picked up the singles to give the strike back to Jack, but as the target got closer Alex soon hit a couple of boundaries to finish the game off including a 6 to win the game for the Elf in a partnership of 92 to lead the team home.

It was another enjoyable game of friendly cricket played in great spirits by both sides and was enjoyed by all the spectators in the afternoon sunshine.  Big hand again to Nicka for helping out the opposition despite feeling a little delicate from the night before and truly epitomizing the spirit of Elf.

Also congratulations to Jonathan Preece who moved into the top 10 all-time Elf leading wicket takers.

Next week Walsall Health are back on the road as they travel to Wellington in Shropshire in another new fixture to add to the list.

Alex Nunns

v Alrewas CC (A) 29/05/22

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Alrewas CC (192-4) beat Walsall Health CC (186-6) by 6 wickets 

Walsall Health participated in their annual game against Alrewas in memory of the late Andie and Tim Oliver. It was a game that promised to be a fun-filled day, as well as showing respect to legends of both clubs. While the weather didn’t quite match that of this fixture 12 months earlier, the fan park was full. Before the game, it was decided, that the Health would have four captains; Andy Gorton, Dave Stephens, John Nicholls and David Preece. However, as it transpired when the Health were in the field, it was our Chairman, Ian Chuck making all the calls.   

It was decided that Walsall Health would have a bat, but with a squad of 15 players to choose from, the openers for the Health were Andy Ince and regular opener Dan Armstrong. They started off with intent and played some nice shots finding the gaps, with clever running between the wickets keeping the scoreboard ticking. However, with the score on 18, Andy Ince picked out square-leg and was on his way for 11. Heading out to the middle was none-other than the club-pro Dan Dunn, who was aiming to put the events of seven days earlier behind him. It just so happened that man at the other end was the one who didn’t run the week before. Any early jitters by Dan Dunn were soon put to bed as the two Dan’s started to show their class at the crease. They built a steady partnership and the score started to motor along nicely from an Elf’s perspective. The pair were on course to reach 100 for the 2nd wicket, when with the score on 95, Dan Dunn was caught by Scott off the bowling of Kwant for a patient 23. Dan looked in good knick, but he wasn’t able to capitalize on a promising start. Well batted Dan.

Doc and Mini Doc…middle order dynamo’s

Next to the crease was batting stalwart Gary ‘Doc’ Reeves. It was an opportunity for the Doc to roll back the years and punish any ball that was slightly off line or length. Could he build another partnership with Dan Armstrong? The answer was no as Armstrong was next to go with the score still on 95. A well batted 60 for Armstrong, who completed back to back 50’s following his 59 against Unicorns last week. The departure of Armstrong brought to the crease fielding phenomenon N. Reeves (son of Gary). While it doesn’t happen very often, it is always nice to see a father /son combination at the crease (just make sure no quick singles are called). Nathan entered the crease with the confidence that he could build a quick-fire partnership with his father. It started off well as he slotted the first ball down fine leg for four runs. He’d got off the mark early. Was he going to go on and make an invaluable score? Unfortunately, the next ball went between bat and pad and clattered into his stumps off the bowling of Burrows. It would have been nice for the two of them to spend more time at the crease, but when the ball came down the pitch, Nathan felt confident he was going to connect with it. Another day, it might have sailed back over the bowlers head, but it was not to be and N. Reeves departed for 4. This left the score at 99-4, but there was still batting left.

In at number 6 was Jack Lester. Always eager to impress in front of his watching parents, he went out looking to start where he finished last week with a well played 40 against Birmingham Unicorns. An interesting start by Jack suddenly turned into runs. It was a nervous start from a player that seven days ago, almost reached his 50. He started getting bat on ball and it looked as though he and Gary were gradually building a steady partnership. However, when the score reached 125, Lester was unfortunately caught and bowled by Burrows for 7. Lester’s disappointment was evident when he came off giving a frank assessment of his batting performance. Unlucky Jack.  Better luck next time.

In at number 7, was Ian Chuck; a player who has scored plenty of runs for the Health, but has found run scoring hard to come by this year. He set out to make quick runs, hoping to build a competitive total for Alrewas to chase. Gary Reeves was still at the other end and there was still an opportunity for the Health to reach 200. However, with the score on 145, Gary had to depart for 29 as he was bowled by the opening bowler Walker. It was a steady knock, but with partners running out, Gary felt he had to force the pace, but it was one ball too many. Well batted Gary. On his return to the pavilion, another club stalwart in John Nicholls asked Reeves snr if he was glad he batted, Gary’s response was simply “I’m glad it’s over”. Hopefully, Gary will play more often for the Health as he stated later in the day “I’m back in the fold now” Always a pleasure to have you around Doc. With Gary’s departure, David Preece arrived at the crease, for his first game of the season. With 9 overs to go and 145 on the board, there was still a chance the Health could reach a target of 200, although, it would be a difficult task. But with two supremely confident batsmen, anything was possible. Both batted well with composure and an understanding of each other’s game. As the innings was drawing to a close, the two started to pick up the run-rate and by the end of the 40 overs, they had got the Health to a respectable 186-6, maybe a total that was defendable? Time would tell.   

Another DNB for Jonty…..Double Nicker Bocka.

A somewhat changed Health XI entered the field after a brilliant tea, so kindly put together by Alrewas, to defend the total they had set, knowing that a fast start was needed. With that in mind, I. Chuck, who had assumed the captain’s armband, threw the ball to the ever-dependable Dave Stephens and Josh Butler. DS, who was so unlucky not to pick up a wicket last weekend, was out to show that was a one-off. It proved to be the perfect start as DS had opener, and Alrewas legend, Tim Aston, caught by wicketkeeper Andy Gorton for a first ball duck. Exactly what the Health required.  Andy had a good day behind the stumps, stopping everything that came his way as well as offering plenty of encouragement to the bowlers. It’s what we expect from a keeper who has made the position his own with countless takes and stumpings over the year. Whoever replaces him when he does eventually hang the gloves up is going to find it a difficult act to follow.     

Next in was Scott. With the Health buoyant at the early breakthrough, new batsman Walker joined opener Burns to hopefully steady the ship. Despite the two batsmen being new to the crease, both players went after the bowlers from the off with a mixture of boundary hitting and quick running between the wickets. While DS was doing his best to keep the scoring down, Josh Butler, who had never opened the bowling for the Health started to cause the Alrewas pair a few problems, that on another day he would have been rewarded with at least one wicket. Josh and Dave’s efforts were rewarded when Stephens had Walker caught after he lofted the ball in the air and into the safe hands of I Chuck. This was amid calls from another of the Health new boys Will Lauchlan yelling “Chuckies” as the ball came down. Good catch Chucky. DS, eventually finished with figures of 2-38 off 6 overs. Unfortunately, Josh Butler was not so lucky and his figures were 0-19 off 3 overs. Good effort guys.

With the score at 56-2 off 9 overs, DS and Josh were to be replaced by I Chuck and La La himself; John Nicholls. The latter could always be called upon to remove a batsman with one of his deadly deliveries.  While Chuck and Jonty went about their business, Burns and Scott were growing into their innings with each shot they played. Wherever, Chuck put his fielders, the two batsmen found the gaps scoring boundaries regularly, backed up by quick running between the wickets. They had obviously seen several Health batsmen run well between the wickets and had similar ideas. Chances came for the Health in the field, but unfortunately they weren’t taken. It could have been so different. Like Butler, both Chucky and Jonty were not rewarded for valiant efforts and finished with figures of 0-9 off 3 overs and 0-36 off 6 respectively.

Next to come on, replacing Chuck, was ‘the wizard’ Jonathan Preece. Fresh from his 4-13 against Birmingham Unicorns and finding out he was two wickets away from entering the top 10 all-time WHCC wicket takers, he was hoping for similar success. However, all the hype and expectation around JP’s bowling evaporated after the first ball when a short ball down leg-side was put away for 4. Things did not get much better as his first over went for 15. This was not the start JP was hoping for. He never seemed to recover as he went for 32 in three overs without taking a wicket. It could have been so different if brother David had managed to stay within the field of play when he took a calm catch on the boundary’s edge. Instead of figures of 1-26 off 3, JP finished with 0-32. With the score at 160-2, club pro Dan Dunn entered the attack with Alrewas on course for victory. It was only a matter of time, but they still needed to score the runs. He must have felt reasonably confident after he batted well earlier on in the day. Dunn, who has maintained his preference to batting rather than bowling, showed why he was good enough to do both. Consistent line and length from the club pro wielded no reward as he went for 23 off 3 overs. The other end saw opening batter Dan Armstrong enter the attack, who was looking for a third 5-for in three weeks after his exploits in the previous 2. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be and Dan went the way of most of the Health bowlers as he ended up with figures of 0-22 off 2.2 overs. Unlucky Dan. Better luck next time. Well batted though.

While all this was going on, there was one bowler who had a milestone in his sights. Enter the original ‘Ice Man’, Chris Hall. He had already broken Tim Oliver’s record to become the leading all-time WHCC wicket taker last season with 388 wickets, but now, the target was 400. It was a decision that reaped the rewards. With very few runs to play with, Hall came into bowl just slightly fired up, getting wicket number 399 with only the second ball of this eagerly awaited spell, clean bowling Burns for 76. A super batting performance full of composure and skill. But that was not the end of it. With the scores level on 186, Hall was under maximum pressure not to concede the winning runs. So with the penultimate ball of his second over, Hall struck again to remove his 400th victim. Once again, hitting the middle stump of Gardner. The historic moment was greeted with that characteristic fist pump we have all seen so many times, and a yell of “Yes” ….to become the first bowler in the clubs history to take 400 wickets. All in a game of such huge significance for Chris, the relief was evident for all to see. If only he had been brought on earlier, the game might have gone in a different direction.  Chris Hall finished with figures of 2-9 off 2 overs. Well bowled Chris. Super effort. Unfortunately, it was Dan Armstrong who conceded the winning runs, as Scott hit a massive six to win the game inside 30 overs.  An innings that started off with a bang with a first wicket from DS finished off with a comprehensive defeat. A big hand to Alrewas, who were as ever, brilliant hosts, and well deserving winners.

However, that was not the end of it. After the game, Chris Hall was presented with a T-Shirt by Tim Aston, and was officially inducted into the Andie Oliver Cricket Academy. Another lovely touch from Alrewas, and very much appreciated by Chris. Something to treasure more than any of those wickets. Later on, he mentioned to our match reporter… “Since my ankle injury in February this one day has always been the target. Getting to Alrewas with a realistic chance of reaching 400 in memory of Andie and Tim” When you play for a long time, with two blokes of their calibre, no more motivation was needed.

 Only James Anderson and Stuart Broad lie ahead of WHCC’s finest bowler.  


Well played Alrewas. A great day that was played in the right spirit; one that Andie would have been proud of. We look forward to seeing you all again next season…..well played guys.
 

C.Hall in figures

Debut2002
Matches252
Wickets400
Most wickets in a Season record holder47 (2006)
Bowler of the Year Winner 2004,06,10,12,14,15,16, 2020,20219 times
Career Bowling Average13.55
             An icon of the club, Dai Preece, who promised so much in the week leading up to the day, but when the crunch came, was not needed.