We travelled to Lapworth to visit one of our longest serving opponents, always a lovely ground, and a welcoming bunch of lads. The first shock of the day…..no sign of Lapworth club legend Tim Fell. Too busy calculating if he is older than Jonty maybe? We were told he is in good spirits, but Lapworth had 18 players available, so Tim wasn’t selected. Even village cricket can be a tough school.
Our skipper for the day, Dan Dunn, lost the toss, so Lapworth elected to have a bat. Their openers, Dickinson and Ingram started fluently. Both batsmen, hitting the ball hard, nothing aerial either. All four corners of the ground had said hello to the red cherry as early as the 6th over. DS, DC and Ben Lester all bowled tidy spells, but anything that wasn’t quite on the spot got the full treatment. Things were starting to look quite bleak. Talking of bleak, poor old Dave Clive took a fierce blow to the nether regions whilst fielding at short mid off. No need for a blackboard and a piece of chalk to explain this any more graphically. After the ball poleaxed Dave, it was Dan Armstrong who decided to show his caring side, rolling around the pitch in fits of laughter, while his stricken team mate slumped to his knees, semi hunched over, praying for the pain to pass. Admittedly, it was hard not to chuckle, but later in fines, a fully recovered Dave Clive came out with a quote of the day contender….”Its ok lads, I’ve already got three kids” Top man.
Lapworth motored along to 73-0, looking well set for a big total. However, the impressive skipper, making his 50th appearance for WHCC, kept a cool head and a clear mind. The Club Pro’s decision to bring on Chris Hall and Dan Armstrong paid dividends. From the moment Chally bowled the talented young left hander Ingram, the whole game turned on its head. The electronic scoreboard, positioned at the far side of the ground experienced a type of sudden metamorphosis. That pipe and slippers position of 73-0, became 95-9 in the blink of an eye. The combination of a bit of pace at one end, with accuracy and guile at the other was a smart ploy. Armstrong and Hall’s combined figures made quite pleasant reading…..13 overs 3 maidens 9-21, with Danny Arm taking career best figures of 5-10. A crestfallen Lapworth lost their last man to Jack Lester, his first wicket for the club. A final score of 113 all out seemed unthinkable only 45 minutes earlier…..well bowled lads.
Our fielding was good, catches were snaffled, and our Wicket Keeper, Ian Chuck, had his best game behind the stumps so far. The keepers role has become a bit of a pass the parcel job lately, but the Chairman enjoyed a solid day with the gloves on. Although he did enlighten a fellow team mate at drinks with some pearls of wisdom….”Never ever wear Gorts inners, your hands will stink for a week” Thanks for the heads up Chuck.
After a lively tea, we set about chasing down 113. Debutante, Alex Macmillan started promisingly, but perished to another ball that stuck in the pitch. We were now starting to wonder if the track had been rolled overnight by a King Size Pritt Stick. However, any thoughts of a collapse were snuffed out mercilessly by another quality innings from Andy Ince, (65 not out) well supported by the tenacious Dan Dunn. (19 not out) The winning runs were hit by a powerful lofted drive from Andy, which meant a well deserved 100 partnership was completed. A fine effort in tricky conditions. Incey remains unbeaten at this ground, with a cumulative score of 201 not out. We think he might just be available for this one next season. Well batted lads.
A very good day at the office for the Elf, turning a game around in such spectacular fashion is always a satisfying way to win. This Dan Dunn is one cool customer, another very assured performance from the Skipper. Dan Armstrong showed once again, what a mercurial talent he can be with bat or ball. A big hand must also go to Ian Chuck, who seems to be taking on the role of Club Chameleon lately. Wicket keeping in his gardening gloves. (Village) Driving around in other players cars. Now scoring has been added to the Chucksters ever expanding CV. However, Chucky may need to pay a visit to the Josh Butler Scorers Academy in Boston, for an emergency refresher course, because four of the five catches we took were awarded to the wrong players in the book. A catastrophic blunder that will give our statistician Chris Hall sleepless nights for the rest of the month. (Don’t panic, its all been corrected)
AOB…..Alex Macmillan debut
Dan Armstrong…Career best figures 5/10. (The first 5-for since September 2019)
Dan Dunn….50th appearance. Chris Hall…250th appearance
Andy Ince’s current Elf career average….smack on 150. Its a shame we can’t introduce Central Contracts.
Ian Chuck updated his Facebook status to “In a relationship with a Mach 3 Turbo”….RIP the beard
Nathan Martin Update….The Friar Park Express is more like Del Trotter’s three wheel van at the moment, but the early recovery signs are encouraging, keep your chin up Nath…..see you soon.
We are back at Lapworth next Sunday for round two, where we play another new team, Birmingham Unicorns.
Walsall Health returned to their home ground this week as they welcomed Springhill to Carter Park.
The Health made 6 changes from the previous week; including in those changes were 4 debutants, a new Health record and also testament to the clubs recruitment drive during the winter months.
With the overhead conditions likely to favour the Elf swingers skipper Nunns was keen to make first use of the new ball and conditions and he got his wish when Springhill captain called incorrectly Nunns did not hesitate when inserting the opposition to bat.
The 2 Dave’s took the new ball and soon had it moving around. Dave Stephens bowling up the travelator we his usually control and cunning line and the length made runs hard to come by for the Springhill opening batters, DS was well supported at the other end by Dave Clive with some beautiful in-swinging deliveries which keep the batters and Mac behind the stumps on their toes. The break through soon came for the Health as DS had Sabz trapped in front for LBW for 15 with the visitors 22-1 Dave Clive was unlucky not to get the 2nd wicket in his next over as he forced an error from new batter Dee, in was a very clever slower ball from Dave Clive the batter mistimed his shot and the ball looped up to backward square leg to JP, Jonathan was charging in and dived forward only for the ball to fall agonisingly short of JP it was a great effort from the Elf wizard. Walsall Health kept things tight in the field and supported the bowlers well the energy from the 4 debutants certainly made a big difference. Dave Clive continued to mix things up with big in-swingers and slower balls but he couldn’t get the wicket that he deserved, Dave finished his spell with 0-27 from 5 overs. Nunns turned to club Pro Dan Dunn to replace Dave from the pavilion end for his first bowl of the season, despite not bowling for a while it didn’t take Dan long to find his rhythm. DS continued to keep control from the other end and picked up his 2nd wicket of the day when he bowled Qad for 15 and finished off with figures of 2-39 from 8 overs Dan Dunn also got in on the act as he bowled Dee for 13 leaving Springhill in trouble at 55-3 number 4 batter Jabz came in and went on the attack with some big blows to get the score moving. Josh Butler replaced DS from the dog kennel end and Jabz soon took a liking to his bowling by hitting a couple of big sixes into the neighbours gardens, Jabz was looking dangerous and had moved the Springhill score into the 80’s the Elf knew that they needed a wicket so with drinks approaching Dan Dunn came up with a plan which he executed superbly, a brilliant slower ball bamboozled Jabz that he could only chip it back to the club pro to be caught & bowled for 33 this after having a life as he was dropped at mid wicket by Nunns the previous over. Dan finished his spell with fine figures of 2-11 from 5 overs. With Jabz now back in the pavilion Josh soon settled into his spell and found some turn which made it very difficult for the new batters and his reward soon came as he had Marlon caught very smartly by debutant Jack Stenson at mid on, Jack was in the action again 2 balls later as new batter Ali hit Josh high up into the sky Jack back peddling from mid on to the boundary dived full length and nearly clung onto what would have been a stunning catch unfortunately Jack admitted to getting a finger on it so under Elf rules it goes down as a drop unlucky Jack. Replacing Dan Dunn from the pavilion end was going to be JP but the wizard had an idea and very unselfishly asked skipped Nunns to throw the ball to another debutant Ben Lester big hand JP. Ben and Josh continued to apply the pressure to the Springhill batters and the pressure soon told as Josh took his first ever caught & bowled as he got Banks for 2 Springhill were now 6 down with 100 on the board. Ben Lester managed to get through his nervous first over and started bowling some beautiful deliveries to back the pressure that Josh was creating at the other end. Ben was soon rewarded with his first Elf wicket by bowling Chris for 0 and then 2 balls later Ben picked up his second wicket when he bowled Richie also for 0 not before Josh picked up his 3rd wicket by having George caught at slip by Nunns for 2. With Springhill now 9 down danger man Ali tried to get their score moving but the Elf starved him of the strike and kept the pressure on the last batter. Desperate to get on strike Ali tried to take an unlikely single to Jack at mid on Ali was sent back by number 11 Zakey but it was too late as Jack swooped in picked up the ball and executed a superb direct hit to run out Ali for 14 to leave Springhill all out for 121 in 30 overs. It was a fantastic effort from the bowlers and fielders the 4 debutants all contributed in the field and they energy rubbed off on the other Elf fielders as everybody was throwing themselves around to try and save runs. Josh finished with 3-26 from 7.2 overs and Ben 2-16 from overs.
The sun came out as the Elf began their innings skipper Nunns wanting to continue his early season form opened with new man Jack Stenson. The pair made a good start as the Elf chased down their target of 122. With the score on 37 Jack nicked one behind off the bowling of Saqib to be out for a well made 15. Vice captain and club pro Dan Dunn joined Nunns at the crease and continued the good work started by Jack the pair ran well and picked up some quick singles as well as a few boundaries to bring up the 50 partnership between the captain and vice captain with the score moved onto 87 Nunns thinking about drinks at 20 overs missed the next ball and was bowled by Jabz for 36. Debutant Will Lauchlan joined Dan in the middle. Will was very cautious at first and took his time to get in but soon registered his first run with a single both batters looked at ease at the crease and took the score onto 106 before Dan Dunn was out caught by Dee off the bowling of Ali for a very good 37 to top off a very good all round performance from Dan, living up to his nickname. Jack Lester was the next batter for the Elf and was off the mark second ball with a 4 through third man. With the score on 118 it looked like the 2 new players were going to see it through to the end but it was not to be as Jack Lester became Ali’s second wicket of the day as he was bowled for 7. Mac joined Will but he wasn’t required and didn’t face a bowl as Will hit the winning runs next over as he cracked a superb 4 through the covers as Walsall Health reached their target of 122 in the 31st over. Will Lauchlan finished 11 not out on debut.
It was an enjoyable game played in very good spirits. It was also a good day for Walsall Health as they welcomed 4 new players to the club who all played a part in the game and settled in brilliantly. It was nice to see lots of supports at the club from both teams and our regular support from Dai Preece who said before the game that we hadn’t got a lot of bowling today!! Walsall Health then proceeded to bowl the opposition out in 30 overs!
Next week Walsall Health travel to Lapworth in Solihull, good luck lads.
Peopleton CC (222-6) defeated Walsall Health CC (192-8) by 30 runs (35 over game)
Walsall Health travelled down to Peopleton for a game that was originally scheduled to be played at Rushall CC. However, because of the torrential weather, it proved to be the right decision as we were able to get a full game in. Before the game started Nathan Reeves said something along the lines of “I’ve only played here once apart from the previous two times”. Not only that, but regular traveller Dai Preece (with all his experience in the game) asked which pitch we were playing on. Normally, that wouldn’t have been a problem, but the covers were still on!
Dan Dunn, as vice captain, went out for the toss due to the fact regular captain Alex Nunns had not turned up for a 12:30 meet. Officially, he was late. In his defence, he wasn’t driving. The toss was won and Dan elected to field. Alex managed to arrive in time to lead the team onto the field. The new ball was tossed to the ever dependable Dave Stephens and Nathan Martin. All that hope that built up was quickly knocked back as the two Peopleton openers Blatherwick and Lam set the tone and started to put on a decent partnership, with both players batting very sensibly but picking the gaps and manipulating the field. Both Martin and Stephens did create several chances and on another day, those chances would have stuck. Eventually, after some tidy bowling, Stephens broke the partnership by getting the wicket of Lam for 14. DS eventually finished on figures of 1-27 off 8 overs. This was a despite a thunderous shot being hit straight back at him, causing some pain on his hand. Nathan was still struggling and eventually finished on 0-38 off 6 overs (unlucky Nath).
The two opening bowlers were replaced by club legend Chris Hall (who radically decreased his run up from last year) and season debutant Dave Clive. As with all bowlers on their season debuts, Clive was a little bit rusty and was unfortunately punished by well-set batsmen who had got their eye in. Hall bowled at a steady pace, not leaving the batters many free shots. Despite this, the batsmen were still able to rotate the strike regularly forcing Elf captain – Nunns – to constantly change the field. Chris, however, finally got his man as Waller was bowled for 8. Hall was starting to think about reaching 400 wickets for the Health. A magnificent achievement when he finally reaches that milestone. He finished with figures of 1-43 off 8 overs, while Clive’s figurers were 0-53 off 4 overs.
Dan Armstrong, so reliable with the ball – and bat for that matter, came on to replace Clive and gave the batsmen something else to think about. He removed the new man at the crease Thirlby for 0. This was after Blatherwick retired after hitting a superb 100 not out. In the midst of such a great knock, the Elf were a man down as opening bowler Nathan Martin, in a brave attempt to stop a certain boundary off a Dan Armstrong ball, only succeeded in landing awkwardly and twisting his knee. It was later confirmed in the evening, that it was just a sprain and not a break. Best of luck Nath. Hopefully a speedy recovery. Nathan would be taken straight to hospital thanks to the quick thinking of the Preece’s, thanks to the two of them. A big hand must also be given to Peopleton for offering one of their fielders for us. Dan added to his wicket tally by dismissing Morris for 14.
After making a good start, Peopleton had a shaky patch losing several wickets for not many runs. They built a good steady partnership with Blatherwick reaching his century and Mucke reaching his 50. But this shaky patch continued when Nunns brought on the unpredictable, sometimes erratic, JP. His first over consisted of 2 wides. The second was far more controlled and got the wicket of the half-centurion Mucke for 53, when he was caught by Dan Armstrong at mid-off. The next of JP’s victims wasn’t long in coming. In the second ball of his 2nd over, JP had Billington caught for 1 by Dan Dunn, less convincingly than both bowler and fielder would have liked. JP finished for 2-21 off his 3 overs.
The final two batsmen – Harrold and Powell hit 16 off the last two overs to take the score to a competitive 222 for 6. After the start they made, Peopleton might have thought a score of 250 was in their sights. Credit must go to the Health for pulling it back a little.
Due to the break in play in the first innings, before they knew it, the two Health opening batsmen were out facing the Peopleton attack with the two Dan’s at the crease. Before captain Alex had time to sit down and observe the bowlers, he found himself out in the middle after Dan Armstrong flashed the first ball of the innings to one of the 5 slips Peopleton had set. It was a fabulous one-handed catch by Cameron off the bowling of Thirlby. It was the second golden duck of the season for Dan. There was enough pace on his shot that a couple of inches higher, it would have gone to the boundary and no doubt, Dan would have gone onto a big score.
This brought Alex to the crease with the Health in a spot of bother. He needed a captain’s knock, if the Health were going to mount a serious challenge. Both he and Dan made a steady start and the initial elation amongst the Peopleton XI started to wane a little. Like Peopleton, these two began to find the gaps and the quick single on several occasions. The two batsmen looked so assured, rotating the strike and looked set for a big partnership, passing 50 after 10 overs and looking to go on.
However, cricket is a funny old game. You can look secure one minute and then you can find yourself several wickets down with not many more runs on the board. In the 16th over, with the score at 62-1, Dan was back in the pavilion after being bowled by Powell for 33. A decent knock , but this was a start of things to come. Out came big hitter Nathan Reeves, who meant business. After a superb all-round effort in the field, Nathan’s scoring shots were 4,4,6,1,6. Despite his big hitting, he also played some nice safety shots and left the ball on a couple of occasions. One of his sixes almost took out a member of the Health fan club, which soon followed with a “Sorry Babe” being yelled from the middle. Thankfully no one else was needed to go to A&E. Nathan was soon out for a quick fire 21 – after he was bowled by Powell (for his second wicket of the day), that put the Health back on course.
Next in was another season debutant, the one and only I Chuck. He was hoping to build another good partnership with captain Nunns, who looked as focused as a Lion on a hunt. Chuck went out, and returned next ball after the umpire judged him to be out lbw off the bowling of Powell. Chuck wasn’t happy, but he said he accepted the umpire’s call. It was his first Elf duck in his 99th innings. Chuck was hoping to make a good start to the season, but as someone said later, “there’s always next week”. In came the second of three season debutants: the ever dependable WHCC stalwart, Andy Gorton. He went out with the composure of a man who scored runs freely throughout his career. However, Powell, who was on a hat trick, had other ideas as once first ball, the batsman’s defence was breached and Powell wheeled away deliriously after claiming a superb spell culminating in 3 wickets in 3 balls. Andy would have felt confident after putting in a great display behind the stumps in testing conditions. Better luck next time Andy.
Dave Clive, who had had a difficult time with the ball, came into bat at number 7, but was up against a man in form. His first aim was to defend the first ball, but that was about as good got for Dave as he soon followed Andy to the pavilion with another 0 to the scoreboard after he was bowled by the man of the moment – Powell (who finished with 5-31 off 6 overs). He had been struggling with injuries, and that might have played a part in his game. Hopefully a fully fit Dave will have better days. Nice to see you back. Hopefully see you in the Elf XI far more this year. While all this was going on, Alex Nunns had made his way past 50 and looked good for 100. From a score of 92-2, the Health found themselves in all sorts of trouble at 100-6 and there were still 15 overs to go. Someone had to stay with Alex to rebuild another match defining partnership. In came opening bowler DS, who on another day, could have had more than the solitary wicket with the ball. He managed 4 runs, but more importantly he occupied the crease for 8 overs, supporting Alex in his aim to get to three figures. The contest for the duck trophy is already hotting up and it’s only the start of May!
Stephens eventually fell to Billington, as he was trapped in front lbw making the score 135-7. He was to be replaced by Chris Hall, a very good batsman, who, because of his bowling achievements, goes under the radar when it comes to batting. A good spell with the ball was followed by a solid 4 not out. However, in the 40th over, as Alex was edging towards his 100, a ball jumped up at him off the uneven ground and he top-edged it to square leg and Alex had to depart for a very well played 90. The Elf contingent on the boundary were so flat, you could have heard a pin drop. He returned to the changing room with a standing ovation from the crowd. Next in at number 9 was JP who had 4 balls to keep out. Thankfully, no more wickets fell and the Elf finished on 192-8.
Unfortunately, another defeat for the Health, but the game was played in the right spirit, both on and off the field. Well kept at it Elves, on what was a tricky day in more ways than one.
The ELF travelled to the beautiful village of Kinlet in Shropshire (not Dudley) for their first away game of season. It was decided to meet at the nearby pub called the Eagle & Serpent, not one to miss an opportunity Dan Armstrong decided to test the local cider pre game, not once but twice. Once Dan had finished his sampling the team made their way up to the ground for the game. There were seasons debuts for skipper Alex Nunns, left arm seamer Nath Martin and club legends Chris Hall and John Nicholls (Jonty playing a game in April). Skipper Alex Nunns won the toss!!!! and elected to bat first on the advice of the opposition captain.
The two Dan’s opened up hoping to make amends from last week’s first ballers. Dan Armstrong fuelled by his 2 pints of cider despatched the 2nd ball of the game onto the roof of the home changing room for 6. Dan’s aggressive batting soon raced the score onto 32 before he was caught at deep mid-wicket for 18 from 17 balls bringing Alex Nunns to the crease to join Dan Dunn, unfortunately Dan Dunn was also soon back in the shed adjudged LBW to a ball that kept low for 14. Nath Reeves was the next man and after a couple of sighters he soon sent one massive 6 over deep mid-wicket into the next field, Nath continued to go on the attack and soon raced to 20 before being bowled by Ken. The score had moved onto 73-3 but the Elf were then soon in trouble at 74-4 when Mac was caught behind for a second ball Duck again off the bowling of Ken. Next batter in was the returning Nath Martin and looked in good touch despite not playing for over a year, Nath punched his 2nd ball off the back foot through the covers for 4 but both Nath and Alex had to dig in and re-build the innings both batted sensibly and ran well together as runs were hard to come by the score had reached 94 before Nath became Ken’s 3rd victim of the afternoon when he was undone by the lack of pace and was bowled for 5. Dave Stephens joined Alex in the middle and pair started to get the score moving once they had got to grips with the pace of the pitch Alex gaining more confidence struck a big straight six onto the roof of the away changing room followed by another six straight over the bowler’s head, Dave also clubbed away a couple of boundaries to bring up the 50 partnership between to the 2 batters. Alex brought up his 50 with another single but was then out for 51 caught at long off trying to push the score on with only a few overs to go the Elf knew that they were still a few short of a good score so with this in mind DS got the long handle out and hit 21 from the 39th over, Dave was out for 38 from the first ball of the 40th but the damage had already been done. JP joined Josh in the middle for the last 5 balls of the innings and after a couple of quick singles JP managed to hit the 5th ball away for 4 through the covers to finish 5 not out and Josh 3 not out. Elf finished the innings on 182 – 7.
Tea was taken for the first time in 2 ½ seasons as our hosts very kindly offered to provide tea and it didn’t disappoint a wide range of sandwiches, cakes and pizzas along with pork pies and sausage rolls. A sign of a good tea is the amount of times that people go back up for seconds and plenty of the Elf members certainly did this. It rated at a solid 9 out of 10.
The Elf set about defending their total of 182 with openers DS & Nath Martin quickly finding their lines & lengths which built the pressure on the Kinlet opening batters and the pressure soon told as Dave found the edge of Crook and the ball flew to first slip reign where Chris Hall took a stunning one handed catch (most definitely a contender for catch of the season) Nath Martin followed this up with a wicket in his next over bowling the other opener for 1. Both Nathan and Dave continued to keep things tight and kept the runs down but neither could find another break through but both finished their spells with respectable figures DS 1 for 23 off 8 overs and Nath 1 for 11 from 6 overs (including 4 maidens) Skipper Nunns then called upon club legends Chally and Jonty to work their magic and it didn’t take long for Jonty to do so, a first ball Laa-Laa accounted for Bishop as he chipped a full toss high into the air and Alex Nunns did the rest. From there Kinlet re-built their innings with a good partnership from Bowyer & Wallace, Bowyer in particular took a liking to Jonty’s bowling and despatched him for a few 6’s into the next field but Jonty kept to his task and finally got his reward by bowling Bowyer for a well-made 58 a knock that brought the hosts back into the game. Chally kept things tight from the other end despite still carrying a slight injury produced a wonderful spell of 0-18 from his 8 overs with Jonty also contributing 2-34 from 6 overs it was time to turn to the spin twins of JP & JB both spinners knew that their lines & lengths had to be tight especially with the short boundary on the one side and the Kinlet batters looking to go on the attack after being pegged back by the Elf seamers. Both Jonathan & Josh stuck to their tasks brilliantly and were well supported in the field especially by last season’s fielder of the year Nath Reeves who patrolled the short boundary as if his life depended on it. Josh was first to get in on the act as he bowled Kinlet captain Yapp for 13 as he played on, then JP took centre stage as he had Mooney stumped by Mac for 10 and then the dangerous Wallace caught behind again by Mac for 35 with the pressure now back on the Kinlet batters the Elf spin twins started to turn the screw and Josh picked up his 2nd & 3rd wickets in consecutive balls first wicket was caught in the deep by Dan Dunn running in at full pelt (top catch Dan) and the second was stumped as the batsman was beaten in the air and Mac did the rest behind the stumps for his second stumping of the day. Josh was now on at hat-trick and very unselfishly he said he didn’t want to go for it but he was persuaded otherwise by his teammates as all the Elf team surrounded the bat only for the number 11 batter to comfortably turn it around the corner for a single but the drama wasn’t finished there. Josh then found the edge of the Kinlet number 10 and ball looped to Dan Armstrong who decided to stay at slip after the hat-trick ball only for Dan to attempt to take it one handed but unlike Chally earlier in the innings this one didn’t stick and hit Dan on the head before hitting the floor (I think Dan must have been dreaming of those ciders). The innings came to close as Kinlet finished 157-9 off 40 overs. JP finished with figures of 2-36 off 6 overs and Josh 3-35 from his 6 overs.
After the game had finished both teams headed to the Eagle & Serpent to sample some more local cider again Dan Armstrong didn’t miss out as he came back with 3 pints which soon disappeared before fines could be taken our hosts very kindly brought out hot dogs and chips for us all to enjoy again there were more than one visit to the table so much so that Nath Martin decided to cancel his Chinese takeaway that he was going to order on his way home.
All in all, it was a great day all round and a BIG BIG hand has to go to our hosts Kinlet CC for their very kind generosity and hospitality, we hope to be back again next season and also a big hand to Chris Hall for organising this fantastic fixture.
Next week Walsall Health return to their home ground at Carter Park.
Penn CC (149 -3) defeated Walsall Health CC (147) by 7 wickets
Walsall Health CC began their 2022 season with the visit of Penn CC. The action started before a ball was bowled (or even before we got into the ground). At 11:50am, cars were parked at the entrance of the club, waiting for the gates to be opened. Maybe it was a subtle tactic to unnerve the opposition on the Health’s part. However, as we were to find out later, it possible affected a few of the elf members more.
Thankfully, the game started on time with Penn winning the toss and electing to field. Out strolled openers Tom Bentley and regular smasher Dan Armstrong. All that hope and expectation that had built up during the week had been punctured immediately, as Dan went first ball off the bowling of Dillon. Somehow, a reasonably powerful shot went more airborne that distance and nestled into the hands of the fielder at mid-off. The Health began at 0-1. Tom and no 3 batter Andy Carrick (a batter of great technique and patience) had to steady a nervy ship and started to knock it around a little bit. Each ball, they grew in confidence, but at 19-1, Bentley was trapped on his crease lbw by Dillon for 6. Andy was starting to get a feel for how the pitch was playing.
At 19-2 off 7 overs, the Elf needed someone to stick around and support Andy. Out strolled the skipper for the day and club-pro, Dan Dunn, feeling confident enough that he was going to be that person to help guide the home side through a difficult patch. Dillon had other ideas as he sent Dan back with the second golden duck of the innings. Now, the Elf were reeling at 19-3 with Dillon on a hat-trick. Coming out to face that hat-trick ball was none other than Nathan Reeves. Dillon raced back to his marker and charged in. Reeves – not one for hanging around, set himself and hit Dillon right back over his head. Was Nathan going to be the batsman to hang around with Andy? Unfortunately, the answer was no, as a few balls later, he went for one shot too many, and was cleaned bowled by Suri. This left the home side at 34-4. It was looking very much like an England batting collapse of recent times. However, there were questions as to whether 5 or 6 balls of the over had been bowled. After some discussion, it was agreed the umpire had counted correctly. I expect the umpire wishes he hadn’t called the wide. More to the point, I expect Nathan wished he hadn’t called it.
Andy was still in control of his innings, playing sensibly as the situation required. In at number 6, was Health debutant Mack Perager. The two of them started knocking it around sensibly and started to build a decent partnership. Andy managed to reach his 50; a well deserved, patient knock whilst rotating the strike. For a spell, the Penn bowlers had no answers. Perager eventually went for a hard fought 17 after he was caught of the bowling of Patel. Despite only getting 17, it was noted that he did exactly what was needed and occupied the crease for a considerable amount of time. He and Carrick managed to take the score from a precarious 34-4 from 10 overs up to 106-5 off 29 overs; an incredible effort that was cut short when Perager had to depart.
Andy was still there. The general feeling was that if the Health were going to post a defendable score, he was going to have to stick around for the next 10-15 overs. Dave Stephens, a trusted opening bowler went out to build on the good work done by the men in form, began confidently, by defending the first ball and getting off the mark with his second. Unfortunately, his stay at the crease was ended far too prematurely when he was bowled by Rahl. While Rahl was delighted to get his first wicket of the innings, he was to have more success near the close of the innings. Stephens departed with the score at 127-6. Even though Dave had only scored 3, he was able to support Andy in his quest to reach a well deserved 100. Was anyone going to stick around long enough to help him?
Next in at number 8 was Jonathan Preece. He wasn’t used to coming in this early in the order. He came out with the intent of staying at the crease, frustrating the bowlers, and picking up a few runs here and there. His defence seemed sound enough as he kept out several good length balls and making sure the ball didn’t get through his guard. Andy decided to take the initiative during a change of overs and decided to take more of the strike. Not a bad idea if the Health were going to get 150. However, after some quick intelligent running between the wickets, Preece was out lbw for 1. This moved the score onto 135-7. The Elf were slowly creeping towards a target of 150. Could someone stay with Carrick to the end? The next man in was another debutant James Wintrip. There was still time for targets to be met, but at 148-7, Carrick eventually had to depart on 87 after succumbing to Rahl who was visibly delighted to dismiss the batsman of the innings. As he left the field, Andy was met with handshakes from the opposition and a standing ovation from the boundary in front of watching family members.
Next in was Alan ‘Nicka’ Dunn. He was hoping to get some early season runs and not suffer the same fate as son Dan. Well, he kept the first ball out, but failed to keep the second ball out, as it clattered into the stumps for 0 by Singh. This left the Elf at 148-9. When he returned to the pavilion, Nicka didn’t hold back, stating “At least I lasted more balls than Dan”. In at number 11 was the very much travelled Josh Butler. He had done a magnificent job with the scoring (making sure it all added up at the end). Was he able to add to the total? Despite coming in at number 11, he set off to the crease with the confidence of a number 4 or 5. However, no sooner was he at the crease, Butler returned with a pen in his hand. He had obviously forgotten to put the pen down and pick up his bat. However, no sooner had Josh had got out there, with bat in hand, both batsmen were back in the pavilion as Wintrip was bowled by Rahl for 1. The innings ended and the Health finished on 148 all out.
While it was going to be difficult, a score of 148 was defendable. If they were going to succeed, the Health needed a similar start to Penn’s, with early wickets necessary. Dan decided to go with the tried and tested senior opening bowlers of Dave Stephens and Nicka Dunn. The first three overs went for a respectable 8 runs, with one boundary. The Health looked agile in the field and it looked as though they were up for the fight. However, after a couple of overs, Penn’s opening pair; Bywater and Shah looked set for a long partnership. That was until the 6th over when Shah was caught by captain Dan Dunn off the bowling of ‘Nicka Dunn for only 5. That made the score 20-1. Shah had looked comfortable and then tried to replicate N. Reeves from the first innings, but only succeeded in finding the safe hands of the stand-in skipper. Was this going to be the start of the recovery? The wicket brought some renewed energy to the Health who felt another wicket was just round the corner. Unfortunately, the next wicket didn’t arrive soon enough. Despite the efforts in the field, Bywater and Rahl knuckled down and batted with patience and precision. They were able to play their shots and found the gaps.
They were going along nicely at 69-1 when all of a sudden two quick wickets fell. Dunn decided to bring on Wintrip for Stephens (figures of 0-23 off 6 overs). A decent effort from Dave, who kept the batsmen guessing and didn’t give them any free hits. After a shaky start, Wintrip got his wicket as Rahl, like Shah earlier in the innings, went over the top, but only succeeded in finding the hands of an ecstatic Butler. The look on his face showed he enjoyed that moment. It wasn’t just the fact he caught it, but he had to make sure he knew where his feet were. One more step back and it would have been six. Super effort Josh, and congratulations James for claiming your first Elf wicket. Wintrip eventually finished on 1-35 off 4 overs. Rahl had put on a good partnership with Bywater, taking the score to 69-2. Rahl departed for a well earned 27, a score which helped Penn well on their way to victory. No sooner had the second wicket gone down, the third Penn wicket arrived an over later. Dan was considering taking off Nicka when the latter pleaded to have one more over with a new batsman at the crease. Dan’s decision to keep him on was vindicated as the very first ball of Nicka’s next over saw Singh bowled for one. Nicka eventually finished on 2-39 off 8 overs.
Nicka was eventually replaced by last year’s leading wicket taker, J. Preece. Despite all the net practices and the preparation, the first ball was not what he’d planned. It went down leg side for 4. Not the first impressions that JP wanted to make. After that he tided-up somewhat, finding his line and length. He eventually finished on 0-21 over two overs. The batsmen were eager to finish the innings off in double quick time. There was still enough time for Bywater to reach his 50 and retired after a brilliantly controlled knock. He was replaced by J Dhillon, who wanted to make up for lost time. Rather than just trying to settle in, he went big from the very beginning. A mixture of good running and boundary hitting, Dhillon amassed 41 runs, dealing mainly in 4s and 6s. The Health didn’t have any reply to his big hitting. Wintrip was replaced by opening bat D. Armstrong, who was trying to rebuild his reputation after the calamitous first-ball duck. He came steaming in. The first three balls were on the spot and kept the batsman on his toes. However, like the start of the innings, the batsmen picked up the bowler’s length and started playing their shots again. Butler, who fielded superbly and took that superb catch, came on to bowl. Unfortunately, the batsmen were set and were determined to finish the game off. They decided to go the areal route. This resulted in successive sixes and a four, which helped Penn knock off the runs inside 23 overs. Armstrong finished on 0-11 off 2 overs and Butler finished off with figures of 0-20 off 1.2 overs. Unlucky Josh. You just happened to be there at the end.
A well deserved win for Penn and played in the right spirit.
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.