Walsall Health beat Sportsman by 3 wickets.
For the first time this season we welcomed Sportsman CC to Rushall, for what is always a hard fought contest. With weather conditions perfect for a game of cricket, it was Sportsman who chose to bat first on the tricky Rushall deck. Captain for the day, Ian Chuck introduced the debutant Tom Wall straight into the game. This proved to be a smart move, as Tom, steaming in up the hill bowled Underwood for 0. Then came an important early moment in the match. The Sportsman No3 Waqas Ahmed, has plenty of previous for hitting big scores quickly……..
Not that I’m much interested in stats, but if you check Waqas profile on Sportsman’s Play Cricket site, the man has played 60 games, hitting 201 fours and 133 sixes. Including a score of 141 off 62 balls in a mid week T20. So when Waqas was dismissed via an edition of WHCC Poetry Corner….caught Hall, bowled Wall for 0, this was a nice early battle to win.
Quietly going about his business at the other end was Dave Stephens, who once again bowled really well to dismiss another quality player in Vijay Chandramani for 6, followed by John Hemsley for 5. A significant family moment for Dave who overtook son Sam on the list of all time wicket takers. This was also the 250th wicket for the Stephens Father/Son combination. A great family achievement….Well bowled.
With Sportsman in trouble at 29-4, JP was unlucky to be hit, flush in the mouth fielding at mid off. A very well hit drive, taking a bad bounce drew some blood. No issue for JP, who simply said…”I’m fine” Even less of an issue for Father Dai Preece, who simply said…”Get up” The game continued. Dan Dunn continued his good season taking the wicket of Khan in his first over to maintain the pressure on Sportsman.
It was at this point that Chuck turned to JP and Chris Hall to enter the attack. It was Hall who struck the next blow. Thanks to yet another superb catch on the boundary by Rich Fell to dismiss Hussain for 24. His 96th career catch, to edge ever closer to becoming only the second player to take a century of catches. Sportsman really were in trouble, with Chally bowling a really tight spell. Thoroughly enjoying the battle against Sportsman’s middle order to claim two more wickets, reducing our opponents to 63-8, with JP at the other end very unlucky not to pick up a wicket from his 8 over spell of trickery and deception.
All credit goes to Sportsman here, as they managed to dig in, thanks to a dogged 55 by Khan, and brave support from Jack Wiseman their score crept above the 100 mark. Dave Stephens and Dan Dunn were called back into the attack, with Dave finally trapping Wiseman for 13, followed by Dan Dunn wrapping up the innings with the wicket of Khan, who had held the Sportsman innings together. Another significant moment, with Rob Hewlitt taking his 50th career catch for the club….Sportsman, 130 all out.
After tea, we soon realised that chasing a score of 130 was never going to be easy. So after a few early extras took our score to 12-0, our first three batsmen, Gort, Dan Dunn and Alex Nunns all fell in quick succession. Alex being particularly unlucky to get an unplayable one. 16-3 didn’t look too healthy with a rampant Sportsman sensing victory. But thanks to Mr Entertainer, Dan Armstrong and the busy Rob Hewlitt, the Elf ship was steered into calmer waters. This was the match winning partnership, with Rob pinching so many quick singles, turning ones into two’s, and two’s into three’s, to earn runs that would prove very important at the conclusion of the match. Thanks to Rob, Dan Armstrong was experiencing his first ever Bleep Test at the crease, whilst constructing an attacking 43. Many times, Dan advanced down the pitch to take on Sportsman’s opening bowler, drilling the ball like a missile. Its really good to see Dan back in such confident form again.
Sadly, with the partnership at 64, Dan was bowled. Tom Wall came in and looked good, hitting a quickfire 17 to take us to 103-5…..28 required with 5 wkts in hand. Rob was still well set though, with Captain Chuck joining him to steer us home. However, Sportsman hadn’t read the script. With Waqas Ahmed causing havoc at the business end of the game, trapping Chuck for 2, and Rob for a well made 36…..118-7. Game on.
Any nerves were soon settled by two experienced players who have been in these sort of situations many times. Rich Fell and Chris Hall combined to get us over the line. Fell taking a blow to the ankle from a Waqas inswinger, refused to buckle. With Chally waiting patiently for the right ball to smack to the boundary for the winning runs, thus continuing the resurrection of Rick Jarrams bat. It really does have a great middle.
Tea Update…Getting better. Some nice beef cobs. While Alex Nunns waxed lyrical about the new cheese baguettes. Apparently, he is quite the connoisseur of the bread section in Morrisons. 7/10
Sheila Update…Who is Sheila? Has anyone seen Sheila? Dan Armstrong’s mystery woman. Apparently she gives him free time on the snooker table down the local social club. Is her surname Breeze? Who knows? Maybe ask Nikka, who stepped up to score today which is always a big help. The Great Man also had some sound advice for Chris Hall, who admitted he struggles to get to sleep on a Sunday night after playing cricket. To which Nikka replied…”Maybe try drinking 19 bottles of Cobra, that should help you drop off”
Crimewatch update….Rob Hewlitt pinched so many runs off the Sportsman fielders it was worthy of a custodial sentence. But on a serious note, the excellent running between the wickets, instigated by Rob, brought us some precious extra runs, this combined with his 50th career catch, we will let him off with just a caution.
The Verdict….Great game today. Hard fought as ever. A good debut from Tom Wall who slotted into the team really well. JP and Rich Fell taking a couple of painful blows, both just got on with the job…. Good commitment. Plus a nice moment of sportsmanship, to call back Sportsman’s Jack Wiseman after he was given out incorrectly. A quiet day for Chuck on the batting front, but an excellent game as Captain, creating a really positive atmosphere from start to finish. Well played everybody.