Walsall Health beat Sportsman by 8 wkts.
Welcome back everyone to the WHCC 2021 season…..
On arrival at the RCG, and after a quick assessment of players and spectators, its fair to say that if Rushall ever fancied an upgrade on their heavy roller, a few people at yesterday’s game would comfortably fit the job criteria. One man who had no chance of making the first interview stage was new skipper Alex Nunns, who won the toss and elected to bowl. Rushall’s pitch and outfield looked in excellent shape. A lot of time and effort has gone into this over the last few weeks/months, so a big hand to all the lads at Rushall and the Elf who have put the hard yards in.
The Sportsman innings was a tale of two halves. The first club record of the season was broken after just nine deliveries, with the new ball that Dave Stephens had kindly brought over for us, disappearing into another stratosphere. A Nathan Martin full toss was smashed halfway to Pelsall by Waqas Ahmed. Talking of Pelsall, that was exactly where debutant Ashley Clifford (Player Number 220) found himself, just an hour before the game. Turning up at the wrong ground, has happened before, and will no doubt happen again. But maybe our newcomer knew something we didn’t. Because he could have taken a half decent catch if he had stayed at his initial destination.
Nathan Martin (3-38) was the pick of our bowlers, settling down into a nice spell, just as his grandparents were arriving. The Friar Park Express showed all the right signs to suggest he could be in for a very good season. Nath began the perfect comeback, clean bowling the dangerous Waqas and Calvin cheaply. Then finding the edge of Vishual’s bat, well taken by Gort…. Well bowled. Club Pro Dan Dunn, who left work early to open the bowling, strived hard at the other end without reward. On a fast scoring outfield, the Elf were in a good position after 25 overs. Until John Helmsley 89 and Lee 53, started to accelerate the scoring.
For any rookie cricketer who is keen to learn the finer arts of bowling at the death, I would advise watching the last 10 overs of the Sportsman innings very closely….then do the exact opposite. Ian Chuck had more steam coming out of his ears than a scene from the Severn Valley Railway. Chuck was tonked over cow corner a few times, then had to endure the nightmare scenario of John Helmsley switch hitting him for yet another boundary. JP picked up a couple of wkts at the other end to take him two steps closer to his 100th wkt milestone, as Sportsman’s innings closed on a challenging 230-7.
Pick of the fielders had to be Rob Hewlitt, busy as ever, and the instigator of the run out of Abdul, with Nathan Reeves matching Rob’s energy, stopping every ball that came his way in a typical whole hearted display.
After tea was taken we set about the chase of 230. A seriously pumped up Ian Chuck, immediately set the tone. Batting in the style of AB de Villiers, Chucky smashed anything short to the boundary, with a scoring sequence of 4,4,4,4,1,4,1,4,4. It was looking ominous for Sportsman until our Saffa copped a Jaffa for 39. However, this 53 run opening partnership from the first 6 overs with Dan Armstrong was just what the Doctor ordered.
As Chuck trudged off, pondering whether he has a weakness against left arm seamers, Dan Armstrong took centre stage. What an innings this was, 104….including fifteen 4’s and two 6’s. Dan deservedly joins a select group of multiple WHCC centurions. It was the classic Armstrong innings. A blend of power ball striking, and some lovely timing. One shot in particular that stands out, taking a couple of steps forward, clipping the ball off his legs to the square leg boundary. All timing and skill. Dan’s innings was a historic one for the club too, being the 30th Century since the reformation in 1987, and only the second occasion where we have witnessed a ton during the first game of a season. It also takes him to within just 2 runs of his first 1,000 runs for the club. So after a cool down lap of the pitch and debrief with the Club Pro, Dan simply said “Tell DS to get my cap ready for next Sunday”….well batted mate.
The partnership of 143 for the second wicket (no its not a record) with skipper Alex Nunns, effectively took the game away from Sportsman. Despite facing a barrage of vociferous lbw appeals, Alex batted really well, finishing unbeaten on 65. His 8th fifty for the club, which included ten 4’s. A composed Captain’s knock, providing the perfect support to Dan.
It was left to Rob Hewlitt to close out the game, with a cameo 17 not out, but again, another top order batsman who looks in very good touch. This was a really good win to start our season, and the highest successful run chase since we hunted down 236 at Swynnerton back in 2011.
See you at Yoxall.