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.
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.
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.
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
|Most wickets in a Season record holder||47 (2006)|
|Bowler of the Year Winner 2004,06,10,12,14,15,16, 2020,2021||9 times|
|Career Bowling Average||13.55|