Blood, Toil and Sweat
Usually the hard work on a home match day begins for the Walsall Health is working out which of the thousands of keys opens the clubhouse doors and keeping tabs on who is the last person to arrive for the game. However this week the toil started much sooner than that. With the news late on Friday that the clubs original opponents Trent Valley were unable to field a team, it fell to club legend Chris Hall and other members of the Walsall Health to scamper through the contacts book and try and raise a team with just over a day’s notice. Penn CC answered the call and after some last minute organisation a 10 vs 10 game was put together and the spirit of the Elf to get the game on no matter what shone through.
For the seamers who did manage to make it they would be richly rewarded with an overcast Sunday morning and a pitch with more than a hint of green to it. Penn CC will have been delighted to have bowled first and get first use of the pitch. All worries of a bowling paradise seemed to have been quashed early as Dan Armstrong opening for the Health after a stunning century last week picked up where he left off taking 13 off the second over of the day including a stunning six off the fourth ball of the over. Penn came back strongly though and had him caught with a sharp catch at backward point off the next over.
This brought skipper Alex Nunns to the crease who continued with a fine season of good form building a 50 partnership with opener Alex McMillan. McMillian batted carefully and assuredly and seemed well on his way to a big score before falling to the leg spin of Morby for 28. Will Lauchlan was next at four but was quickly out for 5, a sharp seaming ball nipping back through the gate and taking the top of leg stump.
Joining Nunns at the crease at five was Ian Chuck, himself enjoying a fine run of form. With Chuck and Nunns at the crease quick ones and twos became the order of the day before Nunns fell for a historic 55, the 300th half century in the Health’s history no less, a brilliant achievement for the captain and very fitting that it was the clubs skipper who was the one to reach the landmark.
This brought Ben Lester to the crease, a bit of a rare sight as he seems to be chasing club legend Jonty’s record for most DNBs. Unfortunately he could only add a single to the score before becoming another victim to a sharp seaming ball coming back through the gate, the ball even taking a chunk out the middle stump as it crashed through.
Dave Stephens joined Chuck and a new stump at the middle and soon set to work putting the Penn bowlers to the sword for the last few overs of the of the Health’s innings. 300 half centuries in the clubs history quickly rolled over to 301 as Chuck bought up his own half century, perhaps wishing he had batted 3 instead of 5. The boundaries then started flowing as the two added a quick fire 90 partnership including a superb hit from Stephens, crashing the ball back over the bowler’s head with the umpire nearly giving a maximum without even turning to see it fly out the ground. Chuck was soon gone though for a well batted 63, the bowler Mangat claiming his second with an LBW that nipped back sharply into the pads. This brought Josh Butler to the crease who added a few more runs with Stephens with the Elf finishing on a solid 219-6 from their 40 overs.
With the clouds rolling away, there was risk of a summer’s day breaking out at the halfway point, quick wickets were needed for the Elf with Penn having a number of dangerous batsmen at the top of their order. Dan Armstrong obliged early, superbly bowling the Penn captain Bywater for 8. But the toil (and blood) for the Elf was only just beginning.
With the Elf on the crest of a wave after getting the Penn captain earlier, a sharp ball from Armstrong found the edge of a Penn bat, the edge of wicketkeeper Chuck’s fingers before immediately stopping, with force, on Nunns nose at slip. If solid batting and smart bowling have been the two stalwarts for the Elf this season, blood injuries must be a close third and with Nunns blooded and unable to continue 10 turned to 9 and a thankless job in the field became even tougher.
In the spirit of the Elf though no heads went down and Stephens soon got his reward for his usual consistent bowling with a simple catch and bowled before numbers 3 and 4 for Penn put the Health to the sword. Good bowling in the middle overs from Lester and Jonty was cruelly dispatched as the two batsman made quick work of the Elf’s total and took full advantage of a depleted field and the now bright sunshine, the two batsman manipulating the field well and often bypassing it all together with some good stroke play and lusty blows. Soon Shah (101*) and Prabjhot (58*) retired out in the spirit of everyone getting a game. This brought some reward for the Elf bowlers as Josh Butler was rewarded for some accurate bowling with a high catch from Lester and McMillian recorded his debut home wicket taking the wicket of the dangerous Dhillon for 22.
J Preece came on towards the end and bowled a tight and tidy over but the game was already beyond the tiring Elf players and the game was sealed with superb 6 giving Penn CC a deserved victory.
It was a day where the result might not have gone the way of the Elf but it was a brilliant example of the clubs never say die attitude both in getting the game on in the first place and a high standard of fielding right until the end. The Health are at home again on Sunday as they welcome Old Moseley Fitmen for a 14:00 start and will be hoping for a little less sweat and toil and, especially, a lot less blood.