v Penn CC (H) 07/07/22

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A Trilogy for the Ages.

The Godfather. Lord of the Rings. Fury vs Wilder. Walsall Health vs Penn. They all have a ring to them. The latter trilogy might have been over in terms of a best of 3 with Penn having already beaten the Health twice this season but this was by no means a nothing game with the Health hoping to avenge a couple of tight defeats earlier this season and hoping for a change in their luck.

Some things that never change this summer though are baking temperatures following Walsall Health games and captain Nunns losing the toss on the hottest of days, Penn gleefully batting first.  The Penn openers were rightly cautious early on with the greenest part of the field reserved for the 22 yard stretch between the batsman and opening bowlers Armstong and Stephens. Both bowlers bowled a tight line and length giving hardly anything to the visiting batsman who themselves dug in well to negate the spells of the prolific Health opening bowlers. The two bowlers will still be wondering how they came out of the 16 over spell with only 1 Penn wicket between them, a wiley slower ball from Stephens chopped on by the Penn captain Bywater for 18.

With the score at 64-1 after 16 overs something had to give after a tense opening exchange and as Clive came in to bowl the Penn batsman made their intentions clear to begin making up for lost time and accelerate the scoring. The next over would be bowled by last minute addition and debutant Bateman who wasted no time writing himself into the Health record books, and gave unofficial club historian Chris Hall hours of fun trawling through the clubs stats, by becoming (potentially) the first person to take a wicket with their debut ball for the Health. The wicket with a fine catch taken by Stenson, himself quickly turning the clubs catch of the year award into his own personal greatest hits reel, this time a superb sprinting catch coming round at cow corner and with it putting the game into the balance.

The new batsman Ricky and Mangat soon took to the Health bowlers though with some fine footwork and hard hitting to the boundary side of the drinks break, leaving the Health bowlers with some undeserved damage to their figures. With 300+ looking a real possibility the Health called on Butler and Ince to finish the innings off. The change brining a good result as Buttler too took a wicket with his first ball of the game a fine catch in the outfield taken by, yepp, you guessed it, Jack Stenson (one drop and a one caught over the boundary would follow but that’s a problem for the fines committee, not the match report)  Mangat continued the attack and declared on reaching his century. Wicketkeeper Mac then produced a fine stumping from Butler while tight and threatening bowling from Ince somehow didn’t yield a wicket for the returning club pro. The two kept the scoring to 273-4 at the end of 40 overs.

With a fast start needed, two of the top performers with the bat this season in Armstrong and Stenson went out to open and immediately got the Health up with the required rate of almost 7 an over. The two batsmen looked set and were scoring well against a strong bowling line up. As is the way with the wonderful Rushall bounce though, no batsman is ever truly in on the track and Armstrong was soon walking back for 28 LBW from a low and straight ball, no possible way it could’ve been anything other than out with the umpiring finger of Dave Stephens given a rare raising.

This wicket bought Nunns to the crease who managed to carry his form with the toss over to this game but couldn’t bring much of the fine batting from this season as well, unfortunate to be out for 9 off a fine delivery, an even finer edge and the ball hitting every part of the opposing keeper before nestling in the gloves. Ince came in next at 4 and wasted no time showing his class, some fine cover drives keeping the Health up with the rate and in with a chance of chasing a tough score, a long partnership seemed inevitable but just as the two batsmen had looked set, Stenson was bowled through the gate for 27. Lauchlan then came to the crease just before the drinks break. With two opposition fielders missing and a set, ex semi pro batsman at the other end all he had to do was bat sensibly and keep Ince on strike, so it was no shock to see him throw the kitchen sink at a few, attempt to run his partner out then get bowled through the gate for a well edged 10 runs.

Edmunds then followed in at six, the wickets starting to take their toll on the scoring rate, Edmunds too began to try for the big shots and unfortunately top edged one into the sky, if it hadn’t have been such a stiflingly hot day, it would have come down with snow on it a fine and difficult catch ending Edmunds day.

Wicketkeeper Mac then came to the crease and the job got harder still for the Health as the well set Ince pulled up with a groin injury. Mac took this as a prompt to immediately try for a number of quick singles and at the risk of Ince’s leg snapping and Cheslyn Hay’s finest pub being without their landlord’s left leg a runner was sent for and Nunns returned to the crease. This led to a surreal site of their being 2 less fielders and 1 more batsman out there. The Health soon tried to amend this by taking turns, at running, not running, ball watching and in general trying to remember the ancient art of synchronized running with someone several metres the wrong way.

Butler doesn’t fancy facing that bowling.

Mac was then out for 2 bringing Stephens to the crease who looked to support Ince who scoreboard and injury dictated needed to go for boundaries, he was smartly caught going for a big 6 off the pads, a good catch on the second attempt. Ince could walk off with his head held high and bat raised after a fine knock, Nunns maybe not so much, not that this put the captain off. Stephens and Clive followed the boundary bothering lead, taking on the Penn bowlers with Stephens (11) and Clive (22) eventually getting out the end was nigh as usual scorer and Walsall’s Health’s own Fillius Fog Butler, in the middle of his voyage to go around the world in 80 day savers, swapped the pen and bus pass for a somewhat dusty bat and was the last man out for 3. The Health finished up on 203 all out.

All in all it was a spirited display by the Health against tough conditions, opponents and availability problems in holiday season, like all trilogies the end couldn’t quite live up to the hype for the Health and they look to start a new saga of their season against Birmingham Unicorns at home on Sunday hoping that game is a bit more Return of the King than Godfather 3.

Best of 7 next year, Penn?

Bonus photo – Who said men can’t multitask! Scoring, padding up and smashing a Stella.

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