Walsall Health v Ward End Unity 1998.

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31st May 1998….On this day, a significant game entered W.H.C.C. folklore, with multiple records set that still stand to this day. The 11 players who travelled to Ward End Unity for this memorable match were, Steve Hartshorne. Stuart Pollitt. Ron Noble. Tim Oliver. Gary Reeves. Rick Jarrams. Steve Nicholls. John Nicholls. Martin Liggins. Richard Fell and Frank Jacob. It was the first two names on this all-star cast that were about to dominate proceedings.

Stuart Pollitt and Steve Hartshorne were a formidable opening partnership when on song. A left hand/right hand combination, both with classical styles. Imagine Mike Atherton and Alastair Cook batting together.  Steve, played with a bat so straight, most local builders would have been happy to use the Hartshorne willow as a spirit level.  His regular partner Stu, had a habit of accumulating big scores. The type of batsman who you just knew, if he got in, would be around for the duration.

With these two Masters batting first, the Ward End Unity bowlers were put to the sword.  50-0……100-0……150-0……200-0…..Finally, with the partnership at 234, Steve departed for 80, which included 8 fours. The perfect foil to what was building at the other end. Pollitt, the aggressor of the duo, blasted 144 not out off 129 balls. A magnificent innings containing  22 fours, taking a particular liking to the bowling of Hancox, who’s 9 overs went for 70. Ron Noble came out to bat with Pollitt for the last few overs, Ron doing what Ron did best, walk off the pitch not out. The final total, 276-1.

The highest individual score, and the highest ever partnership both in the same game was a bit special. 21 years later, both records still stand. It is a rare occasion when Stu Pollitt’s record score gets threatened. Andy Ince hit 136 at Lapworth in 2013, the closest anyone has ever been since. The double century partnership of 234 remains the only one of its kind in club history.

The game continued in remarkable fashion with Ward End Unity chasing an unlikely 277 to win. However, opening batsman Zabar, smashed 136. The only problem was, lack of support. No other player made more than 15, but with Zabar still at the crease, the game remained alive. Nine bowlers were used in an attempt to dislodge the Ward End centurion. Finally, the breakthrough came. Zabar…caught R.Fell, bowled S.Pollitt. To cap a memorable day for Stu…. Ward End finishing on 175-8. Rick Jarrams coming on at the death to bowl 1 over 1 maiden and take 1 wicket to round up a great day.

The Epilogue….

Hertz explains to a puzzled Rich Fell how to play with a straight bat.

Steve and Stu continued to score many runs for the club in the years that followed. Steve, affectionately known as Hertz Van Rental amassed a total of 3,100 runs including 33 half centuries. Steve was also a prolific run scorer on the annual tour to Cardiff. After plundering many 50’s, Hertz enjoyed nothing more than a quiet celebration, eating a “Cone of Chips” Not the conventional cone you maybe be thinking of though. Steve also won more Grand Nationals than Red Rum, and was a magnificent sight over the Welsh front garden versions of Bechers Brook and The Chair. His son Alex carried on the family tradition, playing plenty of games between 2003-2010.

 

Stu continued to be the class act at the top of the order until moving north to pursue a career in broadcasting/journalism in 2007. But not before scoring over 2,000 runs at an average of just under 40, including seven centuries and thirteen 50’s. In all of his 74 innings for W.H.C.C. Pollitt was never ever out for the score we all dread. A duck. Stu was also a handy bowler. A bit of a partnership breaker from what I recall. But back on that day in May 1998, these two players created a moment worthy of a call to Roy Castle and Norris McWhirter….Pollitt and Hartshorne, The Record Breakers.

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v Sportsman (H) 07/07/19

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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, looking chuffed about Armstrong’s 43.

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”

Wise words.

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.

Chris Hall

 

Essington v W.H.C.C….12th Aug 1990.

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1990….The year Phil Taylor won his first World Darts Title. Gazza cried his eyes out at the World Cup. Del Boy, Rodney, Uncle Albert and co pulled in audiences of over 20 million, and the Berlin Wall came down. This historic event in Germany was mirrored by a game we played against Essington in 1990, where one W.H.C.C. legendary all rounder demolished the opposition almost single handed to set a bowling record that still stands today.

The XI players who took part in this game were as follows…Bob Heath, Steve Fewtrehill, Martin Liggins, Steve Fell, Rick Jarrams, Dave Williams, Narain Moorjani, Ian Forrester, Gary Reeves, Frank Jacob and John Nicholls.

The game began quietly enough, with Essington starting steadily to reach 14-0. The guile and accuracy of Frank Jacob conceding just 4 runs from his first 5 overs, proved to be the perfect foil on this occasion for Gary Reeves who its fair to say was “Quite sharp” when he wanted to be. After Frank trapped Opener Murphy lbw, the time had come for the Essington Wall to come crashing down. In no time at all, from 14-1, Essington were blown away for just 52. Gary Reeves clean bowling all 8 of his victims, for figures of 12.4 overs 6 maidens 8-22. Frank picked up the other wicket for figures of 2-11, but the contest was really only about one man. A player who was no stranger to these type of spells throughout his time at W.H.C.C.

Against St Matthews in 1988, Gary, who is also known as “The Doc” recorded figures of 8 overs 5 maidens 7-7. Followed by 3 overs 1 maiden 3-6 against Royal Oak in 1989. Speaking with the man himself last week, Gary told me about his partnership with Frank Jacob. Most weeks, it was Frank who would take all the wickets, while Gary just frightened the life out of the batsmen at the other end.

This particular game against Essington ended with a W.H.C.C. win by 5 wkts. Steve Fell top scoring with a quickfire 18. While John Nicholls had one of his 4,567 DNB’s.  But with no doubt, on this day, W.H.C.C. had its very own Jim Laker type moment. No bowler since, has managed to capture 8 wkts in one game.

The Epilogue…..Remarkably, with figures of 8-22, Gary Reeves was awarded Batsman of the Year in 1990. Yes, I said batsman. His opening bowling partner, Frank Jacob picking up the bowling award. Doc was one of those rare players, who could bat, bowl or keep to a very high standard, but was always happy to do whichever role the Captain needed him to. With over 4,000 runs, 200 wkts, and over 100 catches to his name, Gary reduced his appearances for WHCC in the mid 2000’s, but continued to play League cricket for Rushall on Saturday’s. His son, Nathan, has carried on the family tradition. Hitting one of the quickest 50’s for the club, at Didcot in 2010. And continues to be one of the quickest, run saving fielders we have ever seen.

 

Astons of Didcot v W.H.C.C. June 2005.

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Aston Tirrold is a village and civil parish at the foot of the of the Berkshire Downs, about 3 miles southeast of Didcot.  Not really your standard away fixture, with a journey of just over 100 miles. However, for several years, WHCC travelled to this picturesque place to play a friendly game of cricket. The pitch had its own version of The Travelator. While it was advisable to re-mortgage your house, before buying a round of drinks from the local pub. Former British No1 tennis player, Tim Henman, whose house overlooked the ground, would often be spotted having a stroll around the boundary, hoping to see a close game and trying to get John Nicholls autograph. He certainly got his wish on this memorable day.

June 19th 2005..Richard Fell’s first game as WHCC Captain, and like any good Skipper, he decided to lead from the front, and open the batting with the Reverend John Davis. It wouldn’t be long before a few prayers were being said after a top order collapse. Didcot’s pitch took a bit of knowing, so our opponents local knowledge gave them an early advantage. Opening bowler, Larry Gray (Who was employed as Tim Henman’s chauffeur at the time) cashed in. With Davis (17) Fell (2) Chamberlain (7) J.Preece (0) and Jarrams (2) all back in the hutch, WHCC found themselves in a spot of bother. In tennis terms, we were already two sets to love down and staring at a 1st round exit.

With the score at 39-5, there were two more breaks of serve, as WHCC slumped to 67-7. A 200 mile round trip to be bowled out for under 100 wasn’t in the R.Fell masterplan. This was a time game, so the instruction from the Captain was for two people to dig in, and get us a total that would give us half a chance of defending. The unlikely combination of Frank Jacob and Chris Hall managed to do just that. Both men had their own ideas about batting. Frank with his customary late cuts, plenty of Yes/No/Wait style calling, and Chally, patiently playing out 21 consecutive dot balls, before opening up to score a few important boundaries. From 67-7, this priceless 54 partnership was finally broken. Chally going for one big hit too many, caught on the square leg boundary for 40. It was left to the Nicholls Mafia, Jonty, Paul and Mark to help Frank add a few more runs to the total. Three members of the same family playing in the same game, is a rare occurrence at the club, but the extra runs Team Nicholls provided would prove vital later on in the contest. When Frank departed for a brave 31, the innings concluded…..135 all out. A decent score, on a tricky pitch, the Captain believed we were still in the game.

After a quality tea, The Didcot innings began. With Ralph Smith and Nick Clark opening up. The intent was clear, score quick, and wrap the game up before Songs of Praise started. Chasing 136, the score moved serenely to 65-0. Plenty of time and overs to score the remaining runs. Rich Fell had 71 runs to play with, and 10 wkts to take. The Rev John Davis sank to his knees at mid on to say a few more prayers. However, the divine intervention came, courtesy of John Nicholls, trapping Ralph, plumb in front for 23. Didcot didn’t panic, with Barnard helping to move the score on to 85-1, despite Fell moving the field around, and encouraging his bowlers to keep going. Didcot were serving for the match.

Fell decided to turn to the canny bowling of Andie Oliver, a shrewd move which paid dividends. Andie getting the prize wicket of opener Clark for 36, Shea for 0 and Barlow for 6. With Chris Hall getting the dangerous Barnard, for 27. Caught at slip by the safe hands of Rick Jarrams. (One of a record 109 career catches for the club) Didcot, cruising at 85-1, were suddenly involved in a battle at 102-5. John Nicholls showed high levels of composure to trap Dew for 1 to take the score to 103-6. With the match now hanging in the balance, Bonwell and Gibson steadied the ship. Taking Didcot to 124-6…..12 runs to win, 4 wkts in hand. The new Captain had another tactical mountain to climb.

It was at this point that Richard Fell introduced a puzzling new ploy, never seen before at WHCC…Bringing a bowler back for a second spell. The mercurial Frank Jacob was told to warm up. The same Frank Jacob who NEVER bowled a second spell. Andie Oliver, with figures of 3-22 was taken off, a brave move indeed. What happened next has gone into club folklore. Frank bowled Gibson for 16, then trapped Gray lbw for 1. Frank also caught Bonwell off the bowling of Hall for 10. A bit like the Stanley Matthews Cup Final, Frank was everywhere. So with 1 over remaining in the match, all three results were still possible. Didcot, who had been 85-1 were now on the brink at 131-9, chasing 136. Still thinking clearly amidst all the tension, Captain Fell decided to give Chris Hall the responsibility of a final set tie break.

The two nervous Didcot tailenders failed to score any runs from the first 4 balls of the final over. A great contest looked destined to end in a draw, until Fell calmly walked up to his bowler with some advice…”Just bowl him”….The inspired plan to fire his bowler up for one final effort worked, as Chally hit the middle stump of Didcot’s No11 batsman for victory, with just one ball remaining in the match…. A match we never really looked like winning. Its fair to say that a few people were quite pumped up in the moments that followed.  A superb game to be a part of for everyone who was there that day.

 

The Epilogue.

The Didcot fixture continued until 2012, and was a trip we always looked forward to despite the distance. Who could ever forget in 2010, Nathan Reeves 64 off 35 balls, losing 3 cricket balls in the process. John Nicholls top scoring with 36 not out, batting at No 10 in 2006, and Chris Hall being hit for six, straight back over his head into Tim Henman’s  garden. With Sam Stephens ringing the Henman doorbell to ask for our ball back.  The matches were always quite close and hard fought. But the 2005 edition was just one of those games that still gets talked about to this day.

Man of the Match…Frank Jacob, 2 catches. 2 Wickets and a priceless 31 runs, all at a time when we needed them the most.

Walsall Health beat The Astons of Didcot by 4 runs…Game Set and Match WHCC.

 

 

v Highwood Park 20/08/17

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Walsall Health 155-5 off 40 overs v Highwood Park 58-1 off 15 overs.

Game abandoned due to rain.

Before we start the analysis, a big thankyou to Mike Sayers and Neil Van Limbeek for stepping in this week, to help us field a full side. It was really good to see these two back on the field after a spell on the sidelines.

The final game of 2017 between Highwood and The Elf, was a game dominated by an excellent fielding and bowling performance from a well disciplined Highwood side. Eager to get the game started because of a poor forecast later in the day, Captain, Ian Chuck won the toss, and elected to bat. Opening bowler, Nai Duncan was more than happy to accept Chuck’s decison, bowling a brilliant opening spell. Its fair to say, that for the first time this season, The Master Accumulator looked in trouble, against the Highwood openers, repeatedly playing and missing against an opening attack sponsored by McVities.

After Chuck perished with a Jaffa from Turner, the score was a very pedestrian 33-1 off 15 overs. Higwood had taken charge of the game. Turner continued with the tight line tactics, with Stamps assisting with the asphyxiation process from the other end. Neither first change bowlers were in the mood to give out donations, as the run rate continued to plod along at 2.5 an over. At times, our batting resembled a side who were holding out for a draw, so with the score on 81-3 off 30 overs, a well overdue burst of positive intent began to help us post a respectable target. After Gort departed for 28, Mike Sayers at least set the tone, with a classic Sayers biff, that didn’t quite clear the fielder at long on, unlucky.

It was at this point that Captain Chuck made easily one of the most bizzare requests of the season whilst doing a spot of umpiring….requesting the shipping forecast!! So for all our Radio 4 Long wave listeners this match report will continue shortly.

Here is the general synopsis issued by the Met Office on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguards Agency at 19:45 BST…Dogger, Westerly, becoming cyclonic, rain at times…good. Lundy, Fastnet…West/North West becoming variable later….fair…good. Elf…run rate…Southerly falling slowly…moderate or poor…. becoming bad.

Lets get back to the game. The man in form Alex Nunns was the first member of our top order prepared to take a few chances, and played a nice knock of 59 not out, his 5th 50 for the club, plenty of aerial shots, well supported by Dan Armstrong, Greg and Nathan Martin who all embraced the late cameo role. It was Alex who held the innings together, to help us get to 155-5. A good effort after such a slow start, but still 30 to 40 below par. Still, with a very slow outfield, we hoped we could defend that score.

With the rain moving in, we decided to take tea at the end of the game, to try and get a result. The Highwood openers started briskly, with opener Sam Pitt attacking from ball one. Chancing his arm a few times payed dividends, and put The Elf on the back foot. Chris Hall, got an early breakthrough, getting Perks for a blob, thanks to a fine poach from Chuck, while Academy Graduate, Dan Armstrong was unlucky not to pick up a scalp.  With the rain getting heavier, Hall slipped a couple of times when landing his front foot on the crease, and started to lose his rhythm. So enter The Legend. The Icon. The Messiah. The Boss. The Man…..John Nicholls to unleash the dot machine. The eagerly anticipated spell only lasted 6 balls, before conditions became unplayable. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Jonty’s spell was cut short, all i can say is, God must have been jealous of the heir to his throne.

We all trudged off the pitch, with Highwood well in control of the game, Sam Pitt already on 53 not out and the score on 58-1 off 15 overs. Which was well in front of the required run rate. We still had yet to unleash Jonty, Nathan Martin and Dan Hopley, but at the time we stopped, the Highwood boys had been by far the better side from the first ball of the match, batting more positively, and would feel unlucky to be stopped in their tracks by the weather, with the game at their mercy. A shame to end the series this way. Well played to Highwood, and good luck for the rest of the season.

Tea update….No doubting about the quality of the produce. But a bit top heavy in terms of cake to sandwich ratio. If the lads ate here every week we would all need an injection of insulin to stay alive. Greg Philpott was salivating over the mini cheddars selection, and took part in a fierce contest with Chris Hall to see who could eat the most packets in 5 mins, CHall just inching over the line 7-6 on a tie break. While we are still trying to figure out if the Victorious Sponge is home made or not. Rachel Gorton spent 10 mins looking at her Mary Berry app, trying to convince the lads that it was the real deal, due to the light shade of the sponge. After demolishing 7 slices, Dan Armstrong declared he still could not make up his mind. The debate rages on…..Rating 7/10

Neil Van Limbeek update….There were concerned faces aplenty, when NVL kindly took on scoring duties for the day.  Would he break a finger? Strain an eyelash, or even suffer a seizure through lead poisoning.  We had nothing to fear, The Iron Tulip completed the task without breaking sweat, and even had the audacity to produce a Cruyff Turn to stop a ball drilled at him by Sam Pitt early in the innings.

Keeping the ball off the ground for the bowlers update…..Village. Village, and more Village. Another abysmal display, considering the turf was wet. Alex Nunns chief culprit this week, but being lenient with him, because he bought Hall the sawdust. At least 4 times the ball came back to me feeling more slippery than Phelan off Coronation Street. The early finish saved our attack from Gort starting his practice session for his Wednesday evenings bowls match. This usually starts by the 25th over. If we started fining people for this, we could afford to rent out Buckingham Palace for the P.U.  Rating 1/10

Tales from the Travelator….Chris Hall’s hiking boots were left redundant today. But with the rain making the pitch slippy, it was more like an edition of Ski Sunday than Sunday friendly. Being called a Prima Donna for asking for sawdust. Very harsh. Alex Nunns stepped in again, carrying a tonne of the stuff single handedly to help out the stricken bowler. A bit of sawdust wouldn’t have gone amiss on Friday. After listening to Nathan Martin’s Tales from the Test, The Friar Park Express admitted to being sick on the train, sick in the street, and sick in his bed, in some truly appalling scenes, worse than any of the antics ever seen on the Ibiza Weekender. The last time i heard of such heaving was when Nath Reeves hit 64 at Didcot.

Shipping Forecast update….ask Chuck.

Onto Rushall next week, for the Tim Oliver Memorial Game, and our 500th game. See you all there.

Written by Chris Hall

Batting Runs
Gorton, A  c Duncan b Stamps  28
Chuck, I c ? b Baz 15
 Nunns, A not out 59
Sayers, M c Holliday b Turner 0
Armstrong, D run out 17
Phillpott, G c ? b Naulmon  11
Martin, N run out 13
Hopley, D dnb
Hall, C dnb
Nicholls, J dnb
Van Limbeek, N dnb
 Extras  12
Walsall Health  143
Bowling Overs Maidens Runs Wickets
 Armstrong, D  7 0 39 0
Hall, C 7 0 19 1
Nicholls, J 1 0 6 0

 

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