v Aldridge CC (A) 13/09/2020

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Aldridge CC beat Walsall Health CC by 90 runs.

On a glorious September afternoon, The Elf returned to their home of many years, to play a strong Aldridge XI on their top pitch. Skipper Alex Nunns won the toss, and elected to give his bowlers the use of the new ball. Recalling that the pitch was usually a nice track for batting, but wanted to give the bowlers the best opportunity to take a few early wickets.

Dave Stephens and Dan Armstrong opened up, with 2 solid spells. Dave struck twice with figures of 2-46. You might think this is a tad expensive for Dave, but the outfield was like an ice rink, so anything that beat the ring usually ended up somewhere over the rope. It was a tough 8 over spell, up the slope, during the hottest part of the day, so well bowled Dave.

Dan Armstrong had no luck at all, being the recipient of a few drops from Josh Butler, who endured a torrid first 10 overs fielding at point. Don’t worry Josh, we’ve all had those sort of games when 

nothing sticks. Your exploits weren’t in vain though, as a SERIOUS contender for quote of the season emerged. I casually mentioned to Dave Stephens that the Butler route to Aldridge had involved 3 buses. To which Dave replied…”At least he caught them then”….brilliant…..(Big hand to Josh though, who had a tricky journey, gave his all, and helped out with the scoring. You really can’t ask for anything more from a team mate)

It was now time for the Friar Park Express, Nathan Martin to arrive at Aldridge Central for his first bowl of the season. Although Nath did admit he felt more like Severn Valley Steam after a lockdown diet of ale and cheesecake. The class is still there though, Nathan bowled a good spell, getting that familar Martin inswing, earning him a deserved wicket, courtesy of the John Nicholls bucket hands.

It was tough going out there, as the Handsaker brothers continued to score quite freely. Chris Hall bowled Jack for 56, while Josh was unlucky not to pick up a wicket from the other end with his mystery spin. So with the Aldridge score approaching 200, Skipper Alex turned to Mark Reynolds and JP……It proved to be a wise move, as Mark, playing in only his second game for The Elf, took the prize wicket of George Handsaker for 104, with the help of Dan Armstrong who took a fine catch. Dan keeping his cool in front of a boisterous crowd on the boundary. Good hands.

Meanwhile, Rob Steadman was teeing off at the other end. Stedders employed the “Strictly” approach, with plenty of dancing down the track, trying to hit JP to all four corners. But as ever, it was JP who got his man, caught behind by Gort for 65. The King of Spain went on to post the best figures of the day, 3-30. Well bowled.

Aldridge finished their innings on 286-8, a good total. But it was Nathan Martin who couldn’t contain his disappointment, not at the Aldridge score though. Earlier in the innings, the eagle eye of our Website Master had spotted “Serial Athletes” Nicka and Dan Dunn, strolling around the boundary, demolishing 2 ice creams. “I’ll get me one of those at tea” Was Nath’s confident prediction. Sadly though, it was not to be. The dream was shattered in the 39th over, as Nath spotted the Mr Whippy Van disappearing over the horizon, back in the direction of Walsall. You will rarely see any man so gutted.

After plenty of rehydration, our innings began…..And what a start it was. It was great to see Dan Armstrong returning to his best form. After scoring a 50 at Rushall the previous day, Dan’s eye was clearly in. Aldridge were silenced, as Dan blasted 20 runs off the first over, including a massive six. His attacking strokeplay didn’t end there. Dan continued to pummel boundaries, as the Aldridge fielders spent the first 12 overs chasing leather.

The blistering Armstrong 50 came after just 32 balls…..By now, you should all know what happens next. I must have heard this question 33 times in the space of 2 minutes….”Is that the fastest ever 50 Chally?” “Is it? Is it?” Repeat. Repeat….Well after checking the scorebook…. Dan you will like this, I can confirm it is the fastest 50. Another record smashed for Danny Arm, to add to his fastest 100 last year against Lapworth.

To be fair, the whole Elf innings was built around Dan. Everyone chipped in, Gort was happy just to stay there as his opening partner, to share in an opening stand of 80. Alex Nunns, still looking in good touch, couldn’t quite get the ball over mid on, and was caught for 14. Mark Reynolds hit his first boundary before being bowled for 4. So with the score at 125-3, Nathan Reeves came to the crease, and in typical Reeves fashion, tee’d off from Ball 1. It was a superb cameo from Nathan. The second highest score of our innings (16) and passed 500 career runs for the Elf, to the delight of all his team mates and spectators.

Armstrong. The Man is back.

 

As the light started to fade, Dan Armstrong was approaching a well deserved century. But on 93 (off 72 balls) Dan was bowled by the off spinner Patel. It was an innings which had entertained everyone, 17 fours and a six tells its own story. Its well worth a mention, that Dan put any disappointment behind him, coming straight back out to do a stint of umpiring for the team. Top effort.

 

 

By now, conditions were getting a bit like the famous Test Match in Karachi in 2000. But our very own Graham Thorpe and Nasser Hussain, came in the guise of Nathan Martin (9 not out) and Josh Butler (7 not out) who made sure Aldridge didn’t bowl us out, as we finished our innings on 196-8, to complete a really enjoyable game of cricket.

Spectators and Stats update……

I don’t think I can ever recall so many people coming over to support the team yesterday, it made for a great atmosphere. Richard Fell stepped up to umpire some of the second innings, which was much appreciated and gave the players a bit of time to rest after a long stint in the field…. Thanks again to everyone who came along. The stats questions have descended into farce again, for some reason yesterday, everyone wanted to know how many runs they had scored compared to John Nicholls…work that one out. Dai Preece informed a perplexed Mark Reynolds, that he now only needed 581 runs to overtake Mr DNB.

Fielding update….

I couldn’t not mention our fielding. Hot Day, fast outfield, step forward the Skipper Alex Nunns. A top class effort, from Alex, taking a good catch, saving several boundaries, and so nearly pulling off the catch of the season. Plucking a missile out of the air at mid on, diving one handed, one of those they either stick or they don’t. Jonty ran around the field like a teenager, while Nathan Reeves produced his standard whole hearted effort, chasing everything down that came his way.

Shock of the Day….

Dai Preece applauded one of our players hitting a boundary, and didn’t call out “Shot Tom”…..Wow

The Verdict

A really good hard fought game of cricket, against a strong side. Well Captained by Alex, who led by example in the field, and got everyone into the game at some point. Smiles all round. Back in the day, we would have called that one an honourable draw… The final word and a big thanks goes to Aldridge CC who brought us all a drink after the game, for the donation we made to their club earlier in the year. 10/10

Written by Chris Hall

5 minutes after the end of play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Highcroft & Great Barr v WHCC…31st July 2011

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Highcroft and Great Barr v Walsall Health CC….31st July 2011.

Looking back through the records, our games with Highcroft were never easy. We didn’t beat them very often, both home or away. They always seemed to have a couple of really good players who could take the game away from us. I recall in one particular game at the Colosseum, they brought along a classy Warwickshire “Colt”….J.Thomason, who went on to play County Cricket. He hit a chanceless 50, and looked set for a huge score, until JP took a brilliant caught and bowled to get him out…remember that one?

In 2012, once again at the Colosseum, they hit a daunting score of 255. We were all but gone at 145-7, until Rob Hewlitt playing in one of his first games for the Elf, hit 108. Sharing in a partnership of 86 with Richard Fell, which took us to 231-7, before running out of overs. Their bowlers weren’t too bad either, especially at their place. They would generally have one real quickie, who had a run up that started from the sightscreen, which had some of our batsmen taking their guard from square leg. They were just one of those teams, always nearly, but not quite, in terms of beating them. You just felt, to achieve a win over Highcroft, something really special was required, a brilliant individual performance, a great partnership, or a flawless team effort. Well on the final day of July 2011, it was one of these 3 exploits that created one of the most unlikely comebacks in the Club’s history.

The team for this game…..Andy Gorton. David Preece. Sam Stephens. Nathan Reeves. Mike Sayers. Tim Oliver. Rick Jarrams. JP. Chris Hall. Nic Slym. Dave Stephens (Capt)

Dave Stephens was our skipper for this game, and to be quite honest, for the whole of the Highcroft innings, it felt like just another Highcroft match where we were always on the back foot. Tabaash. Tez, and Lampard all hit 50’s despite us bowling well. It was Lampard who was overheard by a few of us, saying he had “only played to have a decent net” This comment didn’t go down too well, and set the tone that the Highcroft lads didn’t think we had enough to trouble them. They completed their 40 overs on 199-1, maybe expecting this total was more than enough. To make the situation worse, Skipper Dave Stephens, picked up a bad calf strain in the field, limped off to tea, and reluctantly said he would “bat at 11 if needed”…….please remember this DS comment, because it becomes quite significant in a few more paragraphs.

Maybe Highcroft knew something we didn’t. Because our reply didn’t start too well. After a bright start from Gort 19 and David Preece 17, we collapsed from 41-0 to 75-5. Sam Stephens, Nathan Reeves and Mike Sayers all joining our two openers back in the hutch. Dave Stephens, hobbled over to his kit bag, sensing it might not be too long before he was needed to pad up.

Dave, Injured hero.

Dave’s premonition was delayed for a while. One of our finest all rounders, Tim Oliver, and fellow legend, Rick Jarrams used all their experience to steady the ship. Sharing in a partnership of 51 to take us to 125-5. It had been hard work though. The run rate had continued to climb, so finally the pressure told. Tim was bowled by Shazad for a defiant 30. Followed by Rick for 10. The wheels had fallen off for a second time, as JP and Nic Slym were both beaten by the now rampant Highcroft attack. That score of 125-5 folded to 130-9……We could have conceded there and then. Captain Dave was injured. So there were a few murmurs of “Save yourself for next week Dave, its not worth it” But Dave has never been a player to shirk the issue, and walked out to join Chris Hall to assess the seemingly hopeless situation.

The situation was quite simple really…..

70 runs to win off 36 balls

1 wicket remaining

Required run rate 11.66

Throw in the fact half the team believed Dave should be batting with a runner, or not batting at all. It didn’t look very promising. After a quick conference, I can only tell this story as I remember it. We genuinely believed we could still win the game. The plan was to play a few shots, keep running to a minimum, enjoy it, and see where it took us.

The plan seemed to be working. 16 runs came from the 34th over, reducing the target to 54 off 30 balls. But the next 4 overs weren’t quite as profitable. With 6…7…6…and 6 runs being scored. Highcroft weren’t really the type of team who took their foot off the gas, and had kept their strongest bowlers on at full tilt. The equation now stood at 171-8….29 runs off 12 balls. Still a very tall order. From memory, we had said if we were still there at the start of the 39th over, just go for it. I definitely recall saying to Gort, who was umpiring, “I wish we had 1 more over to get these” It looked like it was going to be yet another….Nearly but not quite against Highcroft.

All I can recall from the next over was a flurry of boundaries. Dave was seeing the ball really well by now, and the Highcroft team became rattled. What was that comment about coming to have a net? The short boundary on the leg side got hammered with 17 runs coming to take us to 188-9….leaving us 12 to win off the final over. The whole feeling of the game had suddenly changed, it was going to be one of those overs which isn’t easy to watch. Every ball seemed to take 5 minutes, which added to the tension, because the Highcroft skipper was trying to get the field right. 30 minutes ago, their team had 1 and 7/8ths of their feet in the bar. It was a different story now though.

Myself and Dave only really spoke at the end of each over, a quick fist pump, phrases like keep going, and general words of encouragement to each other. I remember pointing over to Sam Stephens, telling him to make sure the scoreboard was correct after every delivery. The first ball of the final over Dave calmly decided to block, much to the amazement of his son Sam. We just nodded at each other, still plenty of time to get these….12 off 5. Two boundaries and two singles each somehow took us to the final ball of the match needing two runs to win. After 79.5 overs of an 80 over match, it all came down to the final ball. And it was Dave Stephens, the Captain, who had the responsibility of the whole game on his shoulders.

It was as tense a finish to a game as I can remember. When you have fought back from so far behind in any game, you just want to finish the job for all your team mates. The final delivery pitched right in the slot for Dave to middle straight down the ground, all I can remember is the sound of the ball smashing into the metal fence down at long leg for four, with the Highcroft fielder, Chandler diving desperately to save it….but failing. The scenes that followed were priceless, at no point did we ever look like winning that game until the final over and the final ball.

Speaking to Dave recently, he summed it all up by saying… “It was probably the most thrilling and satisfying game I had ever played in. I’ll never forget that feeling of winning from that position, and doing it with a good mate, and watched by my son Sam, was the icing on the cake”

My own abiding memory is walking into the porta cabin changing rooms to sit down and calm down on my own for 5 mins. Only to be greeted by Tim Oliver, wearing that familiar grin of his. He simply smiled, and said “Well batted” Now when Tim said something like that, you knew you hadn’t done too badly.

Fines Commitee was quite lively, as you would expect it to be, after a game like that. And I’m sure everyone remembers the Thatchers Gold that was on tap that evening. It was served like a Slush puppy version, and tasted like Nectar. I think about 30 pints of it disappeared in double quick time. Dan Armstrong, our very own Cider connoisseur would have loved it. The only gutted party had to be Club Captain, Richard Fell, who had popped over to watch the game. The memory of this one is a bit

hazy, but I seem to remember Fell leaving….(To go home and cook dinner) when the 9th wicket was taken, and the game looked all but over. I think he might just have got hammered in fines the following week…..Unlucky Trig.

But it was simply just a great game to be involved in, at a time where we didn’t have a huge pool of players to pick from, and reflected the Never Say Die spirit of the club… Great memories.

 

 

Written by Chris Hall

2020 Tim Oliver Memorial Game.

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2020 Tim Oliver Memorial Game….Rushall v Walsall Health

After the uncertainties of the past few months, it was great that we were all able to play in the annual match between Rushall and Walsall Health in Tim’s memory. Both clubs were a huge part of Tim’s cricketing life, so despite a cluster of heavy showers, in the early stages, we still managed to complete a fun game of cricket. With a good mixture of young players, plenty of Tim’s friends, team mates, and brother Andie taking part in the day.

It was decided that the match should be a 40 over contest, with the option of the batsmen being able to “go back in for a second knock” should either team be bowled out before the end of their innings. The Club Pro, Dan Dunn (and Rushall’s skipper for the day) won the toss and decided the overcast conditions and damp pitch were perfect for his army of seam bowlers. It looked a wise choice, because the Elf struggled throughout their innings to gain momentum.

The list of contenders for the 2020 Dan Duck award is growing nicely, with Greg, Nathan Reeves, DS and Nicka all joining the list of players tied on 1 duck for the season. The best quack of the day, had to go to Greg Philpott. Promoted to the lofty heights of No3, Greg shouldered arms to a Dan Dunn inswinger, only to see his leg stump flattened, (yes, really his leg stump) much to the amusement of young Dan. It was a bit like the comic strip version of Simon Jones to Michael Clarke, Ashes 2005. Superb.

Alex Nunns joins the 1,000 run club

Without a doubt, the highlight of the Elf innings, was from the in form Alex Nunns, who calmly scored the 25 runs he needed to reach his first 1,000 for W.H.C.C. Well batted Alex. There were some nice cameo’s from Rob Hewlitt, and Richard Fell, who both pummeled a few boundaries, to get our score over 100. Rob was lucky to avoid decapitation, after a Leo Chuck bouncer fizzed past his nose. Fell’s dismissal by Warren Foster, was one of those head scratchers, where you just turn around and think, how has that just clipped his leg stump?

A spot of French cricket then graced the RCG, courtesy of Jonty. The Nicholls willow making a rare appearance, to deny John his 138th DNB. Dave Stephens got one that simply didn’t bounce, (unlucky Dave) JP enjoyed himself with a nudge and nurdle masterclass. Tom Davies was all aggression with a lovely cover drive. Then Andy Gorton and Nathan Reeves both returned for a brief second knock, Gort smashing a couple of fours, and Nath getting off the mark for the season, taking us to a final score of 119. Not a bad effort, with the rain interruptions against some decent bowling.

Its fair to say that the Rushall innings faced “A bit of everything” from the Elf’s bowling attack. With a maximum of 6 overs per bowler, Captain Rob threw the ball around the team. DS bowled his customary tight opening spell. Jonty continued his good form, with a lovely controlled spell of 1-22. Including 2 more maidens, which takes John to 395, moving ever closer to a club first of 400.

Nicka. Mission Complete

But the man on a mission, was Nicka, who shrewdly decided to switch allegiances for the day. Two weeks ago at Peopleton, The Club Pro, Dan had taken a narrow lead over his Dad for career Elf wkts. Never a man to be upstaged, Nicka, the Master of swing and seam completed a blistering spell of 5 overs 2 maidens 2-10, to regain the advantage in the family title race. The highlight, trapping Dan Armstrong for 22. Always true to his word, Nicka had promised to walk off the pitch the moment he overtook his son, and that’s exactly what he did, with team mate Gary Reeves handing over a nice cool Cobra to celebrate a classic family stitch up, and a job well done.

Sorry Dan, it has to be done…..

Nicka Dunn….205 overs   49 maidens   36 wkts

Dan Dunn…….161 overs   30 maidens   35 wkts

The Boston Strangler Josh Butler, Tom Davies and JP all had nice spells of twirlers. While Richard Fell, still trying to fathom out how Warren Foster got him out, and seething from an extremely rare occurence of dropping a catch, took part in a moment that is surely a first for the club….Two nextdoor neighbours batting and bowling against each other (in both innings too!!) Chris Hall came on up the travelator, after a village moment, of warming up with the umpire Dan Armstrong, and enjoyed a good contest with young Smith, who was the only batsman on either side to reach a half century on the day, well batted

It was at this point, that Ian Chuck arrived at the ground, chirping a few words of wisdom to the Rushall batsmen. Strange one that, considering he only made 6 against Penkridge the day before. But full credit to Chuck for a brilliant impression of Phil Mitchell, please explain to us Chucky, why you were trying to carry 7 bottles of beer on your lap of the boundary? Rushall reached their victory target fairly comfortably, but the innings continued for the full 40 overs to make sure everyone had a bat. This enabled a second clash of the generations between Nicka and Dan Dunn. Everyone smiled as the usually composed Club Pro Dan, tried to heave his Dad halfway to Pelsall Common, but could only hit fresh air on this occasion. We’ll call this one an entertaining draw.

The game concluded, with good mates, Greg and Leo having another mini battle. Leo, fuelled up with about 15 bottles of IPA, hit Greg back over his head for 4, then selflessly shouldered arms to a Philpott straight one, to get his good pal into the wkts column for the day. A really fitting way to complete the game. A deserved win for the Rushall lads, playing the game in a good spirit to retain the Tim Oliver Trophy.  Everyone got involved at some point, and it was good just to be out there enjoying some cricket and remembering a much missed friend and team mate….Tim Oliver.

Plenty of Timmy O stories in the bar after the game, but it was Richard Fell’s account of the time he plucked up the courage, (or stitched up) to award Tim the WHCC Duck trophy, that gained the most likes. For those who don’t know, this was at the time when Tim was in hospital, recovering from a serious car accident. A young R.Fell was cherry picked by the WHCC Committee, to walk where no other man dared to walk. Not exactly the traditional grapes or magazines that a patient in hospital usually receives to cheer them up, but as ever, Tim took it in good spirit.

 

In memory of Hansa, Tim’s loving wife, who sadly passed away recently.

 

Written by Chris Hall.

 

 

v Peopleton (A) 09/08/2020

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Walsall Health 216-7 (40 overs) beat Peopleton CC 199 all out (37.5 overs)

The Elf travelled to Peopleton in good form after two very comfortable recent victories. However, the team were all too aware that this game would provide a far sterner test. Historically, Peopleton have always been tough opponents, a good all round team, aggressive in the batting department, with an accurate bowling attack. As everyone arrived at the picturesque ground, the sun broke through the clouds, cranking the temperature up to what felt like 30 degrees, this wasn’t going to be an easy game.

Returning skipper Rob Hewlitt lost the toss, but was happy to be put into bat. With the fast outfield, a total of 200 is the minimum requirement against these guys, so a good start was what we all hoped for, but the early departure of Gort, lbw for a duck, put the Elf on the back foot. Dan Armstrong looked in good touch as he always does, but was unlucky to play the ball onto his stumps for 25. Chief ship steadier David Preece walked to the crease with the score at 32-2, but was dismissed for the second duck of the day, leaving us in the precarious position of 42-3.

Amongst all this carnage, The wise man, Alex Nunns stayed calm. With the added incentive of starting the day just 75 runs short of his first 1,000 runs for the club. A promising partnership with Greg Philpott began to develop. Greg looking as good as we’ve seen him bat this season, was just starting to look well set before being bowled by Taynton for 14.

Shortly after Greg’s departure, Alex reached a well deserved half century, including six 4’s and a 6. His seventh 50 for the club, leaving him with just 25 runs to go to reach an Elf career 1,000. It was tough to score early on against some handy bowling with the new ball so this 50 deserves extra merit. Well batted Alex.

With the score now at 103-5, the Club Pro Dan Dunn, joined skipper Rob Hewlitt, who was already starting to accelerate the innings. The pair added 27 before Dan was bowled by Haaziq for 10….130-6. Chris Hall walked out to join Rob, with just 8 overs remaining, and it was starting to look like we would struggle to reach the 200 runs needed to be competitive. But Chally was in no mood to hang around, swiftly straight driving the Peopleton quickie, who had returned for a second spell, for 4. After a long spell on the sidelines, Chris confirmed that Rick Jarrams bat still has a fantastic middle. The tone was set for the partnership which put us right back in the contest. Rob Hewlitt smacked the ball to all four corners of the ground, reaching his 7th 50 for the club in quickfire time.

This entertaining stand of 78 off 7 overs finally came to an end when Rob was bowled by Tanner for 64. Leaving Dave Stephens to club 2 more boundaries off the remaining 3 balls, walking down the pitch to pummel the Peopleton Skippers final ball, for 4,…. one of the shots of the day. With Chris Hall left at the other end on 23 not out, the final tally for the Elf…216-7

After tea, Peopleton started their innings fluently, as they usually do. 44 runs were soon on the scoreboard, and the signs were starting to look ominous. Until Club Pro, Dan Dunn bowled Harrold for 14. Now most bowlers after hitting the stumps, will often come up with some sort of waffling analysis, usually old chestnuts like…that one just nipped in a touch, or I bowled that one cross seam. Not our Club Pro though, his response to this crucial breakthrough was simple…..I’m level with my Dad now (34 wkts each for WHCC) Superb stuff.

Peopleton continued to bat well, still scoring at a decent rate, despite some excellent Elf fielding.

JP – 80 wickets and counting.

Chris Hall came on, and tightened things up, getting another important breakthrough, Alex Billington caught behind by Gort for 26…..81-2. The opposition Skipper, Ben Tanner, was still looking dangerous, reaching a well made 50. At 106-2, Peopleton still looked in the driving seat. But then came one of the moments of the match, with the introduction of the King of Spain JP. Tanner hadn’t bargained for the guile and variety of our Premier spin bowler, and miscued his shot, into the hands of JP’s brother Dave. The catch was spectacular, and ensured this historic entry went into our scorebook….Caught D.Preece, Bowled J.Preece.

JP continued to cause problems for the next batsman, poaching his 2nd wkt of the day, caught by the safe hands of Rob. If it was possible for the JP smile to get any wider, it certainly did when informed by Chris Hall that this was his 80th wkt for the club. Well bowled.

Peopleton were now wobbling on 112-4. Now when an innings has stuttered, the last vision you would want to see, is the sight of Club legend John Nicholls warming up to bowl. Guess where his first ball landed? Yep, it was on the spot. Jonty and fellow legend Dave Stephens, who was returning for a second spell, started to turn the screw. Jonty picking up the wickets of Hamid (14) and Taynton (4)  with Dave dismissing Brooks, caught by Dan Armstrong for 11…..Peopleton 168-7

The home side hadn’t given up hope of winning this game, and with the fast outfield, the required run rate still hovering around 6.5 an over, the match still hung in the balance. 20 runs were added quickly, was the contest swinging back Peopleton’s way? Not if Club Pro Dan Dunn had anything to do with it. With the added incentive of overtaking his Dad, Nicka in the wkts column,  Dan steamed in to bowl the dangerous Morris for 24. Dan didn’t allow his concentration to wander, (a true hallmark of a Club Pro) producing a magical piece of fielding, in the 37th over, sprinting round to pick up the hard driven ball, and spearing in a laser throw to the non strikers end to run out Haaziq for 5. Peopleton 195-9.

After such heroics from the whole team, on a sweltering hot day, it was left to Chris Hall to take the final wicket, Michael Taynton, spooning one up in the air to the ever reliable hands of Greg Philpott at mid on, Peopleton 201 all out, for an exceptional WHCC 15 run victory.

Fielding update….You really have to field well on this ground. And there were some exceptional performances, from David Preece, Dan Dunn, Alex Nunns, Greg Philpott, the list goes on, these guys spent all afternoon, sprinting around the ground, saving runs, taking our fielding to a different level, it made all the difference in such a tight game. And what a highlight to see John Nicholls diving full stretch at third man, to save a certain boundary. It was that sort of game.

Wedding Ring update…..It couldn’t go without being mentioned could it? Alex Nunns, after a brilliant diving stop at mid on, soon realised his heroics had come with consequences. His treasured wedding ring was no longer on his finger. Don’t tell the ECB, but we decided to use any sanitiser breaks to look for Alex’s ring instead. It was looking pretty desperate, there was even talk of having to see if Insurance policies were still valid. Step forward Dave Stephens, using all his army experience. A post game search of military precision began. Even the cows in the neighbouring field were asked to join in. Thankfully it was our very own human metal detector, David Preece who found the missing ring to the relief of our Vice Captain. Well spotted Dave.

Dan Dunn, pleased with his days work.

 

The Dunn family update….

A big thank you to Nicka, for travelling over to score today. Well worth the trip as he got to witness a changing of the family Guard…lets make it official.

Dan Dunn      161 overs   30 mdns   35 wkts    18.42 ave

Nicka Dunn   200 overs   47 mdns   34 wkts    15.05 ave

 

 

The Verdict….A superb game of cricket, a hard fought, hard earned win. All 11 players contributed, with the quick rotation of the bowlers by the Captain proving to be extremely effective, in the hot conditions. A win against Peopleton on their home ground doesn’t happen very often, so enjoy this one boys.

Written by Chris Hall

Batting

Bowling

W.H.C.C. v Lapworth

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Walsall Health beat Lapworth by 141 runs.

Our final home game of the 2019 season proved to be a memorable one. A fine all round team effort, more records than a HMV Clearance store, and 3 outstanding individual performances to talk about.

After a close inspection of the pitch by the Chuck brothers, it was decided to leave the heavy roller redundant this week. So we bid farewell to Gorts best friend for a well deserved winter break. Captain Chuck had no hesitation in opting to bat first, but was unfortunate to get a brute of a delivery which feathered his glove to the keeper. As is always the WHCC way, Chucky walked off without waiting for any umpires decision.

So it was left to brother Leo, and Club Pro, Dan Dunn to steady the ship. Leo proved to be the Master of strike rotation, keeping the scoreboard ticking over nicely. While Dan Dunn hit one of the nicest drives you will see all season, through mid off for four. Check any textbook, for an explanation. From 11-1, the two lads shared a useful 59 partnership, before umpire John Nicholls entered pondering mode, finally giving Leo out lbw for 22. Dan Dunn could be seen at the non-strikers end, finishing his copy of War and Peace while Jonty made up his mind. Later in the day, Leo asked me…”Is that the first 22 I’ve ever scored for the club” The stats questions really are getting out of hand boys.

With 16 overs gone, it was time for the Two Dan’s to join forces. Bonfire Night was about to start two months early. Dan Dunn was the first to reach his debut 50 for the club, with another nice straight drive. When Dan was out for 65, which contained ten 4’s, the Club Pro walked off to a deserved round of applause, and a pat on the back from proud Dad Nicka. A Two Dan’s partnership of 122, in quickfire time. I sense the first of many.

With the score at 192-3, the next few overs belonged to Dan Armstrong. Could he achieve his maiden century? After peppering all four corners of the boundary, he had already raced into the 80’s, with this sequence of scoring strokes…6,1,4,4,1,4,4,6,6. In amongst all this carnage, Dan drove the ball back to the bowler, who deflected it onto the stumps to run out the backing up Rob Hewlitt. Very very unlucky Rob. Followed by Rich Fell getting an unplayable low shooter. Very very unlucky Rich.

Mr Not Out, Tom Davies joined Dan, who was now in the 90’s. In true Armstrong style, Dan moved from 96 to 100 with a trademark boundary to long on. The two men hugged it out, while the applause lasted nearly as long as it took Jonty to give that lbw. The fireworks continued as Dan blasted 3 more sixes to move to 118 before finally being bowled. A superb knock that was appreciated by everyone. Our Centurion also moved past the 300 runs mark for the season. And even passed his driving test first time, earlier in the week.

Dan Armstrong’s work had given us an outside chance of breaking a club record that has stood for 21 years, The highest team score of 276-1 was looking vulnerable. With the score on 261-8 with 6 balls remaining, Tom Davies and Chris Hall decided to go all out to make history. Sadly, it was not to be. As Chally going for a big heave was bowled, which brought about an interesting development. JP strolled out to the crease and played like he had been transported to Old Trafford to bat with Jack Leach. JP played one of the best rearguard innings you will ever see. Why play like this you may ask? Look up these two words in the dictionary….Duck Avoidance…Its all been noted JP…Innings closed at 261-8.

Chasing down such a big score was a big ask for Lapworth. But they did come out with the right intent, hitting a few early boundaries. However, it was now time for the spotlight to shine on Dave Stephens. Three quick wickets tumbled, all to Dave. That elusive five-for was starting to look on. With the Lapworth score at 44-3, and Dave in his 7th over, time was starting to run out. DS kept dropping it on the spot, like he has done all season, and got his reward, taking 3 more wickets in 6 balls, to finish with figures of 8 overs 4 maidens 6-20…Career best figures, for the Chairman of the Bowlers Union, and yet another highlight of a great game. Bowling Dave.

Lapworth were now out of the game at 65-7, so it was left to the finishers, JP, Jonty and Tom Davies. JP picking up two wickets up the travelator with some flight and guile, as Tom Davies steamed in down the hill, desperate for an opportunity to unleash a Stuart Broad style lbw appeal. Tom’s 4 overs only conceded 2 runs, stinging the gloves of Rich Fell a few times. Those battle ropes in the gym helping to crank up the Davies mph. But it was left to The Icon, John Nicholls, to wrap the game up. Check these figures out….5 overs 3 maidens 2-16. Classical J.Nicholls figures, still going strong after 30 plus years at the club…..Lapworth 120 all out.

Fielding update….Did you really think I would forget our fielding? Outstanding work today, Dan Dunn, ice cool, setting the tone, taking a steepler. Chris Hall and Tom Davies taking one each, Rich Fell taking a sharp chance with the gloves that we all enjoyed, and Rob Hewlitt taking another beauty to add to the collection. Add in the works of Leo Chuck, throwing himself around to save runs, and its a 10/10 performance

 

 

Dave and the Two Dan’s, X-Factor winners 2019.

D.Armstrong v S.Stephens fastest century update….

A tricky one to judge, but a few pieces of evidence suggest Dan has taken the record, hitting eleven 4’s and eight 6’s. (Eight 6’s in one innings is most definitely a first.) Only 39 scoring strokes just shows what a brutal innings this was.

Overs spent at the crease…Dan 22.4  Sam…33 overs.  It looks like its yours Dan.

Travelator update…..8-2 to the Travelator this week. Maybe not such a bad end after all?

Fines update….The wheels came off in fines, with expletives flying around everywhere. It felt more like a scene from a Gordon Ramsey kitchen than a WHCC fines committee. We really should have waited for the 9 O’Clock watershed. At least the PU Kitty got a cash injection.

Stats questions update….You just wouldn’t believe some of the enquiries I’m hearing.

How many maidens has Jonty bowled? How many ducks have I had this season? When was the last time i scored 9? Has anyone ever taken a wicket at 4:17pm? How many cheese cobs did I eat at Lapworth in 2013? What colour bat handle did I have in 1993? How many games have we played when the temperature was 21 degrees? But the best genuine poser came from Dan Armstrong, who politely asked….What did my Wagon Wheel look like? Did he mean the chocolate biscuit?

The Verdict….Our final home game of the season turned out to be one of the best. A superb victory, well Captained by I.J.Chuck, with some outstanding career best performances. A great way to end our first season at Rushall CC. A big thankyou has to go to Nicka, who has played a big part in preparing the pitches through the season, its a lot of extra work behind the scenes. Without this sort of help, none of all this would be possible. He even came to the rescue last week, delivering an emergency supply of Sensations for everyone to demolish in fines. Top man…. Another 10/10

Chris Hall

 

 

 

Knowle Village v W.H.C.C. 24/08/19

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Well batted Chucky.

W.H.C.C. Beat Knowle by 71 runs. At last, some nice weather to play cricket. Our first visit to Knowle Village since the 2012 season proved to be a memorable game for a certain I.J.Chuck. Batting first on a nice deck, it was Chuck who soon re-discovered the form we have seen over the last few seasons. No more of this across the line rubbish, it was all straight in the V, with several sweetly timed drives through mid off and mid on. The back to basics approach paid dividends, with Chucky compiling a score of 129 not out, out of a total of 210-2. With sixteen 4’s and two 6’s. His 8th century for the club, (a new record) and his own highest score. At one point, Stu Pollitt’s club record score of 144 not out, looked in grave danger. However, it was a pretty hot day, with not much air, so the tiring Chuck’s run rate did slow down a bit towards the end of his innings. Just to bat the full 40 overs in those conditions was an achievement. Well batted Chucky.

Time for tea, and the first mid game shower of the season, taken by an exhausted Chuck, followed by ten pints of water. Meanwhile, brother Leo decided to choose the lager option…Village. With everyone fully rehydrated, we began our defence of 210. Fielding can be overlooked sometimes, but for the first 15 overs, the whole team were exceptional. After Dave Stephens made the first breakthrough, bowling Shough for nought, some sensational catches were taken. The two words sensational and catches seem to marry well together when you mention the name Greg Philpott. Fielding at mid on, Greg took another screamer to get rid of Tamplin for 2. If you want to know exactly what it was like then You tube….Jonty Rhodes catch v England, World Cup 1999. It was on a par with this. Another superb catch to add to the Philpott portfolio. Leo Chuck and David Preece joined the party, with two nice grabs either side of the wicket. Followed by the dependable hands of Rob Hewlitt, diving full stretch forward, just before the ball was about to kiss the turf to take his 51st catch, to begin the second half of his quest for 100 catches. Combine all these top efforts together, and Knowle found themselves gone at 37-5. Effectively ending the game as a contest. It could easily have been a different story, because after checking up on Knowle’s Play Cricket site, their top five batsmen were certainly no mugs with the bat according to their stats. We did tire a little in the conditions, apart from the returning David Preece, who still has that cheetah like speed across the ground, and laser like arm. A big compliment must go to the Knowle No3, 12 years of age, scoring a really nice 73. But wickets still came at regular intervals, including one for “The Icon” John Nicholls. Followed by another brilliant catch at long off, this time, thanks to the works of Leo Chuck, capping a fine day for everyone in the field. So it was left to Dave Stephens to wrap things up, taking the last two wickets in successive balls to leave DS on a Hat-trick….Can it really happen again? Lets hope so, as Dave has been in such good form with the ball this year, picking up his second 4-for of the season.

Ben Stokes update….I couldn’t not mention the man who provided the whole country with one of the all time great sporting moments. Those final few overs of the Test Match ran alongside Chuck’s quest for Stu Pollitt’s record. I’ll leave you to figure out which got more attention.

Multi Tasking update…This has to go to Rob Hewlitt, who showed tremendous skills to score for the full 40 overs, work the electronic scoreboard, and follow the action at Headingley. Not an easy mission, but thanks again to Rob for dropping himself down the order to score.

Merv Hughes update….We seem to have an imposter in the team. Anybody who wasn’t there might just see an encore on Sunday.

Sad Postscript….A sad piece of news to end the report. Mickey Evans of Highwood Park CC passed away this week. Mick played against us many times over the years. He was one of those old school cricketers, good bloke, a very good bowler…. one of those “hard to get away” type bowlers. Mick absolutely loved his cricket, like all of us, and was a loyal servant to HPCC. So from all of us, RIP Mick.

Chris Hall

Peopleton v Walsall Health….15/05/2011

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Peopleton, a lovely village in Worcestershire, where we started to visit back in 2009. Usually a ground where plenty of runs are scored. Many a time, that red leather ball has introduced itself to the cows in the field over the far side of the pitch. But not on this day… The 2011 edition will be remembered for one outstanding bowling performance, from a legendary player, to win us a game we had been behind in from the very first ball.

The side who travelled that day in batting order…Steve Hartshorne. Dave Stephens (still opening the batting in those days) Sam Stephens. Nathan Reeves. Rich Fell (Capt) Tim Oliver. Nic Slym. Dave Atkins. John Nicholls. Chris Hall and John Hinton, arrived to conditions recorded in the scorebook as dull and damp. The home side won the toss, and had no hesitation in taking the new ball.

It soon became apparent, that these were not easy conditions to bat in. Dave, Sam and Nathan Reeves were all out for single figure scores. 12-3 wasn’t the best of starts. So when Captain Rich Fell joined opener Steve Hartshorne, the two men dug in. Plenty of dot balls followed, the two batsmen grinding out runs in the testing conditions. Steve was finally bowled by Holton for 16. An innings that lasted 1 hour 22 mins. But it was important for someone to hold the innings together which Steve was always such a Master of.

When Rich Fell was caught for another gritty 19 in 57 mins, followed by Nic Slym (7) suffering from a bout of vertigo after being asked to bat at the dizzy heights of No7. We found ourselves facing a score below 100. Dave Atkins being run out for 0 added to our tales of woe. The score of 77-7 didn’t exactly feel a lucky one, as Chris Hall walked out to join Tim Oliver, still with 12 overs remaining.

Captain Fell, always thinking, made a smart move to do a stint of umpiring. This gave him the opportunity to chat to the two batsmen at the crease….Get us to 120, its not easy out here, was the message. Tim, with that familiar smile, understood exactly what was needed, having been in this type of situation so many times before, calmly going about his business. Playing straight in the V, finding the gaps, picking up four boundaries to reach 33 not out. With Chris Hall just happy to stay out there with Tim, the two men shared a priceless unbeaten partnership of 46 to get us up to 123-7 off 40 overs. The game felt back on.

After tea was taken, Peopleton seemed intent on chasing down a low score quickly. After a few early boundaries, Chris Hall and Sam Stephens made the breakthrough, reducing the home side to 20-2, effectively 20-3, as they only had 10 players. For the first time in the match, WHCC were in the box seat. A first scent of victory didn’t last long as Peopleton continued to play aggressively. Stickler (47) and Holtom (12) advanced their score to 85-3….Just 39 to win, 7 wkts in hand, and loads of time.

It was at this point in the match where the man who had rescued our batting was thrown the ball. After a couple of calf stretches, and three looseners to the fielder at mid on, Tim Oliver immediately trapped Holtom, lbw for 47. Maybe inspiring the young pretender, Sam Stephens, to pick up two more quick wickets in the final over of his own spell. Always a good reader of a game, Tim now sensed an unlikely victory. His second over proved to be the decisive one…A three wicket maiden….How often do we see one of those? It was one of those classic T.Oliver overs, relentlessly firing the ball into middle and leg stump, the Peopleton lower order had no answer, leaving  WHCC close to a memorable victory. Never a player to blink when he saw the finish line, it took Tim just three more balls to wrap up the Peopleton innings. Finishing with remarkable figures of 3.3 overs 2 maidens 5-1. One of many T.Oliver 5-fors in just 21 balls, to complete another match winning contribution.

The Epilogue…..

It wouldn’t have been noted at the time, but after a few calculations, Tim’s 5th wicket of this match winning spell was also his 350th for the club. In addition to over 5,000 runs, and plenty of catches. Tim also stands alone, with Rick Jarrams as the only two players to reach the milestone of 300 appearances. You can look through all the scorebooks and pick out any number of occasions when the name Tim Oliver appears, producing with either bat or ball to help win his team a game of cricket. I just picked this one out because I was lucky enough to be there. That spell, along with his rearguard innings earlier in the match, was defiant, determined and full of character. You would see a few players give up in that type of situation, or just not fancy the job, but giving up just wasn’t in Tim’s nature……

Great bowler..Yes. Great batsman..Yes. Great competitor..Yes. Great bloke..Yes.

Still missed by everyone…….Most definitely. Yes.

 

 

Swynnerton v WHCC….03/07/2011

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Our first visit to the village of Swynnerton in Staffordshire proved to be a memorable one for a certain young WHCC player, who since making his debut in 2005 had always shown the potential to produce a special performance. It was on this day, that the potential was fulfilled.

The team that travelled up the M6 that day… Richard Fell (Capt) Andy Gorton. Dave Stephens. Sam Stephens. Nathan Reeves. Tim Oliver. Adam Smith. Mike Sayers. Chris Hall. Frank Jacob and John Nicholls arrived at one of the more picturesque grounds we have played in. At first glance, the opposition looked useful. One of those clubs who had four teams on a Saturday, and a strong youth policy. The type of opposition you just quietly thought to yourself…this could be a long day.

With Swynnerton electing to bat first, on a warm sunny day, the early analysis of our opponents proved to be pretty accurate. All our bowlers tried their best, encouraged as ever by Captain Rich Fell, but on a fast outfield and a nice batting track, the runs flowed at a good pace for the home side. Opener Hubbart was particularly dominant, blasting 61 before becoming yet another victim of the Caught Fell…Bowled Hall combination. After Frank, Tim and Sam all picked up a wicket each, we took a second drinks break at the 30 over mark, with Swynnerton going well on 196-4. At this point, a conversation that took place between two opposing players may well have been the turning point of the game.

Just before the last drop of orange squash was consumed, the Swynnerton Captain approached Dave Stephens with the offer of declaring their innings at 196. Maybe a little bit of over-confidence, arrogance, or taking victory for granted, we will never know. But Dave took approximately 0.0001 secs to consider the offer, before responding, “No thanks, we will carry on and bowl our full 40 overs” Swynnerton, who looked well set to post a score in excess of 260 were pegged right back in those final ten overs, only scoring another 39 runs to reach 235-7. Ironically, it was Dave who bowled the Swynnerton Captain for 53, blunting any hopes of posting a bigger total. It was a typical Elf fightback, which gave us renewed hope of an unlikely victory.

After a lovely tea, which included scones, clotted cream and jam, we still believed if someone played a big innings it was possible to chase down 235. Gort (25) and Dave Stephens (1) opened the batting. But the whole match was really all about one innings and one partnership……At 50-2, Mike Sayers joined Sam Stephens who was already threatening to take complete charge of the Swynnerton bowlers. The posh electronic scorebox over the far side of the ground was about to endure a busy afternoon.

This was one of the best partnerships ever seen. Mike Sayers, using the see ball-hit ball technique,

The Slayer

playing the supporting role to Sam, hitting 43 off 41 balls. It is fair to say, that Sayers and Stephens sounds an unlikely combination, but the two men just complimented each other from ball one. It didn’t take very long for Sam to approach that tricky moment in a young cricketers career….the first time in the 90’s. Sam’s innings had been so fluent, with boundaries racing to all four corners of the ground. By now, a lot of nervous pacing up and down from his team mates could be seen, as his score reached 94. Just to add to the tension of the occasion, Dave was umpiring at this time, no doubt, quietly willing his son to reach a well deserved personal milestone. We didn’t have too long to wait.

It took just one more ball for Sam to make his maiden 100. Taking the brave mans route, with a straight six, back over the bowlers head, disappearing well over the sight screen to the delight of all his team mates. A great moment, with Dad…Dave, being the first man to shake Sam’s hand. The only time any WHCC player has gone from 94 to 100 with a six.  It was also the fastest century we had ever seen. After some scorebook examination it looks like it took just 85 balls.  Plus a match winning partnership of 147 with Mike Sayers coming in just 18 overs. Two remarkable performances. Sam finally departed for 109 off 91 balls, but the two men had broken the spirit of Swynnerton, who earlier in the day, didn’t believe we could chase down a big total.

It was left to Tim Oliver and Nathan Reeves to score the remaining runs to close out a memorable victory, which they did with 3 overs to spare. Thank goodness we never took the declaration offer, is all I can say.

Our facebook page had just been created in this year, so here are a few quotes from Sam and Mike’s team mates in the hours that followed….

Andy Gorton…”Sam, awesome today mate. Today you came of age as a cricketer. This is a day you will never forget. Well done mate”

Richard Fell…”Echoed mate. Brilliant from you and Mike”

John Nicholls…”Excellent Sam, awesome knock. And Mike’s most entertaining cameo, resulting in one of WHCC’s famous victories. Long live the Elf!!!”

Chris Hall…”Sam and Mike, you will be required to do interviews with 5 live, Talksport, Sky Sports and Loose Women”

Kerry Gorton…”Haha, Loose Women, they would eat you lot alive”

The Epilogue…

This was to be the only time we ever defeated Swynnerton who we last played in 2015. A strong club with plenty of talent, who simply came up against a WHCC player at the top of his game on that day in 2011. It is worth mentioning that just 2 week earlier, against Lapworth, Sam had been run out by Mo Arshad for 66, when looking well set to get to three figures. I seem to remember a few people giving the dressing room a wide berth in the moments that followed. But just a fortnight later, both Sam and Mike hit their highest individual scores for the club to win us another memorable game of cricket.

Mike Sayers still makes the odd appearance from time to time, and became well known for his whole hearted fielding, charging around the outfield to save precious runs. Mike deservedly won our Fielder of the Year Award in 2012. His approach to batting was always the same…take a big swing, hit the ball as hard as I can, and see what happens. A M.Sayers innings was always entertaining to watch.

Sam and Dave. Club legends.

Sam continued to play regularly for WHCC up until the 2015 season. Chalking up over 2,000 runs, including two 100’s and eleven 50’s. Sam has also taken over 100 wickets, to join his Dad Dave, in completing that rare double of 1,000 runs and 100 wkts. Since moving to Derbyshire, Sam has continued to play to a high standard for both Spondon and Darley Abbey. But I reckon if you ask him when his Graduation Day was at the School of Cricket, he would say…..Swynnerton. July 3rd. 2011.

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.

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 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