Peopleton CC (175 – 4) defeated Walsall Health CC (172 all out) by 6 wickets
Walsall Health made the trip down the M5 to Worcestershire to face Peopleton hoping to get back to winning ways after defeat to Poppyfields the week before. It was to be a day for the records to tumble. There was some doubt as to whether the game would go ahead, but thankfully it did.
For the third week in a row, Walsall Health came out the wrong side of the toss and were put into bat on a wicket that was so green that some Health members wished their lawns were just as green. The two openers Dan Dunn and Dan Armstrong strolled out hoping to set down a marker. However, nobody told the Peopleton opening bowlers who bowled with great accuracy and kept the Elf pair tied down in the crease with the only scoring shot being a boundary. The breakthrough came in just the third over when Dan Armstrong was caught behind off the bowling off Thirlye for 4. Dan had looked composed at the crease, but it was a ball that he had to play and it swung away at the last minute. Unlucky Dan. This made the score 4-1.
The next man in was vice-captain and celebrating his 100th game for the club, Ian Chuck, who was still complaining about people breaking on the motorway, the reason why he was late. Was it the best decision by captain Nunns to ask Chuck to go in so early, considering his state of mind? Only time would tell. Chuck strolled out to the middle to meet an in form Dan Dunn hoping to build a good partnership. They went about their business in a calm and collected way with a mixture of good running and convincing shots that went to the boundary. The two were settling down building a good partnership, when, all of a sudden, on 38 -1, opening bowler Cliff removed Dunn for 24. It was a valiant effort from Dunn, who played with great control and technique. It was just one ball he didn’t manage to pick.
Rob Hewlitt, who was looking to reach a personal milestone of 2000 Elf runs entered the crease, knowing exactly what was needed. After the first ball jitters, Hewlitt calmed himself down and started playing the only way he knew. That was to go after the bowler through his powerful hitting and speed between the wickets. As he edged closer to the 2000 run mark, it was mentioned in the player’s enclosure that it would be great if Rob “reached the milestone with a 6”. Right on cue, Rob strode forward and hit a superb boundary to bring up 2000 runs for the Elf. He was congratulated by the on-field umpire ‘Stato’ himself, Chris Hall, who looked thoroughly delighted at his teammate’s achievement. However, his stay at the crease was ended a few balls later when – at 93-2 – he was bowled by Smith for 19. On his return to the pavilion, Rob was given a standing ovation for a milestone well deserved. Well done Rob.
The departure of Rob saw the introduction of Alex Nunns. This was a bowler’s nightmare; two batsmen, one left-handed and one right-handed batsman, occupying the crease. This was surely going to see constant field changes. The two started batting with intent, hoping to increase the run-rate. Good running between the wickets coupled with controlled boundary hitting propelled the Elf to 123-3. Just as the two were building a good partnership, Chuck (currently on 47) played a shot down to mid-on and followed it with a call of “yes”. As soon as he set off, the Peopleton fielders sensed an opportunity of a run out and quick reactions saw the end of Chuck’s innings when he was closing in on his 50. The frustration was there for all to see. This was followed by Chuck’s comment “Why did I run? There was no run there”.
That left the score at 123-4 off 28 overs. If the Elf were going to post a competitive total, a few more boundaries were needed. The loss of Chuck brought wicketkeeper Andy Gorton to the crease. Gort went about his business with intent, hitting his only two scoring shots for 10 runs. A magnificent 6 followed a controlled shot for 4. Before we knew it, Nunns and Got had moved the Elf onto 142 for 5, with the hope the two would add more to the score. Unfortunately, just as Gort was settling in, he skied one off the bowling of Harrold and the catch taken by Cliff, who had already been successful with ball in hand.
Mark Reynolds came in for only his second game for the Elf at number 7, where he hoped to make a telling contribution to the total score. He batted with a mixture of assurance and flair that moved the score onto 170-7 by which time Nunns had been caught off the bowling of Ash for 18. Reynolds and returning gem G. Philpott steadied the ship with a few lusty blows from both batsmen, before a contentious decision saw the removal of Reynolds after he was bowled by Powell for 17. It looked from the boundary as though it should have been called a no-ball, but the umpires were having none of it and Reynolds had to go.
That left the score on 170-7 and out walked the stalwart that was Dave Stephens. Could he add to the score? However, one ball was needed and DS was on his way back to the pavilion after he tried to go over the top, but didn’t catch it right and was caught off the bowling of Powell for 0. On his way back, DS mentioned to the next man in, JP (who had been hoping to edge nearer to Johnty’s DNB record) “Hardly worth going out for”. JP came in and the first ball he faced almost took off his head. That was the first of two successive no-balls by Smith, but the third ball (first legal ball) did the trick and JP was back in the sheds for a golden duck after he tried to score on the on-side but only succeeded in the finding the fielder (a very similar mode of dismissal as the last time he batted). That was two wickets in two balls. Was Smith going to make it 2 in 2? He sure was. His victim was C. Hall (who was bowled) when he lasted just as long as the two previous batsmen for the same number of runs. The Elf finished on 172 all out. A total that was going to be tough to defend, but one they felt comfortable in doing so.
So it was down to the bowlers to try and keep it tight and make People work for their runs. When asked who was opening the bowling D. Preece snr stated with an air of confidence “D. Stephens with a ‘ph”. That was then followed with “Sorry. That is Dan Anderson”, just as Dan Armstrong was coming in. Opening batsmen Miller and Billington were undeterred and went about knocking off the 172 runs needed for victory. They batted with composure and flair finding the gaps and causing Nunns more difficulty than he had experienced all season. No matter how Stephens and Armstrong bowled, the batsmen had answers for everything. At the end of their spells, Dan Armstrong finished on figures of 0-27 off 5 overs and DS finished with 0-40 off 8 overs. While neither of them took wickets, they could feel unlucky in not making the breakthrough. On another day they could have both picked up a couple of wickets.
However, the one thing that the Elf have is a man who takes wickets in his sleep. Nunns was able to call upon ‘the ice man’ Chris Hall who was aiming to surpass the all time leading wicket taker for the Health, the late Tim Oliver, who took 387 wickets. Hall only six weeks ago was contemplating not playing until April 2022, worked his socks off to get back playing only 7 days earlier. The opening batsmen were clearly in the mindset of getting the game won. C. Hall who was biding his time, struck to remove T. Billington LBW for 29 and in doing so moved onto wicket number 387, level with Tim Oliver. A mixture of relief and elation broke out as all on the park of the Elf persuasion sensed a new milestone nearing. However, there was still work to do.
The all-important wicket was not far in coming. The number 3 batsmen A. Billington came to the crease. After a steady start making 9, Hall had his man and he entered the record books. After his first wicket in April 2002 against Newbold with a bowled in his wickets column, 19 years and 387 wickets later, the mode of dismissal was exactly the same. It read ‘A Billington – bowled Hall’. He later mentioned that he got it the way he wanted to get it. Tremendous effort Chris. You deserve all the accolades you got. However, that was not the end of Hall, as he picked himself up to remove Hamid for 1. There were some that thought a 5-for might have been coming. Unfortunately, that was not to be the case and Hall finished on figures of 3-63 off 8 overs.
The story has it that Chris was introduced to WHCC by fellow player R. Fell, who encouraged him to get back into cricket after he had taken “several years out the game” because as he says now, “I wasn’t enjoying it”. He came on to bowl and as Fell predicted, 4th ball of his first over, S. Pryde was bowled by Hall. It was an inspired decision and thus a future Elf legend was born.
While Hall was doing his bit, the bowlers at the other end were doing their best to keep it tight. First, I Chuck, who had earlier made a well played 47, came on to replace D. Stephens. He bowled a tight line and length and was constantly tempting the batsmen, but in their efforts, very few went to the boundary and most went for ones and twos. Chuck’s control and guile eventually paid off and he got his man. Mason, trying to hit Chuck out of the ground only succeeded in finding the safe hands of G. Philpott and he departed for 7. Philpott, a fielder that every bowler would feel confident of taking every catch that came his way. Chuck finished off with figures of 1-21 off 3 overs. His bowling figures don’t reflect how well he’d bowled. Chuck was replaced by JP, a man who was still on a high from joining the 100 wicket club for the elf only a week earlier. He came in knowing the game was probably up, hoping they would not hit the winning runs off his bowling. His first over went for three runs; also bowling a decent length, but his seventh ball went for 6 and thus ended the game.
Despite the XI on the field succumbing to their third defeat of the season, there were plenty of celebrations for the milestone makers in Rob on his 2000 runs and Ian on his 100 appearances for the Health. But the day and occasion belonged to Chris, who after reluctantly leading the players off, was greeted by a ‘Dai-hug’ minus his Goldfish coat. Superb effort Chris. Hopefully, there are plenty more wickets to come your way.
Bowlers with 100 Wickets
Batsmen with 2000 + runs
|David Preece (jnr)||2,455|
Chris Hall‘s First Elf’ Game