Walsall Health beat Much Wenlock by 12 runs
The third game of the season for Walsall Health was one that had almost everything; 3 wicketkeepers (for one innings), dogs invading the pitch and a Magical Mystery tour (as the Beatles would say) of Much Wenlock (thanks in part to Google). After winning the toss, the Elf skipper Alex Nunns elected to bat, despite not having the full quota of time to assess the pitch due to turning up at 12:55, for a 1:00 start.
After last week’s centurion in Rob Hewlitt, it was the turn of three more Elf legends to reach milestones, in Nathan Martin, Greg Philpott and Daniel Armstrong (fresh from his magnificent 193, barely 24 hours earlier) to rack up their 50th games for the club. It looked like an inspired decision by the captain, who was looking for his 3rd straight victory since stepping into the job.
Resident opener, Ian Chuck (who was hoping for successive red inkers) and Dan Dunn (stepping in at the last minute-well done Dan), got off to a solid start with the bat. Running between the wickets as freely as treacle through a sieve, they built up a steady lead. The calls were so loud and clear, that the farmer up the road, (who many had met and asked for directions) could keep tabs on the score. Both openers felt secure at the crease and were moving the score along nicely. Then out of nowhere, with the score at 90-0, Dan Dunn – the club pro – was making his way back to the pavilion after making a well batted 42 after being bowled by Caldicott. So surprised were the Elves on the boundary that nobody could quite believe that Dunn had had his defences breached. No clunk of the wicket, no cheer from the opposition, just a solitary walk back.
Next to enter the crease was none-other than Nathan Reeves, one who would excite the crowds in the IPL or T20 Blast. First ball, Nathan set himself and – to the crowds amazement/shock/disappointment, allowed the ball to go through harmlessly to the keeper. This happened – not once, but twice. Was this to be the Nathan Reeves that we knew and admired, or was it an imposter? We soon found out. After all; runs win games and Reeves was on a mission. His next six balls went for 9 runs, which included a magnificent 6, sailing over the square leg boundary. Things were going nicely at 112-1.Unfortunately, Reeves went for one-shot too many and clubbed the ball so high that the International Space Station managed to capture a picture of the ball in its accent to infinity and beyond, before gravity pulled it back down into safe hands of square-leg off the bowling of Handley.
Next, it was one Nathan for another, as Nathan Martin (or the Wednesbury Lara, as one coined him) entered the crease. Not renowned for his batting prowess, Martin got down to work with the aim of steadying the innings after two quick wickets. He set his stall out and played an impressive 14 not out off 13 overs. However, as Martin was asserting himself in the middle, I. Chuck’s time at the crease came to an end after a dogged display at the top of the order. Closing in on his 50, which would have been well deserved, Chuck was caught off the bowling of Brown falling agonisingly short on 47. Although he didn’t reach his weekly 50, Chuck could still feel he made an invaluable contribution to the final score. The final Elf batsman to enter the fray was former skipper and centurion, Rob Hewlitt who’s running between the wickets was faultless. Coming in at the start of the 27th over, he batted out the innings for a very handy 58 runs and with Martin the other end, they both added a super 81 runs to the final score of 199 for 4. A total that would be a competitive one, but still achievable, the Elf faithful felt confident, especially with the bowling attack Nunns had at his disposal. But there was still work to be done.
The Much Wenlock openers came out and looked as though they meant business. However, within a couple of over’s, the two opening bowlers, in Chris Hall and Nathan Martin (with his followers in the background), made the Much Wenlock openers reassess how they were going to play their innings. This was backed up by the man behind the stumps, Dan Armstrong, with the confidence of someone who had kept all his life. Unfortunately, for S. Handley, he succumbed to a beautifully executed slower ball by Martin, dislodging the bails with deadly accuracy. The Elf had got the breakthrough with only 5 runs on the board. The next batsman was D. Handley, who made his mark as soon as he entered the crease, who’s scoring shot were as follows; 4 6 4 2 4 2 1 1. Eventually; he went for one too many and tried to hit the ‘Ice Man’ C. Hall out of the ground, only succeeding in finding G. Philpott. He left with the score a reasonable 36 for 2.
Captain Nunns had to rethink his tactics. After only 10 overs, JP was brought onto see if he could nullify the batsman. As the old adage goes “1 usually brings 2” and this was evident again. New batsman, new bowler; both unsure how the pitch would play. It only took one ball, but JP had his man for a duck. JP floated the ball up inviting to have a go, but only succeeding finding Nunns in the perfect position to grab it without needing to move his feet. However, this was the only success JP would have in the afternoon. The following batsman – W. Brown – played a fantastic innings and deservedly ended with 33 not out. In the midst all this, it was one Dan for another as Dan Dunn took the gloves from, who was as equally combatant behind the stumps as his namesake and the invasion of Chally’s new best friend; a passer-by’s dog.
At 36 for 3, the Elf felt confident, but Brown and the opener Rowlands dug their heels in and occupied the crease superbly. After a good spell from Chris, Nunns decided to take him out of the attack and bring on ‘the Boston Strangler’ Josh Buttler, who with his unique action, he brought a different challenge to the crease. His bowling deserved a wicket and on another day, he would have been duly rewarded. A score of 8 overs for 36 runs was a good return for the bowler and showed that the batsmen at the crease found it incredibly hard to get him away more often. Not only that, but his scoring in the first innings was exemplary and it was very much noted both during and after the game. Top man JB!
From 36 for 3 to 109 for 4, the batsmen played an array of classy shots and resolute defensive shots. Nunns once again had to change something. On came G. Philpott who had some very interesting points on equality in professional sports. The less said the better. He took the vital wicket of Rowlands who reached his 50 and then he found opening bowler Hall to send him on his way. Philpott eventually finished with figurers of 1-55. These figures do not reflect how well Greg actually bowled and deserved more than the one wicket he richly deserved. Could this be the breakthrough the Elf needed? In came M. Brown who smashed a fantastic 65 before he was cleaned bowled by first wicketkeeper of the day Dan Armstrong, by which time the hosts felt they had an opportunity to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The removal of Brown was exactly what was needed, which was soon followed by a run out opportunity in which I Chuck (Health’s third keeper of the innings) had all the time in the world to remove the bails after playing an imaginary immaculate forward defensive, to leave the hosts 188 for 6.
Despite their super effort, Much Wenlock fell 11 runs short, but it was agreed by all who took part that the game of cricket was truly the winner.
Although he neither batted nor bowled, the most telling contribution on the pitch was made by skipper Alex Nunns, who through his cool and calm character, helped get the Health over the line with his field placings when it could have all gone horribly wrong. While he was not always in the thick of the action, you always felt that he was always in control of proceedings, possibly 2 or 3 steps ahead of the game. His unselfish leadership so others could have the chance to contribute to the team effort with either bat or ball should be recognised and was appreciated. Top captaining skipper!
Finally, it must be said, that despite all the wickets being taken and the runs being scored, the most valuable contribution was that of the Elf’s newly appointed ‘Director of Matchday Photography’, Lizzie, who through her amazing knack of catching the moment, was able to bring the game to life through her photos. Well played Lizzie.
Written by JP