v Lichfield Nomads (27/7/2014)

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Walsall Health beat Lichfield Nomads by 133 runs.

Dave Preece - a brilliant knock by the returning skipper

Dave Preece – another brilliant knock by the skipper. Suggestions that married life is doing our leader good in terms of his batting.

The return of two Walsall Health legends from different eras helped underpin The Elf’s comprehensive 130 run victory over Lichfield Nomads.

Elf Living Legend Jon Nicholls made his first appearance for over 12 months and seamlessly hit his stride, scoring valuable runs and taking wickets, while Chris ‘Iron Man’ Hall returned after illness and likewise made an impressive impact with both bat and ball.

But it was yet another brilliant performance with the bat by skipper Dave Preece – carving a superb 105 – that was the deciding factor.

Winning the toss and electing to bat on what was an odd track that presented challenges for bowlers and batsmen alike, The Elf set off at a decent rate with Preece and Andy Gorton putting on 25 without loss after four overs.

Jon Nicholls - returning legend had everybody in awe.

Jon Nicholls – returning legend had everybody in awe.

In the sixth over Gorton departed for 11, trapped lbw by Hughes, opening the door for the returning Sam Stephens to smash his way to 27 – with a much larger target looking likely – before he was clean bowled by Lee Westwood in the 11th over leaving The Elf at 65 for 2.

Ian Chuck continued where Sam had left off and appeared in tremendous shape with a series of dynamic shots during a partnership with The Skipper that lasted 14 overs.

With Chuck looking a cert for a long overdue 50, he was perhaps unfortunate to lose his wicket trying to sweep George for 35.

But with The Elf on 160 for 3 after 26 overs, the foundations had been laid for a strong total which needed the remaining batsmen to consolidate.

FOUR! Textbook cover drive by Tom Davies but, alas, he was unable to be The Elf's highest scoring ginger.

FOUR! Textbook cover drive by Tom Davies but, alas, he was unable to be The Elf’s highest scoring ginger.

Mat Danks notched 12 before his wicket was claimed by Blackburn, Neil Antcliffe (making his dayboo for The Elf and appearing in his first game in over a decade) went for a duck and Dave Stephens added four to the total.

Enter Jon Nicholls – making his first appearance of the season after recovering from injury – who added another 14 to the total before becoming Blackburn’s third victim.

The closing stand of Tom Davies (who survived a very dubious lbw decision on his way to five) and the returning Chris Hall (who knocked 16 runs off just nine deliveries) provided The Elf with a competitive total of 246.

In truth, Nomads never looked like threatening the total and when Sam Stephens saw off the opening pair of Gardener and Paul Fearon for 23, clean bowling both, the battle was even more uphill for the home side.

Nomads made a good fist of frustrating the attempts of The Elf to finish the resistance.

Neil Antcliffe - dayboo boy.

Neil Antcliffe – dayboo boy.

Dave Stephens saw off George for just one before Westwood racked up nine runs before he was bowled by Davies.

The returning Elf legends of Hall and Nicholls then went about their business – strangling any resistance by Nomads.

Ian Hughes fell to Jonty as he attempted a dirty slog shot for 14, opening up a fiercely resilient partnership of Scott and Dave Rolfe which stubbornly refused to capitulate the game, even with Nomads a long way off the total.

Scott top-scored with 21 before a trademark Hall fizzer finally removed him and his next delivery accounted for Blackburn Jnr for a golden duck before his hat-trick was cruelly denied by a questionable lbw decision.

Chris Hall - the returning Iron Man was, as expected, immense.

Chris Hall – the returning Iron Man was, as expected, immense.

Dave Rolfe and Blackburn Snr ensured Nomads batted out their overs – despite some exceptionally tight and economical bowling from Chuck, Nicholls and Hall – although ultimately the 133 run margin meant a resounding victory for the visitors.

 

Batting Runs
Gorton, A lbw Hughes

11

Preece, D c Scott b Blackburn

105

Stephens, S b Westwood

27

Chuck, I b George

35

Danks, M b Blackburn 12
Antcliffe, N c Rolfe b Fearon 0
Stephens, D b Pickering 4
Nicholls, J b Blackburn 14
Davies, T Not Out 5
Hall, C Not Out 16
Mate of Chuckie’s did not show, the nob
Extras

16

Walsall Health

 246

Bowling Overs Maidens Runs Wickets
Stephens, S

8

2

18

2

Stephens, D

8

2

16

1

Davies, T

6

1

21

1

Chuck, I

5

2

6

0

Nicholls, J

6

2

10

1

Antcliffe, N

1

0

17

0

Hall, C 6 2 8 2

 

Man of the match: Dave Preece

Top bat: Dave Preece (105 not out)

Top bowler: Chris Hall (two wickets for eight runs off six overs and his first over went for five)

Rachel Hangover Rating: 1/10 very poor. Once the girl gets a full time job we are expecting a marked improvement in performance.

v Highwood Park (29/6/2014)

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Walsall Health beat Highwood Park by 141 runs.

Dave Preece - a brilliant knock by the returning skipper

Dave Preece – a brilliant knock by the returning skipper

Walsall Health squared their three-match series with Highwood Park with a comprehensive win after last week’s defeat.

The Elf welcomed back skipper Dave Preece and opening bowler Sam Stephens while Gary Fitzpatrick donned the gloves as wicketkeeper.

Outstanding batting performances by Andy Gorton (85) and Dave Preece (95 not out) provided The Elf with the platform necessary to build a commanding total which the multi-faceted bowling attack by the home side was able to ensure was never really threatened.

Despite the impressive total of 223 set by The Elf, Highwood Park’s opening bowling attack did a magnificent job of pegging back the openers Preece and Gorton.

After nine overs The Elf had managed to notch up just 13 runs, with Olly Holliday (8 overs, 4 maidens, 18 runs for no wickets) producing arguably the best spell of bowling faced this season which deserved a wicket.

As the overs ticked by the runs began to flow, with Gorton producing an array of aggressive strokes to reach his fifty first.

Turner finally trapped Gorton LBW for 85 in the 29th over with The Elf on 134, opening the way for the returning Sam Stephens to step into the breach.

Mat Danks - late cameo.

Mat Danks – late cameo.

Stephens provided the heavy foot for the runs accelerator, driving the skipper along towards his century, before he was caught on the boundary off the bowling of Ralph for 28.

A late cameo appearance by Mat Danks – adding five not out, running out of overs just as he was looking good for a ton – saw The Elf set 223, a marked contrast to last week’s effort.

The pincer attack of Sam and Dave Stephens set about Highwood Park from the off with Sam’s effort (a miserly five runs off six overs for one wicket) alongside a virtuoso spell by Dave (eight overs, three maidens, eleven for one) setting the tone.

It was Dave Stephens who drew first blood, claiming Tallis for one thanks to a nifty catch by Tony Forrester in the fourth over.

Stephens Junior was next, forcing Turner to chip to Dave Preece for six in the eighth over before Ian Chuck struck with the first ball of his spell, claiming Ralph caught and bowled for four.

John Preece - two wickets for Champ.

John Preece – two wickets for Champ.

Then it was the turn of John Preece to do the damage, first claiming the wicket of Greenway LBW for seven and then claiming the scalp of Lapper for nought thanks to another brilliant catch by Forrester.

With the required run rate in excess of ten an over, top scorer Stephen Beattie creamed a succession of shots to the boundaries – including some magnificent cover drives – on his way to a head-turning top score of 23 before he was clean bowled by one of Chuck’s devious deliveries.

Meanwhile, Holliday, who had caused so much frustration for The Elf with the ball put on 11 before Forrester claimed his first wicket thanks to a catch from Sam Stephens.

Rob Hewlitt - first wicket of the season in his first spell.

Rob Hewlitt – first wicket of the season in his first spell.

Forrester claimed his second wicket, trapping Hutton LBW for a duck during a spell of devastating bowling which saw him claim two wickets in two overs for ten runs.

There was time for Rob Hewlitt to take his first wicket of the season in his first bowling spell, claiming the wicket of Hipkiss with a catch from Gorton and Matt Wright claimed the prized wicket of Shaun Allsopp thanks to a stumping by Fitzpatrick.

The 141 run victory levelled the three-match series (with the decider set for August 17) and paved the way for posh soap-based shower celebrations.

Batting Runs
Gorton, A lbw Turner

85

Preece, D not out

95

Stephens, S c Hipkiss b Ralph

28

Danks, M not out

5

Forrester, T did not bat
Stephens, D did not bat
Hewlitt, R did not bat
Chuck, I did not bat
Fitzpatrick, G did not bat
Preece, J did not bat
Wright, M did not bat
Extras

10

Walsall Health

 223

Bowling Overs Maidens Runs Wickets
Stephens, S

6

1

5

1

Stephens, D

8

3

11

1

Preece, J

5

1

17

2

Chuck, I

4

0

16

2

Forrester, T

2

0

10

2

Wright, M

3

0

15

1

Hewlitt, R 2 1 4 1

 

Man of the match: Dave Preece

Top bat: Dave Preece (95 not out)

Top bowler: Hard to say, pick the bones out of the stats above and chose for yourself

Rachel Hangover Rating: 8.5/10 – a really impressive return to form after an all-dayer in Digbeth.

v Highwood Park (22/6/2014)

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Highwood Park beat Walsall Health by six wickets.

Walsall Health’s unbeaten start to the season came to a halt with a defeat against local rivals Highwood Park in an entertaining and hard-fought game.

Nathan Martin - impressive performance with bat and ball.

Nathan Martin – impressive performance with bat and ball.

Missing several senior players, The Elf lined up an unusual looking starting eleven including Gary Fitzpatrick making his first appearance of the season and Tony Forrester making his first appearance since 1975.

Batting first, the Elf’s opening batsmen had varied results as Park’s strike bowling pair of Duncan and Holliday put the pressure on straight away.

Rob Hewlitt fell first, firing a handsome looking shot to mid-on where he was handily caught for four.

Hewlitt’s tally was matched by the world’s second most infamous South African number three, Ian Chuck, as he was trapped lbw by Duncan.

Tony Forrester - the last time he turned out for an Elf side The Osmonds were number one with 'Love Me For A Reason'.

Tony Forrester – the last time he turned out for an Elf side The Osmonds were number one with ‘Love Me For A Reason’.

At the other end, Andy Gorton was looking in excellent shape and capable of shoring up the below-strength batting order before he too fired a shot to the field and was caught for 26.

A spell of rebuilding and consolidation was required with The Elf in a precarious position of 43-3 after 13 overs.

The efforts of Danks (5), Wright (scoring two on his batting dayboo) and – in particular – Nathan Martin (17) and Stuart Slater (16), helped the Elf stabilise to 87-5 and look to build something approaching a challenging total.

The pairing of Slater and Martin was especially valuable, and also featured some of the finest comedy running between the wickets, producing slapstick not seen since Laurel and Hardy last trod the boards.

Sadly, The Elf were unable to produce any major tail-end heroics, although the 16 runs added by the last four batsmen (with Gary Fitzpatrick fooled by Highwood Park legend Chris Brownhill’s notoriously dangerous slow ball) proved vital in setting a total of 121.

NO BALL! Highwood Park legend Chris Brownhill bowls his legendary slow ball which bamboozled Gary Fitzpatrick.

NO BALL! Highwood Park legend Chris Brownhill bowls his legendary slow ball which bamboozled Gary Fitzpatrick.

Such a vulnerable total left The Elf with little wriggle room but a decent fist was made of trying to preserve it.

Against an opening attack of Martin and Dave Stephens, the Highwood Park dangermen of Shaun Allsopp and Olly Holliday looked reasonably comfortable in repelling the onslaught.

It took until the 11th over and the introduction of Ian Chuck into the attack that the breakthrough came, trapping Allsopp lbw for 11.

Number three Hipkiss was in no mood to hang around and was caught by Matt Wright at mid-off for two.

Ian Chuck - excellent bowling performance

Ian Chuck – excellent bowling performance

However, it would be Holliday who would be the danger man, notching up an impressive 37, which provided the visitors with an excellent platform on which to take the win.

He was joined by Evans, who endured a torrid time early on but settled in well to add on 32, including some impressive big shots.

Spin demon Wright eventually accounted for Holliday and John Preece’s bowling saw a magnificent one-handed catch by Hewlitt to give The Elf a glimmer of a chance of preserving their slender lead.

But the pairing of Ralphs and Hocknall were calmness personified, chipping away with a display of excellent batting under pressure to see their side home.

The Elf will have a swift opportunity to extract revenge as Highwood Park will be back at Aldridge next week for the Second Test.

Batting Runs
Gorton, A c b Duncan

26

Hewlitt, R c b Duncan

4

Chuck, I lbw Duncan

4

Danks, M  b Hockrell

5

Slater, S b Craig

16

Wright, M lbw Hockrell 2
Martin, N c b Ralph 17
Forrester, T c b Ralph 4
Fitzpatrick, G b Brownhill 3
Preece, J not out 5
Stephens, D lbw 4
Extras

30

Walsall Health

 121

Bowling Overs Maidens Runs Wickets
Forrester, T

5

0

21

0

Stephens, D

8

1

18

0

Preece, J

3

0

15

1

Martin, N

7.1

1

14

0

Wright, M

5

0

15

1

Chuck, I 8 0 18 2

Man of the match: Nathan Martin

Top bat: Andy Gorton (26 not out)

Top bowler: Ian Chuck, 18 for 2

Rachel Hangover Rating: 0/10. As promised, setting a good example to the rest of the team. Strongly suspect we could be looking at a 9 or 10 next week, however….

v Lichfield Nomads (15/6/2014)

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Walsall Health beat Lichfield Nomads by three wickets.

A fantastic Father’s Day Fifty by Andy Gorton played a huge part in maintaining The Elf’s remarkable unbeaten start to the season with a three wicket win over Lichfield Nomads.

Nathan Martin - hilariously threw his bat into a tree after getting a golden duck.

Nathan Martin – hilariously threw his bat into a tree after getting a golden duck.

But while previous matches during this campaign have often been dominated by dazzling individual performances, the win over Nomads was characterised by a brilliant all-round showing with every Elf player contributing to an excellent victory.

A tremendous day was capped off by Nathan Martin – who had earlier produced a sumptuous spell of bowling – was bowled for a duck and threw his bat into a tree in a fit of pique.

With The Elf fielding first, the breakthrough did not take long to arrive when Dave Stephens’ delivery to Stanley found the batsman’s glove and looped into the air.

Rich Fell - superb bowling performance by the skipper, who also grabbed the winning runs.

Rich Fell – superb bowling performance by the skipper, who also grabbed the winning runs.

Rich Fell, fielding at close quarters and like a coiled spring, took on gravity in a one on one, leaping forward with every sinew strained and plucked the falling ball from the air before it hit the ground.

Nomads’ woes continued shortly after when Sam Stephens produced an absolute pearler to account for Scott while prolific run scorer Gardner continued to tick along at the other end.

Nathan Martin stepped up and claimed the wicket of Mick, caught and bowled for just eight, and then clean bowled Bebb for a duck.

Nomads fought back with Heslington – who in addition to his unbeaten 46 with the bat also took a brilliant 14/4 with the ball – and Gardner putting on a stubborn resistance.

Mike Sayers - as brilliant in the field as he always was.

Mike Sayers – as brilliant in the field as he always was.

It took a cunningly sly ball by Preece to account for Gardner, clean bowling the danger man for 34.

A nifty catch by Danks at slip saw off Dave Rolfe for 11 from the bowling of Rich Fell (his figures, like those of Dave Stephens, not doing justice to their contribution) and Sam Stephens caught Hughes off the bowling of Preece for just one.

In only his second game, Matt Wright was handed the chance to bowl and grabbed it with both hands.

His four overs went for just 14 runs and he also claimed the scalp of Brannigan who was stumped by Gorton for one.

The total of 127 didn’t look hugely challenging and openers Rob Hewlitt and Gorton didn’t appear to be in the mood to hang around, setting about chasing in lively fashion.

Gorton in particular was brutal in his treatment of the Nomad opening attack while Hewlitt chose a massive six to open his scoring after a long, long, long, long spell of dot balls.

Matt Wright - brilliant first bowling spell and grabbed his first wicket.

Matt Wright – brilliant first bowling spell and grabbed his first wicket.

Hewlitt finally fell to Mick, edging to first slip, which saw Sam Stephens step into the fray.

A typically swashbuckling innings by Stephens saw him pillage a quick-fire 33.

When Gorton finally fell to Branningan for 53, closely followed by Stephens for 33, it appeared The Elf would skip over the finishing line with hardly a care in the world.

But a mini-collapse in the middle order, aided and abetted by Heslington’s devastating spell of bowling, slowed down the inevitable to an almost nail biting level.

Nathan Martin’s brilliant double hurling of his bat (first just in the air in anger) and then into the trees near the pavilion in slightly less anger as he walked from the field after being clean bowled first ball led to a record punishment in the fines committee after the game.

Andy Gorton - man of the match with a fantastic Father's Day 50.

Andy Gorton – man of the match with a fantastic Father’s Day 50.

The collapse left it to old heads Dave Stephens and Rich Fell to steady the ship and grab the runs needed to see The Elf home, ensuring a fourth win on the bounce and meaning the unbeaten streak in 2014 remains intact.

Batting Runs
Gorton, A b Brannigan

53

Hewlitt, R c Gardner b Mick

23

Stephens, S b Heslington

33

Slater, S  b Heslington

0

Sayers, M b Heslington

3

Danks, M b Heslington  0
Stephens, D not out  4
Martin, N b Heslington 0
Fell, R not out 3
Preece, J did not bat
Wright, M did not bat
Extras

9

Walsall Health

 128

Bowling Overs Maidens Runs Wickets
Stephens, S

5

1

8

1

Stephens, D

8

0

25

1

Preece, J

8

0

38

2

Martin, N

8

3

15

2

Fell, R

7

1

18

1

Wright, M

4

0

14

1

 

Man of the match: Andy Gorton

Top bat: Andy Gorton (53 not out)

Top bowler: Nathan Martin, 15 for 2

Rachel Hangover Rating: 1/10. Very poor. Considering there was an England football game the night before, this was a shocking effort.