v Ward End Unity (31/8/2014)

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Ward End Unity beat Walsall Health by 4 wickets.

Guest match reporter Matt Wright talks us through a brave effort by The Elf on a troublesome wicket.

Chris Hall - magnificent figures from The Iron Man.

Chris Hall – magnificent figures from The Iron Man.

Today’s away fixture saw Walsall Health on a four game winning streak travel to Ward End Unity in Birmingham.

We were greeted by a ground that had a topography that would challenge an A* GCSE Geography student. The boundaries also rather short.

With Stuart Slater constantly moving between time zones and international borders he lost track of the start time, along with the pre-declared tardiness of Mat Danks, the skipper duly won the toss and elected to bat.

Dave Preece and Dave Stephens opened the batting on what was immediately clear would be a challenging surface after the first balls were bowled.

After clean hitting straight to the field Stephens fell to the bowling of Ahmed.

The partnership of Preece and Ian Chuck worked hard and began to eek out a little progress.  The outfield was very slow and boundaries hard to come by, running three virtually impossible on the slow compact ground.

The skipper, Preece, nicked an inside edge onto his stumps after facing 51 delivers and top scoring for ‘The Elf’ with 20 runs (alongside guest batsman ‘Extras’ who also scored 20).

Shane O'Callaghan - respectable knock in his batting dayboo for The Elf.

Shane O’Callaghan – respectable knock in his batting dayboo for The Elf.

From here on in the score card does not make great reading as wickets tumbled Rob Hewlitt faced a delivery that pitched up by his shoulder, the next kept deceptively low trapping him LBW for a second ball duck.

Shane O’Callaghan actually looking composed at the crease had the potential to salvage things a little making a respectable 6 runs from 10 deliveries.  That was until a double appeal when given not given out for LBW but caught behind when the ball hit his pad.  Later confessions from the home team admit that it never hit his bat, would have been nice to have seen him called back for the spirit of the game at this level.

Chuck trapped LBW was another key wicket as he had staved off 49 deliveries and again an impressive amount of time at the crease.

There were few highlights from the lower order totalling nine runs between them.  Other than Nathan Martin once again drawing level with Hewlitt in the duck hunt of three each for the season! (Please note: these figures have not been verified and will be subject to a stats update in the next 48 hours) Slater get one of the rare boundaries on the day and Matt Wright achieving his first ever not out at the end of an innings.

69 was the total posted and with a quick turn around ‘The Elf’ went about trying to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat.

And – just for a moment – the collapse looked on.

Catches from Wright, Hewlitt and Chuck and a clean bowled all from the bowling of Iron Man Chris Hall had Unity 4 down for only 9 runs.  And as Tipton’s Tony Stark steamed in for his hat trick ball, the most unlikely of victories was beginning to look a possibility. With The Elf piling on the pressure, Chuck grabbed the pick of the catches with a sharp diving low one-handed effort.

Dai Preece - brilliant performance by the stand-in Legend.

Dai Preece – brilliant performance by the stand-in Legend.

Great hustle in the field, playing for each other and believing as a team were key, embodied by Rob Hewlitt and seasoned campaigner Dai Preece, making several impressive run saving contributions, proving that class and experience go beyond age!

Nathan Martin also picked up a wicket off some good bowling after settling down after a couple of wayward looseners, notably a first ball beamer, trapping his man LBW.

Ward End Unity can thank Mills for this victory who proved to be the difference on the day, making his way to a match-winning 56 not out with his fellow six batting partners contributing only six runs between them.

This would have been the key wicket, but despite our best efforts we could not get it to fall.

Jonathan Preece - came closest to taking the scalp of the match-winning

Jonathan Preece – came closest to taking the scalp of the match-winning Mills

Dave Stephens and Chris Hall were valiant in their efforts to contain the big-hitting match winner.  Sadly today spin was not the key to unlocking the door.  Although Jonathan Preece arguably came closest to taking the prized scalp of Mills tempting him down the wicket and creating a stumping opportunity.

Another winning streak comes to an end on a peculiar wicket, although positives can be taken from the game.

Talking to the assembled media post-match the skipper made these comments: “Good effort today. It’s never ideal to get just 69 on the board and in all honesty we didn’t bat as well as we could, but great determination to drag ourselves back into it (Hall 4-6) and great commitment in the field from the guys, particularly emergency replacement David Preece Snr. Let’s work to improve ourselves for next game.”

Batting Runs
Preece, Dave b Idress

20

Stephens, D b Ahmed

0

Chuck, I b Idrees  14
Hewlitt, R b Ahmed  0
O’Callaghan, S lbw Atkinson  6
Hall, C st Atib  3
Slater, S b Barzan  4
Martin, N b Atkinson  0
Preece, J ct b Atkinson  0
Wright, M not out 1
Preece, Dai b Barzan  1
Extras

20

Walsall Health

 69

Bowling Overs Maidens Runs Wickets
Martin, N

2

0

4

1

Stephens, D

6.2

1

22

0

Hall, C

8

5

6

4

Chuck, I

2

0

16

0

Preece, J

1

0

17

0

Man of the match: Chris Hall

Top bat: Dave Preece

Top bowler: Chris Hall (six runs and four wickets off eight overs)

Rachel Hangover Rating: Two Jugs was absent today due to family commitments, however, at a musical festival on Saturday, we like to think it would be at least a solid 7/10.

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v Coventry Willow (3/8/2014)

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Walsall Health beat Coventry Willow by 147 runs.

Dave Preece – back-to-back centuries for the first time in The Elf’s history.

History-making back-to-back centuries by captain marvel Dave Preece provided the cherry on a particularly tasty cake as The Elf bulldozed their way to another excellent win.

Superb notable performances by Ian Chuck (who magnificently carved his way to his first half-century in Elf colours), Matt Wright (who took two catches and two wickets), Chris Hall (whose Lazarus-like recovery continued with a brilliant bowling performance) and Tom Davies (perhaps his best Elf showing with the ball) saw the visitors to a memorable victory.

Winning the toss and electing to bat, The Elf got off to a steady start on a slightly sticky pitch which became a bit livelier as the day went on.

Ian Chuck - finally got the knock he's been threatening.

Ian Chuck – finally got the knock he’s been threatening.

Openers Andy Gorton and Preece were looking good, taking the total to 59 by the 14th over before Gorton was caught off the bowling of Keogh for a credible 22.

This only served to pave the way for the partnership which would see through the total as Chuck went one step further than his encouraging knock the previous week to sail past the half century mark and even threaten to make it to three figures.

Although only 80-1 at drinks, the duo worked through the gears during the last 20 overs to add a further 165 and finish on 245, setting an impressive total and providing Mat ‘Where’s my keys?’ Danks and Rob Hewlitt with severe cases of pad rash.

Such a lofty total was always going to be a challenge for the home side and an explosive performance by The Elf’s strike bowlers Dave Stephens (12 for 2), Hall (10 for 3) and Davies (13 for 1) helped shatter the resistance.

Tom Davies - excellent performance.

Tom Davies – excellent performance.

It took the opening pair of Hall and Stephens until the fourth over to see off the Willow opening pair, with Hewlitt and Wright pulling off nifty catches to help the process along.

Hall – in only his second match back in The Elf fold after an enforced lay-off – ultimately grabbed three wickets, clean bowling two Willow batsmen in addition to his opener for just ten runs off his five overs.

The rampant Elf had the home side on the wrack at 27 for five after 11 overs and it required a stubborn seven-over stand by Carl Fenton and Mike Lee to stabilise the collapse, adding 39 runs.

Stuart Slater - good spell of bowling by the squad playboy.

Stuart Slater – good spell of bowling by the squad playboy.

Eventually it was the introduction of Hewlitt that smashed the partnership, grabbing the wicket of the magnificently dreadlocked Fenton (‘FENTON!’) with just his third ball – clean bowled as you like – before Davies produced a brilliant Wales-South Africa combination with Chuck to account for Lee.

With the mid-inning resistance shattered, the wickets came thick and fast with Preece taking great catches from the bowling of Wright (who finished 1 for 2) and Hewlitt (who finished 6 for 2).

A super spell by Stuart Slater effectively opened the way for Wright to arrive and add to his two excellent catches with two wickets in the last over of the game, leaving him on a tantalising hat-trick for when he opens his spell in the next game.

The win represents the seventh victory for The Elf this season and another fantastic showing with everybody playing a contributing part in the win.

* An honourable mention must go to Rich Fell who gallantly fielded for 40 overs (40 TOUGH overs) for the home side after they ended up men down. He then proceeded to bat for them, producing the third highest score, enduring some horrific South African abuse, playing some wonderful strokes to the boundary and avoiding being bowled by Chris Hall.

Batting Runs
Gorton, A c b Keogh

22

Preece, D Not out

106

Chuck, I Not out

91

Hewlitt, R dnb
Danks, M dnb
Forrester, T dnb
Stephens, D dnb
Wright, M dnb
Davies, T dnb
Hall, C dnb
Slater, S dnb
Extras

26

Walsall Health

 245

Bowling Overs Maidens Runs Wickets
Slater, S

4

0

24

0

Stephens, D

5

3

12

2

Davies, T

5

2

13

1

Danks, M

1

0

5

0

Wright, M

0.5

0

1

2

Hewlitt, R

3

1

6

2

Hall, C 5 2 10 3
Forrester, T 3 0 27 0

Man of the match: Ian Chuck

Top bat: Dave Preece (106 not out)

Top bowler: Pick the bones out of the figures above but I point to Matt Wright’s two wickets for one run off five balls. Superb bowling all over the shop. But tough to say.

Rachel Hangover Rating: 8/10 – partly carried over from the previous day when she failed to climb out of bed until 7pm after a day hiding from her hangover.

Tea Rating: 7/10 – a very very acceptable collection of snacks. The cheese sandwiches, in particular, went down very well indeed.