So an away match against Belhus cc 4th XI at their pitch in South Ockendon, so that meant meeting early at 11.30 at Mopsies Park and then giving two young lads a lift (Matt and Aaron). In the car discovered this was Aarons first adult match at 15 years old and that he's only been playing cricket for a couple of years with an all time high score of 9 when batting. The other bloke Matt was 20 or 21 and I didn't really get much background info on him, but got the sense that he saw himself as a bowler rather than a batsman.
I took an unusual scenic route through Langdon Hills, Bulphan and North Ockendon and got there first. Once everyone had turned up it turned out that we chose to field first, which is always my preferred option. The weather was nice when we'd set out - blue skies and white puffy clouds, but we'd driven towards the weather front and by the time we stepped out onto the field the sky was a blanket of grey.
I got put at Mid on and the game started with Dean Parkinson opening with Riz Ashraf at the other end. Right from the first few balls both the batsmen looked troubled by both bowlers even though there were a few wayward balls, but as the bowlers settled and improved their line and length the batsmen failed to do the same (Settle) and pretty soon the wickets started to come with Riz taking the first wicket. Dean picked up one pretty soon after and the Riz went to town, bowling a good line outside of the off-stump and one after another the edges and wickets came, some were put down, some dropped short, some were flashed over the top. A spinner (Maidan) was introduced in place of Dean and between Maidan and Riz they bowled Belhus out for 88 in 27 overs.
Riz Ahsraf - 13-1-35-5
K- Maidan - 7-0-22-4
Dean Parkinson - 7-0-25-1
It was a sound thrashing with the rain starting to fall lightly around about the time the 8th bat turned up to the crease. Being League cricket, there wasn't a lot of sympathy on show and each wicket was greeted by exuberant celebrations and demands to keep up the pressure and really stick it to them and to not take any prisoners.
As the last two wickets were taken the rain had increased and once or twice there were the odd look at the skies and wicket as if to say shall we go in? B&P weren't having any of it and bowled through the rain and once the last bloke was sent back to the sheds we were pretty much on his heels to get out of the rain. Once inside the rain got worse and the prospect for getting back out there to bat looked increasingly bleak. People were checking on their phones and saying that the England v India match at the oval was stopped because of rain as were all the B&P matches elsewhere across the district and the Essex match at Chelmsford. The impression therefore this was no shower, this was a big old lump of rain with no sign of it diminishing. The teas turned up and we ate that through the rain and whilst that was happening I got my head around some of the rules with regards League cricket and the way the points are allocated.
Whilst we'd been in the field both of the oppo's umpires had been doing rain dances and I'd wondered why, but it turns out that if the match was called off, despite our very impressive dismissal of their team for 88, both team would be allocated 6 points each. So, from their perspective, this rain was a Godsend, because if we were able to bat the likelihood was that we'd end up with 18 points (Or something like that)? Not having a clue of how all this works initially I thought that was it, we'll be packing up in a minute and going home? Nope, not a bit of it, I soon realised the captain and some of the regulars had every intention of waiting for the rain to stop.
"The forecast is that this rain is going to last about an hour and then if we wait an hour or so it'll be okay to play on".
I wandered out in the lulls and looked at the wicket, there wasn't any standing water, but at the same time there wasn't a lot of grass at either batting end and the potential for those areas to become a mud bath was pretty obvious. Despite this our captain John was still optimistic.
"Once the rain stops, we'll give it an hour and then have a look".
I was bemused at the fact that there was no covers of any sort, in this situation some big pieces of polythene would suffice, I thought. But then thinking about it maybe they did have some stashed away somewhere, but why would they bring it out and potentially make the batting easier? Perhaps if the boot was on the other foot we might have been up to our necks in sheets of polythene and pegs ensuring the wicket stayed as dry as possible?
The rain as scheduled did stop after about an hour and who says the Met Office is crap? Virtually minutes behind the rain came a beautiful clear blue sky and hot sunshine and even a bit of a breeze. Bored by now I set up a can in front of a fence post (Once of those rigid metal fences you see round council playing areas) and bowled at the can. Initially it was crap, but it started to come together as usual after about 25 balls and then I bowled really well. The rest of the team and the oppo's captain went back and forth to the wicket prodding and squidging seeing how it was drying. I could see it was drying quite quickly, the grass I was bowling on soon dried out and then after about an hour or so of drying I noticed that they were all preparing as if it was on and the game would soon commence.
Shortly, 3 batsmen strolled out all padded up and stood at the edge of the pitch, a kid ran out into the middle with a bag of sawdust and put some down supervised by the captain of the oppo. The scorers took their seats and the oppo walked out onto the field ready to do battle to try and save some face.
Amongst their team were more youngsters than ours, if you lined both teams up they would have probably evened out age-wise and would have been very similar using that as a measure, but our team looked stronger, we had more 20 year olds. At the extremes we had me at 51 and Aaron at 15 in his first adult match, but in between we had youth and experience, whereas their team looked a lot more of a mish mash of players and the batting sort of reinforced the fact that they were a disparate bunch.
Our openers John Bedford (Capt) and Erskin Peters strode out to what would surely be a formality, that's the way that it had been put across to me, and having seen them collapse for 88 off of 27 overs, surely there wouldn't be a lot of bowling to be had either. But J.Martin Hussey and J.Plane had other ideas and within a matter of minutes batsman number 4 was scrambling to get his pads on in time to take his place in what looked like a annihilation! It was lambs to the slaughter one after another bats 1,2 and 3 all fell for 0!
Our number three Riz Ashraf, who took the six wickets looked disgusted with himself as the week before he made a good score in excess of 60 and a fortnight before that he'd done a similar job with the bat, but in each intervening week he'd gone for ducks!
No.4 Anit George made his way out there and haphazardly made a stand and swung the bat baseball style much to the dismay of the higher order bats and mine too, okay, so I can't bat, but I know that if you've just seen your top order all bowled for 0 even I know the thing you don't start doing is swing the bat baseball style, especially if the pitch is soaking wet? Anit made contact with one and hit it through mid wicket scoring a boundary 4, and then continued with the same approach. Needless to say there was an air of inevitability with regards the outcome and he was soon marching back to be replaced by the next victim. We were four wickets down with 6 on the board two of which were wides! At this rate it looked as though I might get to bat!
Aaron Waldon, the youngster in his first game kind of did better, the captain had been told that he was a decent batsman which kind of didn't concur with the conversation I'd had with him in the car, but he'd taken his place at 5 and at least seemed to have had a look at the bowling and keep a calm head. He was leaving balls and waiting for the loose shots and he hung in there for a few overs before mis-timing his shot and getting on to it a little too early looping the ball up for the bowler S.Hall to take a pretty spectacular catch diving forward with one hand. But Aaron had looked steady scoring a couple of singles and a two for his total of four. He'd been joined at the other end by the other bowler who'd taken four wickets K.Maidan and he was looking very tidy and business like hitting the ball in the manner I'd expect to see of someone batting at No.6. But again despite the good start he perished as well for a measley 9, but that had taken him to the honour of being the top scorer. He was joined by one of the older players Lee Dutton who normally does pretty well. Matt followed, falling to S,Hall again for just two. It was looking like I was going to get a bat and G-Man told me to get my stuff on a bloke or two before Dean Parkinson started his innings. Dean looked at a few balls and then got off to batting in his usual style which is pretty aggressive, looking to hit boundaries. He got a 2 and a boundary 4 before falling to another youngster S.Stonham who looked about 15 years old perhaps a little older.
Then it was me. I joined Lee Dutton who was still surviving at this point. We met in the middle for the usual chat, I asked him whether he wanted me to ensure that I got him on strike, he just said, 'No, just play your shots, anything on the stumps block it, anything wide, just have a go'. Lee didn't last that long either, while he was there I played a ball outside of the off-stump and I offered an angled bat that guided the ball along the ground and through the slips for 2 runs. I think at that point Lee went at the change of the over. He'd gone on to score the highest total so far before being dismissed for 13 clean bowled by S. Hall, of whom Aaron had said earlier 'I can't believe that a 12 year old can pull off a catch like that' when he was dismissed. To which the scorer replied 'He's not 12 he's 15', but yeah, S.Hall didn't look that threatening, but he was getting through our batsmen.
Then G-Man came out at No.11 with about 12 or 13 overs to go. In order to get some points we either needed to score another 40 runs or block out the game for a draw. Neither of which were likely with me being there, but I took some positives out of my last game where I saw the bloke through to his 100 across 2 or 3 overs and I'd already survived a couple of overs here. As far as I was concerned the bowling was okay,but certainly not fast. So, me and G-Man set about our mammoth task of surviving the next 12 or 13 overs. It went okay. How long I was out there I'm not sure, but it seemed to be at least another 2 overs before the next eventful happening and that was the loss of G-Man's wicket. So I ended up with another 'Not out', this time 2 not out and I was feeling fairly comfortable with the proceedings which was quite good. G-Man congratulated me as we left the field saying that 'Not outs' hold some credence and are not to be sniffed at. Which is something I'll have to look into, as I can't see why they would hold any real value unless you were able to make your way up the batting order off the back of them? I can see that if you were good at 'Not outing' as a No.10 or 11 you might find yourself on a regular basis in the position I was in last time, with a middle or high order batsman or someone that could score runs and you could prove your worth in a support role ensuring he got on strike and defending your end.
So, from a very promising start and a position of very loud gloating we were humbled into silence having scored a very measley 48.