Match Report – Wick 4s vs. Woking & Horsell August 12th 2017James’s 5 Wickets Bring Back-to-Back Victories

Having initially been sent to the wrong ground, Wick 4s arrived at Waterers Road Park to be met with a strange sight; lush green grass which resembled a cow field. It appeared that the out-field of the cricket ground had not seen a lawn-mower for at least 3 weeks, and perhaps some hooved animals would have improved its’ appearance. Closer inspection revealed between 4 and 8 inches of cover, depending on the area of the ground. The pitch itself was greenish, pot-marked and rather daunting to batsman. Conversation with the opposition skipper supported the view that this would be a tricky place to bat – ‘inconsistent bounce and very slow pace is normal here’.

The Woking team assembled and appeared on the youthful side; their skipper won the toss and invited the 4s to bat. The 4s team was much changed from the side which had been victorious the previous week; Jacob Povah was on holiday after his 6 wickets, Hasseeb and Abdur had been selected by other Wick teams, whilst Tim Sturm and Hayoush was unavailable. 4s regulars Nick Dunmore, Ben Houghton, Simon Boughey and Rob Ritchie were joined by Mo Rashid, two ‘occasionals’ in Chris Wakefield and Paul Baxter and 4 colts. Of the colts, U13 Tom Dunmore had played the previous week, whilst U17 James Adam and U16 Dillan Goss were returning from holiday and U17 Daniyal Khawaja was playing only his second league fixture.

The 4s openers were Ben and Dillan and they faced an opening attack who could be best described as steady. The bowlers bowled good line and length deliveries, but didn’t challenge the batsmen with either pace or movement. Slowly, very slowly, the 4s batters accumulated runs. Dillan scored one boundary with a pull which almost carried for 6, but most scoring shots were ‘fielded’ by the outfield! Generally attacking shots yielded one run; on any other cricket ground they would have resulted in a greater tally. The opening partnership has reached 46 when Dillan hit a delivery that ‘stopped’ and was well caught in the covers for 22. The opening stand had set the 4s up to reach a challenging total. Rob was quickly dispatched by the umpire and Mo joined Ben at the crease. The scoring rate was not fast but wickets were in hand. By this point, Ben was well-set and happily accumulating singles, building on the form he had showed the previous week with his excellent 47. When he finally fell for 27 the score had reached 63 in the 28th over. The value of Ben’s innings was to become clear to all later in the afternoon, when the 4s lost their last 7 wickets for 21 runs. Batting time is a key skill and Ben has brought this to the 4s in his first full season for no-one knows how many years.

Skipper Nick joined Mo and provided some impetus to the innings as the Woking skipper brought his spinners into the attack. Both batsman used their feet and drove well, resulting in lots of singles, 2s and the occasional breath-removing 3. Unfortunately, both batsmen fell with the score on 95. The only partnership of any note during the remainder of the innings was between Tom and Paul, who put on 17 for the 7th wicket before Tom was run out as they attempted another 2. The final score of 116 reflected the hard graft that the team had produced with the bat and was certainly ‘worth’ at least 150 on a ground with a normal outfield. Pleasingly, the pitch had behaved throughout the 4s innings; with none of the threatened variable bounce being evident.

Post tea (which included scones) the 4s opening bowlers, Simon and Mo, took up the attack. Having not bowled for 4 weeks, Simon produced a spell which typified his skills and performances this season as the 4s primary opening bowler. With wonderful control of length and occasional movement into the batsman, Simon beat both Woking openers regularly. Neither batsman could find opportunities to score, but neither were they able to leave the ball. During 6 challenging overs, Simon has 2 good LBW appeals turned down, half a dozen play and misses and finished with 1 wicket for 8 runs. Marvellous! The tone had been set.

At the other end, after a tight spell, Mo was replaced by Chris and then by James, who produced a wicket in his first over. The next hour of play was dominated by the Wick bowlers. James bowled a beautiful spell of left-arm orthodox spin which yielded his first 5-fer in adult cricket. Attacking the stumps and extracting the occasional bit of turn, James challenged each batsman. The highlight of his spell was a perfectly pitched delivery which turned, took the outside edge and was snaffled low down by Mo at slip. As Mo commented ‘the classic left arm spin dismissal’. At the other end, Tom bowled a tight spell and Paul entered the attack and bamboozled the batsman with slow deliveries which landed on the perfect line and length. Figures of 5 overs, 12-2 perfectly illustrate the control Paul displayed.

It must be noted that the wicket continued to play slowly and with no variation in bounce throughout the Woking innings. One event illustrates the slightly farcical nature of playing cricket with long grass in the outfield; the Woking skipper mullered a cross batted straight drive past bowler James and the ball stopped less than 10 yards behind the umpire!

The final phase of the day saw the 9th and 10 th wicket Woking pairs face 10 overs from two young Wick 4s pace bowlers, Tom and Daniyal. Tom produced his best day with the ball in adult cricket. Bowling a full length, Tom swung the ball and made the batsmen play each delivery. He was rewarded with one wicket (a fine catch over his shoulder by his father) and created 3 other opportunities; a catch at slip from a front foot no-ball (harsh call on an U13?) and 2 very difficult one-handed chances which his skipper could not hang on to. Daniyal, playing only his second league match, and with very limited experience in outdoor cricket, bowled superbly. Showing good control of line, he bowled with pace and hostility and produced lots of challenging deliveries. In his second over, Daniyal induced an edge which neither keeper or 1st slip moved for, and with the last ball of the game he removed the leg-stump of the batsmen to secure back to back wins for the 4s.

Reflecting in the evening sunshine, this had been a very satisfying game for the 4s. In challenging conditions, the batsmen had made a score that always felt likely to be too much for Woking. The bowlers had applied pressure throughout, backed by excellent catching and perfect ground fielding, helped by the long grass. Ben and Simon had set the tone with bat and ball, but the man of the day was James; the Woking skipper graciously agreed to let him keep the match ball for his 5 fer.