A cricket match in April always feels like a bit of a bonus; albeit one where multiple layers of warm clothing are likely to be required. At the toss, 2 jumpers were needed. The skippers discussed preferences; the Wick were batting.
Ben Houghton and Olly Coles opened the innings. Both looked comfortable against the new ball, and both played attractive shots through the off-side when the bowlers dropped short. With the opening stand on 30-odd Houghton (14) aggressively cut a ball which bounced rather more than expected and was well-held at slip. Will Taylor joined Coles and mixed sensible defence with the odd lusty blow down the ground.
Since the turn of the year Coles has had the pleasure of working consistently with the Wick's new head coach, Monte Lynch. For those readers who not have attended any of Monte's sessions, it is important to note the emphasis that has been placed on aggressive running between the wickets. Coles and Taylor started picking up quick singles and turning ones into twos. Monte would have been impressed. As the scoring rate increased, Coles called Taylor for a sharp single. Taylor was unmoved. Coles was 3/4s of the way down the track, he turned and had nearly completed 1.5 runs when he was run out for 16.
Imran Dhalla joined Taylor for his first bat since August. The pair looked comfortable before Taylor (22) was undone by an excellent yorker. Skipper Nick Dunmore joined Dhalla. Hoping to increase the scoring rate against a slow bowler, Dunmore started by playing a series of swings, swipes and slogs which found the edge and produced a handful of byes. Having been dropped at slip, from a hard chance, Dunmore found some rhythm and dispatched a few boundaries including a six into the Sky Lark colony, before being LBW for 27.
With the score now at 120, and 6 wickets in hand, the Wick had thoughts if a score of 200. With Dhalla playing a sensible, controlled innings the other batters had the freedom to attack the Widdadune bowlers. Duncan Higgins (2), Zubair Ahmed (15), Connor Hewitt (13) partly succeeded in this aim, before Dhalla was adjudged LBW for an excellent 44. On leaving the field, Dhalla chuntered about his inability to make a 50 for the Wick. Imran, I am sure your first half-century is not far away.
The innings finished rather quickly as Sarang Joshi (3), Tim McMullan (2) and Graham Smith (0*) took the Wick to a total of 178. Rather less than had been hoped at one stage, but certainly competitive.
After a superb Ken tea, including both burgers and sausages, Joshi and Smith took up the attack for the Wick. With both bowlers entering the fray for their debut for 2019 it was not long before good lines and lengths were found. Joshi was unlucky as one of the Widdadune openers played and missed 5/6 times during consecutive overs. The score ticked along, with the occasional bad ball being dispatched to the boundary. After 14 overs, with the half century up without loss, a double change saw Tim McMullan and Connor Hewitt take up the attack. The batters responded with aggressive shots and the scoring rate rose. It was McMullan, getting good shape away, who broke the opening stand at 80. McMullan deceived the batsman with a change of pace, the ball struck the back of the bat, and Ahmed held a good catch at slip.
The next over saw the introduction of Coles to bowl off-breaks (a suggestion by President Smith). A well flighted delivery gripped and caught the outside edge of the left-handed number 3 batsman; before being expertly grabbed at slip by Ahmed. When McMullan struck again 3 overs later, the Wick had taken 3 quick wickets and felt a genuine opportunity to apply pressure.
During the next passage of play Hewitt and Ahmed applied the required pressure. Hewitt bowled fast and straight, whilst Ahmed bowled slowly and outside off stump. The Widdadune batters were able to keep the scoreboard ticking over with a variety of aerial but effective strokes. During this period of play, Connor Hewitt produced his best spell of bowling for the Wick. Keeping the ball on a full length, Hewitt bowled with pace and hostility and his reward of 2 wickets did not reflect the quality of his bowling. Taylor was introduced to the attack as Hewitt tired and dismissed the obdurate Widdadune opener who was well held by Dhalla who was taking a post-tea spell behind the stumps. Unfortunately, skipper Dunmore dropped a skier from the unlucky Taylor with a handful of runs required, before Widdadune reached their target.
It had been a very enjoyable early season game of friendly cricket. Although the result had gone against the Wick, everyone had participated and taken advantage of time on the field. As the teams retreated to the bar in milky sunlight, jumpers were still being warn; it was April after all!
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