A Challenge Cup fixture against Battersea Ironsides was the first-up assignment, and the youthful first XI squad were buzzing for this one.

Date: 01/08/2020
Opposition: Battersea Ironsides
Venue: Burntwood Ln, Earlsfield, London SW17 0AW
Man of the match: Sunny Patel
Prat of the match: Mike Wood

At long bloody last! August 1st 2020. After months of uncertainty, a couple of competitive intra-club hit-outs, and a frustrating abandonment in week one of the new look Surrey Challenge Cup, it was all systems go. The weather was looking extremely promising in southwest London from the balcony of your scribes salubrious pad, and the mighty HWRCC first XI were on the march. A Challenge Cup fixture against Battersea Ironsides was the first-up assignment, and the youthful first XI squad were buzzing for this one. Captain Copeland and Coach Talbott had done plenty of work behind the scenes to get the squad cherry ripe for this one, and a strong warm-up from the group (even if the coach couldn't get the name of a club icon correct) sent a strong message to this Ironsides outfit, we were here for business (and some ordinary TikTok chat, whatever that is). The skipper won the toss and elected to bat on what was a rock-hard pitch with just a smidge of grass on top. Our openers would have to be cautious early but we had the right men for the job.The Skipper and Blobbs had done a mountain of work in the off-season with Talbs, focusing on setting up the innings for us, and once again they made the perfect start. The rate wasn't exactly flying, but stability was the focus, and the boys set a strong base from which the middle order could launch from. It was Blanchard who was first to perish, looking to send their spinner into next week, however he ended up skying it to mid wicket with the score reading 36. That brought KSK to the crease. Unfortunately it was short-lived on this day for Keerat, getting a good seed to depart without troubling the scorer, but there is no doubt that he will be back amongst the runs next week. Two quick wickets for the oppo meant we had to knuckle down, and thankfully the Skipper and Woody guided us safely to drinks, the scoreboard reading 60 for 2 after 20 overs.

With the foundations setup by the openers, the 15 overs post-drinks was batting bliss. Harry continued to play the anchor role, rotating the strike brilliantly and punishing anything on his pads, whilst Woody took full advantage of the short straight boundaries, and was really starting to hit his straps. Before we knew it, Woody was raising the bat for the half century, and the rate was up to nearly 5 an over. This was Wick cricket at its finest. All eyes were now on Woody, who was rapidly approaching triple figures. A delightful cover drive put him to 92, however he went for a repeat dose the next ball and holed out to deep cover. Despite bottling his opportunity for a century, it was a decent knock from the club's 2nd best hockey player, and the score was at 164 for 3 with 5 overs remaining at time of departure. Tom 'Cammy' Clements was next in, and didn't really offer too much apart from being there to shake hands with the skipper upon him notching a very important half century, and by the time the Wick innings closed, the scorecard read 193 for 4. A chase of nearly 5 an over was required by the BICC's, a challenge against a very slick Wick attack. Perhaps a little over 200 would have been better, but notwithstanding we were in the box seat.

As long time readers will know, a key part of the all-conquering first XI match reports is a critique of opposition teas, because frankly, in all my years, I am yet to come across a tea that comes close to rivalling that of HQ from the wonderful Wick catering army. As one who does not push the table away with any urgency, I am well qualified to comment on such a topic. Unfortunately in this dystopian society we currently find ourselves existing in, teas are shelved in the name of health and safety. This meant it was a BYO set-up. Tweedledum and Tweedledee had finally returned from their suspiciously long walk to Tesco with some goodies for the majority of the team, including an on-special breakfast triple for the coach, much to his delight. They served their purposes despite all looking rather ordinary, and the discussions turned to the efforts with ball in hand. Your scribe obviously did not opt for the Tesco lunch special, because he knows better. He is more your M&S Food man, and tucked into what was a sublimely prepared roast chicken & avocado on Rye. Sensational stuff.

The Skipper assembled the team in tight on an outfield that was harder than a diamond in an ice storm and drier than a nuns nasty, and his message was simple. Focus on bowling dot balls, and back up the bowling efforts in the field. A simple recipe for success in what is quite a straightforward game when you think about it. It would be Browning and Coles to open proceedings, and both bowlers were finding their groove for the most part, but the opposition openers were punishing the occasional bad ball. We knew that if we lifted the accuracy by even 5% we would turn the screws on this Ironsides opposition. Young Ollie Coles in particular bowled a couple of ripping overs, and was rewarded with the first of the day, aided by a sharp schnaffle by Wood at 2nd slip. The chap at #3 for Ironsides was a part-time rugby player as Woody found out with some convivial banter, and based on his stance at the crease, it was clear that rugby was his major sport. Lining up with what can only be described as the Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the young scrum-half was certainly agricultural in his approach to the game. Despite this, he partnered well with his opener, and they gradually got the rate up with a couple of nice shots square of the wicket. A breakthrough was needed, and another young star would deliver it from the Northern end. Chris Cole had probed patiently outside off, and a cunning field change from the skip yielded instant results, with the dangerous opener pulling a very well-directed short ball to G Tong at square leg. Despite this, the scoreboard read 88 for 2 when we departed the field for fluids. The game was very evenly poised.

The drinks message remained on brand. Dot balls will build pressure, and pressure will lead to poles. However, no one could have predicted what we would bear witness to in the ensuing hour of cricket. To commence things after drinks it would be S Patel from the Northern end. We have all seen the talent of Sunny, but this year he has catapulted his talent and combined it with consistency to become a weapon, and he reaped the rewards straight away, 2 wickets in his first over with the only blemish being a wide. It was a superb over, and the over that began to turn the momentum back in favour of the good guys. From there, Sunny ran riot. His 2nd over he added another 2, and after 2 overs he had figures of 2 overs, 2 runs, 4 wickets. The Ironsides were in a spin (lol's) and the energy from the Wick chargers was immense right across the ground. After G Tong had found his groove and tightened up the Southern end nicely with your classic G Tong spell of bowling, newcomer Jack Wylie was thrown the aggot, and he was straight into his work nicely. The spin twins were causing the home side all kinds of headaches, and it was not long before the pair of them had all but secured victory for us. The pressure they put on the batsmen with consistent dot balls was a joy to witness, and both the wickets and required run rate climbed significantly. From 88 for 2 at the 20 over mark, the home side were all out in the 34th over for 128. 13.4 overs, 8 wickets, 40 runs in the final session told the story. It is also worth mentioning that the fielding standard was exceptional during this post drinks session, catches held safely, and ground fielding elite, headlined by J Wylie at point, saving at least 12 runs with his dynamism at point.

The partnership from our openers cannot be understated, with the 2 senior heads really putting their hands up to set-up the innings nicely. On this day it was Harry who anchored the innings, but rest assured it will be Blobs in the near future, and between them they really have taken the next step at the top order. But the batting heroics on the day went to the beanpole from Brighton, Mikey Wood. Some tremendous striking in his brilliant 92 put the all-conquering first XI in a commanding half time position, but for bottling his triple figure opportunity, he goes from the penthouse to the outhouse and collects what some might deem a harsh DoD (sponsored by the Foresters Arms). Your scribe for one thinks this is thoroughly deserved, and let us not forget, it is voted by the people who know best. On another day, Mikey may well take home the Man of the Match trophy (sponsored by The Colliers Arms), but trumping him was Sunny Patel, for his game-changing spell post drinks. Sunny would finish the day with figures reading 7 overs, 11 runs, 6 wickets. Yes, you read that correctly. It was a brilliant spell and reward for effort for the time the young fella has put in on the grass (cricket grass, that is). He was ably supported by fresher J Wylie from the Southern end who built pressure for Sunny to capitalise whilst collecting two poles of his own. The only downside to Sunny's spell was the fact that his father rocked up one ball after his son collected wicket #6. Patel rocking up late, you wouldn't read about it.

A great win, an exceptional team performance highlighted by a couple of individuals having a day out left the Captain and Coach extremely pleased in their post-game press conference. A few celebratory frothies were consumed on the tarmac, bags were piled into the car of Coles Snr, Woody told the story of his 92 for the 17th time, and before long the lads were on the train, keen for what was no doubt a mean sesh back at HQ. Your scribe had commitments in his affluent Clapham (black tie do, no biggie) and was unable to attend, but no doubt the charge was lead by Captain Copeland and his entourage.

We press on to Thames Ditton next week at HQ, with a couple of key things to focus on, rotating the strike more and building pressure with the ball. It is a game that we will approach with more confidence than Chris Cole playing an Under 16 game, and one that cannot come soon enough.

Jeez it is good to have cricket back. What a cricket club.

Up the Wick!

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