Having started the 2017 season last week in the lovely surroundings of Manor Way, the 3rd XI were back to reality with our first home game of the season at Chis and Sid. With our captain fielding for the 1st team for the first few overs, we arrived at Chis and Sid just at the beginning of the second innings of a school game that was being played on our pitch. This gave vice-captain Joe Russell heart palpitations and we went off for a warm up without him and vice vice-captain Nick Stroudley, who was going to help Joe paint the lines and sweep the wicket once the school game had finished.
At 12.40 the school game had finished, our captain had arrived, pitch had been swept, lines painted, toss lost and we were to bowl first. Blackheath Wanderers were the opposition and they came with their usual game plan of trying to smash every ball that was bowled and when the first ball went for four it looked like we could be in for a long stint in the field. However this tactic does mean that chances come and in the second over the first chance arrived, Mark Cryer bowling round the wicket to their opener (who last season scored 200+ in a 40 over game) was slapped to point where Zaki made a difficult catch look pretty simple. 3rd over and another chance, Joe Russell bowling to left handers usually brings a wicket, he pushed this one across the leftie who kindly chipped it to Hilly at mid-off, unfortunately for Joe, Hilly was still trying to work out what those last 3 numbers in his morning Sudoku were and almost took one in the throat. The bowlers continued to bowl well and contained the Blackheath Wanderers to around 4 runs an over which is no easy task, however with their number 3 and 4 looking quite comfortable the signs were ominous for the 3rd XI. A bowling change did the trick though, a long hop to their number 3 brought about a mistimed pull shot, Hilly at square leg had realised that he was missing numbers 2, 5 and 8 from his Sudoku and sprinted after the ball, after 20 yards and a full length dive Hilly had taken one of the catches of the season and even got a high five from JR. Wickets began to fall quite regularly in the second half of the Blackheath innings, however one bad ball an over was costing us and we couldn’t apply the necessary pressure to really make the difference. Blackheath accelerated towards the end of their innings with shots all around the ground, including a delightful ramp shot off the slow-medium pace of Georgie Lush, and ended their 46 overs on 214-8. All bowlers took at least one wicket which was nice for them.
The start of our reply was classic 3rd XI as we were 15-3 after 5 overs with Tom Evans, Dave Hathrill and Rohan Moon all falling cheaply. This brought Nick Stroudley and Abishek Pradhan, our gun overseas who pulled his hamstring fielding, to the crease and these two batted positively as the comeback started as we picked up regular boundaries. Unfortunately Strouds got a feather on one down the leg side and was gone for an eye-pleasing 24 and the re-build needed to begin again. George Newell and Abishek continued the good work, scoring at a decent rate as Newell nudged ones and twos and Abishek muscled the boundaries. The good work was almost undone as their umpire gave Abishek run out without realising that Tom Evans, who was running for Abs was 10 yards past the stumps by the time the bails came off. With one ball remaining Abs unfortunately chipped one to mid-wicket for a powerful 32 and this brought number 7 to the crease to help Newell chase down the target. The two batted well together and kept a steady run rate of around 5 runs an over, Newell continuing to pick up singles whilst number 7 picked out the mid-wicket boundary with regular ease. The 3s started to look in a good position for the victory and something needed to be done, Blackheath decided that the wicketkeeper was the man for the job. He took off his pads, bowled some right arm off spin and took the wickets of Newell (27) and number 7 (38) in the space of a couple of balls and the game now looked gone for the 3rd XI. The off-spinning wicketkeeper then quickly picked up the wickets of Cryer and Zaki and the fat lady was warming up. Joe Russell (17*) calmed down just enough to pad up and he and Alex Hill (24) went on the attack in an entertaining partnership which was ended when that bloody wicket keeper did for Hilly to pick up his 5fer and the 3s ended up 22 short on 192 all out.
Last year, having been 15-3, the 3s usually would have crumbled to 120 all out so the fight shown in getting up to 192 is a good sign for the season and hopefully we’ll be focusing on the top end of the table, come August, and not the bottom.