The 5th XI faced their toughest game yet on Saturday with a visit to top of the table Swanscombe and Greenhithe. After a great day at the PCA Masters on Friday a few team members arrived a little worse for wear, but off we all went.
A downpour on Friday night had left the wicket looking slightly greener than expected and it was a big toss to win. Unfortunately we lost it and were invited to have first use of the pitch. A combination of handy conditions, some sharp catches and one of the best bowlers in the league in great form quickly saw the top order blown away at 30-4, leaving the ever reliable Sam Hart and Ryan Saunders with the rebuilding job. It wasn't always pretty but they got to drinks at 55-4 having seen off the openers and began to open up a bit. Unfortunately both fell in quick succession with Sam stumped for 35 and Ryan bowled for 29. The decision was taken to push Abdur Rehman up the order and fireworks followed, with a quick fire 42 and a 50 partnership with Dave Hendry (14) seeing us end on 156-7 from our 40 overs, a total that seemed improbable earlier in the day and one we were confident of defending. Mike Dixon was with Abdur for the final over.
The defence of the total couldn't have started any better as Ryan Saunders clean bowled their opening batsman first ball. A period followed where neither side were on top, the number 2 and 3 both watchful in their approach and Abdur (7 overs 1-8) and Ryan giving little away, although Coursey's boots managed to gift the opposition 6 runs in 2 separate incidents that we could ill afford in what would be a tight game. The partnership was broken in bizarre fashion as The opener lent back and hit his own stumps. The hosts captain can be a dangerous player but dragged an Abdur delivery onto his stumps early on and the 5s were edging ahead 'on merit'.
The hosts number 3 was looking very assured at the crease, making a tricky wicket look easy, and he was joined by the number 5 who was positive from the upset despite being dropped early on off the bowling of Nathan Harris at mid wicket. They were still together at drinks and got their side over half way there. Something special was needed. Ben Bleksley bowls and the number 5 charges down the track again and fires it at extra cover. The ball seems destined for the boundary. But no, Ryan Saunders takes a stunning one handed catch to give us the breakthrough. The number 6 started positively and looked to take the game to both Ben and Mike Dixon with mixed success. Ian Clark replaced Ben at the far end and immediately found a way through his defence though. At this point the game changed. The assured number 3 changed his style completely, suggesting he felt the game was now down to him to win. Clarky removed 2 in 2 balls with a caught and bowled and a good high catch walking backwards from Ian Shanks. Swanscombe only had 10 and so we needed only 2 more wickets. The opening bowler that had caused so many problems at the start of the day though had other ideas and came in batting positively, with the required rate hovering at just above one run a ball and Mile Dixon and Clarky keeping things as tight as possible. 28 needed off the final 24 balls and the pressure told. The number 3 advanced down the wicket but was bowled to give Clarky his 4th victim, and the number 10 was in.
The hosts weren't done yet though and they took it to the wire. 15 required off the last over, Mike Dixon to bowl, number 9 on strike.
Ball 1- hit very straight. Ryan Saunders prevents the boundary but cannot stop the second. 13 off 5.
Ball 2- wow. A huge hit sees the ball sail off towards the road over mid wicket. Clarky did not pick the ball up at all out of the low sun that was now causing a real issue but it doesn't matter anyway as it sails high over him. 7 off 4 and further field changes.
Ball 3- no run. 7 off 3.
Ball 4- 2 runs, 5 off 2 and one hit away from a win potentially.
Ball 5 is hit high again out to deep mid wicket. We all call Clarky that it's coming his way. He cannot quite pick it up and drops a catch as he runs forward. The batsmen though have been ball watching and cannot get back for a second. 4 off 1.
Ball 6- Dicko holds his nerve, bowls the number 10 a Yorker that beats the attempted 'ramp' and wins the game for the 5s, finishing with 1-40 from his 8 overs.
An great game that had it all. Credit to or opposition for their part in it and well played the 5s, who sealed their victory 'on merit' and now sit only 1 point off top. Go on the Rangers.