• Shrewton Cricket Club

Saved by the Helmet

Another fine Saturday saw the Shrewton 2nd XI converge on the 3 Guys café at Longhedge to discuss tactics and enjoy a hearty breakfast before they set off on the drive southwards across the border into Hampshire to play the Burley 1st XI. Unfortunately confusion was the order of the day and Vallis couldn’t make up his mind as to whether he had ordered brown sauce or tomato ketchup, much to the dismay of the waitress. Moreover, Castle added to the confusion by ordering not only bacon and fried eggs, but also sautéed mushrooms, which with hindsight was an order too far! Nevertheless, Bate (Junior) restored calm by ordering not one, but five jumbo sausages to ensure he had adequate energy reserves for what would arguably be a match winning innings, but more of that later.

The Shrews arrived at the ground to find it deserted, but much to Bentley’s delight an ice cream van was parked on the boundary punting its wares to the Burley day trippers. With the start fast approaching, the opposition duly arrived and began the weekly ritual of removing the steaming dung heaps from the outfield and dismantling the Trumpesk iron wall protecting the square. With access to the pitch now possible, Newbury and the lads descended like a swarm of locusts to inspect the track and offer up their opinions on whether to bat first or have a bowl and unleash the pace of Bate (Senior) and the banana balls of Bentley. On closer inspection, the track had a decidedly moist feel to it, either the result of a localised monsoon downpour that morning or an overzealous grounds man looking to negate the pace and bounce of the Shrewton bowling attack. Unperturbed, Newbury made his decision, called heads and won the toss, choosing to bat and hopefully use the 45 overs to construct an imposing total.

With a slight reshuffle of the batting order to accommodate the power hitting of the returning Battisson, White who the previous week had made an impressive 45, was dropped down the order to number nine. Newbury and Withers opened the batting, breaking up the good cop, bad cop partnership, with Hatch occupying the seven slot. A solid if somewhat slow start was made with Withers racing to 14 before being caught off the bowling of Burry in the ninth over. This wasn’t seen to be too much of a problem, as the Shrews were batting all the way to 11. Unfortunately, Newbury (7) soon departed being clean bowled, again by Burry (3/22). Battisson (14) in at three, found the boundary a couple of times before being caught at mid off. The remainder of the batting was equally unimpressive and before long, Shrewton were 7 down for only 75 runs from 21 overs. The only notable highlights being Bate (Senior) (6) blatantly kicking the ball away and running an additional two runs, much to the disdain of the opposition and a Burley throw hitting the keepers helmet resulting in what would prove to be a very important five penalty runs. Staring defeat in the face, knowing that on a small ground with a lightening outfield, a much larger total was needed, the sausage fuelled Bate (Junior) (27) strode out to the crease. Batting with a maturity beyond his years, he and Gray (5) nurdled the score beyond 100, adding match saving runs with every stroke. With the scoreboard being updated after every run and optimism growing by the second, the score edged ever closer to another batting point. In the end Bate (Junior) holed out, being pouched at mid on and the Shrews closed out their innings on 139. Burley had used their local knowledge of the pitch and conditions to great effect. Gadsby, being the pick of the bowlers finishing on 5/35 from his eight overs.

With silence in the changing room, moral at a season low and failure etched across the players’ faces, it was down to Hatch to deliver a motivation rousing speech of monumental proportions. Focusing on the one percents it was like listening to Churchill on the eve of the Normandy invasion. Unfortunately, much of what was said cannot be repeated in this forum. Suffice to say, on leaving the changing rooms, the lads were fired up and ready to defend their measly total and position at the top of the league.

Opening with Hatch from the ice cream stand and Gray uphill from the village end, it wasn’t long before the first wicket tumbled. Moorman (4), given out lbw to a Hatch in-swinger in the second over. Hudson, batting well and punishing any loose balls was soon into double figures. As the score reached 42 in the 11th over with only one wicket down, the Shrews were on the point of accepting defeat. Nonetheless, vocal encouragement from Bentley, White and Vallis kept the lads optimistic and putting their bodies on the line to stop every ball. Withers, removing his helmet due to the heat, then collected a dying ball in the face, threatening to ruin his good looks forever. But following a few kindly words of encouragement from Newbury and he was back on his feet, raring to go.

Now in the 12th over and with Hatch still plugging away, the game started to swing in the Shrews favour. With two wickets in two balls, suddenly it was game on. Hatch closed out his spell by taking the scalp of Burry for zero finishing on 4/30 from his nine overs. Newbury adjusted the field and mixed the spin of Bate (Junior), with the slingy, bean pole like action of Vallis. Although going wicketless, Bate (Junior) maintained plenty of pressure to allow Vallis (2/25) to take two crucial wickets and leave Burley seven down and the score on 100. With the game slipping away and Burley only needing 40 runs from 18 overs, Hudson was dropped by White in the covers, with ball rolling over the boundary rope. Some might suggest that this error would be game changing, likely signalling the end for the Shrews. But for some reason lady luck was looking down on the lads and had different ideas. Meedham (5) and Gadsby (8) both added valuable runs to Burley’s total before being dismissed by Castle (2/22) and Bate (Senior) (2/14). With only 5 runs needed for victory and one ball remaining in the 33rd over, Wheeler made his way to the crease. The pressure was enormous, the Shrews needing a single wicket for victory, otherwise the in form Hudson would have all the time in the world to score two boundaries and win the match. Bate (Senior) steamed in and released a ball of legendary significance. Pitched up and full of venom, it smashed into Wheelers stumps! Against all the odds, Shrewton had defended only 139 runs, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, bowling out Burley in 33 overs. Credit should be given to Hudson, who played some classic shots and carried his bat for an excellent 70 runs.

With back to back wins under their belt and an average of 22 points, Newbury’s boys occupy 5th place in Hampshire Division 4 West. Next week is a local grudge match against Wyle Valley based Steeple Langford, who currently reside in second spot. Last season saw them bowl Shrewton out for 147, winning by 13 runs. Will Jim Nick clear up the tail again or will Vallis cart him out of the park? With the opening batters under pressure to score runs will Newbury look to change a winning team or persevere in the hope they score big, sooner rather than later. A lot of questions remain, but who has the answers?

Shrewton II – Newbury (c), Castle, Withers (wk), Bentley, Hatch, Battisson, Vallis, White, Bate (Junior and Senior), and Gray.

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