On my train to Alton it seemed like rain was in the air and the last game of the Mandarin's season was likely to be truncated if not a total wash-out. But upon reaching the beautiful ground at Holt Lane, Bentworth we were welcomed with bacon sandwiches, tea and sunshine. The Porters should be organising all our cricket matches if this is how they do it! This year's Rob Foot game would go on to be a classic!
|Photo: Andy Heard|
The toss was irrelevant as Jonathan Porter informed us that we would be batting first in a 35 over game. We opened with Tony Hawkhead (on strike) and Jeremy Jarvis. Unfortunately, it wasn't the best of starts with Jarvis clean bowled for a duck in the second over of the game. In walked Jules Lowin at 3 and made us wonder why he was going through a rigorous warm up routine of sprints before the start of the match when all he did for his first 20 runs was score boundaries. He displayed a batting master class tonking boundaries all around the ground and politely retired after his 50 keeping in mind the grand traditions of the sunday friendly fixtures that most other teams don't seem to care too much about especially when they play against us.
We lost wickets as Lowin set the scoreboard on fire - Hawkhead out caught tamely at mid wicket, Dan Forman clean bowled through the gate by an off-spinner ["For the record, it ripped past my outside edge not through the gate!" - Dan], Graeme Tunbridge caught at point, Rob Eastaway getting Baxtered by me - duly running him out after calling for a suicidal single to cover. I got out leg before the wicket after missing a straight one. Our score was now tottering at 6 for 95. Chris Healy delivered a second batting master class by racing to 64 of 41 balls stitching together a crucial partnership with Andy Heard who scored 15 bringing our final score to 177 of 35 overs. Both Jon Porter and Paul McIntyre batted after Healy's forced retirement post his 50 and Heard's wicket. Healy's knock was riddled with boundaries playing some immaculate drives and cuts.
Special mention for McIntyre's elegant cut past backward point for a boundary, a young left arm orthodox bowler who seemed to have all the craft required to be serious bowler and all the quick bowlers having tremendous control and beautiful, flowing actions. Really nice to see and play against some promising young talent.
We knew we had enough to defend this score. Eastaway and Heard opening the bowling for the Mandarins delivering a tight 9 over opening spell between them with 2 wickets and 31 runs. McIntyre was brought in as one change and was greeted for a 13 run opening over but he went on to bowl 4 maidens after that finishing with sensational figures of 5 overs 4 maidens 1 for 13. I was brought on from the other end to partner him for 4 overs and managed to give a boundary every over but also took a wicket. Special mention once again to McIntyre's vociferous leg before appeal which was fruitful.
As the game meandered with opposition sending some of their youngsters to get a hit - it looked like the Mandarins had the match firmly in their control. Tunbridge giving us a couple of crucial breakthroughs to keep the pressure up. Forman trying hard to get a wicket to top the wickets chart for the season which was now shared between himself and me. Healy and Porter slipping in a couple of overs each as well. It looked like the game was firmly in the bag until the Alton boys decided to go into T20 mode and set themselves up for a chase. Mr. Porter chose to attack and set an attacking field for a bowl-out of sorts between Forman and myself to see who can go past each other. I made the terrible mistake of getting one of the young left-handers out after Lowin duly stumped the batsman who left his crease trying to heave the ball straight down the ground.
With 1 over to go, Alton needed 16 to win of the last over. In walked a middle-aged, rotund batsman with a long handle - after the kid got a single of the first ball to give him the strike he dispatched Forman's second ball over cow corner into the bushes for a huge six, ran a 2 to deep midwicket, dispatched another ball wide of long on for flat six and ran the last one after pushing to mid-wicket. Handshakes all round, a terrific day of cricket was closed off at the Royal Oak with some local golden ale.
The conversation amongst the Mandarins was whether we could have won that if we really wanted to. But the question remains could Alton have also won it if they wanted to? Well, they did want it and they won!
- Mandarins batting first scored 177 of 35 overs.
- C. Healy: 65, J. Lowin: 50. S. Crook: 4 for 29 in 6 overs
- Alton: 178 of 34.5 overs.
- N Vincent: 32, R. Van Das Linde: 22. G. Tunbridge: 2 for 25 in 4 overs