HUGHES'S FIELDING OVERSHADOWS PARKER'S TON
By Jamie Harvey
A brilliant century by Sam Parker and an outstanding display in the field was overshadowed by the simplest of drop catches in the penultimate over of the game.
But before all the intricate details, first I must announce my comeback as report writer, in the shortest retirement since Ryan Hughes sensationally announced his retirement from all forms of cricket - only to reverse his decision a week later. Back by (un)popular demand, lets see how many players, supporters and officials have had a sense of humour bypass this week....
The biggest local derby of the season began in bizarre circumstances. With heavy rain leading up to the game, the odds were high that Sergeant Major Dan Marsh would pipe up on the Whatsapp group with his usual comment that, "surely the game is off?", followed by a detailed explanation of why he thought that should be the case, including concern for the bowlers run up and general condition of the ground etc. Even with everyone else thinking about writing a similar comment in jest, the group remained remarkably silent, and this was despite most players failing to realise that Great Durnford now had covers in what was vindication for the ECB's "Get the game on" campaign.
A quick google search on the purpose of cricket covers reveals the following:
"The majority of cricket pitch covers are deployed to cover the main area of play ‘the pitch’ during downpours immediately before or during a game"
It appears the opposition took the "immediately before" part too literally, as the pitch had only been covered since Friday, meaning Wednesday's downpour was still evident on a very damp pitch. The team decided that Jamie Harvey was still the tosser and Ryan Hughes the captain, but this time he would get help when needed with the bowling changes and field placings. It was clearly a pitch to bowl first on, so after winning the toss and deciding to bat first, Harvey had to make out he had lost and that Durnford had decided to bowl. It was to prove an inspired decision, and one which can be revealed exclusively for the first time in this report.
Young Freddie Higton opened the bowling, hoping to be the second sibling in the family to knock over Harvey for a duck, but he got off the mark with a nervous inside edge down to fine leg. In difficult batting conditions, Windows and Harvey were determined not to give their wicket away, and took the score to a steady 27 without loss after 9 overs.
Wing made the breakthrough as Harvey was caught behind for 15 - extending his miserable recent run of form to five games. Once again this proved to be a blessing in disguise as, Sam Pearce, the destroyer of bad bowling now joined Windows and quickly overtook his score with some brutal hitting. Once the scorers had been corrected and told that his surname was actually Parker, Windows began to join in and upped his score to over a run an over. But in the 23rd over he perished for 37 and Parker had his chance to close the gap at the top of the run scoring charts.
A brief 10 from Matt Shellum included some nice drives through the covers, but when he was trapped LBW by Makin, a furious Dave Bates came to the crease at number five. Having been dropped down the order for no apparent reason, other than poor captaincy, he set out to prove the skipper wrong and maintain his average of 50+. With Jimbob now into the attack, Parker decided now was the time to really kick on, and dispatched six after six into the road and beyond as he brought up his second century for Winterbourne (despite some serious banter from Spence when on 99). He departed shortly afterwards for 115 to a good juggling catch by Bamford and Bates followed two balls later for 21.
With five overs to go and the score on 209-5, the ultra competitive Richard Pearce was joined by Dan Marsh, who was also on the receiving end of Spence's sense of humour. Marsh was bowled by Jordan Ambrose for six and then Jack Brown was cleaned up the next ball for a golden duck. Zac Smith managed to see off the hat-trick ball and the Winterbourne innings came to an end the following over at 228-7.
Throughout the tea break, Spence was confident of chasing this score down, but he was trapped LBW to Zac Smith's third ball and the big show departed for a duck. It was to be Smith's last ever wicket for Winterbourne as he sadly moves across the pond, lured by the promise of Donald Trump to make America great again.
Rich Pearce was unusually inconsistent, unable to cope with the ridge and the lack of a white line. He was replaced by former Great Durnford captain Chris Breeze, with Jack Brown taking over from Smith at the other end. Brown struck in his first over, successfully claiming a dubious LBW and Jones had to go for 10. Breeze immediately removed Jimbob for the same score, but then wickets dried up as Higton and Bamford saw out the next 7 overs without too much drama.
After 16 overs, it was beginning to become apparent that something remarkable was happening in the field. For the first time since the Club's revival in 2012, it could be said that the fielding up to this point was outstanding. Nothing was getting past the infield and so far, for the first time ever, not a single catch had been spilled. Even all the over 40's were flinging themselves around in the field to great effect (except the captain, of course). Surely this couldn't carry on for the whole innings?
Dave Bates, still fuming from his demotion in the batting order, replaced Brown and struck with his very first ball - bowling Bamford for 4. What happened next was truly outstanding, as Ambrose drove Bates to mid on, only for Jack Brown to leap to his right, stick out his hand at the last moment, and hold on to one of the best catches anyone has ever seen. As someone said on the Whatsapp group afterwards, you could hear Nasser's commentary in your head: "you cannot do that on a cricket field". It truly was a catch in the same league as Ben Stokes.
This seemed to inspire the Winterbourne fielders further as the standard just got better and better. This time, James Higton failed to take a lesson from his school of driving, using too much bottom hand as he smashed the ball to Matt Shellum at cow corner. Shellum leaped in the air and took a brilliant catch just inside the boundary to dismiss Higton for 22. As the players gathered to celebrate, mention was made for the first time of the outstanding fielding and the fact that a catch still hadn't gone down. Hopefully this wouldn't put a curse on what would be an astonishing achievement.....
Following Higton's dismissal, the Great Durnford innings started to falter quickly and Pearce was reintroduced into the attack to try and extend his lead at the top of the bowling averages. He struck in his first over as Kazali was LBW infront of all three, and then Wing was caught by Brown for 3. With just one more wicket needed, and still no catch going down, it was looking like Winterbourne would finally achieve this long sought after milestone. But alas it wasn't to be as the captain's vendetta against Bates seemed to carry on into the field. Bowling his final over, the ball was chipped into the air, straight to Hughes at cover (what the hell is he doing at cover??). It was the simplest of chances, which even his daughter would have held on to, but after a good impression of a clown in a circus, he failed to hold onto the juggle and to everyone's disappointment, the ball fell slowly to the ground. It was a heartbreaking way for all the players to end , what until that point, had been a faultless performance in the field.
Bates ended his spell with 3 for 19 and Pearce brought the innings to an end in the next over, also finishing with three wickets to extend his lead over Breeze in the bowling averages. Great Durnford were all out for 79, but Winterbourne's chances of playing 40 over cricket again next season are now looking doubtful. We will probably need to lose the final two games to make sure our 40 somethings (and Sam Parker) get their wish and remain in NW1 next year.
Next week is our final game of the season at the home of cricket, and afterwards there will be a BBQ as we need to drink the bar dry. As we welcome the Caribbean contingent, there will be plenty of calypso music and rum on hand, and the forecast is already looking good. Sam Parker will be aiming to close the gap further over Windows at the top of the batting averages, and surely Dave Bates will be back to batting where he belongs as Ryan Hughes is conveniently "unavailable".
Disclaimer - the author takes no responsibly for any offence caused in this report. Please direct all complaints to the chairman.