The players gathered early to do some much needed catching practice - apart from Chris Breeze that is, who left home slightly later than planned after the annual ritual of filling up his pram with toys took longer than expected. It was well worth the effort though as they were to come in very handy later in the game, ending up all over the outfield at long on. More on that later.....
Despite a slightly different pitch to usual, which suggested it might give some assistance to the bowlers (what is going on???), returning skipper Martyn Nokes still decided that the best option would be to bat first after winning the toss.
The Wellow players appeared to be happy to bowl first, and openers Jamie Harvey and Matt Windows made their way to the crease. Harvey was not in the best frame of mind though, having been taunted by his team-mates on the way out about carrying excess weight in a certain area of his abdomen. As Breeze confirmed later on, this sort of banter is just not on - unless you are the one who is constantly giving it out of course! Trying to put this to the back of his mind, Harvey told Windows to "bat long" and make sure he was there after 30 overs, regardless of the score. It was a case of "Do as I say, not as I do", as Harvey cut wildly at the third ball, got a bottom edge through to the keeper, and was out for a duck - his first in two years. Not exactly good timing in such a key match.
But out of every adversity there is a seed of equal or greater benefit, and the fact that Sam Parker was now at the crease, in hindsight probably ended up giving Winterbourne a bigger score than they otherwise would have achieved. The tall right hander again latched onto anything loose, and looked in superb form as he took the game away from Wellow. At 118-1 after 24 overs, Winterbourne had a solid platform on which to build a big score. Just as they looked to kick on though, Parker mis-timed a drive and was caught at mid on for an excellent 86. Windows was taking his opening partner's advice literally and was on a steady 16 at this stage, but surely by now he was seeing it like a football, and now was the time to take over where Parker left off.
Dave Bates joined Windows, and after three overs which brought just a single, the pair really kicked on and upped the ante. Initially a score of just over 200 looked on the cards, but the pair put on 128 runs in 15 overs - with 75 coming from the last 7. Windows was out just before the close, top edging back to the bowler for a well made 90 to take the lead at the top of the batting charts for the first time this year.
The last ball of the innings potentially made a huge difference to the result, as Bates went for a huge hit down the ground, popping his knee out of the socket in the process and collapsing in the middle. Wellow took this opportunity to run him out and seal another point, but thankfully there was a doctor on the pitch who popped his knee back into place, but it meant that one of 'Bourne's spinners would be out of action and he was unable to take to the field for Wellow's chase. Still, with 254 on the board, it would be a hell of chase if Wellow could pull it off.
Zac Smith and Rich Pearce were as threatening as ever as they opened the bowling in confident mood. Pearce struck in his second over, bowling a wicket maiden after cleaning up Wellow's opener for a duck. Super Sub, Malcolm Griffiths had agreed to field for Bates, and made an immediate impact in scenes reminiscent of Gary Pratt in 2005. White drove to Griffiths in the covers, and bizarrely tried to chance his arm. Griffiths calmly scooped up the ball, took aim and threw down one and half stumps to run out Wellow's other opener for 12 (see video on this page).
In the 7th over, the game looked to be heading for an early finish, when Smith bowled Light for naught with his stock delivery - the in-swinging yorker. 'Bourne were well on top with Wellow struggling on 19 for 3, but it was quickly obvious that the two new men at the crease could pose grave danger. Both Vigar and Harrison could clearly hit the ball hard, and appeared to have no problems in being able to time every ball to perfection.
It was time to bring Chris Breeze on to tighten things up, and Sam Parker to induce the mis-hit and the catch on the boundary. The rope was already out as far as it could go, making the boundary probably the largest in the league. However, both batsmen were happy to take this on, clearing the rope many a time with huge sixes down the ground and square of the wicket. It was decided that the spinners were bowling at the wrong ends, so Mike Turner was brought on to bowl an over so the change could take place. However, he bowled so well that he ended up staying on for his entire 8 over spell, going for just 37 runs and keeping 'Bourne in the game.
When Breeze returned at the other end, the plan looked to work perfectly as Harrison launched one straight down the throat of Rich Pearce at long on. However, agonisingly, the ball just kept on going and ended up a few feet over his head for another six. At this point, Breeze's bowling can only be described as "rubbish and sporadic". It is very rare he goes for more than two an over, but the way these batsmen were timing the ball would have been a joy to watch for anyone not supporting Winterbourne!
After Breeze was taken off, he retrieved the pram from his car and dispersed the toys all over the outfield between the pavilion and the sightscreen. Apparently it's not nice to make fun of someone's inability - another case of "Do as I say, not as I do". I've lost count of the number of times he has described me as "severely inadequate"....or words to that effect!
Just as the game seemed to be slipping away, with Wellow on 168-3 after 22 overs, another great throw saw Harrison run out for 68. Winterbourne still needed to remove Vigar to win the game, but could at least now try and keep him off strike. They succeeded in this very well, as the run rate slowed dramatically, and Wellow were now going along at the five an over they needed to win.
Skipper Nokes couldn't afford to leave his strike bowlers until the end, as Vigar had to be removed, so Smith and Pearce were brought back into the attack. They couldn't find a way through though, although Smith managed to bowl Vince in his final over for 22. Mr Grumpy was brought back for his final three overs, picking up the wicket of Palmer for 15, but he ended his spell with 1 for 81 - surely the worst of his career.
Nokes finally brought himself on in the 37th over, but it was too late by then as only 8 runs were needed. Wellow reached their target for the loss of 7 wickets with 9 balls to go.
It was nice to be involved in a close, competitive game for once, even if we did come out on the losing side. Apart from Malcolm, who was absolutely superb in the field, the rest of the fielding was once again average at times, and the few hard chances we had went down.
Next week we visit Broughton - another track which will massively favour the bowlers. Is it a coincidence that Windows is missing this game, along with the Andover one? With the majority of players unavailable next week, the team will have a very different look to it, and will be substantially weakened by the return of our chairman, Ryan Hughes, back from his Saturday to Saturday three week holiday in Australia....