It was a familiar story: an early dropped dolly was costing the match; the bowling was becoming ragged as superior batsman flailed it to all parts; fielders were trudging disconsolately after boundaries as tempers frayed. Fortunately it wasn’t us this time!
Fill in the blanks. JC _________ the toss and we had to _________ first under a blazing sun. At least some things never change! Conway and Gaught opened for the Rats. Rod Paterson was again not firing on all cylinders but Matt was struggling to get the ball away and quickly became frustrated. In the fourth over from Benn - playing in his hundreth game - he launched at the first ball outside off, played way too early and lobbed the ball to Harrison at cover for an easy catch. A handy early scalp.
Abigail was next and began confidently enough, driving Hilary (7-1-38-0) through the covers with a degree of class, until one from Benn (8-1-20-2) popped and he could only glove it to the Cat for 21. John Cooper (7-1-23-0) showed good discipline and after 20 overs we had a measure of control at 73-2.
David Pope’s spell (4-0-27-0) was relatively uneventful as Gaught and Whitrod advanced the score slowly, but Tony soon retired hurt to herald the arrival of our arch-Nemesis, Simon Gundry. It was up to Harrison and the returning Paterson to keep order. Nick bowled well, conceding just 26 in his six overs with the approved leg stump line and bagging Gaught caught behind for 54 en route. Rod (8-0-63-0) fared less well as Gundry made the most of his extra pace to smash an unbeaten 57 as the Tomatoheads closed on 205-3 with 31 extras, mainly wides.
205 didn’t look great on a shirt front with a bare outfield, but it looked an awful lot better as McB suffered a similar fate to Abigail, edging one that popped from Patten to the keeper for just 1. Then came The Error. Priest launched at one, mistimed it horribly, and the ball lobbed gently to the aforementioned Abigail at cover. Unbelievably he floored it. Lesser mistakes have turned matches in the past…
Our other opener Jacobs had played a couple of great shots, but gave Richard some more catching practice which he didn’t fluff and was out for 11 as we struggled on 26-2. Nick Harrison arrived to begin the rebuilding as Gundry and Block came into the attack and it was no surprise that the score increased slowly. Painfully slowly. At the 20-over drinks we were on just 63-2, requiring 143 in the second half of the innings. The batsmen were set, but if they got out how could we possibly win?
Harrison quickly put his marker down after the break, taking heavy toll of Thakrar’s spin with glorious lofted drives and pulls; then it was Priest’s turn as he launched into Paresh Taylor (3-0-30-0) to reduce the pressure considerably. Gundry’s return was perhaps too late and he had no impact while Phil Patten – inexplicably taken off with 6-1-12-2 – went for 19 in his remaining two overs. It was becoming a rout now: Conway conceded 15 in his solitary over and when Priest smashed Errol Barnett for two fours we had won by eight wickets with no fewer than 27 deliveries remaining.
Priest (96*) and Harrison (82*) had added an all-wickets record of 183*, beating the previous best by Priest and McBarron of 142 against Science Museum in 2003. The last 146 since the break came in just 15.3 overs with as good an array of clean, powerful, proper hitting as you could wish to see. Our fielding had held up under pressure and the lost toss was probably a plus point as the Rats showed their customary lack of urgency when setting a target. All-in-all, a magnificent victory.
MoM: Abigail (11)