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The First Eleven and Bank Holiday Weekend

At both Stratford and Rugby spectators were able to enjoy hot weather and the company was good. Walmley followers outnumbered the home sides and, indeed, at Rugby, having arrived early and bagged the shade, it was
necessary to warn off those Rugbians trespassing at the ‘away end’. On reflection, it would have been kind had we invited the scorers to join us and benefit from the shade, (and our wit): Sarah suffered badly from the sun despite her foresight in bringing a parasol.

Those who do not know Stratford should understand it comprises a river, a theatre, several pubs, cafes and giftee shoppes but, on a Saturday, is essentially a car park. The cricket ground is a big space bounded on three
sides by cars. The long boundaries are necessary to keep the earnings of car repairers within reasonable bounds.

Walmley won the toss and asked Stratford to bat. Their openers started serenely enough until Recordo Gordon and Fahim Jan thought a change was necessary. Things then happened. 23 for 1, 37 for 2, 37 for 3, 37 for 4, 47
for 5, 47 for 6, 47 for 7. At this point the Decent Chaps took a rest for a few overs but when Stratford showed signs of becoming uppity, returned to finish off the innings. Stratford 107 all out in 38.3 overs. Fahim Jan (6 for 23) and Recordo Gordon (4 for 39) had enjoyed themselves.

This score was never going to tax Walmley while in a healthy and relatively rested state. In the first over Andrew Hendry arrived at the crease off a flight from Australia that had landed barely a day earlier, and a second ball duck the previous evening. He was keen to get to bed and dramatically outscored Sarmad Bhatti while scoring 55. Walmley won in 21 overs and we all went home very early. When all the results were in, by
Saturday night Walmley were 27 points clear of Attock at the top of the table.

Bank Holiday Monday dawned bright. Walmley had won the Floodlight Trophy the previous evening and in the morning some of that team met not too keen to face the light. Rugby had played Attock on the Saturday and had been bowled out for 75 on the wicket for this match. It was felt that the wicket was not suitable for a serious game of cricket . I recall a similar feeling at C & R Hawks last season when, with the exception of Dan Bromley, we batted like novices. C & R Hawkes had then flogged our bowling all over the county. Was this a significant precedent?

Rugby won the toss and asked Walmley to bat. This meant that a win was worth 24 points. Was the wicket a minefield? The Dans B (Bromley and Bevan) opened without seeming in any great difficulty. Two beautifully executed on drives by the senior B and off drives by his partner stay in the mind, but both fell to catches that might have arisen from problems with the wicket. The most important part of the day’s entertainment, however, was when Sarmad Bhatti lobbed a sitter to slip that was dropped. He went on to score 63 out of a Walmley total of 176 for 9. Nobody else made a significant contribution, although Sachin Dubb looked in better form than I have seen for sometime. The general view of the locals was that we had plenty and that we could start the car.

However, Rugby had no intention of rolling over. I wonder if the disparagement of their wicket had given them extra determination. They were not intimidated in any way and although wickets fell regularly and they were never going to win they held out for the full fifty overs and finished with 131 for 8 and, thus, achieved a deserved draw. Waugh took 4 wickets for 16 runs from his 9 overs.

Readers will recall Admiral Beatty’s comment during the Battle of Heligoland that “our ships don’t seem to be working today.” Did Admiral (he has been promoted) Waugh share that view about the bowling? Had we been
playing the win-lose game, the Rugby total would have been swollen by wides. As it was Dan Bevan did marvels restricting the byes to 10. (He also took two stumpings.) If you do not aim at the stumps, bowled and lbw are eliminated as methods of dismissal.

I am sure the team were disappointed. Despite my admissions that when I played we went from pub to pitch stopping only to tie bootlaces, it was a different game then: there were no leagues, it was all friendlies. Since I
returned to cricket I have come to appreciate the importance of preparation, both physical and mental at the level of cricket that Walmley aspire to play.

Walmley’s lead over Attock is now reduced to 18 points with two matches to play. [Maximum 24 points are available for a win, so Walmley need to 31 more points to guarantee winning the league.]

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