3's stay up in Basildon
5 for Ross and 50 for Ivory enough to overturn promoted St Andrews
The final chapter of one of the more tortuous seasons for the selection committee ended with the 3rd XI at 'home' 20 miles down the A127 in Basildon against Hornchurch based St Andrews.
As if finding 44 bodies during holiday season hadn't been hard enough, chairman of selectors Lawrence Walsh had the added complication for week 18 of Mark Carey's wedding reception in Dagenham, which meant that a home game was preferable for a number of players, the looming threat of relegation for the 3's should they lose and rivals Old Southendians and Wickham both win, and a further wrinkle meaning that it was also imperative to field a 4th XI as we had already forfeited at Rayne earlier in the season, so a further scratch would require a re-election plea at the T Rippon AGM.
It was therefore after a lengthy closed doors meeting that smoke finally emerged from the M&B chimneys (Skippy having nipped for a quick salmon in the kitchens) and the selectors arrived at a blend of youth & experience in the 3rd XI that they hoped could prove competitive against a St Andrews outfit who had clinched a fourth successive promotion the previous week and who had rolled over everybody else in the league with the notable exception of the leaders Hatfield Peverel who had beaten them home and away.
With 42 players having been pressed into service in the 3's before Saturday, the selectors couldn't quite get this up to 50, but Aaron Scott and Stuart Greaves, who have dominated Division Two this year averaging 22 a piece, pace bowler Shaun Ross (9 wickets at 33 at the higher level) and veteran Richie Williams in his 6th league start of the season were shuffled into the XI along with the explosive stroke-play of Darren Ivory, who with son Ted’s football season having started, was promoted from the 4's for his second 3's game of the year (his previous outing being in the 3's shock win at Hatfield Peverel).
Stalwart Danny Gillham, loose-cannon Mark Bird, over 50’s Lol Walsh, Keith Maund and Darren Johnson and under 15 George Godfrey were the remaining members of the motley crew charged with maintaining Division 7 cricket and it was with a good deal of hope that the 3’s travelled to their adopted home in Bas Vegas, that hope mainly being focused on the possibility that they could win the toss after a torrential downpour had rendered the immaculately prepared Fords Basildon pitch somewhat damp, meaning it wa likely to prove difficult for the stroke-players amongst us, at least until the burning Castle Point sun had worked it’s magic.
At 12.45 Captain Scott ventured intrepidly through the puddles to middle and fortunately returned with the right answer, leaving Ross and Williams limbering up for a new ball blast, which after a few meaty blows turned in favour of the bowlers who ‘shared’ five wickets, Williams picking up the first and Ross the next four.
Ross returned figures of 4-7 from 8 overs including an all off-stump bowled hat-trick, as with the pitch offering little in the way of pace, Shaun arrived at the formula of bowling full and straight against batsmen not used to bowlers of his velocity or lengthy follow-through.
At 46-5 lesser sides would have folded, but St Andrews are made of sterner stuff given that they are very much used to being the bully rather than the bullied and with Greenwood digging in for an excellent 61, support from Newman (18) and Street (27) pushed the score towards the 150 mark, as Gillham toiled unluckily for 10 overs 0 for 34, with a number of catches going down to his increasing exasperation. Young Godfrey also took some late punishment as he tired after an excellent early salvo including the wicket of Pagett in his first over, as St Andrews rallied, but a typically tidy late spell of 2-14 from the evergreen ™ Walsh then left St Andrews on the brink before Ross returned to complete his 5’fer, the innings closing on 162, leaving the Kenny G’s 49 overs to reach their target.
With Aaron opening the batting, those extra overs always come in handy, but with the sun on his back and the pitch starting to dry out the gangly right hander started purposefully, emulating his Friday night performances in the bars of the City by latching onto anything short and wide. Scott survived the early loss of MLP Bird (without troubling) and the departure of Lol for 10 to become the senior partner in a stand of 43 with Stuart Greaves, Stu scratching around for 5 against some accurate stuff delivered with significantly less pace than he prefers.
Stu finally fell to Yeomans leg breaks, stumped after raising his heel with foot on the line and Maund and Johnson followed shortly afterwards. When Scott then went after another couple of overs, caught behind also to Yeomans (despite being the only person in the general vicinity who didn’t think he hit it), we were on the ropes somewhat at 95-6.
At that stage with nearly 70 required and D Ivor and Richie in the middle, we were long on experience and boundary hitting ability, but short on running between the wicket potential, more so given Ivory was carrying a calf injury. Given that the bowling was spin from both ends with catchers set back awaiting the mishit, that threatened to be a problem.
So, after a brief period of contemplating his options, Ivory arrived at the solution of just smashing everything either over or between the men set back. Repeatedly. With increasing brutality. Walker’s off-break/lobs were hit out of the equation after an 18 run over, so the return of opening bowler Graham Street after 7 overs 2 for 27 looked like being the key period of the game. So it proved, although that period lasted about 7 minutes incorporating a few lengthy ball hunts, by which time Street’s figures became 8 overs 2 for 49 and the ball was laced to all points between mid-off and the cover boundary.
That left Yeomans to finish a fine spell with just 3 runs required, Ivory finishing with a stunning 63 not out off 29 balls by hitting the winning boundary off the final ball of a fine spell of 10-1-32-3 of well spun leg breaks with very little loose stuff from a bowler who could undoubtedly play at a higher level, even if his post-match handshake game needs a little work.
Although the 3’s were delighted with their Division 7 status retaining win, cricket did not also appear to be the winner on this occasion, the St Andrews skipper sharing with the Romford Recorder that his side were unable to celebrate their 4th successive promotion with gay abandon as a result of the bitter taste, sour notes etc. etc. left behind as a result of playing against a few decent cricketers.
This does I suppose go to show that you can’t please everybody all of the time, as I suspect many of their opponents who have been bowled out cheaply over the past few seasons have found the afternoon ‘un-enjoyable’ whereas a competitive game like this one, where we won by 4 wickets courtesy of a 7th wicket partnership of 69 having frankly had much the better of the conditions, might be preferable for some.
Anyway, onwards to 2018 & genuinely good luck to St Andrews in Div 6, they are an excellent side at the level they are playing and deserve to progress.