The 2021 cricket season got off to an inauspiciously creaky start against Rusthall on the first Saturday of the season with Harry Dunmall consolidating his position at the top of the Speldhurst CC ‘career ducks’ table in the first over. Our innings bore uncanny similarities to many of those of 2020 as we struggled past the 100 mark amid the regular tumble of wickets. The more senior members of the team were therefore delighted to see a quite sparkling innings of 45 not out from young Adam Nash, full of elegant drives and clips, which propelled our total up to 161-9 from 40 overs.
There was definitely sunshine as we took the field, but all hands still needed warming up as the wind picked up in the late afternoon. Our bowling attack was not short of genuine menace – Mssrs Jeffreys, Dunmall, Price Jnr and Harrison all ensuring that runs were hard to come by – and there was an outstanding caught and bowled from the 2nd team skipper.
As the game opened up in the middle overs it became apparent that a close finish was on the cards and so it proved. Rusthall’s two biggest hitters both fell to young Nash’s left am spin but there were only 10 runs needed when their number 9 went for one big shot too many and was well caught by Harry Hopwood. MJ then prised out their top scorer – the ninth wicket – but the target was now only three runs away! An anxious tension gripped both players and spectator as the ball continued to evade the edge of the last man’s bat with fielders crowding the batsmen, until, three overs later, the winning run was nudged through the leg side. So the narrowest of defeats but just the sort of fine and friendly contest that was needed to get the cricketing fires burning for a new campaign!
The next Saturday’s game against Felbridge and Sunnyside provided a pretty good warm up for most of our bowlers but unfortunately less so for our batters who didn’t hang around long enough to chase down the 180-run target. At least almost everyone got a bat and a bowl! Felbridge had their first team out and looked worryingly agile and youthful – even indulging in pre-match warm-ups! Yet despite launching an unusually large number of sixes, their batsmen struggled to master the art of survival against a variety of Speldhurst bowlers and it took a last wicket stand of over 40 (and some generous bowling choices) to post a defendable total.
Our reply was most notable for the first six batsmen all being bowled and the only highlights were a promising first knock of the summer from Ollie Crees and a late assault of 45 runs from MJ which included 24 from the first five balls of an over before he was stumped trying to farm the strike. We fell well short! Nonetheless all post-match spirits seemed high and the debut presence of the fish and chip van on the Rec was much appreciated by the later leavers.
Our final friendly warm up match last Saturday, a 35-over game against Penshurst, was a rare Rec run-fest with two individual centuries and not a lot of joy for the bowlers of either side. Speldhurst batted first and racked up 232-5 with a splendid and chanceless 102 from Ollie Crees (85 balls) in an unaccustomed role of opener. There were useful supporting roles from skipper Ben Brandt (51) and yours truly (39) and some fine examples of creaky fielding! Unfortunately Penshurst’s best player replied with an unbeaten ton of his own (139*) and, despite a terrific spell of 8 overs from Jo Price (2-22), the target was reached with a few overs to spare. Nevertheless it was a useful warm-up for most and a relief to post a score in excess of 200 after two rather scratchy innings prior.
Muddy Waters, Team Sec