16th April 2022
The first match of the 2022 season fell on the Easter weekend, posing an early availability challenge negotiating holidays and weddings. In the end, we started and finished our Rusthall encounter with 10 battle-ready players, on a track earning the polite comment: “has your groundsman misplaced his mower?”
Our pre-match routine was also of note. The crowd gasped in horror as a 15m metal pole fell from a height upon our 1st XI opening bowler. Whilst any other man would surely have been resoundingly crushed, the pole merely bounced off Dunmall with only mild growls of discontent.
To the cricket, and upon insertion a watchful opening pair of Hinton and Wesson attempted to repel a testing opening spell from a father and son combo swinging the ball in opposite directions. Hinton fell to a snorter from the younger, and was replaced by the equally watchful Nash. After getting settled, the smirking Nash kept the crowd on their toes by playing the ‘how many runs can I score through third slip’ game, which was attractive until he fell for 23. Wesson was then bowled for a well-built 40, and newcomer Avi for an entertaining 29. The innings concluded with lusty blows from Skipper and Coffbags, and a resolute 4-ball knock from young Josie Hinton.
With 150 to get, Rusthall looked confident of victory. Their opening pair took the attack to Dunmall (with and without glasses) who responded well and bowled with good rhythm despite the pole incident. Spin twins Coffbags and Nash got some success, Nash removing their more aggressive opener, and Coffin their best player and no.3. But at 110-2 all seemed lost, but Avi switched to the Pavilion End after a tricky start and promptly took 3 good wickets. More good spin from Ajith meant we’d taken 4 wickets for not many runs but Rusthall’s skipper wrestled back momentum and they scampered over the line with 4 overs to spare. Despite the loss, an excellent, sunny start to the season.
Felbridge and Sunnyside (A)
23rd April 2022
Last Saturday’s match against Felbridge and Sunnyside was always likely to be rather one sided due to a lack of batting strength on the home side and so it proved. Nonetheless there were plenty of highlights (mainly good ones!) and despite the chill factor it felt good to be playing again.
The signs were not auspicious when our opening bowler began proceedings in black trainers but a lack of suitable footwear in no way reflected Will Plunkett’s bowling. If wickets didn’t come in his first spell, the two he picked up at the end of the innings were just reward. He also took two tremendous outfield catches – one of which led to a period of recuperation on the sidelines as his young body realigned itself. Siraj Deane and Nick Fowler also bowled tidily, whilst the interim chairman recovered from seeing his first ball deposited over his head for six to stem the middle overs onslaught. New ‘boy’ James Thompson turned his arm over rhythmically on his first cricketing appearance in umpteen years and we managed to take 9 wickets in 40 overs.
The fielding was more than acceptable for pre-season and we were set just under 240 at a run a ball.
Our batting highlights included an eye-catching cameo from Ollie Crees whose attempt to square cut every ball resulted in a series of boundaries and just as many edges through slip. James Hughes, who had earlier produced the classic, bouncer, bouncer, bouncer, bouncer, ‘jaffer’ combo to dismiss their opening batsman, looked totally at ease against some quite nippy bowling and was even heard to mutter ‘don’t bowl short to me!’ after depositing a six into the bowls club hedge. None of the other batsmen seemed to have their batting boots (or contact lenses?) however and we had barely reached the 20 over mark when we found ourselves all out for just over 70. Nonetheless a good run out for those concerned and the track played as well as I can remember for this time of year.
30th April 2022
Arriving at the Rec at midday for our final friendly fixture before the real business of the league commences, I witnessed the entire Tonbridge team in warming up kit, all the accoutrements needed for an hour of preparation, a welcoming of at least two overseas players into their midst, and Harry Dunmall smoking a fag on a pavilion bench.
Fears of a painful mismatch were not realised however due to the tenacity of our bowling and fielding and the generosity of the Tonbridge skipper in making sure that a game ensued.
We actually bowled well. Dunmall and Eames took early wickets and kept the top order quiet, Coffin was miserly, Will Plunkett has picked up a yard of pace, and a spin trio of Nash, Barkhan and Hart found flight, turn and a little bounce. We held our catches, and sound fielding kept the oppo to 227 from 40 overs.
Then we batted. At 0-2, with Wesson and Crees in the hutch, things did not look good. Tristan Price and Adam Nash rebuilt patiently but the run rate stacked up. Nevertheless Tristan played some fine shots in his 26, Harry Dunmall hit lustily in a lower order 37 and Zachary Hart and Charlie Barkhan enabled the tail to wag significantly. Speldhurst ended up on 157-8, honour was saved and the George and Dragon still served decent beer. Normal service resumed; on to the league.
View the scorecard here.