This week’s match report brought to you by our Cub reporter K-Dog.
With the constant threat of rain dominating WhatsApp discussions pre match but being warded off by the protective microclimate in place around Southampton Sports Centre, a strong collection of veteran, established and rookie Blades ascended to Pitch #4 for the opening salvo of the 2019 season vs National Oceanography Centre. With the early May clouds swirling, the captains agreed a 15 over match could be achieved. Pre season nets had identified new prospects, with Ryan Ward making his Blades debut, along with the emergence of wicketkeeper/batsman Dan Brown and all rounders Matt ‘I can’t play this season’ Ellerby and Ben Davies re-emerging in their sophomore year. The match also saw the welcome return of captain Lowe after his enforced year on the disabled list. With dependable stalwarts Galpin and Afzal opening the bowling, a strong and varied attack was on display.
The Blades patrolled the pitch #4 weeds first, and despite some elegant early season batting, Galpin and Afzal were successful in restricting the early flow of runs, without significant alarm, that until Afzal was able to strike with his normal nagging length to bowl one of the openers. With the run rate in the balance, skipper Badger felt compelled to introduce the mystery of Terry and the debutant Ward – to great effect. Ward immediately found variable bounce, early season movement and a fine line and length and struck in his first Blades over – Brown completing a regulation catch at the wicket. Terry also got in on the act, but the game came to life in Ward’s second over when he began to rip through the NOC middle order – another catch behind the wicket by Brown and two bowled left Ward with the remarkable figures of 4-4 off three overs – setting a new benchmark for a debut spell. Never to be outdone (although on this occasion, he was), Terry also found some flight and guile taking two wickets (including a catch by the ever present Ward) and drying up any momentum NOC had built up in the early exchanges. All that was left was for Skipper Lowe to show he’d lost none of his agility – producing a magic ball off a short length to trickle in to the base of off stump and dismiss another NOC batsman. Davies ably chipped in with a couple of overs, selflessly protecting the tiny offside boundary and yet being hit for a well picked up six to the longest boundary – the only maximum of the match. NOC therefore finished their innings on 77-8 – a reasonable effort on a variable pitch – restricted primarily by the middle over heroics of Ward and Terry.
With the light quickly fading, openers Humphrey and Brown set off the chase with purpose, Humphrey taking 9 off the first 4 balls of the innings – before discovering that running 2s to the longest boundary was neither economical nor sustainable in early season fitness. From that point, the Blades batsman targeted the shorter boundary to great effect, never letting the run rate dip below the powerplay start. NOC found their bowling straps in subsequent overs – Brown falling to a ball that stuck in the dampening pitch. Jimmer emerged from pre season nets in bullish form and continued the steady rate with Humphrey, before Humphrey retired on 27 at the midway point of the innings with the Blades looking comfortable to see things home in good time and good light. Rhodes emerged from the gloom at 4, playing an elegant glance to third man before being bowled and bringing the evergreen Ellerby to the wicket. The remainder of the innings left the result in no doubt, with both Ellerby and Hurst targeting the short boundaries to dominating effect. With Hurst playing the pivot, Ellerby smashed 22 off 9 balls and hit the winning runs with a ramp shot (as encouraged by umpire Brown), which had been much discussed in pre season training – and surely re-writing the Blades’ shotbook with a new ‘positive brand of cricket’ (c) Eoin Morgan. The Blades finished the match with overs to spare, finishing on 81-2.
Ward’s debut wickets blitz
Lowe finding his areas with a non-bouncing short ball
Brown’s unnecessary but spirited double roll wicketkeeping, in true IPL style
Ellerby’s audacious ramp shot to score the winning runs
Man of the Match
Ward for his debut with staggering figures of 4-4.