Finally, after a long locked-down and distanced wait, The Blades returned to cricketing action. Crawley were the hosts in their archetypal village ground, surrounded by trees, fields and pig sties in the distance. After a Covid safety briefing, the toss was duly tossed and the hosts batted first.
Humphrey and Afzal were the opening attack, K-Dog in particular was in miserly mood from the off. Both bowlers kept their line and length, restricting the home side to 5-0 after the first two, with a skied edge falling between Brown and Meering in the second. But we didn’t have to wait much longer for a dismissal – Brown caught their opener behind off Humphrey in the next over, and when he bowled another in a wicket maiden fifth over, the Blades were not just in the driving seat but riding shotgun too; the home side limped to 13-2 from seven.
Fay and Lowe took over the bowling and did not fair so well. Crawley decided another gear was needed and thwackery ensued, as did (it has to be said) some streaky edges to very fine leg indeed. Blades were giving it all in the field though, looking sharp despite the long lay off, The Barrier in particular patrolling the rope with a McKellen-esque “thou shalt not pass” determination. But Crawley were finding the gaps and the runs and boundaries began to stack up. A mere five overs later they had motored to 71-3 – Farmer showed strong hands to hold onto a pacey drive – which saw their opener retire on 27.
The rate slowed slightly and when the Skipper stood below a skier that came down from so high that it had snow on it – and some of the dust from the surface of Mars – and stuck like glue in the Newport Grasp, 88-4 was on the board.
Meering and Ellerby saw the bowling home with more tight deliveries, a clattering clean-bowled for Ellerby, and a run out in the final over, all punctuated by a very tough C&B that Meering couldn’t hold on to, and a near-miss diving catch attempted C&B for Ellerby.
All of which late resurgence meant a gettable total of 108-6
Hamer and Brown wasted no time setting about the strike force and with a combination of solid running and well-placed boundaries, motored The Blades on to 49 without loss after 7 overs, Brown retiring along the way.
Humphrey took to the middle but could only manage 5 before being bowled, and the change bowlers, much slower than the opening pair, proved a trifle harder to get away. A brief cameo from Farmer was ended when a big swing didn’t connect and the stumps were flayed. The Blades kept their wickets intact in the middle third of the innings but, runs refused to come. Hamer retired on a very hard-earned and deserved 25, and the Academy pairing of Fay and Davies batted well but Crawley seemed to be perfectly placed to scoop up every decent shot. In the fifteenth, Davies was bowled as he tried to take the game to Crawley, and in the same over Rhodes was caught behind. The rate was slipping away from the Blades, 30 were needed from the final three overs, and despite a brave effort from Fay and Ellerby, and a last over guest spot from Meering after Ellerby’s run out, the barren patch from the slower bowlers proved the difference and Blades fell just short on 95-5
A decent effort, an entertaining game despite the mizzle and rain, but the fact that this was the Blades’ first game back and Crawley had played at the weekend told in the end.
RESULT: Crawley WIN by 13 runs
Champagne moment contenders:
Hamer’s unbeaten 25
Lowe’s eternal wait under the skied shot, and holding his nerve and the catch