There have been a few firsts this season, and this week we had – well, not a first but a first for a long time – namely, several Blades having to stand down due to over-subscription of players. The eleven that made the cut gathered at the Sporty (ten of them ready by 6pm – another first?) in anticipation of 20 overs each way against an always useful Shirley side.
The Newport Badgerstrain, making a first appearance of the season, set out his stall early by winning the toss and electing to bat. Marsh and Hamer K headed to the middle to engage battle. This correspondent had barely written their names in the notepad though before Marsh was returning, caught first ball. Not the start we wanted. But Webber took over and promptly tonked two fours off the over. But it was to be a mere fleeting cameo as next over he was back in the pavilion, caught for 9. Hamer was LBW for 8 in the fourth and whilst the rate was ticking over nicely, so were the wickets.
K-Dog had taken over from Webber and Kumar joined him on Hamer’s demise. Between them they played some glorious shots, Kumar claiming his weekly six in the process, and their partnership was at 42 when it was ended only by Humphrey’s retirement on 26. Tame was next up, getting off the mark straight away with a 4 as the pair kept the 6+ run rate moving. Tame sadly only made 5 before being bowled in the 11th but with the score at 78-4 the numbers were in Blades favour.
Kumar was dismissed for a splendid 16, quickly followed by Saad and Lowe – caught and bowled and caught behind respectively – and suddenly we were 7 down and in danger of not batting out the 20 overs. Cometh the hour though, cometh The Barrier. Thou shalt not pass, he declared and set about the bowling. Afzal and Hamer B came and went at the other end and with 3 overs left and 103 on the board, Blades had got through their full batting line up. meaning Humphrey strode back to the square. Another 23 were cultured from those three overs, both batsmen ending the innings undefeated; Meering with an impressive 24 and K-Dog with an imperious 37. Both with asterisks of course. Despite a wobble around the 10th to 14th overs during which this correspondent lost track of the over count, such was the tumblefest, Blades had powered to an excellent 130-9.
The clouds were gathering as Shirley began their innings, and the wind was beginning to blow. Thunderstorms and rain were forecast but there was full expectation that the match would run its course.
Afzal and Humphrey opened the attack and Afzal was first to strike in the third and only 7 on the board. Both bowlers kept the lid screwed, glued and nailed on, only allowing Shirley 20 from the first seven overs. In the eighth, Shirley found where the boundary was for the first time, and then rather decided they liked it, finding it twice more in the over. Was this the belated but half-expected charge beginning? In a word, nosireeBobbyGee it wasn’t. Next over Hamer caught the number two off the bowling of Lowe, then Saad clean bowled the next with his second ball. By the tenth it was 40-3, Shirley well behind the 70 that Blades had amassed by halfway. It is a sign of the accuracy of the bowling and the efficiency in the field that the next four didn’t come until the 11th over. Not only were Shirley falling fatally behind the rate, they were lucky not to be more wickets down. Lowe had waited under a huge skied shot for long enough to think about it, not think about it, think about it, think about what to have for tea, do the crossword, pop to Sainsburys for his week’s shopping, have a quick nap and still be underneath it. I counted three juggles but it may have been more. The batsman was already walking but by the fourth juggle, with Lowe now on the floor, it had slipped from his grasp and the batsman stayed.
Another chance was much quicker – so quick in fact that it zipped between Marsh’s gloves behind the stumps before he had a chance to bring them together.
Saad took the fourth wicket in the 14th over but with only 60 posted, there was surely no way back for the home side. Occasional rain drops were falling, the gloom was gathering and it was becoming a race to finish the game.
Meering and Kumar were the final change and all hope of an admittedly fanciful victory evaporated. It’s true that this coincided with Shirley sending a schoolgirl in to bat but although sportingly the Blades attack gave her a decent chance, neither she nor her colleague-in-pads could get the score board moving. Meering’s 0-2 from 2 and Kumar’s 0-8 from 3 tell the story of the innings’ end, which bookended Afzal’s 1-10 from 4 at the start.
Shirley never got going in their twenty overs, mainly due to the accuracy of the Blades bowling, and as a result fell a long way short on 81-4. Not since 2003 when Blades won by 55 runs had there been such a margin of victory.
RESULT: BLADES WIN BY 49 RUNS
Champagne moment contenders:
Humphrey’s 37 not out
nothing else this week came close