There have been a few firsts this season, and this week was no exception. This fixture was the first time The Blades had played at the VT Sports Ground, next door to The Mackoy Stadium and home to still reigning Wessex League champions Sholing FC who, to this correspondent’s disappointment, weren’t training tonight so there was no chance for fangirling and autograph hunting – and also the first time we had a debutant donning the gloves. And although not exactly a first, the pre-match warm up was something that hadn’t been seen for a good ten years.
With both sides fielding ten, this was a sixteen-over clash and Blades were first to wave the willow. Hall and Grimes opened, but that became Grimes and Webber before a run was scored when Hall was caught. Indeed, only one run was added to what was technically the “total” when that became Grimes and Hurst. Webber’s NO call was overruled and he found himself Run Out without facing and Blades on 1-2. Not a great first over. Grimes hit two fours into the bushes from consecutive balls in the next over and although there was some tight bowling from Quilter, runs were beginning to come, Blades advancing to 25 when Grimes was caught on the rope in the sixth. Hurst and Humphrey kept the scoreboard ticking along with some big boundary shots and by the time Hirst retired his batting masterclass in the 8th over, Blades were on 45-3.
Fay’s cameo of 11 included a huge six, then Sharman and Rhodes both came and went but the scoreboard was still moving along to 82-6 from 13, a total which would have been higher but for some excellent fielding from Quilter. The fourteenth was a 2 wicket maiden which saw Meering caught and Humphrey bowled, and Hurst returning to the crease to join Davies for the last wicket stand. And what a stand it was as 20 were added on the last two overs, including 12 for Davies alone in the last before being caught on the penultimate ball. An innings which had started in less than glorious fashion garnered a respectable and defendable 103-9.
Fay and Humphrey opened the bowling and were giving very little away as Quilter made a slow start. A simple catch for Hurst in the second meant that Quilter were 17-1 after four overs. Virtually all the runs were coming from the number two batsmen and he set about Fay in the fifth to bring them up to 31-1 from five but Blades were relieve see that also brought his retirement. The change of Meering and Davies also bowled well but were up against cultured batsmen who could pick off any half chance. At the halfway point Quilter were 52-1: Exactly half the runs required already chalked off and only one wicket down. The tenth saw the next breakthrough as Humphrey took a clean catch in front of the media centre and in the same over Rhodes saw a diving catch chance in the covers that he had no right to reach. But reach he very nearly did, only to see the ball evade his grasp at the last moment.
The number four retired in the 11th – two retirees shows the ability of the batting line up. Meering was the pick of the bowlers with his three overs going for only 12 before – ouchie – he dislocated a finger. But within an over, his calm self-repairs saw the finger back in place and taped, and Meering back on the boundary fielding and returning the ball to the keeper’s gloves like it ain’t no thang.
With three overs remaining, twenty were needed for a Quilter win – a run a ball. Finely poised for a photo finish. Sadly though, these all came in the fourteenth as Quilter sprinted over the line and a fine match that, in all honesty, was probably going to be edged by Quilter, drew to a premature close with a six that went over the fence onto the hallowed Sholing FC turf. Quilter ended on 105-3.
Result: BLADES LOSE BY 7 WICKETS
Champagne moment contenders:
Davies explosive final over and six
Hurst’s 29 not out
Meering fixing his own dislocated finger and going back out to field on the boundary