With the workaday season of 20-over Wednesday nights done and dusted, attention turned to the one-off 40-over 12-a-side match at the ever-picturesque Crawley Crows CC. Stand-in skipper Humphrey won the toss for Blades and elected to field.
Galpin and Humphrey were on the spot from the start, keeping the openers restricted to just 12-0 from the first four, and amongst those overs were several tricky half-chances, the most spectacular of which being a diving attempted catch which eluded Webber at Silly mid off by millimetres. The breakthrough came in the sixth though as Humphrey bowled the number 2 and 3 for a 2-wicket maiden. The long grass and bowler’s pitch meant the batsmen were struggling to get much away. An occasional four amongst the dots and ones kept the score tickling along but Blades were on top in these early stages. Meering and Kumar took over the attack from the 9th over and it took only two overs for the next strike – a slower one from Kumar was handed back to him by the opener for a routine C&B, and then it was Meering who bowled number 4 next over. 37-4 and the timed element of the innings was starting to look academic. Crawley were still finding boundaries non-existent and singles a rarity; the Blades attack were offering little and when they did get it away, the Baggy Blues were sharp in the field.
The 17th saw a welcome return to the Blades bowling to TV’s Terry – fitting a day’s cricket into his hectic new lifestyle of Celebrity Strictly GoggleBake appearances and opening pavilions and the like – but it was Meering who bagged the fifth wicket courtesy of an alert catch from Marsh at first slip. Crawley has registered 70-5 by the 20th over break.
After the drinks though, following a caught behind wicket for Himphrey Jr, the Crawley number 8 decided he was having no more of this, and promptly set about thwunking deliveries into the trees like he was a ball manufacturer determined to lose a few and drum up some business. Umpires’ arms were tiring with all the fours and sixes being signalled, Terry and Hamer B in particular having their bowling figures savaged. K-Pup bagged a second wicket thanks to a catch in the Covers by Farmer who elected not to use his hands but to trap the ball between his ribs instead. Farmer then followed the fielding heroics by coming on to bowl. Remarkable figures of 3-0 from his first two overs including the wicket of the big-hitting number 8 for 46. Thanks to that knock, Crawley had motored to 142-10, the score doubling in just nine overs. The middlest scoring batsman returned and, along with an enthusiastic club member who had never played before but wanted to bat to assist her hip-op rehab (handing her crutch to the umpire on arrival at the crease), added a handful more. Hamer B gained his reward for the number 8’s bombardment by claiming the last wicket, and his first ever, in the 32nd over to close the innings on 149 all out.
The Blades innings opened much as Crawley’s had, Marsh and Hamer digging in and picking off ones and fours when they could against a swift pace attack. The pair had seen off the openers and reached 27-0 from eight when Marsh was caught and bowled for 9. Webber replaced him but was bowled shortly after, then Hamer was run out by some margin. A quick came0 from Farmer followed and suddenly it was 38-4. Regrouping and stability were needed. Humphrey joined Grimes at the middle and the fightback was beginning, but Blades were still only a handful of runs ahead of the Crawley score over-by-over. Humphrey slammed a four into the bushes but then was adjudged LBW despite his front foot being planted about an inch shy of the bowling crease, and with Humphrey Jr joining Farmer in the Doughnut Club, Blades were suddenly 61-6 in the 18th over.
Meering and Grimes were both living dangerously, the change of bowler and pace meaning they each offered high looping chances but both fell safe. A direct hit by Grimes on the bowler’s stumps had Meering yards out of his crease but with no Crawley hand involved, he was Not Out. The next over saw an almighty six from Grimes and Blades were 78-6 at the break – eight runs and one wicket further into their journey than Crawley had been at the same point. But whereas Crawley’s innings from there became a tsunami of boundaries and wickets, Blades’ innings was a masterclass in batting by Grimes. Meering offered faultless support at the opposite end, singles were dashed and boundaries were chunted where possible, and in the 26th over the pavilion rose to acknowledge Grimes’ fifty. And still the Jake and Bazza Show continued, the next over bringing up the fifty partnership and Blades could sense the target gradually approaching from the horizon. Despite the best efforts of the Blades academy making up the numbers in the field and stopping a few fours, the remaining runs were chalked up with no drama. Meering hit the winning four in the 34th over, closing the innings on 153-6. Meering ended on an excellent 20 not out to go with his 2-21 but the plaudits, whatever plaudits are, go to Grimes whose magnificent 72 not out was the sixth best all-time Blades innings and the highest since at least 2010 when the current online records began.
RESULT: BLADES WIN BY 5 WICKETS
Champagne moment contenders:
Grimes 72 not out
Farmer’s figures of 3-2-1-3
Hamer B takes his first Blades wicket