U9 Hardball team come up short in NEC league playoff final against Esher
By Ben Abel
A first defeat of the season for the U9 hardball team by 31 runs
After a month without cricket, except for a quick practice net on Friday, the U9 hardball team took part in the NEC finals day at Banstead CC. Having won Zone B of the NEC league undefeated, we faced an Esher team who had beaten the likes of Spencer, Wimbledon and AJ Academy in winning the Zone A league also undefeated.
After a summer of dry wickets and parched outfields it was a bit of a surprise to turn up and find a raging green top and a slow outfield. With the summer holidays in full flow we put the call out to all the squad who had played a game of hardball this year. On paper we looked strong in the bowling department but possibly short of some fire power in the batting department and so it proved.
Bowling first we quickly made inroads with Jack bowling a tidy 2 over spell for just 6 runs and George taking a smart caught and bowled chance to have Esher on 207 - 1 after 4 overs. Having not really played LBW all season George failed to appeal for a plumb LBW, but once the umpire explained the deal for the final the boys soon found their voices. A couple of dubious appeals were thrown in from round the ground but Sam Bream bowling with good accuracy picked up two LBWs in his spell in the middle overs.
Huxley Maunder-Allan and Alex Bussenschutt bowled tidily with both taking a wicket in the second pairing to leave Esher on 218-3 after 8 overs. William Blackborough taking a difficult chance at square leg off Huxley's bowling and Alex hitting the top of middle stump with a great delivery.
Sam picked up his two wickets in the next pairing bowling alongside William Satterly and William Blackborough. The only batsman on either side able to hit the boundary did so in this pairing. The tallest player on the pitch by some margin used his levers to good effect to hit three boundaries as Esher moved onto 235 - 5 after 12 overs.
Having been kept back for the later overs Hugo De Vere Hunt came on and took a wicket with his first ball, a beautiful swinging delivery that took out middle stump. The NEC umpire consoled the batsman with the comment that it was the best ball of the innings and would have got him out as well. With William B bowling a tighter second over, Leo Bines bowling a good over and George returning for his last over picking up another wicket caught by Alex at mid on, Esher were pegged back again to 238 - 7 after 16 overs.
With Hugo and Leo bowling the last four overs between them Esher finished on 246 - 8 as Hugo bowled out one of the Esher pair and both boys built pressure with lots of dot balls.
The boys were rightly pleased with their efforts, an excellent bowling and fielding performance with 3 out of 4 chances caught, 2 LBWs and 3 wickets bowled. Also only 9 wides conceded all innings with 14 in no balls. To their credit Esher played with very sound techniques and never gave their wickets away, so taking 8 wickets ourselves was a really great effort.
Special mention to Fraser Adams-Leach who turned up and played despite feeling unwell. Fraser didn't want to bowl but saved runs in the field and by having 10 players on the pitch saved us being penalised when we batted.
Jack Kearns and Will B opened up for Oxted defending well and picking up byes and singles, but two wickets in the final two overs saw us back to parity on 201-2. Alex B and Fraser carried out their brief to a T scoring 10, defending resolutely and not losing a wicket as we closed the second pair on 211-2 right back in the game.
The ninth over swung the game decisively in Esher's favour, although not without some controversy! Bringing on a spinner for the first time in the match we soon discovered that it was doing a lot. Think back to Deadly Derek Underwood in the days of uncovered pitches! Huxley found himself bowled twice by balls that turned sharply from well outside off stump and off the last ball of the over there was a controversial run out. Having hit the off spinner close to the mid wicket boundary Huxley and Leo hesitated in going for a 3rd run and were run out, however in sliding to pick the ball up the Esher fielder had slid over the boundary with the ball in hand. Difficult for the Umpire to spot, but not the Esher parents! Still we said nothing and left the game to the umpires but what should have been four runs ended up as minus four runs! Huxley and Leo rebuilt really well in the next two overs to get us back above 200 but two more wickets in the final over saw us slide back to 196 - 7 after 12 overs.
With things looking bleak the task got tougher still as Sam and Will S were each bowled in the next two overs as we slipped to 189 - 9 after 14 overs. The boys saw out the rest of the pair without further losses and Hugo and George managed an unbeaten partnership of 24 in the final pair, rotating the strike, hitting the ball into gaps and running well to pick up 9 singles and 6 two's. We never hit a boundary all innings such was the slowness of the outfield and the size of the boundary which was bigger than the U12 game taking place on the next door pitch.
A defeat by 31 but a game of small margins with Esher giving away 10 fewer extras than us and hitting 16 in boundaries compared to our 0. That boundary that went down as a wicket in the scorebook then makes the case for an Oxted victory! Ultimately though we were beaten by the better team on the day, congratulations to Esher.
At the ceremony at the end of the game both teams applauded each other as winners and runners up medals were distributed and man of the match was presented to Hugo from Oxted after his 2 wickets for 9 runs from 3 overs and 12 runs with the bat. Hugo was given the rather muddy match ball and a pair of tickets to watch Surrey at the Oval - a nice touch from the NEC.
So finishes the U9 season with an overall record across all three leagues we played in of Played 30, Won 23 and Lost 7. We finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the three leagues we competed in and played in two cup finals, winning one. A successful season I think and one which we want to recognise and celebrate all the boys efforts at the end of season awards on Friday 7th September.