U9s NEC hardball continue their unbeaten run
By Ben Abel
Sabina Park style pitch can't halt the Grasshoppers in a 37 run win over Trinity Mid-Whitgiftians
All ten players reported for duty having squeezed into the Trinity sports ground past the seemingly badly parked minibus doing its job of keep out unwelcome visitors. Our team were well received by the opposition and after a quick warm up Captain Luke Hague went out for the toss, he called tails but it came down heads and we were put into bat.
It had been decided to bowl all the overs from one end, partly due to the low sun and partly due to a depressed drainage ditch on a length bowling from the other end. The end everyone bowled from also had a drainage ditch but this one was short of a length and deemed the better option.
Eddie Hemingway and Jack Kearns fronted up well to Trinity's quickest pair, neither of whom bowled a wide or no ball. Jack edged the first ball of the innings and it raced away for four down to third man. The shortest boundary on the ground would prove a goldmine for scoring all evening, be it off the bat or byes. After three overs we were 195-2, with both boys having been out bowled, Eddie a trifle unluckily off an inside edge. Four byes and two boundaries from Jack in the last over turned things around and we finished a tough test on 208 - 2.
Thereafter things got easier for the incoming batsmen. Hugo and Fraser shared a 22 run partnership to leave us on 230-3 after 8 overs. Leo Bines and Alex Bussenschutt added 38 without losing a wicket and both scoring in double figures to move us onto 268-3 after 12 overs. George Abel and William Blackborough put on another 26 runs net of one wicket lost and we were cruising along on 294 - 4 after 16 overs.
The last pair of Luke Hague and Harry Ejje faced an accurate left arm spinner and a naggingly accurate medium pacer. A couple of wickets in the first two overs made it look like we might not reach 300, but a profitable last over saw another positive partnership end the innings on 303 - 6.
Pleasing for the coaches that there were no wickets lost to run outs or catches, we'll keep working on protecting those stumps. Trinity gave us 60 extras which helped our cause and the bye count was higher than usual due to the short boundary behind the wicket. All told it was an excellent batting performance from the boys, especially batting first when you really have to build a competitive total.
For the first time all season, all 10 batsmen faced double digit deliveries, a sign that we were rotating the strike to good effect. Highest net scores after taking account of wickets lost were Leo with 14 runs off 12 balls, Alex with 13 off 12, Hugo with 13 off 10 and George with 12 off 12. They were all batting in the middle order and took advantage of the weaker bowling than that faced by the opening and closing pairs.
A quick team talk with a warning against complacency given that 303 felt more like 263 on a small pitch with a fast outfield, should have had the desired effect but we started sloppily, not quite getting our lines right and making the wicket keeper have to work overtime to prevent byes. After 16 balls Trinity had raced onto 220 - 0 and things weren't looking that great for the Grasshoppers. A yorker from Hugo changed all that and then in Jack's second over, the batsman hit it straight to George at mid off who ran in quickly and threw underarm from close range to run out the non-striker who had been backing up too far. Two balls later Alex took a smart diving catch at mid on and our two well positioned close fielders had us back in control as the opening pair closed on 212 - 3.
The second pair went backwards with tight bowling from Leo and Fraser. Leo the first of four of our bowlers to achieve the Holy Grail of no wides or no balls and picking up two wickets to go with it. Leo's first wicket hit the drainage ditch and was fended off the glove to be well taken by a diving Harry behind the stumps. With a wicket bowled by both Leo and Fraser the Trinity score slipped back to 202 - 6 after 8 overs. After 10 overs we had ourselves another wicket from a direct hit run out by Jack Kearns at fine leg to leave the score on 208 - 7. Batting was testing on an unfriendly pitch with several boys on both sides getting bounced by balls on a good length. One of the Trinity boys was struck on the helmet, but it did it's job and he seemed none the worse for the blow.
Great credit to Trinity that in the last ten overs they didn't lose anymore wickets and scored 58 runs with partnerships of 25 and 26 in the last two pairings against good O&LCC bowling. The penultimate pair ran very well, including 8 singles off consecutive balls and the last pair had a powerful batsman who was able to hit boundaries as well as rotate the strike with singles, finishing the match as top scorer with 17 off 16 balls. Possibly the best player on either side as his bowling was also quick and accurate and he had figures of 2 for 4 off his 2 overs.
The strength of our hardball team is it's strength in depth, there are no weak links and the boys play really well as a unit. Another satisfying win by 37 runs to continue our unbeaten season and keep the U9s top of the table. If I had to pick a man of the match on our side it would be Leo Bines for his 14 not out and figures of 2 for 4 from his 2 overs (if not for his appealing for lbw from square leg!!)