U9 Hardball team crush Croydon by 106 runs
By Ben Abel
Debutants perform strongly in excellent all round team performance.
Ok, let's face it this wasn't the strongest opposition we have faced this year. Croydon languishing at the bottom of the table with just one win and missing two of their stronger players had their middle order packed with U8s who struggled against our side that has strength all the way through the team.
Croydon did have four decent players and not knowing what was to come I was worried after the first four balls of the match had seen two well run singles and two boundaries crashed through square leg off one of our best bowlers! George Abel bowled the second over and struck with his second ball, continuing his simple philosophy of "you miss, I'll hit", but was also then hit for three confident singles and a boundary straight down the ground. At 212-1 after 2 well bowled overs, Croydon were rattling along nicely.
Jack Kearns persevered and came roaring back in his second over with a double wicket maiden. The first clean bowled when the Croydon batsman played all around one that kept slightly low and the second a good catch at slip by George after the batsman had top edged a pull shot. When George then bowled a maiden, Croydon were back where they started on 200-3 after 4 overs and the panic was over.
The Croydon middle order struggled to get the ball away but credit to our bowlers who only conceded 16 wides/no balls in this period, six of which came from one wide that went for four. Debutant James Wiseman was particularly impressive, finding the weight of the hardball to his liking and bowling leg spin off a longish run up he sent down two overs for just one run and picked up a wicket bowled. I was at square leg, but I'm sure it pitched leg and hit top of off! A nice variation in a team previously harking back to the West Indies sides of the 1970's.
Fraser Adams-Leach (1 for 2 off 2), William Blackborough (0 for 4 off 2), Luke Hague (2 for 2 off 2) and Leo Bines (1 for 2 off 2) all kept things very tight in the middle overs as Croydon went into their last pairing on 186 - 10.
Our second debutant Harry Record also bowled accurately and at pace with only one no ball, but came up against a decent batsman in the last pair who hit him for three boundaries in his second over. Harry would get his revenge with bat in hand.....
In the previous over Hugo De Vere Hunt had picked up the last Croydon wicket to fall, as he charged through in his follow through the ball soared back over his head and just out of reach but was snaffled by Luke at mid off for his third catch of the game, having already taken one at slip off Leo's bowling as well as a sharp caught and bowled chance. Our catching and fielding was excellent all innings with two run outs and five catches, three of them at slip by George, Luke and Leo! Alex Bussenschutt almost pulled off a blinding catch at square leg in Hugo's second over but saved a certain four runs.
Croydon closed their innings on 202 - 11. Despite the weaker middle order batting this was our strongest all round bowling performance and lowest extras count with six boys achieving the Holy Grail of no wides or no balls. We are definitely getting there!
After a lovely cup of tea for a parched umpire on another blazing hot evening and juice and snacks for the boys (thank you Nicola) we were back out on the field. A tricky half time team talk was summed up when Jack hit the first ball of the innings to the fence and the Croydon fielder near me at mid-wicket said "they've already won"! I had set the boys the challenge of scoring 15-20 runs a pair, keeping the wickets down and seeing if we could reach the magical hard ball total of 300, only achieved once all season in our previous match at Trinity Mid-Whitgiftians.
The boys duly went about their task and with partnerships of 24, 23, 13, 24, 24 and a total of 308 - 5 can be rightly proud of their efforts. I certainly was. Croydon bowled better than they batted and only gave away 22 extras (5 fewer than our own total), but we plundered 116 runs off the bat with Jack, George, Leo, Luke and Hugo all in double figures. Special mention must be reserved for Harry Record who I haven't seen bat as he has played in the ESCL softball side most of the season (now I see why Brian and Jean-Marc were always keen to have him in their team on Saturdays!) A slightly unorthodox stance lulls the bowler into thinking a wicket is on the cards before hand eye coordination coupled with brutal power sends the ball flying away to the fence. Harry's first boundary was a yard short of being a six and he hit a further four boundaries which from the bottom of the square at Crockham Hill were retrieved from somewhere up by the gate onto the ground! After subsequently hitting the first hardball six of the season, Harry was content to rest on his bat at the non-strikers end and let Fraser have some of the strike. 29 runs off 15 balls with just one blot on the copybook when caught at slip playing against the spin from a useful leg spinner.
James and Harry were the 18th and 19th players to play a hardball match this season, demonstrating the strength in depth of the squad and the battle for places to come over the next seasons.
The hardball team continue their unbeaten run this season, but with Banstead also winning we'll need to beat Old Whits in the final match to guarantee finishing top of the table.
Thanks again to Nicola for doing teas, to Freddie for scoring for the third time this season (second only to Pip now!) and for help from other parents with throw downs and ground set up and take down.
28 matches down, just one to go!