A superb half century from James Scott couldn’t prevent Long Itchington’s Midweek XI from suffering their first home loss of the season to visitors Stretton-on-Dunsmore.
Long Itch were confident after a good home win against Stockton the previous week as they welcomed Stretton to Whitehall Farm on a dark and dingy Wednesday evening (7th June). Despite some light rain and the absence of the away team captain, the toss was performed with Stretton choosing to bat first. Steele opened up for Long Itch and was immediately impressive, causing the batsmen problems with his pace and movement, and producing a close leg before shout in the first over. Despite this, Stretton openers Haywood and Oldham started solidly. The latter soon gained in confidence, launching Scott over the ring on the leg-side twice in the fourth over for boundaries. Scott stuck to his task well but Oldham continued to put away anything slightly loose. Meanwhile, Steele concluded an excellent spell (without reward) at the other end.
Change bowlers Eadon and Sutcliffe were then brought into the attack with each bowling accurately from the outset. However, with Oldham now set and used to the pace of the pitch, he went after the youngsters towards the end of both their spells and played some good shots over the in-field, despite the good bowling. Haywood (keen not to be dismissed by one of his junior charges) was content to allow Oldham to take on the role of aggressor as he took the role of accumulator in an impressive partnership which crossed 100 in the 14th over. At this point Aulakh turned to Freddie Hart to exert some control, and he immediately provided some accurate bowling and would have had both openers walking back in his first over if first teamers Aulakh and Perks could catch! Death bowler McKenna was then brought on from the top end but rather struggled to adjust his line to the left handed Haywood, who it was suggested should ‘bat the right way round’ by the bowler. Meanwhile, at the bottom end Hart continued with some excellent bowling and was rewarded with the wicket of Oldham; clean bowled for an excellent 71. Hart and McKenna (now having adjusted his line) continued to bowl well at the death, with Stretton ending up on 157 from their 20 overs. Long Itch stuck to their task well despite picking up just the one wicket.
Itchington openers Desai and Scott walked out knowing they would have to bat well to chase down the target, but things were not made easy from the start, with opening bowler Ratcliffe bowling a very tight line. He was duly rewarded with the wicket of Desai in his second over, who was too early on a pull shot that he skied to mid-off. This brought Perks to the crease who together with Scott started to build momentum. With Ratcliffe taken out of the attack, the spin tandem of Glover and Readman continued to bowl well at Scott and Perks, but that didn’t stop the former from finding the fence a number of times having played himself in. Unfortunately, the umpiring Aulakh had been looking at the season’s statistics earlier that day and had decided Perks’ average of over 80 needed taking down a peg or two and so triggered him in Readman’s third over. This brought McKenna to the crease, who wasted no time by smashing his second ball for four through square-leg.
Due to the consistent light rain, the ball was gradually becoming a bar of soap, making it difficult for the Stretton spinners to grip. With Shaw replacing Glover at the bottom end, McKenna and Scott were latching on to anything loose and gradually building a dangerous looking partnership. McKenna then hit one of the shots of the day; a massive six over the leg-side that almost broke a car windscreen. At this point Haywood was nervously looking over at his vehicle, wondering why on earth he parked it directly next to the pavilion (cow corner) with McKenna playing for the home side. However, soon Haywood was able to breathe a lot easier as a sharp bit of fielding resulted in McKenna being run out. This brought the veteran Hart to the crease, called up after a cracking 76 on Sunday. Unfortunately, he could not repeat his heroics and with the light steadily worsening was bowled by Barrow.
The rain was coming down steadily but both teams carried on, with Scott looking to find boundaries as the required rate began to rise. He was able to do so with some lovely lofted shots and cracking drives, now seeing it like a football despite the dark and dank conditions. Even non-striker Greaves found himself in the firing line, being smacked on the forearm by another powerful Scott drive. It was quite an impact, but Greaves carried on manfully in support of the youngster. Unfortunately, Scott was then bowled by Barrow, aiming for another boundary and an excellent innings of 51 from just 41 deliveries came to an end (and with it, likely long Itch’s chances). Scott Haywood was bowling well from the other end and was rewarded with the wickets of Greaves and Eadon (both bowled) as Long Itch were looking to hit out. The home side ended up well short of the total, finishing their 20 overs on 126 for 7.
Despite the loss there were a lot of positives to take for Long Itch, particularly the bowling of Steele and Hart and the innings of Scott. Thanks to Stretton for a good game and to everyone for carrying on in the poor conditions (special mention to apprentice groundsman Steve Rawbone). One might point to extras as one of the keys to the game, as Long Itch conceded 45 extras (including 35 wides) to Stretton’s 10 total extras (just 6 wides). Given a winning-margin of 31 runs, this was undoubtedly crucial and something for Long Itch to work on in the upcoming weeks. Our next fixture will be away to OL’s next Wednesday in the semi-final of the plate knockout competition.
Steele 4-1-17-0 with the new ball
Hart 3-0-20-1 at the death
Scott 51 off 41
McKenna biggest 6 of the day
Eadon 4-0-29-0 and Sutcliffe 4-0-40-0 stuck to their task well against some good batting.