Close encounter against Martins

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On another glorious Sunday afternoon the revised fixture sees the nomadic side of Martins CC joining the Funday boys for an afternoon of fun and cricket.

The Martins team were notable as they were all present well ahead of start time and doing different warm-up drills which was quite extraordinary. High catches, slip catches, throwing and fielding. All impressive stuff which was admired by the lounging Fundayers enjoying the entertainment from the seats around the pavilion.

The Itch team this day included the ever youthful (young at heart) Andy Hart and the welcome resellection of Martin Greaves following his self imposed exile in Sardia. Clearly he had toiled hard and the well tanned Greaves looked hungry (or was than angry) for a game. Also a welcome return to Martin Suttcliffe who joined us again on a Sunday to provide the scoring but more importantly the witty one liners and bonhomie so welcome. Today also saw the ever youthful Graham Foster dust off the kit seeking to get first hand experience of the wicket he so carefully tended.

Still, time came for the toss and skipper Perks ambled back to the hutch with the tried and test team talk….. Bowling boys. What came immediately after that was something which warrants both comment and speculation. Skipper Perks has invested in some new cricket kit including trousers. His trousers clearly not of a traditional style seemed more suited to the horse set looking like jodhpurs. Suggestions were abundant and there was some concern over skips ability to move freely. Suffice to say, this proved one of many opportunities to pass comment. Max Wall (look him up kids) would have been proud…..

And so to the action. Following on from the magnificence of Saturday (well done George, well done Will), the Itch boys set themselves for big things. The bowling attack was an interesting mix of styles with the lead strike bowler Freddie Hart taking note of the sage like comments offered by the senior (by age) players. Fred kicked things off and once settled, provided excellent sport for the Martins opener. Indeed for 4 overs, Fred got to bowl at the same chap….. Opening at the river end, skipper Perks.

What follows are words likely never to be repeated and I urge you all to take note. Perks bowled at a slightly less able opening bat and put the ball on the spot from the outset. The ball turned and bounced (good wicket Fossie) bamboozling the hapless opener. Over number 1, maiden. Fred did well to keep the batsmen at the same ends allowing skip to have another bash. Increasing levels of ooos and ahhhhs were noted. It was unclear if this was as a result of the overly restrictive trousers or balls (of the cricket variety) which the opening bat managed to successfully miss. I think it is likely the latter, Tom may provide another perspective.

Over 2 from skip, maiden. By now, we were all in a slight state of shock, things had to change but no, Fred kept the Martins team to a sole 4 leaving the by now confused and frustrated Martins opener at the mercy of the beguiling twirl of the skippers right arm. Over 3, maiden and an elevated level of oooos and ahhhhs noted.

Another very tidy maiden by Fred and once again the poor chap was confronted with the precision like bowling that Perks was bringing to the party. Another class over sees a 4th maiden in a row. There was muttering from the assembled crowd and some suggestions that the Itch record books need to be reviewed…..

Marvelous stuff from the opening pair and Martins stagger to a run an over off the first 8. To suggest the rate was a tad low could have been insulting and so comments from the wizened few Itch wags were overheard during the change of ends. Perks looked crestfallen as in over number 5 he finally broke his runs against duck. Record books still perhaps worth investigating but the miracle of 5 runless overs was now gone.

As with all things, the end came to an impressive controlled spell of bowling bt Freddie Hart (one wonders if the on field father influence was at play?) and young Charlie Parsons joined the fun. The runs still failed to materialise and in seeking to force one that young Parson directed right on the spot, the wicket of the struggling opening bat was Charlies. Clean bowled.

Scotty Senior replaced Perks from the River end and was seemingly well liked by the Martins batsmen. Got them swinging and clearly Scott Senior was seeking to make a bit of a game of it. By this time, the opening bat Khan seemed to have the measure and clubbed two excellent 6’s but this did not daunt Scotty Senior who teased him with one which Khan generously spooned but sadly although the ball dropped in front of the batsman, the fielders were unsighted and a life was granted. Encouragement all the same.

Top pies required and with Charlie showing excellent patience and rhythm at the Farm end, things remains tough for the Martins boys. Made even more so when Khan, emboldened by some firm hitting paid the price for over confidence and drove a hard flat but elevated shot towards long off. Ben Pratt, fresh from a 4.30am arrival (from a night out in Brum) looked confused and a little uncertain (nothing new there I hear) but through the haze took a sharp catch so removing the improving Kahn from the scene.

Perhaps moment of the match thus far was at first drinks where, much to the alarm of Graham, a car was driven onto the playing surface. Graham’s alarm was muted when he realised the the cars was one from the Martin Greaves collection of cars he fits into….. Also noted here the skippers trousers……

The established bat of Iqbal was joined by Shahzad and together they accelerated the rate but took chances in doing so. The Itch fielders always looking for the sharp chance and ensuring good practices were acknowledged. Great to see Fossie command cover and mid-wicket over on over, his stoic positioning a credit to his negotiation skills and influence on the skipper.

Ollie Carrington took the Farm end following an excellent spell from Charlie. A spell of good accurate bowling with the occasional mis-directed ball but one moment of true Sunday spirit. With a ball that was somewhat short of a length needing a few bounces to arrive, the batsman Shahzad play all round it. It more than likely hit the stumps on bounce 3 and in the spirit so loved on Sunday, skip called the batsman back.

Iqbal looked set and was commanding the strike whilst proffering suggestions to his batting partners of the etiquette of calling the run….. An education every ball. Fred was looking sharp and sought to provide a bit of width. Hart senior fielding at a deepish gully offered occasional pearls of wisdom although if my lip reading is right, were not always well received by the young man!!

Martins made inroads and moved impressively on from 47 off 17 to 124 off 27 with some impressive stroke play. One suggests that the opening rabbit was there to deceive….. However, the impressive Freddie Hart returned and played a pivotal role in getting order established. The dangerous Shahazd was trapped by an excellent straight ball which struck the back pad and was clearly in the way of the sticks. Good breakthrough and the Itch boys celebrated.

Fred had Iqbal swinging and provided an opportunity for skipper Perks to show us all how to run in tight trousers. Iqbal latched onto a slightly short leg side delivery and looked to cow for easy runs, little knowing that those trousers of Perks were no barrier to rapid movement. Making good ground to his left, Perks eyes never wavered and the delight of the Itch fielders, Tom held a very good catch tumbling to ensure maximum value for the cameras. Another moment of Sunday magic.

A further moment of magic was found when the useful Hafeez got himself cramped and all tucked up to a good inswinging Freddie Hart ball which Hafeez managed to top edge. Gulley was the position of note and the player in the gulley none other than Andy Hart. Clearly motivated to show willing and regardless of the pain, he silkily moved to snaffle the ball so seeing the Bowled Hart, Caught Hart scorebook entry repeated for another year.

The elegant Saeed took on the Itch bowling and played flowing and often brutal shots which saw the field scatter to protect the score and themselves. Young Charlie had the measure. As the faithful all know, at Itch you play forwards regardless of length….. However Saeed was not an Itch faithful and played back to a straight ball which clipped the top of leg. Another cleaned up by the nagging accuracy of young Parsons.

Another Itch returner in Jamie Breakwell joined the bowling attack and showed that his lack of recent cricket was no obstacle to technique. Some accurate sharp bowling was order of the day. A noted fielding change provided the ever young Martin Greaves a chance to show that those intense training days in Sardnia were paying off with whippet like chases of balls many would let go. Runs saved now means less work later, good planning Martin. Sage advice offered and Jamie struck with a great slower straight ball, welcome back!!

Perhaps fielding play of the day was down to the footballing prowess of Perks and the lack of confidence in this by Greaves. Prowling the long on boundary and with Martin likewise on the Midwicket boundary, a firm widish on drive saw Perks (seemingly unhindered) moving to intercept with Greaves charging around the boundary. A decent nudge by Tom saw Greaves beaten as the ball passed him by in the opposite direction.

Martins pushed for more but the big hitters were long gone, sharp keeping from George Riley saw a run out and the end to a tidy day behind the timbers of young George.

212 of their 40.

Tea was a delight and thanks to Mr and Mrs Desai, and a noted sensitivity to the visiting team.

Back at it then and the opening pair of Foster and Hart (senior). How magnificent to see such stalwarts taking guard. Hart overheard mentioning something about quick singles and Fossie muttering a response which may have ended in off…..?

The Martins boys opening pair were sharp and kept both Andy and Graham pegged down. Graham looked comfortable holding the end up and Andy moved through the gears as the drugs kicked in….. Seemingly liking the opening pair, Andy started to open his shoulders. Hard shots but sadly the fielders were in the wrong places. Both Graham and Andy steadily accumulated runs and saw the shine off of the new ball (yes, new ball provided by Martins for both innings, most generous).

At first drinks, the scoreboard was looking good at 54-0 and with the opening pair out of the attack, time to accelerate. Sadly acceleration was short lived and Andy got himself well across his stumps and exposed a little too much leg (stump) which was his undoing. A fine return to the team with 27 well deserved runs, welcome back.

The demise of Andy saw the ever confident Ben Pratt join. Ben, on the back of two 50’s in the prior weeks has shown excellent form and seemingly, with the tried and trusted pre-match preparations, was well set again. This was though, misplaced and nicking ball 1 onto pads which diverted it to stumps was the all too short ending. However, this saw the welcome sight of Martin Greaves making his first visit to the middle for about a month. Again, the Sardinian training camp clearly putting him in the right frame of mind and physical condition.

It was not long before Martin took up the mantle and made good on the pent up runs with Graham nervously worrying about the Graves call for a quick single. Sadly, Graham’s vigil came to an end finding himself in front of the stumps with a straight ball smacking the pads and giving the umpire no choice (no matter how hard he looked) but to raise the finger. Great return the the venerable groundsman ad 20 valuable runs.

Pressure now on the rate as the expected push from Ben Pratt did not emerge. This provided opportunities for those who followed and George Riley looked solid in defence keeping out accurate balls. Greavse at the other end looking more menacing and showing the tenacity for which he is renowned. Sadly, George was shy of his ground in answering the call for a run.

Welcome to the crease Jamie Breakwell who looked at ease with the situation. Elegant and purposeful, Jamie took immediate control of the bowling and despatched a full bunger for a straight 6. Nice to see and a promising start.

Sadly, the Itch go forward to everything mantra was lost on Jamie and rocking back to a short length delivery heard the rattle of stumps behind him. His frustration was clearly evident and we all hope that we get to see more of the batting prowess in Sunday’s to come.

Skipper was all action from the off with the ever keen Greaves at the other end, momentum was resumed and although the rate looked increasingly challenging, Perks and Greaves went about the task with gusto and verve.

Martin made the running look effortless and after a sharp return 2nd run, was called for the overthrow however had run on some way past the stumps. Only a direct hit would have accounted for Martin. Sadly, by some fluke, a direct hit is was and so the demise of Greaves with an excellent 57. The asking rate was climbing well in excess of run a ball and with 33 needed off 3, the task nearing impossible stage.

Tom was still very much in the groove and looked good against the returning opening pair who again bowled with pace. The trademark cover drive was loudly applauded by the swelling number of on lookers with mention of lifting a sparating made as Perks resumed his stance, them trousers look a tad tight said one unnamed source.

Having been wicketless in his first spell, the pacey Shaid got one to move which Tom managed to edge to the keeper. The end of another good looking Sunday innings.

Young Charlie and Fred saw Itch to the end with Charlie making useful runs but 15 shy of the set total.

Brilliant game of cricket played with fun and humour throughout. Great to have the returner back and we all need to thank Brian Phillips for getting us a game.

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