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Saturday 25th June

posted 26 Jun 2011, 01:16 by Mike Madden
Second XI v Charlesworth (away)

Carnival day in Whaley Bridge, and the inevitable rain threatened to put a dampener on everyone's day. The firsts team's major concern was what to do with the food after their match was abandoned without a ball being bowled, and the seconds were expecting a similar fate as we gathered at the wall watching rain lashed Carnival floats make their way to the canal basin. To add to the atmosphere of ruined festivities, a traffic warden was happily dishing out tickets to anyone not parked in a bay in the Jodrell car park. Nick Latham was a last minute call up for the injured Harry Bold, but as we headed for our cars we realised that, not for the first time, Anthony Rowntree was not amongst us. After a few frantic phone calls it became apparent that Anthony was more intent on upsetting everyone else's plans than actually playing cricket, so TR Wild was asked to load up as much kit as possible so that we could choose an eleventh man from a choice of our magnificent scorer Woody, or John Crowley, in the unlikely event that we would actually have to play. Setting off over Chunal it was obvious that the weather was closing in. "Everywhere you go, you always take the weather with you" would have been appropriate from the radio, but with a heatwave forecast for 4 o clock we were happy to shake hands and go home. Unfortunately the Charlesworth boys were not of a similar mindset, and we arrived at the picturesque venue with the wicket marked and their lads throwing a ball around. We sloshed through the outfield and surveyed the gloom of the surrounding valleys. "It comes from there," the groundsman said, pointing in the direction that could have been Werneth Low, but which could equally have been Kilimanjaro as neither of these peaks were visible in the descending mist. Not wanting to jeopardise our second place in the fair play league, we agreed that a 2.05pm start and 40 overs per side would be feasible, if it sopped raining and if we could rope off the boundary. The boundary was roped off but the rain continued as our lads ran through various Peter Kay repertoires, whilst John Crowley twitched nervously, perhaps anticipating that he would be our number eleven. Miraculously, the rain stopped, and the umpire decided that it was fit to play. John Crowley agreed to fill in at number 11, so Woody took up his regular position in the scorebox and reduced the overs to 40. Winning the toss I decided we should field, as a wet wicket would not be conducive to the elegant strokeplay normally so typical of our top order. We got off to a bad start, with mud and Peter Crowley flying in vain as the ball was despatched to the boundary at all too regular intervals. The bowling tightened up, but the fielding did not, and Colin and Slacky were both replaced. Peter had spent an age warming up after his recent injury, and although he started well, rust soon overtook him as his spell of 3 overs went for 21. Gibbo fared little better, and the ball became increasingly difficult to grip. Scholesy came on and proved that even a huge amount of determination could not overcome the conditions, then Gibbo struck. He had a plum lbw shout turned down in the previous over, but this time TR Wild snapped up a sharp chance behind the stumps, and Charlesworth were 89 for 1. In the next over the other opener was bowled by Scholesy, and suddenly a wave of mild interest swept through the Whaley fielders. Jake was brought on for his first bowl of the season, and it showed, but the score was still not accelerating beyond control, though the rain was. Jake finished with 0 for 15 off 2, whilst Gibbo had 1 for 32 off 8 and Scholesy 1 for 19 off 6. The umpire suggested that as there were only a few overs left we might as well continue, I begged to differ, suggesting that tea might be an option. With six overs remaining, and the score on 148 for 2, we headed for the pavilion, confident that we would not have to reappear. The 4 o clock heatwave had been delayed by the stubborn appearance of a couple of thousand feet of heavy, black, rain filled clouds. As ever, the Charlesworth tea was akin to a wedding buffet, but unlike previous occasions we knew that we would not be hampered by having to play any more cricket, so we tucked in. Unfortunately the weather changed again, and despite our please that "Its raining, men," we went out to complete the Charlesworth innings. They were content to reach 175, and we were content to let them. Neither club will be vying for the title so what does it matter, and with the wicket now a mudbath there was surely no chance of a second innings. Colin finished with 0 for 46 off 12, and Slacky a disappointing 0 for 50 off 9. 187 for 2 at the close meant that we got 1 point for bowling and 7 for a rain affected draw, but wait. The umpire and the opposition were studying the wicket, and a roller was being applied in a desperate attempt to ensure play. We lost 25 minutes, not enough to affect the game, then the umpire beckoned to us to resume. "Here comes the rain again, " I suggested as Werneth Low disappeared into a primordial fog, but the umpire insisted it was fit to play. "It might be fit to play but its raining," I pointed out, but my please were met with disdain as the opening bowler marked his run up. Early on it was clear that it was a bit of a pudding, but actually it played quite well, a testament to the unusual geological conditions and the dedication of the groundsman. Glorious drives held up on the wet outfield, and it was only really the short pitched stuff that had a chance of reaching the fence. The rain finally relented as the sun threatened to appear, then I struck a straight drive that went directly over the stumps at the bowlers end, hitting the umpire in a place that looked extremely uncomfortable. The opening bowlers came and went and TR Wild and myself were still at the wicket, then I was caught for 30 with the score on 51. Jake looked in control from the off, and when TR was caught for 21 we were still confident of getting close. Rob Hill and Jake batted sensibly, but we were getting a little behind the run rate so my mind was on a batting change. Clayton suggested that I might like to look at the batting order, to which I replied "I'm already on it, Slacky get some pads on." A slow bowler came on and got Rob with his first delivery, caught for 24, but his second delivery was less successful as Slacky smashed it for a straight six. Peter Crowley, the man demoted for Slacky, looked a little nervous on the boundary, as Slacky set about the task of passing 187 with some intent. His strokes were crisp, and he avoided fielders to perfection as the rate dropped from 7 and a half an over to a more manageable 5. Not surprisingly, Clayton took full credit for the change in the order. Fielding heads dropped as the sun came out, but when Jake was caught for 32 with the score on 172, there were still mutterings that the batting order should be changed again to bring Scholesy in ahead of Peter. Scholesy was a nervous wreck at this point, but with Peter striding to the wicket we needed just 16 off 4 overs and 2 balls. A straight bat and a magnificent leave later we still needed 16 off 4 overs, but Slacky was on strike. The next over produced six runs, then Peter left another and the crowd started to get restless. With two overs left we still needed 8 to win, then Slacky played two deliveries back to the bowler. The third went to fine leg, but astonishingly the single was refused, and the mutterings became anguished cries. We now needed 8 off just 9 balls. The fielders came in, and that was the cue. Slacky smashed the next ball over deep mid wicket for 6 and the tension evaporated, then the next ball went for a straight 6 to finish off the game. Peter had survived on 3 not out, but Slacky had bludgeoned a heroic unbeaten 71 out of 92. Our 6 wicket victory removed the sullen wetness of earlier in the day, and it was a testament to both sides, and the umpire, that such a good game was played in excellent spirit on a day when many would have simply turned around and gone home at the start.