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Whaley Bridge 2nd XI v Birch Vale 2nd XI Saturday 13th June 2015

posted 15 Jun 2015, 11:23 by Mike Madden
There are some times when we have to forget about the crap and the politics going on around us, and just play cricket, for that is why we are here. There are certain games that will stick in the memory for longer than others, particularly, for some reason, against Birch Vale, and although time can be a cruel trickster on the recollections of many, on this occasion it will struggle to enhance or diminish a thrilling encounter.

It started several days earlier, when many of the firsts found alternative amusement awaiting them rather than a game of cricket, and so the usual plethora of second teamers were called upon to make up the numbers. However, despite work, a stag weekend, a honeymoon, exams, and other unknown excuses, the seconds were to be strengthened with the out of form Thompson and the out of favour Cutts. I mention this solely because the firsts were no worse without them, but as the afternoon progressed they were no better either.

The seconds, of course, welcomed them with open arms. All of a sudden we had an opening bowler / batsman, and someone to stabilise the fragile middle order. Tim Johnson, the Birch captain, who plays on long after other stalwarts from a bygone and halcyon era have swapped willow for quill and sporting contest for written examination, won the toss, and to my immense surprise opted to bat. We agreed on a 40 over contest, and the drama was complete as Jack Kitchin was called in at the last minute to replace the absent Gareth Hill.

The pendulous clouds had, seemingly, done their worst, and now the skies that had been 49 shades of grey (got to keep it clean), were broken by patches of fluffy white, and even blue. The precipitation that remained gave a cursory glance over New Horwich Park, and decided that we had suffered enough, meandering into the distance before dropping a passing shower on the aptly named Water Weekend. Ed Kitchen and Reuben Cutts opened with very tight lines. We exerted a stranglehold not seen since the days of Jackie Pallo, and after 7 overs Birch were 8 for 0. In a sublime piece of captaincy the skipper moved himself to a shorter midwicket and instructed Ed to shorten his length slightly. It worked perfectly, as the silver haired opener chipped the ball straight to the captain's welcoming hands. Unfortunately, it then hit the floor, and frustration grew. However, it was not for long, and Ed got his reward when Ivan Heathcote took a well judged catch, an all the more remarkable feat considering that it was Ivan Heathcote who took the catch. An lbw decision gave Ed his second wicket, then Ethan Williams, who replaced Reuben, got a fortunate victim as Bruce Glover took a sharp catch above his head at square leg. 31 for 3 with 18 gone, and we were cock-a-hoop. The captain's drop, as well as an earlier one at slip by Marc Thompson, were a fading memory (its that time thing again), and we were looking to eat up a few of the overs with the younger element in our side. Jack Linsky decided to see off the aforementioned youngsters, and within six overs the score had progressed to 78. Even Ed Kitchen suffered, as his last over went for 9 giving him 2 for 33 off 12. Ethan had been spared after three overs for 12, whilst Ben Stones, whose first over went for 13, recovered admirably. He claimed the scalp of Linsky, but not without the help of a fantastically judged catch by Jack Kitchin at deep midwicket. Charlie Kitchen joined in the fun with a very confident catch off Ben at mid on, and the visitors were 91 for 5 with 12 overs remaining. Charlie Kitchen went for just 12 off his 3 overs, whilst Ben Stones completed 6 taking 2 for 25, Reuben returned, and at the other end the ball was thrown to Bruce Glover who had not seen action since April. He tasted immediate success, clean bowling the Birch anchorman with his first delivery, and generally bowling a very tight spell. At the other end Reuben was getting competitive. The unfortunate Ivan was the focus for his dismay, as firstly a single and then a relatively straightforward dropped catch both affected the Whaley defence and Reuben's figures. Undeterred, Reuben dismissed the captain when Nigel Morten took a catch behind, and he followed this up with a second wicket clean bowled. His figures of 2 for 46 off 12 were a good effort considering that the firsts have restricted his opportunities for many weeks, and the seconds contrived to make him look like, well, a second teamer, but that is second team cricket! Jack Kitchin completed the dropsies when he spilled another difficult one in the deep, as Bruce finished with 1 for 21 off 4, a fantastic effort at the death. Birch reached 153 for 8 at the close, probably 20 or so more than we would have liked and deserved, but the four bowling points represented a big improvement.

Home made cakes were the star of a sumptuous tea, and as Reuben continued to rant in the dressing room it was pointed out that it would probably not go down well if every one of Reuben's long hops or half volleys was greeted with similar vocal criticism by Ivan. The cheers from the younger element died down, we know how far to push banter in the seconds, and Reuben strapped on his pads. He is a competitor, something that the seconds have needed to supplement the exuberant youth, and he strode out confidently, accompanied by Ben Stones.

Ben played a chancy innings, but settled down into some glorious shots. Reuben commanded, and was disappointed to be given out lbw for 19 with the score on 46. Ivan has struggled for form of late, and when he was bowled for 2 it was no great surprise. Marc Thompson entered the fray and his rustiness showed. Ben was another lbw victim for a fine 34, then Marc went shortly afterwards, falling to a very good catch for 9. It was a Whaley collapse, and when Bruce Glover went lbw for 0 we were in serious trouble at 71 for 5. Ethan Williams mixed defence with robust fortification, but Charlie Kitchen was caught for 8. Jack Kitchin was caught for 1, and Nigel Morten was bowled for 2; there were desperate measures required. We were yet to register a single point with the willow as the captain joined Ethan, and only Ed Kitchen to come. 98 for 8 quickly became 100 as we put a batting point in the book, but with just 7 overs left we still required 46 to win. Ethan was hitting what he could, whilst the captain, suffering from a torn cartilage, limped singles as the required rate climbed. Something clicked, and boundaries became the order of the day. 10 off the next over, then 11. Suddenly it was manageable again, and Tim Johnson seemed to be chasing the ball with his field placings. It tightened, with just 2 off the 36th over, so with four remaining there was still 23 required, and two of these would be bowled by the dangerous Linsky. The next over saw the equation change dramatically, as four followed four. Ethan had found a way to clear the infield, with the skipper sending the ball through the outfield. The scoreboard registered seventeen precious runs, and Linsky came on needing wickets. Dot, the ball rolled to the covers. Half volley, four, the captain brought the Bridge to within one. A sharp single, and the scores were level. Cool as a cucumber, Ethan left the next, then stroked the fifth ball into space to bring home the spoils. He finished on 20 not out, with the captain unbeaten on 40, and the two wicket victory was thoroughly deserved.

It has to be said that Birch played their part in a wonderful contest, and it was great to see virtually their whole team at the pub afterwards. Two pages of the scorebook does not really do the game justice, but those two pages will certainly make interesting reading for any of the second team that require inspiration for this week's fixture when Hazel Grove visit New Horwich Park.

As a footnote the firsts suffered another heavy defeat, this time by seven wickets at Mottram, with second team make up Fid taking two of the three wickets. Let's hope that none of the firsts have figured in the Queen's birthday Honours list and so will be otherwise engaged this weekend for the vital trip to Woodley.