After all the rain this week, we arrived at Winchmore Hill looking forward to get back onto the field and to a good local derby! And, after a run of four defeats, looking forward to getting some points on the board in the timed format.
Despite the wet weather, the pitch looked good and it was a toss that we were probably happy to lose - the Hill put us into bat. James "Dolph/Hawk" Hawksworth and "Hot" Rod Martin opened up with a solid partnership (37) before Rod fell to a full toss, hitting it straight to mid-on - visibly frustrated as he walked off. Captain Baxter joined Hawksworth in the middle and both looked strong, rotating the strike well and capitalising on loose balls when they came. Both were able to score regularly and James moved passed 50, looking very comfortable in the middle, before reaching 100 off 122 balls - his second hundred in three weeks (four consecutive scores of 50+). Unfortunately, he fell the very next ball trying to accelerate, and Baxter fell soon after for a very good 46.
With two new batsmen at the crease, Winchmore Hill look energised and a fourth wicket quickly followed - Tom Horne snicking behind for 1. James Quinlan joined Arthur Ebbs in the middle needing to drag back Winchmore Hill's momentum. After keeping things quiet for 7 overs, Quinlan too fell - bowled for 9. This brought Matt Ellis to the crease - making his 2nd XI debut after recently finishing his exams. Matt (32* off 28) and Arthur (46* off 44) proceeded to score quickly, without offering chances, putting on 69 in the last 10 overs and taking us to a very strong 254-5 from 50 overs.
After the batting performance, we knew that we'd still need to bowl well to get anything from the game. We started reasonably well but Winchmore Hill's openers looked fairly comfortable, before Quinlan got a breakthrough - caught by Rod at mid-on. With the seamers not getting a lot of return, after that, Baxter turned to his centurion.
Hawksworth immediately tightened things up from his end, and the Hill batsmen struggled to score from him. With them trying to push things along, Hawk grabbed a wicket, helped by a superb one-handed grab by Baxter at short mid-on. Wickets fell at regular intervals after that, Hawksworth getting all of them until the Hill were 7 down. With the umpires calling last hour, it looked like they were going to try to play out for the draw and were successfully keeping out are best efforts. Baxter continued to change the bowling to see if that might disrupt their concentration but to no avail.
With the overs running low, it looked like we might end up settling for a winning draw. However, the last hour rule proved vital. Despite the scoreboard saying 3 overs left, we actually had 20 minutes left of our final hour - meaning we could bowl as many overs as we could in that time. Something that would prove vital.
After a short return for the seamers, Baxter went back to spin - bringing the Hawk and himself back on. A short burst of rain meant that the ball was skidding slightly off the dampened surface. With just a few overs left, Baxter got a breakthrough, giving us renewed hope of a potential dramatic victory. That hope was then doubled the next ball as he got a second LBW - suddenly the Hill were 9 down! With their number 6, 55 not out at one end, we knew that it would still be tough to get that final wicket and as they played out the final two, scheduled, overs it started to look like we might have done as much as we could.
We passed into the 101st over. Team-mates attempted to bring on gloves for the batsmen. There were calls for the game to be over. We reset. Hawksworth bowling. Their number 6 - 56 not out - on strike. A full delivery. A front-foot prod. Snick. Baxter takes a one-handed grab at first slip. Cue absolute scenes!
The standout performer of the day was undoubtedly James Hawksworth who finished with 100 and 7-44 (17.1 overs), but real credit to every member of the team who stuck at it and were positive throughout. The magnificent team-spirit continues to grow.
It was a day that will live long in the memory!