Normans Conquered at the Home of Baseball
By Matt Nichols
League leaders beaten in epic run chase. A surprisingly cheery Councillor The Scorer reports
If I had tried to place a bet on this game, I would not have got a price on a Normandy win. This was the mismatch of the season with top of the table Normandy (six wins, one winning draw and 137 points) against the bottom placed club Walton (one win, 6 defeats, 28 points and only one point in the last 3 matches). To make matters worse, as soon as it was clear that hot weather was expected, Ben Monk popped his ever-mobile shoulder out and swiftly pulled on his sling. Possible strategies for the match included a rain dance, conversion of Ashley Park to agricultural purposes and using the ground as a film set – the last one was actually attempted during the afternoon. If you are of strong constitution, the resulting film can be found here.
However, the Gods of cricket had an alternative view and sent down the chosen one, St Mark of Bainbridge, the Patron Saint of Spin, to restore hope to the faithful.
The day dawned with clear skies and a promise of the hottest day of the year. But could Dan Roberts manage to win a toss? Of course not. Normandy took the first bit of luck going and didn’t need to be W G Grace to know that batting was the right option. Walton were condemned to a long session in the field under the blazing sun. I am sure that Normandy thought that any score of under 300 would be something of a failure, even though they suspected 150 would be too many for Walton, based on recent batting performances (130, 98, 137 and 145).
The Normandy batting line-up was below full strength with several top order batsmen missing, but they were known to have a depth of batting. The Walton opening bowlers started well, beating the bat several times but not getting any luck. After 11 overs Normandy were 45 for no wicket with runs coming mostly from edges with only a couple of short balls thrown in. Jack Dominy bowled the 12th over and picked up a caught behind third ball, and the following over Dan proved that all the catching practice wasn’t a complete waste of time holding onto one at slip off Matt Nichols – 49 for 2.
Given the sunny day and the nature of the wicket and outfield, it was to be expected that runs would be hard to stop and Normandy progressed serenely on to 88 for 2 after 18 overs. At this stage the glorious sight of Mark Bainbridge was seen for the first time this season. His first two overs were not treated with the correct respect by the batsmen, who had the audacity to score two boundaries. In his third over a batsman bowed to the inevitable and the first Bainbridge LBW and a wicket maiden was duly recorded (106 for 3). Mark continued unchanged for the rest of the innings finishing with 4 for 53 from 22 overs with 8 maidens – form is temporary but class is permanent. Two more wickets were taken, one by “Emailing the Opposition to tell them that he’s the danger man” Dan Roberts, and one for Harrison Perry, as Normandy declared on 234 after 61 overs.
This was a really good all-round performance by Walton, but the wicket was not an easy one to score on against good bowling. Normandy are generally reckoned to have the best bowling attack in the league, and on Saturday they were pretty much at full strength. It would be true to say that Normandy were confident as they went out to field , and expected to be able to bowl Walton out in the 59 overs available to them. The initial indications were not good for Walton as Jamie Mann was bowled by a jaffa second ball of the innings – the first one had been a no ball. Dan smashed three dynamic fours and then skied a short ball to leave Walton at 27 for 2. At this stage everything was pretty close to normal for Walton.
Will Arkell and Harrison put on 36 together, with Will scoring 30 of these in his usual direct style with seven fours leaving Walton at 63 for 3 after 13 overs. James Madoc-Jones (10) got what looked like a very interesting LBW with the score on 85. There followed the best partnership of the season between Harrison and Matt Harris which put on 89 runs with both contributing 40. Matt hit a few balls very hard before falling to Normandy’s left arm spinner – a sort of trainee Baino. The score was now 174 for 5 after 43 overs – so 61 needed off 16 overs.
I have said almost nothing about Harrison’s batting so far, but in reality he was the backbone of the innings, having opened for the first time. Okay he was dropped a couple of times but he stuck at it against a serious bowling attack and was finally sixth out for 61 – only the second Walton half century of the season. The baton was thereby passed to the renowned “finisher” (desperately boring batsman) Matt Nichols to see the team home. There then followed one of the best zero scores that I can remember from Joey Abbot as Normandy threw everything at the Walton tail. Baino came in at nine and nudged the ball onto the off side for a very steady 10 – 209 for 8 – 26 needed from 5 overs. The game really was hanging in the balance.
Cometh the hour cometh the man – Jamie Aldridge. Normandy had never seen Jamie bat and as a consequence did not populate cow corner. The start of Jamie’s scorecard looked as follows: …4..414 – game over for all practical purposes. Jamie finished with 19 and Matt with 27, made with less exuberance.
This was a much improved performance with four batsmen getting past 25 and playing the conditions far better than in the last three weeks. This approach and the confidence gained must be carried into next week’s game.
A couple of thoughts. Could someone make sure that Baino is kept away from electric cutting tools and sharp implements and Dan needs to practice predicting the outcome of the toss.