When in Richmond , we were destroyed by double centurion Harry Koch in the limited overs showdown but home fortunes and the return of the longer format proved too strong for Koch and his side.
In the top of the table clash, wily spinner Axel Dickson led the way in front of the ever developing and growing Twickers army’ with 4-48 including the vital scalp of Koch for 39 and opener Roy for 72. Dickson was well supported by the other 4 main bowlers as I wasn’t required to roll my arm over for some little twirlers in either innings.
Usually, we have been at similar levels with the ball in our sweaty palms and when we have had the stick in hand but crucially we secured a 60 run advantage spearheaded by skipper Jace Young’s fluent instrumental knock of 93 ably supported by the compact sturdy defence of opener Carter Flynn with 73. My contribution was as brief as the length of my innings 1 off 2 deliveries before nicking off. Nate Knight took my wicket and the bustling left arm bowler was the knight in shining armour collecting 7-43 to cause an unfortunate collapse.
Just when the Richmond resistance and fight back seemed to have sprung into life, it was decimated within the space of a session! Wickets tumbled and were spread pretty evenly as John Barker continued his searing hot form. The marvel Maverick Cook at the age of 31 contributed 3-13 in 4 overs as his off breakers provoked a late innings subside leading to a slender 62 run leverage. Our batting was safe and measured and meant that my recent good 3 day form was not needed as we cruised to a second day victory taking us top of the table.
Our extra day rest granted us the chance to play another round of four ball golf which much like my cricket against Richmond was long yet successful as Mildenhall and I defeated Young and Barker 3&2 to level up the mini series.
We made the 40 minute journey the following day up to the Brent Park Bowl via the A406 and prepared ourselves to go toe to toe with the 50 over leaders. So far, we had lost both of our opening games in the limited overs format and that rot unfortunately continued despite an improved outing.
Young won the toss and inserted the home side which looked initially like a very good decision when Cook dismissed both in form batsman Micah Wesley (36) and Lachlan Lyon (8).
My leg breaks had been expensive with small reward in all competitions but that all changed when I induced a reckless attempt at a slog from other opener Austin Garrett which resulted in his turmoil – stumped by Mildenhall for 34. Despite probing away, middle order batter Hudson Cunningham (129*) slowly manipulated the turn and the bounce to single handily plunder the hosts to 280-7 in their 50 overs. After some tough spells with the orb, I feel like I am getting the ball ripping in the right areas and the 1-21 from 10 was a good sign of that.
Left arm newly Middlesex bowler Muhammad Wiley removed Hempenstall and Lawson in the first over and we were teetering when I joined the crease at 31-3. I decided to slowly get myself in and bat time whilst wickets seemed to fall at the other end. In particular the Wiley led pacers were extracting varying degrees of bounce and swing even after the opening power play and forced me in turn to play more conservatively to rebuild.
With the arrival of Maverick Cook to the crease at 67-4, I tried to up my scoring rate and push more singles and twos to apply some more pressure to the on top fielding side. Cook looked in ominous form which allowed me to settle in with more time to adapt to the fruitful bounce. However, on 29 after a few quick singles, a gap opened up at short third man and despite my best efforts to execute a reverse sweep on numerous occasions, I managed to glove behind to the keeper. It was a disappointing end to my innings but I felt I was forced to showcase attacking intent to provide us an opportunity to push the match deeper.
Chasing 100 off the last 10 with only Mildenhall left as a recognised batsman, the challenge appeared impossible yet Mildenhall dismantled the Brent Park attack launching 65 off 5 overs including 6 maximums. Surely he couldn’t…. and cruelly he didn’t when No.11 John Barker fell to Wiley (4-64) to curtail our innings with a minor 35 run deficit.
From the last T20 super over thriller, captain Young won the toss and elected to pad up first on a inviting pitch for batting. Gael Dunkley’s hectic first game saw him called up to the Middlesex squad so Juan Hempenstall made his T20 debut. After two early losses of the skipper (7) and Lawson (13), Flynn and Hempenstall reached a fifty run partnership to steady the ship. Two runs later though, I was facing the music replacing Flynn (23) looking to prove my worth in the shorter format. Unfortunately, I was quickly involved with the run out of Hempenstall for 28 – not an ideal start.
I was keen to make up for that lapse in judgment and I was determined to value you my wicket and be the batsman to take the innings deep to enable the more attacking minded players the chance to express their shots. Cook showed glimpses of that in his 14 before his failed attempt at a dive pushing for 2 spelt his downfall. Keeper and golf partner Mildenhall joined me and instantly the tempo was increased as the runs steadily flowed.
Once I passed my run a ball 20, I felt better at the crease and promptly whacked two fours through mid wicket adding to the stack of runs being plundered by Mildenhall. With two overs to go, I went ultra aggressive to try and accumulate as many runs as possible however it backfired with my off pole flying through the air. I didn’t need to worry as Mildenhall (37* off 15) and Tristan Hunter (20* off 9) pumped us up to a ominous looking 190.
Hampstead had other ideas and attacked from ball 1 dismissing all of our frontline bowlers into the car park over and over again. The introduction of spin with myself and Axel Dickson turned the tide of the match when Dickson had set batsman Lachlan Williams (47 off 29) and Parker Hester (59 off 47) caught Cook and trapped lbw. 105-0 turned to 116-2.
116-2 changed to 183-3 in the 16th over as I eventually induced Eli Andrews (35 from 19) out of his crease stumped safely by Mildenhall to cause some small panic in the Hampstead dressing room. They didn’t have to worry though as off my bowling in the 18.3 over, Hudson Wallace counter attacking 36* guided the opposition to a comfortable victory.
To lose all 3 of our shorter format matches in both competitions is bitterly disappointing especially after our amazing performances in the 3 day season. Personally, I am starting to find my feet in the limited overs format as the anchor man who can bowl some handy overs when needed. I am enjoying my journey and the varying challenges I land into in the club cricket circuit.