Wellington Pass ‘Smere Test
Chris Sheperd’s third century of the season set Wellington on the course for victory against Ellesmere in his side’s final home game of 2013.
Match report by David Ross
Shep’s mammoth knock of 137 came off just 110 balls and included 28 fours. However, if these stats create the impression that this was an innings of complete control and fluid stroke-play, it is a misleading one.
Arriving at the ground shortly before midday, after two heavy days away with the lads in Leeds, Wellington’s opening batter looked like something that had just turned up at the Betty Ford Center. After a quick pre-match shower, he assured everyone he was okay to play - but his noxious breath and regular dry heaving told a different story.
Shep required a full 26 balls to get off the mark as he tried to fight off the night before. Meanwhile, his opening partner, Si Topper (a last minute replacement for the unwell Rachael Howells), began with consummate ease, playing some fine shots. Finally though, Shep joined in on the act. It was worth the wait; the score began to rocket. Simon fell just before drinks for a well-made 38, with the score already an imposing 140-1.
This brought a flurry of wickets. Alex Taylor (last week’s number 8, this week’s number 3) looked to maintain the momentum, but he was too hasty, boshing his fifth ball up into the grey sky, dropping into the hands of a grateful fielder. Youngster Alex Harris played two lovely shots through the covers, but sadly had no answer to an excellent yorker. Skipper Steve Pitchford then came to the crease, but his too was a brief visit. He somehow managed to flick a ball that was scuttling well down the leg side onto his off-stump, an impressive piece of footwork.
Ian Murphy joined the tiring Shep in the middle just as he registered his century. Together the pair put on a rapid 69, before the centurion was finally dismissed. Smurph, who by his own admission reserves his best form for September, did a good job of marshalling the tail, getting his score up to 53 and his team to an imposing 289-9 off 45 overs.
Over tea, Shep declared that he would be unable to keep wicket as he had cramp in his hand, apparently from ‘gripping the bat too hard’ during his innings. His teammates pondered what had really gone on during this bender in Leeds. Looking around for replacements, only Murph and Alex could claim any sort of keeping experience. In cricketing terms, this was like choosing a Best Man from a shortlist of the Chuckle Brothers. As it happened, Smurph won out, ensuring the lads an afternoon of entertainment if nothing else.
‘Paper Ankles’ Ben Pilkington (3-15) charged in with the new ball and, true to current form, got two early breakthroughs: one caught and bowled (at mid-wicket); the other a sharp delivery spliced to Alex Taylor’s reliable hands at gully. Ben’s new ball partner, Sammy Topper, all tuckered out after his first week at big school, mustered enough strength to claim a wicket for himself, caught clumsily by Pitchy at mid-off.
Bespectacled spinner David Ross (4-28) might have felt it would be his day when his very first ball – a low full toss – was chipped up tamely, again to Pitchy. Two balls later, he’d found his length, and swooped to take a caught and bowled chance low at his feet to the rapturous celebrations of his teammates.
Five wickets down, Ellesmere offered a period of resistance that frustrated the Wellington spinners. However, the batsmen made no impression on the run chase. In fact, most of the runs were being delivered through the teflon gloves of the home team’s stand-in wicketkeeper.
Yet Wellington’s patience was rewarded. In just two overs after drinks, the side propelled themselves to the brink of victory. Murph demonstrated some surprisingly good glove-work to execute a stumping after Owais had beaten the outside edge; meanwhile, at the other end, Rossco again conjured up two wickets in three balls – and for Ellesmere the game was up.
One of the only issues to be decided was whether Ross would crown his afternoon with a five-fer; however, two routine drops from the hapless Murphy put paid to that nascent jug of Fosters. Eventually, Wellington got the job done with wickets from Owais and the returning Pilkers (ct. Murphy).
Wellington cemented third position in Division Two with this comprehensive victory. That’s an improvement of one place over their 2012 finish. With this achievement firmly in the bag, the side travel to Grove next week, excited to discover who will be turning out for the Lashings of Shropshire league cricket.