Thirds The Kings Of The Castle
David Ross's 6-14 inspire Wellington's Thirds to a much-needed win away at Bishops Castle.
In September 1989, England’s footballers travelled to Sweden needing a point to qualify for the World Cup. They achieved their goal with a 0-0 draw. Yet history remembers the game better for one iconic image, that of Terry Butcher, white shirt drenched in blood, smiling manically at the final whistle. It is a photograph that has gone down in English footballing folklore, deemed to symbolize the fighting spirit of our nation.
No truly great sports team can prosper without a Butcher in their ranks. Every side needs a street fighter, who will put his body on the line in pursuit of victory for his team, for whom pain is just a state of mind. On Saturday, Wellington 3rds had Alex Taylor.
His heroics will go down in the annals of Wellington CC history. Having top-edged a delivery straight into his own face, he left the field dazed and with claret pouring out of a wound on his chin. However, not 20 minutes later, he returned to the crease, vaselined up, whites covered in blood, and delivered his side’s first victory in six weeks.
Bishops Castle is Wellington’s longest away trip this season. However, the side couldn’t enjoy the ride this Saturday. Given their recent run of bad form, and the stop-start nature of this rain-affected season, this was an important game and a victory to be won. Thankfully, Rosco was able to pick a strong side and was confident his troops could deliver. For a start, he was able to recall his Vice Captain, Ian Murphy, who had found room in his hectic gardening schedule for a game of cricket. Meanwhile, the side was bolstered with a triumvirate of Commonwealth talent as Zimbabweans Charles Harrison and Bruce Harris lined up alongside Jack “New Guy” Howard, an Australian gap student making his debut for the club.
Wellington once again won the toss and chose to bowl first on a green wicket. Amazingly this was Bishops Castle’s first home game of the season, all the others having succumbed to the weather. However, whilst it seemed this would be a game dominated by bowlers, Bishops Castle got off to a terrific start with the willow, skipper Richard Plant (34) bullishly taking the game to the visitors.
Concern was written large across Wellington faces before Sam Topper came up with two quick wickets to get his side back in the game, removing the dangerous Plant and his fellow opener. After a couple of loose early deliveries, the young opener had discovered a beautiful rhythm and was duly rewarded. It was a welcome turnaround in a day that had begun with him packing his younger brother George’s whites rather than his own. They were a poor fit. As such, our opening bowler spent the afternoon charging in looking like a cross between Stuart Broad and Simon Cowell.
Wellington’s bowling soon attained the required level of discipline with David Ross continuing Topper’s good work at one end and Arex Hallis entering the fray at the other. Pressure began to mount and was reinforced by Charles Harrison, who diligently counted the overall tally of dot balls after every delivery. In fact, he has an incredible knack for calculating statistics during the game – a Rhodesian Rachel Riley, if you will – which left his captain wondering why he was bothering to pay Pitchy as a specialist scorer. Next week, we may just ask Charles to write down all the scores at tea, which he seemingly could do with Rain Man accuracy.
Rosco got a breakthrough in his second over and began a 12-over spell of tweakers that yielded six wickets for just 14 runs and put Wellington in control of the game. Nevertheless, Charles Harrison remained difficult to impress. “That was a terrible ball, Dave!” he blasted when the skipper erred from his usual length. What was required was extra flight and guile, or at least that was what was understood by “Show us your wobbler!”
Jonathan Black dovetailed with Ross and took two quick wickets as Bishops Castle collapsed after drinks to 107 all out. However, given Wellington’s record in run-chases this term and the bowler-friendly nature of the wicket, this job was far from finished.
Sam Topper opened the batting, which meant he could at last hide those white peddle-pushers under his pads. Only briefly though as he fell for just 4 runs; and Ian Murphy (0) didn’t last any longer. From 10-2, Wellington needed to rebuild. Enter Charles Harrison, whose counter-attacking instincts relieved a little pressure, but sent his captain into palpations on the sidelines. His fellow countryman Bruce Harris twacked a couple of boundaries to keep the scoreboard moving from the other end, before he fell to an excellent stumping with the total on 25.
Charles Harrison and Alex Taylor combined to sensibly push Wellington to within 40 runs of victory at drinks but then, just as the team had achieved a degree of comfort, the situation swung around completely. Firstly, Charles took the bait and hit the first ball of spin down the throat of deep square-leg, departing for a well-made 32. Then, at the other end, Alex conspired to hit the ball into his own Cannock and the game was stopped. On rushed Ian Murphy to offer his first aid expertise, but to no ends. Taylor had to be retired and patched up off the field, and so Arex Hallis was called into bat to replace him.
Debutant Jack Howard was left ruing his luck when his first attacking shot was caught brilliantly, unexpectedly and low-down by the bowler. His exit though set the scene for the patched-up Taylor (35*) to return to the crease with 33 runs still required for victory. Under pressure from the Bishops Castle bowlers, they were able to pick off the bad balls when they came and complete the run chase with minimal fuss. Arex Hallis (17*) saw it home with his first-ever six – to the delight of his teary-eyed father, Bruce – and then a four.
Wellington can take a lot out of this game – aside from the puerile jokes about Alex’s gash. It was the first time this season that they have married disciplined bowling and mature batting in one game: long may that combination continue.
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