The 3rd XI were dismissed for just 67 at Shrewsbury in reply to the home side's 200-7.
Wellington arrived at SCAT – home of Shrewsbury 3rds – in high spirits on Saturday. David Ross had been able to select a strong side for this one and was hopeful of securing a final victory of his captaincy interregnum before tossing the keys back to regular skipper Pitchy next week. Meanwhile, his troops were in good humour: Ian Murphy was celebrating his 31st birthday; whilst the revelation that Pat Howells had woken up with a mysterious tattoo (a number “32” in a love-heart on his ankle) after a heavy night out during the week had left everyone amused.
The SCAT pitch isn't a shirtfront on the best of days. With heavy rains having fallen on the uncovered wicket on Friday, this would be a trying game to say the least. In fact, even the most hardy of Glastonbury revellers would have been deterred from straying too far across the wet, muddy playing surface. Meanwhile, there was an unusual hazard at one end of the wicket, where a rabbit had burrowed into the crease and erased one of the stump holes. Before play could begin, a fielder was dispatched to a nearby flowerbed to gather some topsoil to fill in the void so that a stump could be supported.
It had become clear to the Wellington boys that this would be no ordinary game of cricket. In fact, by the end of the day, the skipper regretted not following the rabbit’s lead and burying his head in the Shrewsbury mud. Had he done so, he wouldn't have had to witness the tragicomic annihilation of his side on the London Road.
Hope – all great tragedies begin with it, and Saturday was no different. Having won the toss and chosen to bowl, the Wellington side was optimistic that they could make the most of the soft pitch conditions to restrict Shrewsbury to a low score. How disappointed they would be.
Alex Taylor – promoted from wicketkeeper to opening bowler in the space of two weeks – achieved a breakthrough with the score on 32. Despite that, Shrewsbury had found it too easy in the first few overs; Wellington weren't making the most of the conditions by bowling too short, allowing the batsmen to capitalise on the tennis-ball bounce on the back-foot. Ross and Lewis Gough were brought into the attack to see if the spinners would have more joy – and they initially did, putting the breaks on in the overs leading up to drinks, which were taken with the score on 54-1.
Had Wellington’s catching been sharper, they may well have taken control of the game in this period. As it was, it was pretty diabolical: the team shelled nine clear-cut chances throughout the innings. (Not counting, ‘keeper Matt Denver’s skier, which he calmly positioned himself three feet behind!) Amongst this, Shrewsbury opener Michael Gerrard, who hit 113, was put down four times by his forgiving opponents. Of course, it wasn’t just poor catching that allowed the hosts to amass nearly 150 runs after tea. There was some questionable bowling as well. In particular, the number of full tosses doled out in such conditions was unforgivable. Had it not been for some good ground fielding and throwing – there were three run outs – Wellington would have been chasing even more than the 200 they were set.
Opener Pat Howells had a point to prove with the bat having dropped Gerrard early on in his innings – a bit of a howler by his own admission. It hadn’t been a great few days for him, truth be told, and his new tattoo wasn’t even the worst of it. Owing to a laundry issue in the Howells’ household, his whites had picked up a blue tint during the week. There’s a time and a place for the stonewashed denim look, and the cricket field quite simply isn’t it. Pat capped off his week by tamely lobbing one up to mid-off in the second over. “I had several jobs to do today, and I did them all terribly,” he later confessed.
Pat’s opening partner was Tom Masters, who has made it his mission to play in every side at Wellington CC in one season, having already ticked off the 1sts, 2nds and 6ths. This week it was the 3rd team’s turn to have him. He looked well set, but then a ball shot through ankle-high from back of a length and castled him. It was the crucial wicket for the hosts and opened up the floodgates.
Wellington then lost three wickets in the space of just one over. First to go was Charles Harrison, who picked the wrong ball to have a dart at. This brought Ian Murphy to the crease at Number Five; shackled by the two ducks he has registered since his gardening leave, he looked understandably nervous. But this was his birthday; surely Lady Luck couldn’t be so cruel as to deal him another no-score today? Well yes, and some: the third ball of his innings careered into Smurph’s box and, whilst he struggled to get his breath back, he was adjudged LBW. He left the field with disappointment written large across his face – and his helmet, which he smashed to smithereens in his ill temper. Everyone else found it pretty funny.
On the sidelines Alex Taylor attempted to comfort Murph by telling him how he had once notched up the “Olympic Rings” – a series of five consecutive ducks. Christ knows what Ian will do to himself/his kit if he goes on to emulate that achievement. But why, you may ask, was Alex – batting at Six – sat on the sides consoling poor Murph when he should have been out there batting? Well, he’d already been and gone, following up last week’s magnificent hundred with a golden blob this time around.
Youngsters Matt Denver and Corey Karnage proceeded to bat manfully, but at 22-5 this one was already gone. Ultimately, the former fell to another ball that shot through unexpectedly. Meanwhile, the C-Bomb was playing with gay abandon and top-scored with 22 before mistiming one.
You might think by now this miserable story was nearing its conclusion, but Wellington’s humiliation was still a work in progress. Alex Harris was batting nicely with Jonathan Black when he drove one back hard and straight. It hit the bowler and cannoned into the stumps, running out his hapless partner at the non-striker’s end. Next, the Captain entered the fray. He was relieved when he managed to keep out a shooter that yorked him on the second bounce; but his reprieve was short lived as the ball ricocheted off his pad and rolled back into his timbers. Sometimes laughter is the only answer in times of adversity, and this episode of bad luck brought the house down. Wellington were dismissed for just 67 runs.
Thankfully Steve Pitchford is now back to full health and will lead out his side once more against Corvedale next week. Like a parent who has been away on holiday and left his teenage son in charge, he will return to find his house in a state of complete disorder. Over the shattered remains of Murph’s helmet, he must restore some discipline to his young side after a sorely felt defeat.
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