Tayl Of The Unexpected
Wellington secured a 284-run victory over Shifnal on a sultry afternoon that will live long in the memory.
Steve Pitchford’s team racked up a mind-boggling 419-1 (dec) in just 37 overs in a surreal encounter with near neighbors Shifnal. Hell, you couldn’t get that sort of score on Brian Lara Cricket ‘05 – even with the cheats on. Ben Gould went berserk and bludgeoned 223; Alex Taylor scythed his way to 159 not out. It was relentless. By the end of the day, Shifnal’s Weston Park ground had ceased to be a cricket venue; it was a crime scene.
Wellington’s skipper made a brave call at the toss when he opted to bat first (given that that course of action backfired so spectacularly against Corvedale three weeks ago). Some of his teammates felt he might have been better advised to bowl first; but Pitchy was adamant. He was right, of course.
Gouldy and Al were given strict instructions by the skipper to proceed with caution in the opening stages and build a solid base for the team. They were as good as their word in the first over, which was a maiden. However, they soon got bored with this approach and instead began their own longest drive competition. By the first scheduled drinks break on 15 overs, the score was on 150-0. Both men had already brought up their half centuries, each with a six.
It soon became apparent that we might just witness something special here. The pitch at Weston was flat, the outfield was rapid, and the boundary to the one side was temptingly short. The early barrage visibly demoralized Shifnal’s young and inexperienced team; meanwhile, the mercury continued to rise on a stiflingly hot Shropshire afternoon.
Alex and Gouldy might have been scoring at 10 runs an over, but in truth they were just getting started. Between overs 15 and 30, they added a further 206 runs. By this point Ben was dealing almost entirely in fours and sixes in an increasingly aerial barrage. It was ruthless stuff; even the state of Israel doesn’t use force this unsparingly. He notched up the individual milestones of 100, then 150, then 200, seemingly without pausing for breath; meanwhile Wellington’s scorer George Topper – struggling manfully to keep his book in order – began to complain that his arm was aching from all the waving.
The rest of the Wellington boys watched on in amazement from the sidelines as the mayhem played out. Then Bruce Harris pitched up with a box of ice-lollies to share out: this was rapidly becoming the best day ever. Only Matt Denver, the side’s number three and renowned glass-half-fuller, could have cause for complaint as pad-rash began to take hold. (Little did he know that when he finally would get in, Pitchy would declare almost immediately.) Also in the category of had-better-days was Sam Topper, who was minding his own business when he had a chocolate doughnut shoved in his face by his captain. It’s precisely this sort of child abuse that got Pitchy the sack from the Wacky Warehouse many years ago.
Ben Gould had hit 223 off 103 balls, including 27 fours and 10 sixes, when his innings finally came to an end. However, even the blistering quality of the knock didn’t prevent one of the Shifnal youngsters laughing when he finally chopped one on to his stumps. Was this the most audacious send-off in cricketing history? It was 388-1 now.
Alex might have looked like Geoffrey Boycott compared to Gouldy, but his unbeaten 159 came off just 104 balls in itself. He wasn’t shy of the aerial stuff either. At one point he launched a maximum into the vicinity of an arriving BMW; the driver hastily had to flick it into reverse to avoid the incoming missile. Al dragged the team up past 400 with Matt Denver (2*), before Pitchy called for the declaration, opting to have 8 more overs at Shifnal’s batters.
Of course, Wellington’s mammoth total would count for little if it didn’t earn them a full 24 points. The team needed to refocus; they knew Shifnal would set up to try and frustrate them. Thankfully Pilko got things off to a great start when he snicked off Richard Gough, who was caught one-handed by a surprised and momentarily excited Denver. There was then a run-out, which accounted for the other opener.
Shantanu Golar (34), batting in his sunnies, took the fight back to Wellington, playing a shot a ball from the outset. He was successful at first, but it was surely only a matter of time before he took one risk too many. Soon enough Alex Harris found the edge and Shifnal were three down.
Ed Home (35) and Simon Rumble (23) then came together to frustrate Wellington in a lengthy partnership. Spinner Dave Ross tried to convince the hosts that they could get 400 off his loose bowling, but they were wise to the scheme and the resistance continued. With 30 overs gone, the hosts were still just three down. Wellington needed a hero.
Pitchy tossed the ball to Alex Taylor, who had enough left in his legs to have a trundle. In just his second over he cleaned up Home and thereafter ran through the Shifnal tail on his way to 5-17 to cap a fine afternoon. Besides the inspired bowling change, Wellington’s catching was superb in these final stages as Pitchy crowded the bat: despite his best efforts to get his hands out of the way, Jonny Black clung on to a bullet at cover; Ben Gould reacted sharply to hold a chance at silly point; and then, for the final wicket, Alex dived and clung on one-handed at short cover to seal the game.
Shifnal were all out for 135, which meant Wellington secured a club record 284-run victory. It would be wrong to say this was a stunning team display, as most of the batters got nowhere near their pads all afternoon. Rather it was a game characterized by a couple of brilliant individual performances. With 159 not out, a five-fer and a superb match-winning catch: Alex Taylor will have worse games of cricket than this. Spare a thought though for Gouldy, who hit a double ton on the day, but still wasn’t the man-of-the-match.
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