Skipper's Homework Pays Off For 3rds
Wellington 3rds showed bags of character to come through a difficult run-case against Church Stretton.
Ryan Lloyd - back in the team in place of the absent Ben Keeble - led the Wellington attack after Pitchy had again won the toss. The youngster’s one wicket was scant reward for a fiery opening spell, which saw the dangerous Stretton opener Saif Khalid twice dropped in the field. Nevertheless, he did capture his partner Ben Crump, caught and bowled; and when skipper Peter Lee was run-out brilliantly by Ben Pilkington soon after, Wellington had got off to a pretty solid start.
However this good work threatened to come undone when wicketkeeper Matty Simmonds was forced to give up the gloves after injuring his finger. To an almost universal groan, Ian Murphy left the field to collect his own keeping kit to stand-in. Thankfully the Wellington boys made use of the brief interlude to persuade the skipper that this would be a disaster and instead the gloves were passed on to Bruce. In what turned out to be a close finish, it may well have been a match-winning intervention.
Opener Khalid was dropped once more, this time off the bowling of Jack Fishman. Frustrated, the Wellington players began to wonder whether this would be one of those days, as several other airborne shots had also found gaps. But soon enough, the Stretton man’s luck ran out, and he holed-out off Pilks for 26.
His departure was the cue for the entrance of Martin Nicholls, a player who captain Steve Pitchford apparently knew well from previous fixtures. Pitchy left his teammates under no illusion: his would be a difficult and crucial wicket to take, given that he was a very cautious batter - a “Steady Eddie” in the skipper’s words. As the game resumed, the Wellington players watched on in amazement as the batsman in question went for an almighty hoik off his very first delivery, slicing one over point for four. As swings go, this one was of SNP proportions, and it ensures that no one will ever listen to Pitchy again, which is worrying, given he’s the captain.
Wellington began to assert control over the game with David Ross (3 for 35 off 15 overs) keeping the pressure on from one end. As the visitors tried to increase the tempo, wickets began to tumble, amongst them two further run-outs. “Pistorius” Pilkington might’ve been down on his knees, but he demonstrated remarkable aim to claim his second run-out of the day; then Jack Fishman brought things to a close in the last over as the visitors were dismissed for 155.
Church Stretton’s total was bolstered by James Evans’ gritty 42 not out and a rather generous helping of 38 extras; however there was confidence that, on a true pitch, Wellington would be able to chase it down.
The home side’s reply got off to a rocky start after Bruce Harris - a chest-thumping centurion last week - was dismissed first pill this time around. Not that much blame could be attached to the batsman, who absolutely smashed the ball back in the direction of the bowler who, in turn, had no option but to catch it, else it would have taken his head clean off. After fellow opener Sam Topper was removed - also caught and bowled - Wellington were reduced to 8 for 2. Suddenly their 156 target seemed a long way off.
The Wellington batsmen were struggling to cope with a strong Stretton opening pair. Corey Kernick (18) and Matty Simmonds (17) steadied the ship for the hosts with some cautious stroke-play and good running, before falling in quick succession.
After that little wobble Pitchy and Smurph dug in admirably to get the innings back on track and take the score past a hundred. However Wellington never lose a wicket without losing another one straight after, so if anyone thought the team was now home and hosed, they were badly mistaken. When Pitchy feathered a jaffer behind and top-scorer Murphy (31) missed out on a long-hop (so badly, in fact, that it bowled him), the tides were turned dramatically. The team needed another 55 with only the young lower order there to get them.
Ryan Lloyd released some pressure by smashing four quick boundaries on his way to a crucial 23, before being bowled by Stretton skipper Lee. Enter Jack Fishman (24*) and Jonny Black (12*), who diligently compiled the remaining 35 runs to get their side over the line in another tense finish, which comes off the back of that opening day nail-biter against Welshpool.
Particularly impressive was Fishy who appeared to revel in the situation. He defied Pitchy’s gestures to calm down (or, be a “Steady Eddie”) by playing shot after shot. In the game’s defining moment, the 15-year-old smashed a huge six into the woods with just seven required and sent the watching crowd into raptures. The bowler stood there, incredulous. “You won’t bowl there again will you, sunshine?” offered Fishy.
And so Wellington got over the line and their dream start to the season continues. That’s four successive league victories. This one though was arguably their most impressive. Even under pressure the batsmen continued to take the game to the opposition, refusing to go into their shell. It was this aggression that won them the match and they’ll be looking for more of the same next week at Montgomery.