By David Ross
Captain Steve Pitchford returned from his two-week summer break to lead his 3rd team charges against Montgomery on Saturday.
Wellington’s skipper had clearly had a wonderful time in Greece as his team-mates battled away at Church Stretton last week. In fact, whilst the lads had been putting hard-earned points on the board, their leader had been living the high life, even treating himself to a fancy new watch, which appears to be made entirely of Mecano.
Upon his return, Pitchy’s bright red, glowing face - more Tianjin than tan - helped to explain why he’d spent the last two weeks sat indoors Facebooking his vice-skipper about team selection and re-tweeting Southampton transfer rumours.
Wellington lined up with arguably their strongest side of the season this week, with Dicko, Gouldy, the skipper and Harry Gaughan joined by Simmo and Pat, who both turned out for the 2nds seven days prior.
Avid readers might remember that in the reverse fixture the Dragons won the toss, chose to bat, and were promptly dismissed for just 53. That policy having worked so well, the visiting skipper repeated the trick on Saturday: calling correctly and sticking his lads in.
It looked like a similar routing might be in the offing when Monty were reduced to 6 for 2 inside the first four overs. Firstly, Stroppy Jack found an early outside edge, which whistled through to Simmo for a simple catch. Then, Sam Topper, who found a sizeable amount of movement hooped one in and the catch ballooned to Pitchy at short-mid-wicket.
Topper was making it talk like his brother George, creating so many chances with his in-swingers that Pitchy eventually settled on a “hipster” field - comprising two short mid-wickets, a square leg and a leg gully. It was not long before the third wicket was down, caught by Dicko at the straighter of the two mid-wickets - a dismissal that came as no real surprise to anyone.
Three down for less than 20, Montgomery battled through a difficult opening period, but it never felt like another wicket was too far away. First change Ryan Lloyd continued his fine recent form by claiming the fourth victim, who prodded one up to Gouldy at gully.
Pitchy then turned to the spinners, who once again did an effective job of wrapping up the innings. David Ross began by removing the dangerous Sam Williams (27), LBW, and from there wickets fell regularly to both himself (4 for 41) and Lewis Gough (2 for 29).
The Monty innings was wrapped up when Goughy claimed his second wicket, caught by Pat Howells who held on well over his shoulder as he peddled backwards, depriving Fishy of his much-desired second spell.
With Montgomery dismissed for 123, Steve Pitchford - team captain and legendary word-smith - gathered everyone in the changing room at the break and expressed his delight at a “very excellent” performance.
Sam Topper continued in the opener’s berth after a solid display last week and was joined at the crease by Harold Bishop, who struck a rapid 50 against this opposition earlier in the season.
The Wellington pair navigated the first 10 overs before Gouldy top-edged a long-hop straight up into the air. The bowler’s celebration seemed to wind up the usually placid opener and a brief confrontation followed - but thankfully the situation was quickly diffused. In any case, square-leg umpire Fishy wasn't surprised Ben had snapped: apparently the Monty fielders had been sledging him “lowwuds.”
Dicko joined Sam at the middle and the pair made serene progress towards the small target until just after drinks, when Wellington were rocked by the loss of four wickets for just eight runs. First to go was Topper for 36, before Matty Simmonds, Pat Howells and Gaughany all went quickly.
That collapse meant Pitchy came to the crease with an awkward 40 needed and five wickets at Wellington’s disposal. The skipper certainly pushed his luck, being dropped to easy chances twice - perhaps the fielders lost the ball in his face? - before surviving a botched run-out chance.
However with Dicko well-set and untroubled at the other end, Wellington weathered the storm, losing Pitchy with just a handful needed before notching up a crucial four-wicket win.
Wellington’s victory puts them back into the promotion places with five games left. They will be looking to make it three wins in a row when they travel to Bishops Castle next Saturday.