All Out In The Dragons' Den
As any Shropshire cricket buff will know, the derby between Wellington and St Georges was once a regular – and heated – fixture on the local calendar.
Nowadays the sides do not meet all that often; but this encounter between 2nds and 4ths still contained hints to the glory days of that old rivalry, like an 80s tribute act or a re-commissioned sit-com.
As is his way, Derick lost the toss and his troops were inserted. From the outset, the St Georges bowlers applied great pressure with their discipline. Duncan Taylor deprived his teammates of the opportunity to hear his infamous flamboyant calling between the wicket when he missed the sixth ball of the day - which unfortunately for him was a straight one. He was followed back to the hut soon after by Bruce Harris for 6. When Derick was out pulling to mid-on, Wellington had plummeted to 25-3.
Ian Murphy briefly threatened a counter-attack. His second shot of the day almost landed him with a manslaughter charge; only a last-ditch parry from the fielder at short cover saved him from some unwelcome facial rearrangement. Wellington's answer to Lenny Henry, Martin Fears, returning to the side after a spell teaching the game to under-privileged children in Uganda, failed to summon the defiant spirit of Idi Amin and fell without scoring.
Luckily for the visitors, Alan Denver is a portrait of reliability. He held his station while the wickets crashed around him. However, when a smart catch at cover ended his vigil at 35, Wellington’s innings was in tatters.
With the score at 60-7, Naz Aktar – usually so cavalier with bat in hand – retreated into his shell. He batted for ten overs without notching a single run in a stupefying period of cricket – during which Fearsy’s African anecdotes could plausibly be considered the best entertainment on offer. However it was plain for all to see that Naz was itching for a big heave-ho – and it was this dim prospect that kept the spectators enthralled. When a spinner finally came on from the top end he could resist no more; swinging like a gate in the wind, he was cleaned up for the lengthiest of naughts.
All of which brought the author to the crease. Having suffered untold stick about his expensive new bat, Dave Ross showed that it did indeed have a middle as he hit an attractive 22 with shots all round mid-wicket. It was an entertaining knock in more ways than one as he was twice struck by errant throws from the St Georges fielders, one of which was launched from all of four feet away. With support late on from Lewis Gough (8*), the pair clawed their side up to the less-than-imposing total of 107.
The visitors knew that they would have to produce something very special to turn the game around. However, there were signs in Naz’s first over that he was up for the fight, beating the bat on more than occasion. He finally got a breakthrough in his third – a snick behind to Denver – while Blackie pitched in with an identical dismissal at the other end.
Naz had the wind at his back and produced a sublime spell of bowling which deserved more than the two wickets he eventually captured. His second was a peach, jagging back in to clip the top of off-stump – breaking the bail in the process.
Despite this, Wellington failed to take the prized wicket of Sean Parkes (37) until Lewis Gough came into the attack and the opener miscued a drive to mid-off. Martin Fears was on hand to trap the catch between his elbow and gut. In the next over another catch went up and was held by Ross, diving athletically at mid-on. The score was now 54-5 and nerves were beginning to fray in the home camp.
Yet Wellington would not take another wicket. Liam Forrester (24) and Matthew Conniffe (22) came together to see St Georges over the line. In the end there were just not enough runs on the board to really apply pressure to the Dragons' lower order. Nevertheless, there were many positives to be taken from a spirited bowling and fielding performance ahead of next week's home fixture against Wem.
Match report by David Ross