With a weary Biff having just stepped off a long haul flight, an unexpected 3rd act of the Newland Captaincy story was occasioned with the usual skip taking a back seat to recover and reminisce about Antipodean Whale watching . Act 1 had been a plucky draw against Ansty and act 2 a glorious last over win against W G Gracefully. Would an emergency fixture against Southwick Wanderers (stepping into a Selmeston shaped fixture hole) continue the upward trajectory?
Plumpton College pitch, but a stone’s throw from the Mighty Greys premier training facility (to the surprise of number of Greysman, totally unaware of its existence), was to be the setting; An even but slightly overgrown wicket surrounded by a similarly overgrown outfield, flanked on one side by the verdant Downs and on the other by a cornucopia of horse transportation solutions. A stiff Westerly breeze blew diagonally across the pitch.
The format was to be village, the toss was won and the TMGs would bat first. Biff and Jerry weathered some lively but occasionally wayward bowling from Southwick’s Baker until Biff was bowled for 11 in the ninth over with the score on 36. Sadly Dom’s 4th ball was caught off the bowling of the other opener, Field. This was to be the only failure though, as the rest of the batting order contributed; Alex with 20 (with me slightly controversially (and correctly) advising Alan (umpire) from square leg that a full toss that had bowled Alex was in fact an above waist height no-ball), Zack with a hard hitting 28 (multiple PSM noms), Jerry with a jug avoiding 47, Evil Ben with 6 and the innings ended with Terry and Alan unbeaten on 23 and 11 respectively (Alan averaging 57 up the order under the Newland captaincy, just sayin’).
Added to a generous smorgasbord of 47 Extras (29 wides, 10 byes, 5 no balls, and 3 leg byes), the TMGs had posted a total of 193.
Over the tea interval, the already forceful westerly wind had gained some extra puff, and there was an awkward captaincy decision to make regarding choice of ends. With one opening bowler shaping the ball away from the right hander (Alan) and the other into the right hander (yours truly), to start from the “pavillion end” would negating the natural swing from both sides, to start from the other would have Alan reluctantly bowling into the wind. Alan lost out because the other bowler was the captain.
A challenging target of 194 meant the Southwick Openers, Noakes and Jones, couldn’t afford to hang around and they came out swinging, Noakes smashing a long hop for 6 and loosing the ball in the process. The non batting Wanderers seemed reluctant to search for it and replacement quickly deviated from its original hard spherical form to more of a rounded triangle with the compliance of a juggling ball.
Alan clearly wasn’t enjoying the stiff Westerly headwind and came off after 3 overs to be replaced by Robbie H. The softening ball had become harder to hit to the boundary and with the bowlers tightening their line and length, the scoring rate was dropping, and a buoyant Terry was chanting “RING OF STEEL!” every time a run was cut off. Jones was first to fall, bowled by a slightly quicker than usual “Newland Ball” (PSM nommed). Noakes fell to the first ball of the next Newland over when he hit a long hop straight to Ibrahim.
Alan came back on from the wind assists end and drew a flashing drive from Barber caught by Newland driving to his left. In a penalty shootout a football commentator would have described it as being at a nice saveable height, but it was enough to scoop PSM win and associated match reporting duties for the week.
With that wicket, the Southwick batting mode changed from attack to survival mode.
Ibrahim replaced Robbie and struck quickly, clean bowling Baker and later trapping Higgs LBW, finishing with figures of 8 overs, 5 maidens 2 for 6.
Overs were running out and it was time to deploy Terry to make the breakthrough, but alas it wasn’t to be; 3 overs yielding 12 runs but no wickets. Alex came on to replace Ibu and did pick up the wicket of Butcher, clean bowled and PSM nommed.
Biff came on to bowl an over, and then the captain brought himself back on for the final over to try and take the 4 wickets needed to force a miracle victory, but only 1 was forthcoming, an excellent high catch at slip from Zack off the last ball of the innings (PSM runner up).
TMGs had come up 3 wickets short of a victory and Southwark Wanderers 60-70 runs short of the total required. A winning draw.
All of which brings to an end the (unbeaten) Newland spell of captaincy. It was an absolute pleasure to be in charge for such good all round team performances. I’m sure captaincy is a lot harder when his charges are not playing so well. Well done Greysmen!