DULWICH 103-8 (42.5 overs) beat SPENCER 102 (43) by 2 wickets
The 3rd XI’s winning start to the season continued with a close, tense victory away at Spencer. Having seen off the last week’s second placed team, this was yet another top two clash. The once again much changed team assembled on time, with the exception of James Read who needed additional time to prepare his hair but arrived, well coiffured, soon after the start. The ‘tails never fails’ thinkers have been proven right by skipper Graeme Hough winning his fifth toss out of five and proceeding to insert Spencer to bat first. With the weather set fair at the start but rain forecast for later early in roads were required. Was the captain’s risky selection of just two seamers and three spinners to be proved folly?
Jeremy Jones and Chris Hope opened up with the Lords-type slope providing assistance to both. Despite a couple of early, whipped boundaries from Spencer’s opener the breakthroughs came thick and fast. Jones cleaned up said whippy opener trying one too many extravagant flicks through square leg, and Nick Hudson snaffled a blinder at second slip off Hope. This was soon followed by two regulation edges through to Andy Bailey off Jones. Ex-DCC player Shaq Farooqi entered the fray at number 6 but Jones and Hope continued to grind out the overs, keeping a lid on the run rate at less than two an over through the first 20 overs.
With the skies darkening the inevitable rain fell – nothing much but steady enough to take the players off. A timely half hour or so rest for the two seamers was welcome, as the rain threatened to render the captain’s reliance on spin a bit of a calamity. But the skies cleared, the sun came out and, after a period of stalemate where the batsmen dug in and wickets proved elusive, the skipper turned to himself to start the Plan B spin attack. He quickly settled and took the 5th wicket. Leg spinner Dan Peters entered the fray also to replace Hope who had begun whinging, in true Yorkshire softie style, of a sore side. Bristling with natural anger and aggression, Peters settled in to a good rhythm and rendered law 42.6 a distant memory. Hough meanwhile captured a further two wickets as, in true Lancashire style, he defied medical opinion, a catalogue of injuries, old age, etc, to show the (much) younger DCC upstarts to just get on with it.
With 7 wickets down Hough turned to fellow Lancastrian Ben Lester (though he is from Blackpool which most decent Lancastrians disassociate themselves from) to replace Peters who had bowled without much luck. Lester proceeded to bowl no better than Peters but seems to have a ‘magic arm’ and cleaned up the tail capturing three quick wickets and even, somehow, managed a collector’s item (for him) maiden over. A good bowling performance resulted in Spencer all out for 102 – Jones, Hough and Lester all with three wickets. This could have been slightly less without the higher than average number of dropped catches. Special mention for one of these ‘drops’ to James Read who fielded brilliantly all day and almost held on to what would have been a stupendous catch at deep square. – no one else would have got near it let alone almost catch it. But this was off skipper Hough so Mr Read unfortunately still enters his rather full book of players who have dropped catches off his bowling!
After a decent tea, Hudson and Morris strode out confidently. Facing tight early Spencer bowling they started without alarm until Hudson flat batted a pull shot straight down the wicket, bowler’s boot stuck out, Morris out of his ground, run out complete. Unfortunate, but as Geoffrey would say, ‘that’s cricket’. As Chris Stone, Andrew Inglis and James Read came and went in quick succession nerves began to fray. But Hudson was looking solid and Bailey joined him to edge a partnership along. More alarm when Hudson miscued for a well-crafted 37 and, with half the side out and little more than halfway to the total, the match was in the balance. Peters joined Bailey, the latter a pocket battleship of focus, concentration, nudging and nurdling and the former rendering batting text books worthless. But it was effective and the winning line was in sight – surely nothing could go wrong? But this is Dulwich after all.
Bailey skied one to deep square (one six a season is really your limit), Jones ran himself out and Peters went for a big one… and missed. With 8 wickets down, six to win, a rather nervous captain padded up, which way would it go? Lester and Hope survived a couple of vociferous LBW shouts and saw things home, however. A win is a win, 6 out of 6, but closer than it should have been. The author refuses to name and shame but the list of unnecessary dismissals was rather long – lessons learnt it is hoped.
On to the final leg of the mini road trip sees the team take on Reigate next week. Always a tough fixture but the team will travel with confidence hopefully to what has been, over the years, a less than happy hunting ground for Dulwich.