Sat 25th June – 2nd XI v Reigate Priory

Dulwich (Sort Of) Let Cornick Down

Gareth Cornick’s hero act with the bat proved futile as Dulwich 2nd XI were beaten off the last ball by Reigate Priory in epic and feisty contest.

Some days the effect of the toss on a game is negligible.  On others, the luxury of being able to utilise any challenging conditions wholly to your benefit can, obviously, hugely increase a side’s chances of victory.  And unfortunately, in skipper Richard Reid, Dulwich have officially the league’s worst tosser.  Another incorrect call on Saturday took Reid’s record this season to a catastrophic seven losses out of eight.  But, more importantly, meant Dulwich were inserted on a slightly damp pitch in some very favourable hazy and overcast conditions in which to bowl.

Whilst the pitch was tricky and the bowling good, Dulwich’s top order – not for the first time this season – failed to apply themselves properly.  After a watchful start, Charlie Kemp (1) nicked behind and James Siddle (0) was cleaned up first ball by a pacey yorker.  Stephen Hale (15) dug in for 11 overs, leaving the ball well and hitting a couple of pleasing cut shots, before he was trapped in front and Dulwich were reduced to 16-3.  A repair job of sorts was performed by Gareth Cornick and Oliver Steward (17), who between them battled away for an hour, seeing off the Reigate opening bowlers – both of whom had found movement and exaggerated lift off of the pitch – before Steward inexplicably decided to walk past one from the spinner and was stumped.  Tom Peacock (0) was adjudged LBW the very next ball, and Reid (1) followed suit soon after.

Dulwich were now really floundering at 61-6 in the 27th over.  Fortunately Cornick was batting with real focus and choosing to counter the tricky conditions by playing positively, hitting the ball particularly well through extra cover whenever given the opportunity.  He was the mainstay of two crucial partnerships with the lower order; firstly with Tom Barnard (12), who nurdled and ran well before being bowled by the returning opener, and James Bridgland (15) who, so delighted at finally middling something, attempted to take a single straight to mid off and was comprehensively run out.  These two stands took Dulwich to 136-8, and in the process allowed Cornick to register a brilliant, chanceless 50.  A few more runs were scraped together with Graeme Hough (8) before the innings was concluded when Cornick attempted a sizeable hit and was caught at long off for 72.  Dulwich’s innings had limped and blustered to 152 all out in the 53rd over; the disparity between Cornick’s top score and the other 10 batsmen’s efforts clearly showing what could have been achieved had a few more better applied themselves in the conditions.

As expected, the earlier cloud had blown away over the course of the afternoon and the second innings took place in glorious sunshine.  Irrespective of the biased eyes of this reporter, batting now was obviously a much easier task on the drier pitch with fewer balls deviating both vertically and horizontally.  It was therefore of even greater necessity that Dulwich matched Reigate’s excellent efforts with the ball but – again, not for the first time this season – too many deliveries of poor line and/or length were produced early on and Reigate were able to help themselves to 33 in the first 8 overs before Bridgland removed Mirza, courtesy of an excellent low catch from Barnard at cover.  Despite being somewhat gifted the first wicket, Dulwich were unable to turn any screws and allowed Reigate to proceeded to 74-1 in the 24th over without any due alarm before Hough – bowling in some discomfort due to a dicky shoulder – enticed Loft down the pitch and Reid completed a good stumping.

At the start of the day’s play Reigate were rooted to the bottom of the table, with only a single victory all season, and their lack of winning habit began to show as their batsmen recoiled into a shell.  Bridgland, who manfully bowled 18 overs straight through, was allowed to settle into a good channel outside off stump and Hough’s accurate twirlers were all neatly patted back without troubling the scorers.  Dulwich were able to exploit this self-made pressure by picking up three quick wickets; Ramsden was brilliantly caught by Hale diving at slip off Hough (3-45), off the same bowler Hatton blasted one straight to the safe hands of Barnard at point Bridgland (2-36) took the crucial wicket of opener Smith, who had batted well for 41.

Reigate were teetering at 95-5 in the 35th over, and Dulwich had gained themselves a realistic chance of victory.  Nearing the wall, the gruesomely sweaty Bridgland was replaced by Barnard who added a very tidy bowling performance to his earlier efforts with the bat and in the field. At this point Cornick blotted his day’s copybook slightly by shelling an important catch off Barnard and Reigate’s sixth wicket partnership moved them onto 122 with some lusty hitting before Tame was caught by Steward at midwicket off Peacock (1-21).  Barnard (2-15) then quickly removed Ahmad too.

With five overs to go Reigate required 25 to win, Dulwich three further wickets.  Given the 2nd XI’s penchant for tightly-secured victories, they weren’t writing themselves off.  But Reigate skipper Gale was striking the ball well and the large outfield was proving difficult to defend, despite the best efforts of skipper Reid rotating his fielders between bagging in and bagging out.  Reid’s second good stumping of the day, this time off Barnard, then dragged Dulwich back into the equation, but with Reigate needing only four runs to win off the final two overs anything other than defeat was looking very unlikely.

Tom Barnard then again belied his age by bowling a fantastic maiden to Reigate’s number ten Packham and the pressure ramped up again on the home side.  The final over was entrusted to Peacock, who began well with a dot ball.  Bowling very straight and full, Reigate could only scamper three singles off the next four balls and victory was only sealed when Packham poked the final ball of the day through the encroaching infield for the required single.  Reigate’s Gale finished unbeaten on 26.

A good game, overall, that was demanding of both bowlers and batsmen.  It exemplified all that has been good and fairly average about the 2nd XI this season; lack of big runs from the top order, some early wayward bowling but also an excellent fight back, good bowling when on top and a determination not to be easily beaten.  Two big home games now follow against Malden Wanders and Normandy as Dulwich attempt to get their season back on track.

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