New Ash Green 157-7 (39 overs)
Otterden 160-5 (32.4 overs)
New Ash Green lost by 5 wickets
Given the number of unfamiliar names that had been appearing on Gravesham's results pages in the last few weeks it didn't come as a massive shock at lunchtime on Thursday when they called up to say they couldn't raise a side and to concede the game. A quick call to the fixture bureau that evening unearthed a fixture available at Otterden, a country house ground outside of Lenham. It was a bit of a trip, but with a 2.00 start it proved worthwhile, as the ground turned out to be very attractive, next to the Georgian manor and with a picket fence all the way round, set in park/farmland and with a very rustic open pavilion, with picnic tables set out on the grass outside. The place was like the Marie Celeste initially, with the stumps out and everything set out for a game, but no sign of anyone to play against, and it wasn't until almost the whole visiting side had arrived and had a poke about that the opposition began to gradually appear. Some slightly eccentric playing conditions were set out on the wall of the visiting dressing room, with the team batting first to bat for 2.15 hours before tea, and the team batting second batting for 1.15 hours plus twenty overs, which it was optimistically suggested would give each side about 40 overs. On winning the toss the home side had no hesitation in inserting New Ash Green, despite the heat, suggesting they were fully aware of the potential advantage in batting second. With it not being a league game New Ash Green were in something close to tour mode, and opened with Matthew Quantrill and Fernando, to be followed by most of the usual league bowlers. Fernando was supposed to be playing a restrained innings, but hitting the opening bowler over extra cover for six in the first over wouldn't usually be considered restrained, and inevitably he blazed briefly and furiously, making 29 in 16 balls before being caught and bowled. Quantrill was more restrained, and was annoyed to be out carelessly for 17. Joe Elisak struggled more at 3 than he had done on tour, getting just 15, and Dan Lewsey played comfortably the longest innings of all in making 27, but Micky Sumner enjoyed a rare chance to bat, and managed to damage his new club in hitting a quickfire 31. The tail struggled to lift the pace as time ran out, with Karl Bartlett looking the best of the bunch in making 23 not out, but Paul Sumner and Dean Freeman both perishing looking for quick runs and Matt Bushe, one glorious drive over mid off for four aside, holding up one end. In the end Otterden managed to get 39 overs in, and New Ash Green declared on 157-7.
Tea was appropriate to the setting, almost everything appearing to be homemade, especially the numerous cakes and scones, and it took long enough that the clock had to be re-set again before the second innings commenced. The result was that Otterden would, had the game gone its full distance, have received 42 overs to the 39 they bowled, but as it turned out the extra overs were irrelevant. The way things were going to go was perhaps signposted by the first balls each opening bowler bowled, and each batsman faced. Both Paul Sumner and Matt Bushe found the edge, only for the ball to go wide enough to go round the keeper but inside first slip. It was a similar story for much of the innings, with a number of chances going just out of the reach of fielders, and a couple of run out chances just missing the stumps with the batsmen well out of their ground, but there were also a few sloppy misfields and a couple of dropped catches when chances did come. Paul Sumner caused all sorts of problems with his high action, as a variable pitch varied between keeping low and rising sharply, and he got more out of it than any other bowler. It was he who picked up the first two wickets, though he probably deserved more, and only a few blows in his final over prevented his figures from being truly exceptional economy wise. At the other end Matt Bushe also posed a few problems early on, and although not getting as much out of the wicket his figures were also more than respectable until an expensive last couple of overs. Andy Mayers then had a go at bowling spin, which lasted 9 balls before he reverted to his more usual style with rather better effect, causing all the batsmen problems even at the reduced pace he now bowls at, which was still possibly the quickest bowling of the match. He ended up getting 3-30, while at the other end Dean Freeman was given the chance to have his debut bowl for the club. In a similar style to Bushe he posed problems with some tidy bowling, but similarly didn't quite have the firepower or consistency to really put pressure on the batsmen, and also had a very expensive over. As the end drew nigh Joe Elisak was given one over, and managed to create three chances without taking a wicket, and in the end Otterden cruised home with five wickets and plenty of overs in hand, though with Mick Sumner and Dan Lewsey not having bowled at all and Elisak having had one over which produced those three chances, the feeling remained that perhaps they could have been given a tougher ride. However it was a good day out, and at least it did give a chance, in a successful league season, for people to have a go at things they have not had much chance to do. In any event had the chances that were created gone to hand and been taken it would have been a rather different story even with the bowlers that were used, so it could equally be said that the balance between the sides was right and things just didn't quite go New Ash Green's way. The oft repeated mantra as things went wrong was that twenty league points were still in the bag, and this it was better to have things go badly in a friendly than a league game.
Kent Regional League Match - 40 overs per side
Bromley Common (20 pts) 166-7 (40 overs)
New Ash Green (5 pts) 91 all out (31.1 overs)
New Ash Green lost by 75 runs
The second team continue to look strong on paper, and in parts on the field, and not quite able to put together what is needed for victory. Olly Cooper again put in a very good opening spell, only going for 2 runs in his first 5 overs. John Harley and Keith Bushell kept things tight and picked up wickets in the middle of the innings, as Cooper also starred in the field with three catches and a run out. Unfortunately his closing spell, alongside Kieran Poole's, couldn't quite finish off the job, and Bromley Common were able to take their total to a respectable 166-7 by the end of the innings.
The New Ash Green innings followed an all too familiar pattern. The top order looked promising, with Mark Chapelhow making a steady start and Matt Scanlan, making a very welcome return to New Ash Green colours, scoring from his first four balls. John Harding again anchored the innings with 29, but as ever no one could go on to build a big score around which a challenge for victory could be based, and after Martin Ives had made 19 the lower middle order faded badly against a bowler described by the skipper as the worst bowler he has ever seen, a description belied by his figures of 5-16. It doesn't look as if the tide will turn this season, at least in terms of results, but the team continue to enjoy their cricket and feel in the game, and that is usually a sound basis on which to build for the future.
Friendly Match - Proper Cricket
Trini Wanderers 171-7 dec. (30 overs)
New Ash Green 93 all out (29.1 overs)
New ash Green lost by 78 runs
Much like the Saturday first team game the Sunday match went out the window on Thursday when the opposition could only raise six men. With the prospect of offering a home pitch there was always going to be a game, though, and soon enough an e-mail arrived announcing that the opposition would be the innocuous sounding Tri Wanderers. It was only later discovered that the full name was Trini Wanderers, raising visions of legions of West Indian fast bowlers and batsmen hitting the ball out of the ground. As it turned out they were a respectable opposition, but they did not destroy New Ash Green by any means. John Harley aside, with a moderately respectable 10 over opening burst, most of the bowlers did go for runs until Fernando came on towards the end and took 3-10 in three overs, which prompted a very early declaration after only 30 overs, although that time was probably lengthened by either horribly inaccurate New Ash Green bowling or very strict umpiring, which produced a vast number of wides. New Ash Green were also handicapped by losing Dave Harley for ten overs when he was hit on the head by a late cut from the batsman, and was replaced by Joe Elisak, who leaked byes like a sieve.
In reply the Duck Cup was perhaps the main beneficiary, with just a few innings of note. Fernando got the innings off to the usual flying start, and Martin Ives made 19. After that though Phil Steers made a very useful 36 not out, apparently making batting look easy, but only James Turner and Joe Chapelhow of the remaining batsmen troubled the scorers, 6 players making sure the Duck Cup contest has really fired back into life as the season reaches the latter stages.