Kent Regional League Match - 46 overs per side
Kent Regional League Match - 40 overs per side
New Ash Green (9 pts) 108 all out (38.4 overs)
Bexleyheath (20 pts) 109-6 all out (27.1 overs)
New Ash Green lost by 4 wickets
There was a time in the late 70s and early 80s when the outcome of county cricket matches was often said to be decided on the basis of whether “their West Indians were better than our West Indians”, and unfortunately it is often the case in games like this, between a 4th XI and a 2nd XI where all the respective 1st, 2nd and 3rd XI games have been called off, that it can be a case that the game is decided on the basis of which teams ringers are better or have the better day. For New Ash Green the late withdrawal of Glen Freeman had brought Joe Elisak into the side, and when Dave Harley decided that he didn’t want to play in the conditions Matthew Quantrill, who had come along to drive and support his son, was also drafted in. How Bexleyheath came to their side isn’t known, but their wicketkeeper had the skills and attitude of a higher level player, and indeed played all his games last year in the first XI and a couple of others played 2nd or 3rd team last year, but the real star of the day has no track record at all on PlayCricket, although it is hard to believe he could have attended any nets and not stood out as being much better than a 4th team player. In the circumstances where higher level games have been called off and the conditions make it difficult to persuade fringe players to play it is a difficulty that all sides will have to cope with, and it is hard to blame either side for the teams they had, but the consequence can be that the genuine 2nd and 4th team players on both sides do, perhaps, get a bit squeezed out and get less of a game than they should, and of course in terms of league points it can have a slightly distorting effect if you don’t have a genuine contest between the teams that will be competing in the remaining league matches.
Of course selection was far from being the only issue for either side. The first major distraction was the conditions. The square was inevitably very damp, but more worrying was the muddy outfield. Worse, with the game being at Hall Place there was no shelter or even seating by the pitch, or indeed for tea, making it tougher to be the batting side than the fielding side, the fielders at least being able to move about and make some effort to get warm. However after much hesitation and discussion, and the purchase of some sawdust, it was decided to give the game a go. One additional consequence of other games being off was that both sides had an umpire, and Bexleyheath won the toss, and to no one’s surprise chose to field first. Initially it looked as if it was going to be New Ash Green’s ringers who had the biggest effect on the game, as Matthew Quantrill and Joe Elisak got away to a flying start. This was mostly courtesy of a succession of short balls and full tosses from Bexleyheath’s opening bowlers, mostly on the short boundary side, and by the end of the 5th over New Ash Green had raced to 43-0. After that, though, the bowling settled down, partly through bowling changes and partly through better bowling, and it was much harder work for the batsmen. With the ball doing all sorts off the pitch anything on a line and length was always a danger ball, and one which moved in sharply off the pitch and bowled Quantrill brought the breakthrough. David Baker soon followed, getting a nick to a high full toss which the video replay later confirmed was well above waist height, and was well held by the keeper. When Elisak was LBW for 29 soon afterwards the impetus of the first few overs had completely melted away. John Harding and Martin Ives worked hard in one of the longest partnerships of the match, but found run scoring difficult, and eventually frustration got the better of Ives, who spooned up a full toss he was trying to belt out of the ground. This was the start of a purple patch for Pat Heath, whose bowling could not be described as lethal, but was perfect for the conditions, a slow and accurate medium pace, giving nothing away and wobbling the ball around off the wicket. His spell of 4 wickets without conceding a run in five overs completely wrecked the middle order, with Ian Mellor and James Gegg both bowled, and John Harding eventually LBW for 14 after comfortably the longest innings for New Ash Green. There was a steady trickle of runs at the other end, but Kieran Poole gave Heath is fifth wicket, before Ryan Harley and Matt Bushe broke his run of maidens in his last over. These two doggedly made sure New Ash Green used up most of their innings, and once Bushe was finally LBW Edward Quantrill survived four balls comfortably before Harley had a go at what might have been seen as the easier bowler in the 39th over and top edged one straight up in the air. After the start they had had 108 looked a disappointing total, but in the conditions it was a very competitive one if they could bowl accurately – as Bexleyheath had proved after the first five overs, run scoring was difficult against a reasonable line and length.
New Ash Green didn’t show they had learnt the lesson immediately, though, as Ian Mellor started with a short ball, and the bane of the first innings, Pat Heath, pulled it over the short boundary for six. Mellor learnt the lesson quickly, and was much more accurate thereafter, and got his reward in the same over, when Montgomerie had a swing at his first ball and James Gegg safely took the catch as it looped up to mid off. Mellor had another success soon afterwards, getting one to shoot through low and bowl Almangeest, but Heath looked a class act, putting away anything that strayed too much and getting right behind other balls to play them with the minimum of risk. The wicketkeeper, Howes, kept him company for some time, and they saw off the opening attack of Mellor and Kieran Poole, and survived the change bowlers of Edward Quantrill and James Gegg initially, though Gegg eventually made the breakthrough with an LBW that the batsman was not at all happy with. New Ash Green had some hope of getting back in the game at that point, with James Asbury at number 5 swinging rather wildly at his first few balls and being lucky not to be caught as well as being very nearly stumped, just about keeping his toe brushing the grass as John Harding whipped the bails off. However he settled down after that to play slightly more sensibly, and with Heath still looking a class above the rest and passing his fifty the finishing line was very nearly in sight. New Ash Green turned first to Joe Elisak and then to Ryan Harley, and it was Harley who got his second ball to take off from a length and brush Heath’s glove on its way to John Harding, ending his match winning contribution with 5-12 and 59 runs. Only 13 were needed to win at this point, but New Ash Green sensed at least the chance to take a few wickets, and put the pressure on. It paid off with two more wickets, Gegg and Elisak taking catches off Elisak and Harley. The struggle the batsmen had to finish things off showed the game might have taken a different course if Heath had had a moment of bad luck a bit earlier, but in the end New Ash Green ended up with only one point less than they would have claimed from an abandonment, so it will hopefully not do their long term league prospects any harm.
A short video match report should be available by the end of the week. Do feel free to come back and have a look.