Friendly Match - 40 overs per side
New Ash Green 143-9 (40 overs)
Farningham 87-5 (40 overs)
New Ash Green won by 56 runs
The inevitable deluge of rain following the introduction of the hosepipe ban had made the first game of the season look an unlikely prospect, but in the last couple of days before the game the rains relented, and with the aid of a roller Farningham produced a good playable pitch. Inevitably it was very slow, and the outfield was lush, which made run scoring difficult, but it was even and perfectly safe. New Ash Green batted first, by agreement it seems, and were off the mark first ball – with a bye from a leg side ball. The first run off the bat came in the next over with a nudge on the leg side, but initially runs were very much at a premium against good line and length bowling well suited to the conditions. NAG openers Matthew Quantrill and Glen Freeman had the right temperament for the conditions, though, and didn’t panic even when it took them some seven overs to get the scoring rate above 1 an over. As they adjusted to the pace of the pitch they began to try some attacking shots, often with little reward on the slow outfield. Quantrill pulled a short ball over the short boundary for six, the first boundary of the season, and Freeman remained patient even when deprived of his first run of the season, from the last ball of the tenth over, when the umpire cruelly signalled a leg bye. Shortly afterwards he was legitimately off the mark with a drive into one of the long corners for three. The real turning point came in the 14th over. The first ball was a leg side full toss which Quantrill picked up for a huge six, just catching the top of the houses across the road. The next two were reasonable, but the fourth and fifth were short on the leg side and were again dispatched over the leg side boundary before the last was an over compensating full toss that was driven down the ground for the first four of the season, coming after four sixes. 22 off the over doubled the score, and if it didn’t quite release the shackles it meant that New Ash Green were under less pressure to score from then on. The opening pair reached a fifty partnership before Quantrill went too far across to a straight ball and was LBW for 41. There followed a mini-crisis as James Gegg edged to slip and Joe Elisak, failing to judge the conditions and feeling the run rate was too low, had a wild swing at his third ball and was bowled – at least the Duck Cup was off to a competitive start. Matt Bushe was another with the patience to consolidate, and with Freeman now getting close to timing the ball whenever it was slightly loose the scoring carried on at a relatively respectable rate. Whilst Freeman carried on unperturbed there were a series of moderate contributions from Bushe, debutant Ian Mellor and the Mayers twins – very good to see Vic back on the field – before Freeman reached his maiden fifty for the club and shortly afterwards retired. With just a few overs left Andy Mayers struck a few successful blows before being caught behind, Martin Ives similarly swung a couple away, and Edward Quantrill kept Vic Mayers company until the final over before deciding he had better stay in the race to defend his Duck Cup and finding a fielder. With just two balls left in the innings this brought in Dan Lewsey, who had a swing at his first ball and was stumped. This resulted in the retired Freeman having to come back in to face the last ball of the innings and give the bowler a chance for a hat trick. It was a good effort, striking the pad probably in line with the stumps, but so clearly sliding down the leg side that even the bowler couldn’t raise a serious appeal. New Ash Green ended up on 143-9, a more than respectable score in the conditions, as was soon to be demonstrated.
Dan Lewsey and Edward Quantrill opened the bowling, and Farningham’s openers looked to play a more attacking game than New Ash Green’s had. As a consequence there were a few more half chances and lucky breaks, but the scoring rate was hardly any better – indeed after a couple of early fours it soon dropped to lower than New Ash Green’s had been. Neither opening bowler could get a wicket, though, despite some close calls, and they were replaced by Martin Ives and Vic Mayers. A couple of looseners apart Ives looked well suited to the conditions, and nearly made the first break through with an edge that popped up out of the keeper’s gloves and would have been easily caught on the rebound had the stumps not been in the way. Mayers, looking in fine fitness after playing just one game last year, bowled tidily and seemed to have got the first wicket of the season when what looked and sounded like a clear nick behind was held, but the batsman stood his ground and the umpire was equally unmoved. Justice was probably done on the next ball when the batsman got only an edge on the ball onto his stumps, giving Vic the honour of taking the first wicket of the season. The loss of their most attacking seeming batsman did nothing to boost Farningham’s funereal run rate, and with Andy Mayers replacing his father and bowling a good spell things didn’t get any better. There was brief hope for Farningham as, despite all his efforts in the indoor nets, Ian Mellor looked like someone who hadn’t played for 12 years for his first couple of balls, but Farningham failed to score off those, and with them out of the way Mellor settled into a good rhythm and became as difficult to score off as any of the other bowlers, looking an excellent find on his first appearance. At the other end Andy Mayers was the victim of a harsh decision to give a wide, but took immediate revenge by using the extra ball to bring one sharply back in and bowl the other opening bat, bringing the second wicket. After a short but impressive spell he retired to give Matt Bushe a bowl, while at the other end Mellor gave way to Joe Elisak. Bushe also started with a few moderate deliveries, but settled onto a line and length and moved the ball about a bit, being another who was unlucky not to pick up any wickets. Elisak had some slow but sharp turn, but again had no luck, although a wicket did fall in his spell thanks to a complete disagreement between Farningham’s England brothers about the possibility of a second run to Vic Mayers’ arm. It turned out to be Craig, unmoved at the bowler’s end, who was right, as Vic’s throw came straight into the keeper’s gloves, leaving Adam stranded in the middle of the pitch. With the run rate still stuck at under two an over and time running out the required rate was soaring up past six an over and rapidly heading towards double figures. The next pair, Barker and Craig England, looked to try and speed things up, but aside from a brief flurry when England hit two successive sixes off Elisak, they never looked like they could lift the rate sufficiently, and eventually both fell to sharp catches by Andy Mayers, the first from James Gegg’s second ball, and the second to the returning Dan Lewsey. The remaining batsmen could neither find a way to lift the scoring rate or get out, and the game eventually petered out somewhat with New Ash Green very comfortable winners despite having used nine different bowlers, all with a reasonable degree of success. All in all a very satisfying way to start the season with everyone getting a go and making some contribution, and a good win under our belts. Hopefully it is a good omen for the remainder of the season….