Kent Regional League Match - 36 overs per side
New Ifield (9 pts) 151-9 (46 overs)
New Ash Green (19 pts) 152-6 (43.5 overs)
New Ash Green won by 4 wickets
The weather finally seems to be turning, but this was the first day of the forecast hot and dry spell, and plenty of rain had still fallen in the week. The pitch had had no work on it for two weeks, but it was dry enough to cut and prepare on the morning of the game. Inevitably the wicket was green and there was occasional sharp movement off the seam, but for the most part it was even and to make up for the movement the batsmen were aided by the fact that there was very little pace in it, but the ball didn't stop as such, and the conditions were actually surprisingly good for batting. Neither side had an umpire or scorer, so there was a toss, and Andy Mayers managed to win it and insert New Ifield. The first half of the innings was a real battle of attrition – it was the 15th over before the ball found the boundary, and there were a few near chances and one drop as the batsmen mis-hit attempted attacking shots, but although Mick Sumner and Ian Mellor gave little away by the time Sumner finished his spell and drinks were take no wicket had fallen and the fifty had just been brought up. With Vic and Andy Mayers replacing the opening bowlers and also looking tidy New Ifield didn't find acceleration easy, and eventually it was their pushy running, which had threatened to cause their downfall a few times, which did bring the first wicket, Micky Sumner's quick pick up and accurate throw beating Rob Walker to the stumps. A second wicket followed quickly when Andy Mayers found an edge and Vic carried on his role as slip catcher par excellence, but another good partnership then frustrated the bowlers and gave New Ifield hope. At 120-2 with ten overs left, Joe Lawrence batting well and Paul Sumner, having replaced Andy Mayers, looking a little rusty, New Ifield must have had hopes of a score around 200, but Sumner settled into his rhythm, Vic Mayers continued to be consistent and the wickets started to tumble. Matt Walker ended the third wicket partnership by slicing Mayers to backward point, where Karl Bartlett held a good catch, and Bartlett followed up with a good stop and throw to catch “Saman” in the middle of the wicket and run out by a distance. Nick Bodle spooned Mayers round the corner to give Olly Cooper a simple catch and then the big wicket came when Lawrence failed to time a drive from Sumner and found James Gegg to be out for 80. Sumner followed up almost immediately by bowling Howlett and Dave Homewood was bowled by Mayers. Paul Harfield also pushed Sumner straight into the hands of Gegg, and in the end New Ifield were reduced to blocking out the last over to prevent New Ash Green claiming maximum bonus points. Scoring only 4 runs in the last 4 overs at the cost of five wickets was to prove a decisive factor.
After an excellent tea, topped up by the baking and sandwich making skills of Karen Sumner New Ash Green set out to chase a total that should have been within their grasp, but was going to need their best batting performance of the season – not that that is saying much. They started steadily enough, Matthew Quantrill and Andy Mayers looking solid enough against the opening bowlers, though both were feeling sluggish and they struggled to put away the odd bad ball. Just as they seemed to be getting going Quantrill failed to get a bat on a ball on leg stump and was bowled round his legs. Mayers responded by belting three good fours, but trying for a fourth he got through the shot slightly early and put it high in the air. The fielder, “Saman”, never looked like catching it as he turned under it, until the moment he put his hands out and clutched it safely. Soon afterwards Lee Saunders was bowled by one that trimmed the bails, and at 29-3 New Ash Green were looking in trouble. However Karl Bartlett and Olly Cooper have been the season's top batting combination in the seconds, and they steadied the ship well, playing some nice shots and keeping the runs ticking over as they put on another 28 for the fourth wicket before Cooper sliced to point for 12. At that point Bartlett was joined by Vic Mayers, who immediately showed his intent by driving to the extra cover boundary for 4. With Bartlett cutting and glancing, and very positive running (there were 12 3s in the innings, more than there were 4s and most run by this pair) they built a superb partnership for the 5th wicket, keeping the run rate going and completely demoralising New Ifield, who were starting to snipe at each other in the field. Eventually with victory virtually assured the partnership was broken when Mayers was hit on the foot well forward, but straight, and given out LBW to his adrenalin fuelled disgust – though it did at least help to assuage any feelings about not having neutral umpires. James Gegg joined Bartlett and played safely enough, with Bartlett continuing to make the runs until with six needed he cut in the air straight to cover to be out for a very good 56. With Mick Sumner already in the shower a collapse here might have been embarrassing, but Paul Sumner pulled his third ball powerfully for four to settle the nerves, and a couple of glanced singles in the next over saw New Ash Green home to a tight victory. A good game played in a good spirit, without too much controversy – always good when the players are umpiring in a league game, and ultimately probably a deserved win for New Ash Green through their greater depth of batting, though it was something of a relief to see that theory put into practice for a change.
No secnd eleven game this week - this was the fixture against Old Elthamians that was moved to April and rained off.
Friendly game - "Proper Cricket"
New Ash Green 174-5 dec. (39 overs)
Chevening Amblers 158-8 (35 overs)
At last Sunday cricket as it should be, and a good replacement fixture after Betsham had pulled out in mid week. The sun shone, the tea was magnificent, both sides had eleven players and most importantly of all both sides were out there to enjoy the game without being too competitive about it. Matthew Quantrill won the toss, and with a side that could be loosely described as mostly first team batting and second team bowling decided to take the bold step this season of batting first in the sunshine. Of course the sunshine is a recent arrival, and the pitch still has plenty of water in it, rolled in and taking the sting out of the surface, so as on Saturday there was little pace in the wicket but occasionally some extravagant seam movement. The openers seemed untroubled, if not exactly dominant, until John Howland cut one uppishly straight to point. Joe Elisak, despite a body soaked in alcohol at the end of his 21st birthday weekend, looked in good touch immediately with a powerful drive for 4, and he and Matthew Quantrill looked to be building a sound base for a big total until they were out in quick succession. Quantrill was disgusted with himself after going to pull a shortish ball form the slow bowling of Richard Clark and getting only the corner on the bat on it to send it looping very gently into the air for the keeper to catch, while Elisak was beaten by one of those that did do a bit off the pitch, shooting through low to pin him in front of the stumps so plumb that he virtually walked without waiting for the umpire's slightly apologetic finger raising. This only served to bring man of the moment Karl Bartlett to the crease, and despite his professed reluctance to play he carried on immediately in the form he has been in all season. He and Andy Mayers put on 38 in good time before Mayers flicked one to square leg and was well held by a diving fielder, but that only served to re-unite Saturday's star partnership. Vic Mayers played more of a supporting role this time, partly because he couldn't get the strike. The partnership was worth 19 before he had faced a ball, and that turned out to be a wide of which a run was taken, so a few more were added before he finally got off the mark. With Bartlett now in full flow, scoring as quickly as was possible in the conditions, a supporting role was all that was needed, and the pair put on 68 in very good time before Mayers, playing with increasing abandon, was bowled in the penultimate over before tea, leaving just enough time for a brief cameo innings from James Gegg before the declaration at tea with Bartlett making 68 not out at better than a run a ball, a superb rate in conditions that were not conducive to quick scoring.
One magnificent tea later New Ash Green were in the field seeking to find a way to dismiss Chevening. Kieran Poole's first ball found the edge and flew away for three, and he repeated the feat when the same batsman next faced, while at the other end Adam Reeves, in his first spell of the year, started with a few loose balls but soon settled in to bowl with good pace and accuracy. All the same with a positive approach and a few hittable balls the batsmen got off to a good start, and it was very much game on. Reeves should have had his reward for an increasingly impressive spell when Usher scooped the ball up towards mid on, but the skipper let him down, mis-judging the dying ball and not quite getting his hands under it as it fell in front of him. It didn't take Reeves long to recover, though, another drive from the same batsman carrying comfortably to mid off where John Howland made no mistake. This brought in James Denman, reputed to be the person who got all Chevening's runs (it's not clear who started this rumour). He was clearly one of those bats who plays positively, hits a lot of powerful shots, but also puts some in the air and will always give the bowlers a chance even when scoring quickly. With the other opening bat also playing positively it was looking as if New Ash Green were going to have to work hard to prevent a massacre, but Adam Reeves put a bit of a break on things in his final over, when Matthew Quantrill made some amends for his earlier fielding lapse by holding on to a stinging straight drive to give Reeves a pair of openers. Change bowlers Matt Bushe and Edward Quantrill both struggled for consistency at first, and Denman took advantage, not entirely without risk but with a good deal of power and as the twenty overs started and the run rate plummeted it looked as if Chevening would live up to their name and amble to victory. The bowling did tighten up, though, with Quantrill in particular improving his line and length, and he got the next breakthrough at a critical point, another straight drive going in the air and being held by the bowler's doting father. Bushe had been replaced by Andy Mayers, who had been driven early for an enormous six by Denman, but who proved too much for most of the remaining batsmen. He got the next wicket, one fended off to square leg being held by Matt Bushe, getting his first catch of the season. The next over from Edward Quantrill proved the real turning point of the game. Denman pulled the first ball hard and square, where Matt Bushe did well to get a hand on it and prevent a four, and perhaps in frustration Denman was over aggressive to a ball on a good line and length and was bowled next ball. The required rate had sneaked up to five an over again, and the remaining batsmen looked as if they would struggle to make that, though they didn't give up easily. Mayers bowled two in an over, beaten for pace, and after Chevening captain Peter Rushbrook had a brief flurry he was bowled by Quantrill swinging hard across the line. Unfortunately by this time Chevening had slipped far enough behind the run rate that they had little incentive to go for the win, and even a final over of very loopy leg spin from the captain could not induce a mistake as they safely saw out the draw, which was probably a fair result in the end. All in all a fantastic day's cricket, played in the right spirit by all concerned, in bright sunshine and beautiful surroundings, and if it is the only Sunday game as good all year at least there has been one.