Saturday 18th August 2012 Cobham v New Ash Green:
With Dan Lewsey from the first team and Dave Harley from the second team both dropping out on the morning of the game through illness there was considerable shuffling about between the teams, Matt Bushe varying from scorer to player in one team or another with bewildering rapidity before ending up in the first team while James Ives stepped in to the seconds. Luckily enough it was a day when there were enough reserves that even with these late changes both side had an umpire. Given that this was the hottest day of the year both sets of opposition must have been anticipating a few hours of hard labour in the field, but both New Ash Green sides have been successful bowling first this season, and despite the changed conditions neither captain wanted to change a winning formula and it was the New Ash Green sides who braved the heat of the noonday sun. At Cobham Andy Mayers stepped up to fill the gap left by the ailing Lewsey (in the what's his illness stakes blood in his alcohol system was the favourite) and opened the bowling with Mick Sumner. Sumner had a typical spell for him, posing problems, giving little away but not getting the wickets. Mayers at the other end was bowling uphill with the short boundary behind him, and had a very different spell, being expensive but picking up the first three wickets. The first was a good length ball that the batsman tried to pull. Despite his claims afterwards that it had kept low it actually hit the top of off stump, sending it cartwheeling, but a wave from the bowler triggered the first of a number of angry words that were perhaps generated by the heat, though luckily these were the only ones between the teams, the rest all being internecine warfare. The second wicket was more straightforward, a short ball outside off being guided straight to Vic Mayers at point, but having reduced Cobham to 37-2 he then had to wait till the last ball of his spell to take his third, another short one hit uppishly into the covers and well held by Joe Elisak. By this time Cobham were looking settled and had passed 100, looking poised for a huge score. There had been a few misfields and some words were being exchanged between fielders, bickering that got a little worse as the innings went on, though virtually no one was exempt from fielding mistakes, and almost everyone made up for it with some good work as well. The change bowling was going to be crucial to prevent Cobham accelerating in the second half of the innings, and in Vic Mayers New Ash Green had the right man for the situation. Bowling down the hill he got a good pace and hit the right line and length consistently, conceding just 14 runs in 9 overs. That left the excitement mostly at the other end, where Joe Elisak bowled an excellent spell up the hill, getting turn and bounce, both variably, as well as varying his flight well. The batsmen took him on, and in the end his figures looked expensive, but they didn't truly reflect how well he bowled in batting friendly conditions and with a short boundary behind him. It was Mayers who got the next wicket, a useful one as Steve Andrews had looked a solid bat, but he could do nothing about one which took off from the pitch and slapped his gloves on the way to the keeper. Mayers' second was a much more straightforward edge behind, and then Elisak started to get his just reward with a series of catches on the boundary. Mick Sumner held a fairly straightforward catch at long off before Dean Freeman took what may be the catch of the season, sticking one hand up behind him to snatch the ball out of the air at deep mid-wicket, then took a much simpler catch from the last ball to gain an extra bonus point. Cobham did end up just getting past 200, but they were never really able to accelerate despite having wickets in hand, to the great credit of the bowlers, and as it turned out the fact that they couldn't was crucial to the game. Cobham (13 pts) 201-8 (46 overs)
In boggy conditions at Manor Field in June New Ash Green had been able to do very little with the consistently accurate Dave Clear, or indeed with most of the other Cobham bowlers, but these were completely different circumstances. The bowling was still very respectable, but the conditions were so batsman friendly that any batsman should have fancied their chances of building an innings, so it was something of a disappointment for New Ash Green to find themselves 2-3 after 4 overs. Andy Mayers suffered a hugely embarrassing lapse in judgement when leaving a ball from Clear with a big flourish and seeing it hit middle and off stump, while Matthew Quantrill and Karl Bartlett both got the sort of balls that can undo anyone early in an innings, on a good length and moving slightly, causing Quantrill to nick one behind and Bartlett to be bowled. The Freeman brothers initially steadied the ship, with Dean in particular playing some good shots, but the score had only reached 19 when Glen drove one back to Clear and the top four were all gone for a combined total of 6 runs. Ian Mellor joined Dean Freeman, and they both looked comfortable, showing how easy the conditions actually were. Just as they seemed to be getting in control Mellor sliced one to gully to give Clear his 3rd wicket and half the wickets were gone for 42. In the circumstances having Matt Bushe at number 7 was exactly what was needed, as he resolutely steadied the ship. With Dean Freeman still playing good shots they saw off one opening bowler, and the spectators were soon treated to the sight of fielders scurrying back and forth between the boundary and a tight circle around Bushe's bat as the batsmen picked up singles. However once again just as hopes were being raised they seemed to be dashed, as Freeman carved a simple catch to gully and was caught for 37, and even though Paul Sumner pulled a four from his fourth ball with half the innings gone New Ash Green were in a sorry state at 68-6. Sumner had not found his touch with the bat this season, but then he had not had conditions like these, that suit his style, and after a few mistimed shots he shook off some of the rust and began to swipe the ball to all corners. With Bushe still getting singles and even chancing his arm with a few attacking shots, pulls and cuts for 4 raising some of the biggest cheers of the day, the pair began to cause some worries amongst the Cobham spectators, as they seemed to be scoring fast enough to match the necessary run rate. The words exchanged between New Ash Green fielders were as nothing now to the words between two Cobham players, apparently father and son, who appeared to be almost coming to blows, and as the tension mounted a few of the other younger players also started to let it affect them, especially when there were occasional overthrows and misfields. With the pressure on them building Cobham brought on a young medium pacer, Callen Fahey, and he immediately put the brakes on, starting with a maiden and then in his second over ending the 7th wicket stand at 52 when Paul Sumner swung across the line and was bowled for an invaluable 39. Two overs later Matt Bushe was similarly dismissed trying to work a straight ball to leg, having made 26, and the score was 127-8. One Cobham spectator had already been heard talking on his phone, saying they had won and it was just a matter of getting the full bonus points, and with 75 still needed in less than 9 overs it seemed a reasonable assumption. New Ash Green's tail of Joe Elisak, Mick Sumner and Vic Mayers had other ideas though, and with all three being more than capable of scoring quickly and the conditions still very much batsman friendly they were not completely unrealistic ideas either. Both Elisak and Sumner started slowly, Elisak with 9 dot balls and Sumner with 5, but both then started to cut loose. Fahey had 2-2 in his first 4 overs, he was taken off when he had 2-29 in 6. The spinner Marshall had been brought back at the top end to replace Scott, who had taken a pounding from Paul Sumner, but even with the much longer and uphill leg side boundaries behind him he could not stop the flow of runs. Sumner and Elisak added 38 in 4 overs, bring the required rate down from over 9 to less than 8, and Elisak in particular looked in complete command, but their partnership was ended by one of those unfortunate incidents that can happen in the heat of the moment when batsmen are after everything. Sumner pulled to midwicket, saw a diving Simon Murray get a hand to it but thought the ball had gone past him and called a single. Elisak, who could see that Murray had control of the ball, had been slow to set off and when the throw was accurate had no hope of beating it and was desperately frustrated to be run out for 28 from 20 balls – or 11 balls once he got off the mark. Vic Mayers joined Sumner, and also took a ball to get himself in, but then scored from every ball he faced, and with Sumner still hitting cleanly they progressed rapidly, putting on 33 in 3 overs, so that having needed 75 from 9 overs New Ash Green entered the final two overs needing just 3 to win. A shell shocked Cobham had scattered men to the boundaries, hoping for catches, and Mayers was able to start the final over by dropping the ball in front of him and taking an easy single, leaving New Ash Green 2 runs from victory, one behind. Cobham belatedly realised they could no longer afford to give away singles and brought the field in, but with Mick Sumner now on strike this may well have suited New Ash Green. There was still time for a final piece of drama, though, as Sumner pulled his first ball hard and Simon Murray dived full length to his right and seemed to have grasped the ball an inch or two from the ground. It would have been a catch worthy of a dramatic victory, and from a Cobham point of view a fitting conclusion, but as he dived away from the crowd the lack of a huge cheer from either him or the fielders told the story to the crowd – he had not quite been able to keep the ball in his grasp as he hit the ground. He had saved any runs, but this only put the inevitable off for one more ball – Sumner made no mistake with the next ball hitting it high over the infield and safely to the boundary to complete a quite extraordinary win. Cobham were, not surprisingly, stunned, and credit is due to those (mostly more experienced) of their players who were able to muster more than a cursory handshake at the end as their thin hopes of taking the league title had almost certainly evaporated with the defeat, despite the high bonus points haul they picked up. For New Ash Green it was the day when their batting finally fired all the way down, a confidence boost for the future, when they will hopefully remember that in conditions better than those that have prevailed for most of the season pretty much everyone in the side is a capable batsman. New Ash Green (19 pts) 204-9 (44.3 overs) New Ash Green won by 1 wicket
One of those occasions where an oppo maybe too quick to discount NAG, possibly putting too much emphasis on our earlier encounter that season forgetting the more favourable conditions. The full scorecard is available here. The effect that the game had on the league season can be seen in the final league table here. Browse other match reports from the same season here. You might also enjoy our "A Great Game" page.