10am start, 35 overs a side, 30 degree heat and orchestral versions of Ibiza classics blaring out in the grounds of a stately home. Cotswold Hills cricket, but not as you know it.
Itchington made the hike over to the cracking venue of Ragley Hall looking to overcome a couple of weeks of disappointment and arrest a slide down the league table. An early start had been kindly accommodated by both teams and the two umpires, along with a 35 overs per side format. Ragley won the toss and elected to have first use of what looked a belting wickets and lightning outfield.
Andy Wood and Tom Cooper started tightly, with the latter getting just rewards picking up the wicket of Pilkington. It was clear from the offset though that anything straying from a good line or length would be cannon fodder. Turner (30) came to the crease and along with Kok the scoring rate started to turn up a notch, with the former being given a couple of lives before departing with the score on 86 in the 18th over. This brought Warbrick (47) to the crease who flayed the ball around impressively during a relatively brief eight over stay before Andy Smith (2-54) snared his man caught at point by Zach Aulakh. Foster (14) came and went in breezy fashion and an over later Baibhab Mishra (3-47) had Kok caught by Pete Burnell for a good 86; 197-5 after 30 overs. At this juncture Itchington were still contemplating chasing a score of 250+ however a superb effort in the last five from Aulakh, Mishra and the fielding contingent (a special mention to Sam Green-Armytage who ran himself ragged in the outfield) managed to restrict Ragley to 23 from their final five overs, as the innings ended on 220-8.
After a quick turnaround John Lidster and Mishra (14) opened up for the Three Trees looking to get off to a positive start, which was achieved before the latter departed in the seventh over with the score on 42, being bowled by opener Kok (2-40). Burnell (0) and Perks (5) then fell in quick succession and at 65-3 from 10 a period of consolidation was required. Itchington got their wish, and some, as Right Said Fred cover act Cooper and Lidster went about hunting the target in impressive fashion, putting away both the bad and not so bad balls along with intelligent running, taking the score to 152 before Lidster was bowled by Warbrick for an impressive 77. Five balls later skipper James Clarke was then run out for 1 and the game swung back into the balance, 65 required from a little over 11 overs. Green-Armytage (24*) came to the crease to assist Cooper who was still going strongly, and after a slightly rusty start began to find his rhythm. Despite a couple of tight overs from Ragley and the odd streak of luck this pair continued to be positive and it paid off in style as they saw Itchington home by five wickets, with three overs to spare, done and dusted by 2.35pm. Cooper ending up on a superb unbeaten 76 from 58 balls, the best Itchington knock this reporter has witnessed all year.
A cracking afternoon’s work from the Itch, with the news of the second XI completing a fine victory over Stanway later in the day adding to the mix. Once again a thank you to Ragley for facilitating the early start and allowing everyone to catch the football. Exhall at HQ next Saturday for the Greens, hopefully nobody will be as interested in seeing Croatia play in the third placed play-off.