After 2 weeks off due to rain and a plate bye week, Long Itchington’s Midweek XI resumed their season against local rivals Stockton last Wednesday (31st May). There were a number of familiar faces in what looked a strong visiting side; Long Itch knew they would have to perform well in order to come away with a victory.
Aulakh (captaining for just the second time this season for various reasons) won the toss and chose to bat first on a used wicket (kudos to the groundsman for preparing a wicket able to withstand a test match-like over count).
Things didn’t get off to the best start for Long Itch, with Rawbone being bowled in the first over by the accurate Webster. However, this brought the in-from Perks to the crease to join opener Desai, who together set about the task of compiling a winning total. It wasn’t easy going, as some good bowling from Webster and Bennett, along with a track they may have lost just a little of its previously WACA-esque pace, made scoring difficult. Long Itch were 13-1 after 4 overs, but soon Desai started to look more comfortable, dispatching to the boundary the rare over-pitched delivery.
Having seen off the openers, Desai greeted change bowler Gaskins with a six from the first delivery he faced, and repeated the feat with the first ball of Gaskins’ second over. However, with Desai looking like he was just about to tee off, he was caught off the very next delivery whilst attempting another aggressive stroke. That brought Brooks to the crease with the score on 47-2 after 8.2, reuniting him with Perks (the two put on an explosive 150-run stand when last partnered). Unfortunately they were unable to repeat these heroics, with Perks dismissed in the next over thanks to a sharp catch from Bennett off the bowling of Hooker for 12.
Brooks was then joined by James Scott, who showed off his new bit of willow (of which his mother has now been informed) with some lovely shots, including an impressive drive for a boundary. However, Scott had begun to steal the strike from veteran Brooks with singles at the end of each over. Brooks thought he would put a stop to this with the final ball of the 13th, which he slapped straight to point and duly called ‘Yes’, then ‘No’ with Scott a third of the way down. A smart bit of fielding from Stockton and Scott was walking back after a promising innings.
With Itchington 70-4, an injection was needed, and it was thankfully supplied by the incoming Franks, who punished anything slightly too short in a crucial cameo of 23 from 17. Franks and Brooks were then dismissed within 2 balls of each other, leaving top smasher McKenna and Aulakh at the crease. The latter didn’t last long, chipping one straight to Hooker at mid-off, bringing young Eadon to the wicket. Together, he and McKenna managed to scramble more than 20 off the final 2 overs, including a cracking boundary from Eadon off Bennett. His partner was also able to find the fence, with Bennett making the error of pitching one in McKenna’s half and thus allowing him to practice his golf (Four!). Finally Long Itch arrived at a total of 133 for 7 from their 20 overs which was likely around par, given the pace of the pitch. However, the home side knew they needed to bowl and field well to restrict a powerful-looking Stockton line-up.
Goatley and Hooker opened up for Stockton and soon set about the total, with Hooker hitting Rawbone for two boundaries in the first over. However, at the other end Scott removed Goatley with his very first ball. The batsman could hardly believe it when his powerful drive was met with a speculative one-handed effort from Aulakh at mid-off, who actually held on to the catch (a rare occurence in itself). On the plus-side, Goatley did manage to take his balls faced for the season into double figures.
This brought Church to the crease, who wasted no time in getting started, hitting his second ball for four. He and Hooker continued to score at around a run-a-ball despite some good bowling from Rawbone and Scott, until Scott struck again in his third over, removing the dangerous Hooker with what was described as a surprise quicker delivery. Eadon took a good catch off the resulting top-edge, despite the best efforts of McKenna to trip him up (or to crouch down behind him in order to catch it himself should Eadon drop it, according to Pete).
With both openers gone, Eadon was introduced from the top end and struck in his first over, causing Dodds to sky one to mid-off where Aulakh took the catch. Scott then took the wicket of Woodward in his final over, caught comfortably by Perks. The talented Sutcliffe was then introduced, and should have had immediate reward. Sadly, Aulakh’s luck had to run out at some point (having already taken two catches), and so he preceded to drop both Church and Bennett in the space of three deliveries. However, Sutcliffe carried on undeterred and together with Eadon, bowled excellently, eventually removing Bennett, Bourton and (the other) Hooker between them.
At this point, Stockton were left reeling at 67-7 and requiring more than 8 runs per over. However, despite the collapse around him, Church remained steadfast and Long Itch knew Stockton had a chance with him still there. However, any chance was ended as McCarthy was introduced into the attack. After a couple of looseners, he was soon firing in his usual Waqar Younis-style yorkers, conceding just 15 runs from the 14th, 16th and 18th overs combined. With McCarthy’s death bowling at one end, McKenna was introduced at the other and he provided the wicket of Church finally for a valiant 45. McCarthy then wrapped things up with two wickets in the final over, bowling Webster and then catching Gaskins off his own bowling. Thankfully, McCarthy had learnt from earlier and quickly called to take the catch himself after seeing Aulakh running in from mid-off. Stockton were all out for 107 from 19.3 overs.
Overall a fantastic performance from Long Itch, particularly by the youngsters with the ball, all of whom bowled brilliantly to some good quality batsmen and were a joy to captain. We now look forward to our next fixture at home to Stretton on Wednesday 7th June.
Desai – 32
Franks – 23 and a catch
Scott – 12 and 4-0-18-3
Eadon – 5 not out, 4-0-16-3 and a good catch
Sutcliffe – 3-0-18-1
McCarthy – 3.3-0-18-2 and a good catch