Well, we’ve seen some four hundred plus games, games punctuated by good batting and games dominated by the bat in Lilley fixtures this year. This fixture in contrast was simply ludicrous! From the moment Lilley arrived to find a) the home team didn’t know where the dressing room was, b) tea would be after the game down the pub and c) that the wicket was greener than the outfield, it was obvious that this wasn’t going to be a ‘regular’ Sunday…
United Counties Bus are exactly what they say on the tin. A bus. Well, a team of busmen anyway, as the team’s senior pro proudly told me in the outfield, save the opening bowler who he scowled at and said “He’s a taxi driver”. It was every inch a parks wicket, but with both Clarkes back to bolster the batting line up after the late withdrawal of the Tomkins twins, Lilley had to be confident of posting a challenging target when asked to bat by the home side in the 40 over game.
Eleven overs gone and Lilley were 38-7. And no, you didn’t mis-read that. 38-7. Matt Clarke (4) was caught in a curious fielding position first up, very quickly followed by Hanley (1) who mis-timed one having been struck by one of the many mis-behaving balls early on. Rogers (4) soon followed, bowled by the impressive Shah (and also having been peppered by the track of death) and then Eyres (3) got bowled. Again. When Ashby (12) followed, caught and bowled off a leading edge, the score was 28-5. That soon became 38-6 as Mik Carman (5) was bowled and he was almost over-taken on his way back to the scoring area by Taz Qureshi, who feathered one behind first ball to make it 38-7. 38-7. Now, just to spice up the images which are going through your mind, we’re 38-7 with Phil Clarke at the crease….with Joel Mellor striding out to bat. And Craig and Stew to come. It’s fair to say I wasn’t brimming with confidence at this point….
Phil Clarke hasn’t batted for a month, but you wouldn’t know. His last knock was a match winner at Kempston and his innings top score here of 21 may not sound a lot, but in the context of the game, it was a triple century! Still, Philo joined the Lilley procession, another one bowled, leaving the away side a perilous 64-8, with the triangle of doom (Messrs Mellor, Paddington and Collinson) left to conjure up a miracle. Their combined averages prior to this game were less than five. Yes, combined! But fortunately for Lilley, for Paddington and Collinson, the mid season net training reaped massive reward. At the other end, Joel Mellor has probably been the biggest underachiever of the year. Last season he seemed to turn the corner and was really coming on, but this term he has floundered. Not so here though, as he dug in a produced what I would regard as his best knock to date. Only 14 before he was bowled, but again on a minefield and in the situation Lilley were in, an absolute match winner. Paddington hung around for six overs. He didn’t score anything, but so what? He was a great foil for Joel. After Mellor’s demise, Collinson strode out to the wicket and promptly smashed his first four for Lilley through third man and finished four not out. Not only has he now scored more runs than had innings (hoorah), he’s scored more runs than Craig and has a better average! Craig was the last man out and somehow Lilley had got up to a seemingly improbable 90 all out.
Big pressure then on Lilley’s bowlers, particularly Ashby and Matt Clarke who opened up with early wickets needed. It was looking very ominous as UCB made it to 17 without loss comfortably by the fifth over, but the sixth brought the breakthrough. Matt Clarke didn’t even appeal initially for the lbw which brought him his only wicket of the afternoon, but was suitably aroused by the efforts of Rogers and Ashby behind the wicket that he made a token gesture, only to see the umpire’s finger raised. Clarke admitted afterwards “That was never out. I’m quite embarrassed actually”.
Despite the breakthrough, UCB continued on their merry way, riding their luck with edges and were 33-1 by the tenth over, well on target. Ashby (6-17), who had been toothless until his sixth over, then bagged a double wicket maiden and went on to take six wickets in 27 balls, all bowled, as UCB crumbled under the pressure. Phil Clarke bagged the final wicket, caught at slip by Ashby (who dropped one two overs previously off the same bowler) and UCB had completed their collapse from 49-3 to 68 all out.
A simply ludicrous game, but ultimately another ‘W’. Still unbeaten since Ken departed these shores, four wins on the spin and unbeaten in seven games now.