LILLEY (168-6, Hammond 51*), beat United Counties Bus (166 all out, Perry 4-21) by 4 wickets

Lilley did their level best to throw…or rather drop this game away, allowing the hosts to rattle up 166, but the middle order stood firm after early pressure to ease Lilley to victory with 2.3 overs to spare.
Lilley skipper James Ashby yet again lost the toss, but it was probably a good one to lose – the wicket was damp and difficult to read at the picturesque Bedford Park ground.  As it was, Lilley were asked to bowl.
Ashby had opener M. Shah trapped dead in front of all three with his third delivery, only for the umpire to say “I can’t see from here”.  Ridiculous, even at this early stage.  Fellow opener Auty was bowled by the same bowler shortly after and Gareth Tompkins too picked up an LBW decision to leave the hosts two down.  GT endured tough luck yet again, missing a sharp chance off his own bowling and seeing one go down in the covers.  Hammond replaced Ashby and was soon being crashed about the park by M. Shah, on his third life.
Tim Perry replaced GT at the ‘Tim Perry moaning about the imaginary slope and wind end’, and took immediate effect.  Safdar (caught at mid off, Mik Carman – one handed wonder!) and Etheridge (bowled) were soon on Perry’s growing wicket list for 2004, before he picked up an extraordinary dismissal.  He beat Panter’s outside edge and quick witted Brad Tompkins behind the stumps threw and knocked the bails off with the batsman out of his ground.  The square leg umpire, bemused, burbled “I didn’t see it.  I wasn’t watching” – yes, you guessed it, the same character who turned down the earlier lbw appeal!  The batsman was eventually given out, only for a legal wrangle, debate on the law of when the ball is ‘dead’ and subsequent call from Ashby to recall the dismissed batsman to return to the crease, after whinging from Ken ‘the big whinger’ Hammond.  Panter returned and Perry obliged in his next over by sending Panter back to take his pads off, again, this time leg before wicket (how many times does the man want to get out?).
Another lbw for Perry gave him tidy figures of 4-21 from his eight overs and Ashby followed with a fourth lbw of the innings to leave UCB seven wickets down.  Big Stevie Eyres replaced Potent Perry at the ‘Tim Perry says its really difficult despite eight wickets falling at this end’ end and bagged three late wickets, one caught by Paddington at point – finally M. Shah capitulating for 91 after a total of 786 lives.  Paddington had dropped two earlier in the afternoon, which went nicely with drops by Eyres (2), GT, Tomsett, Carman…but he enjoyed this one, celebrating in vicious style, throwing the ball down in a camp frenzy.
Eyres’ two other scalps came courtesy of Carman snaffles at mid off, the final one being a corker diving to his right.  Three catches.  Thaaaat’s jug.
Lilley’s batting started quite brightly, with Tomsett and Perry seeming to have a good understanding going and running between the wickets looking sharp.  Sadly, the bearded wonder was undone by a Belafonte beauty from round the wicket, caught at slip for 4.  GT (4) and Perry (14) both were caught trying to smack it some distance and Lilley were 3 down for 34.  Older brother Brad and skipper Ashby steadied the ship with a good 40 partnership, the highest of the match, and looked in good shape until Ashby was caught and bowled for 21 with the score on 74.  Brad and Hammond continued the charge, the latter struggling with a sore heel, but they took Lilley to 99 when Tompkins was caught and bowled.  Phil Horner and Hammond put on 31 for the sixth wicket, of which Horner added only three, but Hammond was looking in imperious touch, seldom offering the opposition a sniff as he raced on and took Lilley towards victory.
Horner’s valiant support was ended by an off cutter with the team score on 130 and Hammond was joined by in-form man Steve Eyres, who signalled his intentions with a straight four to get off the mark.  Eyres next scoring stroke was something quite special, a straight driven six, right out of the middle, which went so flat it almost went at sight-screen height all the way to the boundary!  With Lilley closing in on victory, it was fitting that Ken Hammond should reach a half century, and that he did – 51 not out, a fine effort and his first fifty since being back in English shores.  All the was left was for the winning runs to be hit and Eyres obliged with a flick through square leg for four which left him unbeaten on seventeen and Lilley victors by four wickets.

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