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Lilley 163 all out, 34.1 overs (Kruger 46) beat Graveley 130 all out, 31 overs (Perry 3-8, Khan 3-42) by 33 runs
After a month of torrential rain, hail, sleet and plummeting temperatures, Lilley finally managed to get a game of cricket in! Whilst the environment agency insist our region remains in drought, the wettest April on record has put paid to almost all cricketing action for Lilley, save an unspectacular outing in vile conditions in Offley and a mid-way abandoned damp-fest at a Hexton side so worried about the weather, that even teas were rationed.
Following some sterling work from club members over the week, the outfield was cut for the first time in weeks and a track was prepared which on the face of it actually looked pretty good, if inevitably soft. Lilley were hampered by the withdrawal of Stew Collinson through illness over the weekend, but Dave Carman was able to stand in – or so we thought.
New Captain Jason Kruger won his first league toss at the first time of asking and chose to bat on a bright, sunny afternoon at the Geoff Banks-Smith Memorial Cricket Ground. As has been the formula for the first few friendlies of the season, Kruger chose to stick with the opening partnership of Ashby and Mills, with McLaughlin at three and Perry at four. The openers survived the early exchanges with few alarms, Mills punching a few classy shots down the ground and Ashby swatting the first six of the match into the pavilion as the score moved past 20.
The entire afternoon then took a bizarre twist when former Lilley Captain Ken Hammond appeared on the ground for the first time during a match since he resigned from the club several years before. Such was the interest caused by his arrival, Mills’ concentration left him temporarily and he spooned the ball tamely in the air for a simple catch in the covers, Lilley 27-1.
There is still a great deal of suspicion around just how comfortable last year’s top run scorer, Dan McLaughlin, is with his recovering broken hand, but there was no doubt his dismissal today was nothing to do with injuries or alike! Graveley skipper Murphy, enjoying an indifferent afternoon with the ball, sent down a half tracker which pitched, died and on the second bounce McLaughlin contrived to hang his half shot/half leave long enough that the ball somehow found his inside edge and onto the stumps. Ashby had moved to 22 before he got over-excited at the prospect of Jamie Logan’s medium pace and spooned a simple catch to younger brother Charlie, leaving Lilley 37-3.
By now, word was getting round that Dave had no whites to wear as he usually borrows brother Mik’s – and Mik was playing too. Unbelievably, Ken Hammond stepped up to the plate and Lilley were suddenly fielding a side with their top three all time wicket takers!
With the Captain Kruger and Vice Perry at the crease, ‘Noddy’ Logan was introduced into the attack. Had he bowled at Perry, he may have got away with a maiden or a few singles. Alas, he was bowling at Kruger, who has the basic game plan to try and hit the ball to the moon. And whilst Mr Spoon’s spaceship may have been safe on this occasion, Logan’s bowling figures weren’t, with the big South African humping four 4s and a six off his first five balls before tamely patting the sixth down in front of him. Logan’s next over though was more successful, with Perry tamely uppishly squirting the ball to point. Kruger continued his assault and found a good support in Taz Qureshi, batting at six and in an assured fashion.
‘Zulu’ crashed more boundaries, managing to lose the match ball and its replacement, before eventually miscuing one off Jamie Logan which keeper Wraight pouched. Kruger made 46, which would be the innings and indeed the match top score.
Craig Paddington was the next man to the crease and despite wearing heavy disguise in the form of a helmet, he was instantly recognised by several Graveley fielders as ‘the bloke that ate ten daddy long legs’. It was two in fact, but such has the story become fable now, Craig has very much become an icon in these fixtures. An insect muncher he maybe, but Paddington got himself into the groove straight away with a straight four followed by something a bit more bovine, looking in fine touch. Alas it would soon come to an end when he misjudged a length ball from Jamie Logan and was duly bowled.
Mik Carman had prodded the ball around with one minor alarm – when he was dropped by opposition Captain Murphy – before he became the second man of the day to inside edge onto his stumps. Once again, the dismissal was a farce! Having received a full ball, Carman cover drove a piece of turf off the crease but sadly the ball feathered the inside edge and trickled back onto the stumps. The slightest of touches and the bail fell off, Lilley in a bit of bother at 123-7. Qureshi continued on his merry way having been joined by Khurrum Khan, but Khan himself was next to go, stumped after some sharp work by Wraight off Bracey. Qureshi (26) finally departed when he was caught off the bowling of young Charlie Logan and Lilley were 151-6.
Debutante Mark Scanlan was joined at the crease by Hammond and the two left handers did a great job ticking the scoreboard along and eating up overs. Hammond was the last man out in the 35th over, bowled by Bracey for 5 with Scanlan unbeaten on 11, meaning Graveley would resume after tea requiring 164 to win from 45 overs.
With home made pizza and shortbread duly consumed, Lilley needed early wickets. Ashby opened up down the hill and got the first breakthrough when he bowled Baynes round his legs with the fourth ball of the innings. Things didn’t improve for Graveley when first Murphy (3) then Smith (4) and Om Prakesh (0) were clean bowled by slippy paceman Khan, the latter two in consecutive deliveries, leaving the visitors reeling on 26-4.
Perhaps a sign of things to come, Bracey heaved Khan’s hat-trick ball for six, with the ball narrowly missing a couple of pensioners and smashing through the back of a white plastic chair. Bracey (32) and Jamie Logan (42) produced a stand out partnership with both looking to be aggressive in the face of some decent Lilley bowling. With Khan replaced by left arm seamer Scanlan up the hill and Hammond coming down the hill, Lilley had variety aplenty. Hammond rolled back the years with a sustained burst from the Graveyard End which although somehow didn’t yield any wickets, went for just nine runs.
Left armer Scanlan bagged a wicket on debut when Bracey played on to finally break the promising partnership.
When Hammond tired, Perry’s spin was the chosen option and the Vice Captain made the breakthrough. His second ball appeared to be a wide long hop, but the ball viciously spun and beat Logan. Perry had a close LBW appeal turned down before eventually bagging a second – LBW – to leave Graveley 124-7.
The visitor’s slim hopes of victory became that bit slimmer when big hitter Wraight aimed a swipe at part time middle aged trundler McLaughlin. The ball looped in the air and Mark Scanlan, already enjoying a terrific debut with runs and a wicket, took a fantastic tumbling catch running in. McLaughlin bagged a second wicket when Charlie Logan, surprised by McLaughlin’s lack of pace, could only pat the ball back to the bowler.
With Noddy Logan providing stern resistance and League Chairman Steve Brown in at eleven, Graveley were still in the game. Perry though had the final say when he castled Logan for 9, Lilley claiming the win and the bonus point in the May sunshine.
With that the BBQ was fired up and celebratory refreshments were had…it may have been a long time coming, but Lilley have had their first league game – and won it!