A scorching day of unrelenting sun was matched only by splendid game of cricket in which Hyde Heath came out on top, eventually. The match started early so that an extended tea break could coincide with some other “sport”, and in the heat, we won the toss and opted to bat.
All of our top order looked comfortable but contrived to get themselves out in a variety of ways. Only Nicko capitalised on his start, making 40 before being bowled cramped for room on the cut – he really must stop playing that shot. But he looked very classy nonetheless. One cover drive was particularly memorable – not only was it classical, but it was hit so fiercely hard that the ball seemed almost to scorch the earth on its way to the boundary.
But with our strongest top order so far this season largely failing, it was left to Ben and Brad to drag us up to a competitive total with an enterprising half-century stand. We finished on 194 for 9 – about 50 short, we thought, but it actually turned out to be something of a blessing.
After a couple of early wickets, Southwell started to put together some partnerships, and with 140 needed from the last 20 overs it was anybody's game – especially as I (bowling from the Plough End for the first time in years) started expensively. But when things were looking like they might slip away, I lobbed one up on leg stump which the batsman crashed straight down Jez's throat at deep backward square. The ball seriously flew and it was a very good catch, but even better was to come.
They say catches win matches, and Hyde Heath took three absolute screamers to swing this one decisively our way. Shrimpy got everyone going with a brilliant one-handed leap at cover – his fielding there all day was outstanding. Then, as Southwell continued to go for their shots (encouraged both by my erraticism and our sub-par total) Jez took the catch of the season so far. Another ball from me lobbed up on leg stump and smashed flat and hard towards square leg. A flat six? No! Jez hurtled round to his right and leapt high, to pluck it one-handed out of the air. An absolute bloody blinder.
I then removed one of their dangermen (he'd just smote me for a massive six) with a flat, ripping leg break which knocked back his off-stump, allowing the Heath to close in for the kill. With two overs left, Amala zipped one in, it took the edge of the bat and flew fast and low to Dom, diving forward at 2nd slip – another brilliant catch to seal a hard-fought and highly entertaining match.