Charlie's absence this weekend meant that the great honour of skippering the mighty Heath fell into the grateful hands of your humble correspondent. If the naysayers are to be believed however, it was an honour towards which I rather neglected to show the requisite respect. But if only these naysayers had realised quite how horrendous I felt when I woke up they'd have realised the necessity to drink four pints before leaving London.
One side-effect of this was that I arrived only 20 minutes before the start of play; the other that I was a tad hazy about what was going on. No matter though – erstwhile vice captain Capper sorted out all the pre-match bits and bobs (including finding in Spencer's mate Liam a last-minute replacement for Amala who'd phoned in sick).
The oppo were the London Dragons, a new fixture with an intimidating name. We lost the toss, were sent into bat, and things quickly fell apart. Capper was out cutting to point for zero, Shrimpie edged to 1st slip, and when Haddock was out too, it was left to Jez (promoted to number four by his confident/drunk captain) and Ben to steady the ship. Which they largely did, until disaster struck. Four wickets fell for the addition of not a single run (including myself for a rather humiliating second ball duck and Richard Austin contentiously given out LBW by Capper). We were suddenly 100 for 7 and staring down the barrel.
Enter Brad and Spence who both batted superbly to rescue the innings. For probably the first time ever, Spence not only realised that the forward defensive is actually a real shot but also actually managed to deploy it, in between some clean strikes to the boundary. When he fell for a mightily valuable 28 it was down to Ali to support Brad, which he duly did rather well: the two put on an unbroken 49 for the ninth wicket, of which Ali made a doughty 2. Brad's innings of 76 off 60 deliveries was quite brilliant and rested the match well and truly our way. After starting cautiously, his last 40-odd runs came from just 20 balls as he took the Dragons' attack to the cleaners in a calculated assault. There were some great shots, none more impressive than a pulled six that seemed to require no effort but still sailed miles into the trees.
So having secured an ultimately impressive total of 214, it was now a case of seeing what our bowlers could do. And thankfully they didn't let me down. Jez and Ali bowled excellent opening spells, with Ali in particular causing all sorts of problems for a top order that looked potentially pretty strong on a fairly flat pitch. By bowling at middle and off and hitting an impeccable length with the odd variation in pace, he made captaincy easy, and the wickets duly came along in a rush – four were bowled and one excellently caught by Shrimpie. Apparently I dropped a bit of a shocker, but I'm still feigning ignorance.
Ali's five wickets broke the back of their innings and then the spinners mopped up – Rich with two, myself one, and then Brad wrapped things up when the last man chipped a catch to Ali to give the Heath a satisfying 99 run victory. All in all an excellent match, that I feel rather vindicated my controversial early morning captaincy decisions.