Saturday didn?t have the best of starts for the Plough boys heading to West Ewell to take on the might of London Welsh. Numbers are always a challenge at this part of the season, and with injuries mounting as well it had been difficult to scrape an eleven together. A last-minute double header from Paulie meant we should have been OK, but illness striking down Jamie Spence in the morning meant we were up against it from the start.
Being London Welsh, on arrival there was lots of conversation about the Lions Test Match, and the impact of the All Blacks playing most of the match a man down. Hmmm?
Our new captain Enzo was in a confident mood as he is newly in possession of his Italian passport, and he?s averaging 99 as an Italian, so we must be in with a good shout. With instructions from Si to make sure we bat first he headed out, lost the toss and came back to tell us we were fielding.
Three quarters of the field was normal size, but one of the boundaries was very short, so from the same fielding position you could be saving the single and being on the sweep at the same time. This presented a juicy target that had all the batsmen interested!
Our opening attack of Bolshaw and Roo bowled well, and it was clear we were facing two very different styles of batsman at the crease, with one looking set from the off and wanting to score, the other just looking to stay at the crease. When Roo sent the attacking batsmen back to the hutch in the eighth over, and Bolshaw his replacement in the ninth, things were looking good. Bees came on in the 12th and immediately picked up two more, and the Plough were right on top. With Bala picking up another in a very tight spell, at drinks we had them at 109/5 and looked on top.
After drinks the batsmen dug in and the lack of a fine leg fielder started to show, as the scoreboard started moving quickly. Wickets fell to some fine fielding from Barraz, Bees picking up another in an excellent spell and Jones getting one played on, leaving their 9 and 10 at the crease with 12 overs to go. This pair could bat, and with the short boundary and only 10 in the field, they accelerated away, Barraz getting in on the action (and with skippers privilege the long boundary?) to take the last wicket on the final ball of the innings, giving them 271, with their number 10 stranded not out on 49.
Tea was enjoyed, with the home-made cakes being a particularly fine addition, raising it to a very respectable 8/10.
Despite the injured Scooper turning up, it was too late to add him to the team sheet, so we would only be batting with 10. This was where Barraz really settled into his role as captain, giving an inspiring team talk that set out his excellent batting plans ?Protect your wicket at all costs, and go at 6 runs an over?. With the plans clear, all that remained was the execution.
Leon and Paulie opened with a nice partnership of 59, but with Paulie offering up a catch, and some excellent bowling getting rid of Tom and Barraz out cheaply after a bit of juggling in the field, when Leon fell LBW for a very well made 54 just before drinks, the Plough were in some trouble.
Bolshaw and Bala then set about stabilising the innings. The short boundary was so packed with fielders that Scooper as umpire couldn?t even see where the boundary rope was at times, but with some fine hitting and competing for the all-rounder award, they were keeping the match in the balance. Unfortunately, when they fell in consecutive overs to some fine spin bowling, the 80 runs still left to get looked a long way away. The opening bowler then came back on and ripped through the tail, leaving the Plough all out on 213, with Dave in at number 10 who had asked to spend as little time at the crease as possible due to his bad back stranded NO without having faced a ball.
Ultimately London Welsh are a good side, and this would have always been a tough fixture, but with a full complement of players things might have been different. Still, we will never know, and there was no shame in the performance, the Plough simply losing to a better side on the day. The win is what we all wanted, but after last Saturday?s experience it was good to play against a good oppo who play competitively but with the right spirit.