On a glorious June afternoon, 11 men of the Plough ventured south to the rural countryside of Leigh CC. Several players had endured long journeys but the destination more than made up for it as we were greeted by a beautiful setting and a very welcoming opposition.
Captain Ovens arrived in determined mood with a clear goal of reversing his recent 2nd XI captaincy exploits and gladly accepted the oppo’s generous offer to bat first…excellent start!
Baggy caps were awarded pre-game to Iskandar Eaton (long overdue!), Justin Cash (on his 4th game for the Plough) and Umar Iqbal (on his PCC debut), before Iskandar and Chris opened the batting together. They quickly built a fine partnership with textbook strokeplay and flowing runs in abundance, until sadly Iskandar departed the crease, bowled for 15 after combining with Chris for an opening stand of 33. This was a fine innings full of promise though and a big score surely won’t be far away… 👀
Batting at the pivotal position of No.3, Nick Ridgway (looking remarkably like Ben Fogle with his rugged good looks and lockdown beard) strode forward to meet Chris in the middle. Patience was Noodle’s companion as he sensibly afforded the bowlers respect in the early part of his innings before slowly unleashing several glorious shots in a wonderful half century that contained 8 boundaries and a six. (It must also be noted that Nick’s female co-worker who came down to spectate captured the heart of our very own Earl Gray and we’re hoping that a phone number was secured from Nick after the game?).
Talking of romance, Mr sex-on-legs Duray Pretorius entered the fray at no. 4 following the departure of Captain Chris, who had hitherto looked sublime in a knock of 37 off 47 balls and ensured the Plough were off to a fine start. Rumours were abound as to whether Chris would reject any future call-ups back to the 1st XI in favour of captaining the 2nd XI but only time will tell on that one! Doozer, fresh from his 165 not out against Twickenham (which Duray himself confessed to be “quite an ugly 165”), showed his confidence was high with a blistering 63 off only 43 deliveries. Sadly several balls were lost in the making of this innings…until Duray was bowled having added a wonderful 101 run partnership with Nick Ridgeway.
Debutant Umar Iqbal and veteran Rich Buckley combined well to add around 30 extra runs to the total and the Plough ended on a very respectable 234 for 4 from 40 overs. Umar in particular looked completely at ease on his debut for the Plough, showing more than the odd glimpse of talent and I’m sure there’s much more to come…welcome to the club Umar!
At the tea break, spirits were high (and not just in the £2 G&T’s served at the bar) as the oppo kindly shared various different cakes which is always an absolute bonus! At this point it must be said that we received a really warm welcome from our opponents across the entire day. They were absolutely marvellous hosts – full credit to Leon for securing the fixture and it’s highly recommended to keep the fixture in the diary.
The second half of the game allowed the rest of the team to shine and up first was the most regal partnership ever to turn their arm over from opposing ends. The Earl and Daisy Duke stepped forward to put on a fine display of opening bowling and although they were only able to take 1 wicket between them, their ability to restrict our opponents to just three an over from the first third of the game meant the pendulum had swung very much in our favour. I’d also like to point out that Liam (nicknamed G&T on the day) was filling in at short notice and it’s a true Ploughman that turns out to ensure his team mates get a proper game – big credit to Liam for this.
After 20 overs the oppo were 76 for 1 and despite the hot weather, our fielding was absolutely superb all day. Leading by example from the front was Captain Chris who threw his body on the line on countless occasions and the whole team followed suit. Iskandar simply marshalled the covers with the kind of agility not seen since a youthful Nick Ridgway entered the club some 20 years ago, while new members Umar, Justin Cash and Dan Rumford were absolutely tremendous in diving to stop boundaries or chasing the ball down to save runs. All three players clearly have talent in abundance (across all aspects of the game) which bodes well for the future. Lewis Daisy Duke was similarly gung-ho on the boundary although he’ll be the first to admit that face-planting the ground isn’t always the best way to stop a cricket ball, while Duray almost took a blinding catch at Gully, only to parry the ball to Point where a diving Nick went for the knockdown only to fall short and take a glancing blow on the nose…ouch!
Dan Rumford and Justin Cash came on at first/second change respectively and both bowled well, although at this stage Leigh CC started a mini-revival that saw their 2 & 3 batsmen increasing their runs albeit with the run rate climbing steadily all the time. They were ticking along well but the Plough were firmly on top still. Justin sadly didn’t take any wickets but was unlucky with several LBW appeals and Dan took 2 well-deserved wickets – bowling their No. 2 bat (43 runs) and getting their No. 4 bat caught behind after he had made a rapid 18.
Meanwhile Yanni displayed his usual prowess behind the stumps throughout the whole afternoon, proving that his ability to keep wicket is surpassed only by his ravishing good looks in making a difficult day with the gloves look comparatively easy. Sadly though Yanni’s battered body took one ball/dive too many and his ankle gave way at around the 30 over mark, meaning that he had to put his helmet and gloves into the safe hands of yours truly who was thankfully able to take the catch behind of their no.4 bat off Dan Rumford’s bowling.
Duray was now bowling, with his accurate leg spin and vocal appealing, and although two extremely good shouts were turned down by the umpire Duray still managed to take the wickets of Leigh’s no.5 & 6 batsmen who both came and went relatively cheaply. That left Leigh CC’s only potential danger to be their No. 3 bat who showed his liking for the cut shot early on and was seemingly easy to contain. Or so we thought…
Despite needing 134 from the final 13 overs, their backward-cap-wearing-softly-
Your faithful correspondent,