Minchinhampton 1stXI entertained fellow promotees Langford CC at Stuart Playing Fields on Saturday in what turned out to be an exciting and close affair, dominated by the bowlers.
Jaime Waring, in his first home game as skipper, lost the toss on a day when both sides will have been keen to have a bowl. Groundsman Mike Waring did well to get the pitch prepared and playable after some prolonged periods of rain during the past week.
Minch found the going very tough and the opening pair of Gordon and Pretorius didn’t stick around long, Gordon playing back to one that kept low and Pretorius freakishly driving the ball into the ground only for it to bounce back and remove his bails. Ross Britton couldn’t arrest the damage and was caught LBW by youngster Bicker who found his rhythm quickly; buoyed by three early wickets. Minch were in trouble early on and the middle order of Alex Waring and Hugo Hall were unable to halt the collapse. Only John Ablett showed any resolve or focus, despatching a few strong boundaries, and seemed Hampton’s best hope of posting a competitive score. John Turton set about building a partnership after Bicker continued the rout, removing Jaime Waring LBW too. Turton was the first to offer any stability for Ablett at the other but unfortunately he wasn’t able to capitalise on it, edging one behind to Sinsbury for 36.
Youngster Jack Cartledge did manage to slow the fall of wickets and he and Turton batted sensibly but found runs hard to come by. Minchinhampton limped to 87 all out, a seemingly low total and a disappointing batting display. Credit to Martin Bicker who bowl full and straight and caused the majority of the problems finishing on 7 for 19.
Despite the low total there was a sense of determined resolve and confidence amongst the side that they weren’t going to let Langford have an easy win. The bowlers needed to pull something special out of the bag and they very nearly did!
Pete Wallis set the tone with a wicket in his first over, removing Greenwood LBW. At the other end Hugo Hall took a few overs to find his line but soon started causing the Langford batsmen problems. He got in on the LBW frenzy and removed the other opener Findlay-Wilson. Hall was miserly, bowling 5 maidens in his spell and restricting the run rate, only going for 15 runs from his 9 overs. Wallis was similarly difficult to get away and the lack of runs started to see the Langford batsmen get edgy, he struck again removing Parsons caught by Jack Cartledge at extra cover. James West 31 put up stern resistance but Langford, found the going just as hard as Hampton had in the first innings.
John Turton tied up one end and eventually removed West with a fine caught and bowled. Skipper Jaime Waring entered the fray and the wickets kept falling. Only Puffit put up any resistance as Waring’s variations caused problems for the lower order. When he removed Bickle (bowled) and Miles (LBW) in the same over Minch sensed the tide turning in their favour.
With only two wickets required and 18 runs needed for victory the result was in the balance. Wallis returned to the attack, looking to seal an unlikely victory, and sent hearts racing when he bowled Parsons with his 3rd ball.
The most nervous of finishes saw Puffit and number 11 Sinsbury scrambling for singles and dispatching the odd bad ball as they crept towards the target. Minchinhampton fielded valiantly till the last – nearly tying the game with a run out when the scores were level. However, Langford managed to hold on for a very hard fought victory.
A very exciting finish to what was ultimately a very even and fairly battled encounter.
Minchinhampton will be looking to their batsmen to show more resolve and focus next week and to bounce back from an unusually poor performance. The team will however take heart from what was a superb bowling effort which promises sides will not find it easy to score runs against this attack.