2s .v. Nottingham 3s

Let Sunday 11th June 2017 go down as the day the club’s relationship with Warwick Sport reached its nadir.

Stileman and Goodyear had spent much of the previous fortnight thrashing out dates with Lydia as we attempted to reschedule our final matches vs Nottingham.

The irrepressible Lydia, who, it must be acknowledged, has been extremely helpful and communicative throughout the season, had managed to finally confirm the 11th as the date for our promotion-deciding encounter.

Yet, within 48 hours, Lydia had some disastrous news. Warwick Sport had informed her that the covers had been “blown off” both Cryfield pitches, no one had noticed, and the grass wickets were now unplayable. The veracity of this claim remains highly contentious. Perhaps the term “forgot to be put on” would have been more apposite.

Astroturf was to be the surface, Cryfield remained the location. Not ideal but we’d have to roll with it.
However, on arriving at the ground on Sunday morning insult was truly added to injury. The square was not sodden, as the groundsman had claimed, but simply uncut. Likewise, the outfield was more akin to a rain forest than a carpet fit for a game of competitive Midlands 2B cricket. Most shockingly of all, the Astroturf wicket had not been cleaned but was rather covered in bird excrement.

When one adds these horrors to the lack of a pavilion, a toilet or even running water, serious questions have to be asked about the university’s commitment to student sport.

For this to be the conditions of our home ground for the club’s biggest game of the last few years beggars belief.

Rant over.

It is safe to say that the game itself did not go to plan. We won the toss and, as always, opted to bat first. The artificial wicket proved difficult to bat on and with such a slow outfield, runs were hard to come by. Barclay, in for his first BUCS game of the season, was scratchy at first but soon appeared to be at his swash-buckling best creaming a lofted drive and flicking one off his pads. Alas, it was a false dawn. Barclay caught for 17. The score was 35-1 after 12 overs.

This meant Goodyear was to partner Bexson at the crease. That two such accomplished players struggled to the extent they did is testament to both the awkwardness of the artificial track and the nagging accuracy of Nottingham’s seamers. Goodyear eventually fell for 9, although there was some contention over whether the ball hadn’t brushed the long grass before nestling in the keeper’s glove.

Piers fell swiftly after, a sharp catch taken at second slip sending him back to the hutch (quite literally at Cryfield) without troubling the scorecard. Things looked precarious. The score was 60-4 from 23 overs.

Meanwhile Bexson, having survived a catch appeal of his own (he remained adamant it was a bump ball) had settled in. Scoring slowly but consistently it had fallen to El Presidente himself to anchor the innings. Accompanied by Dan Lewis, they rotated the strike well and hopes of reaching an above par 200 surfaced.

These hopes were swiftly sunk. Dan fell for an 8 made up exclusively of singles, before disaster struck. Bexson chipped a pull shot straight to the man in the deep – out. He had worked hard for his 42 but had failed to convert his solid start into an innings saving knock. Warwick were 88-5 with 18 overs remaining.

Jaimin and the 2s resident gun all-rounder Jon Hall attempted to salvage the situation. However, it was not to be. Jaimin caught at cover (shock) for a run-a-ball 11 – another disputed dismissal with claims it was a bump ball. Similarly, Jon was unable to find the zen state which had inspired him in the past. He went for 12. Warwick were 122-7.

Thankfully the tail wagged. Probert knocking the ball around with ease for a 17, although the less said about his parting shot the better. Roche chipped in with 11 off 16 before Avery-Hickmott (7*) and Stileman (9*) rotated the strike and ran between the wickets well in the final 3 overs. Warwick had finished on 158-9. Undoubtedly below par but still defendable if early wickets were taken and the bowling and fielding matched the accuracy of our Nottingham counterparts.

Sadly, this was not to be. Roche got little purchase out of the Astroturf whilst Stileman failed to control the swinging ball as he bowled into a strong wind. The skipper did eventually remove one opener, Probert taking a good catch running back at cover. In the process, he saved the blushes of Jon Hall whose earlier dropping of the same batsman was a real clanger.

Unfortunately, the other Notts opener got off to a flyer. He had gone out with the sole aim of breaking the back of the chase, batting aggressively and opting for aerial shots to counter the ludicrously slow outfield. Lofted drives off Stileman and Probert provided notable highlights. That he was usually a 3s player seems highly unlikely.

The match was slipping away at an alarming rate. In response, Stileman opted for spin at both ends. This proved wise as both Probert and Hall offered more control than the seamers they had replaced. As a result, Nottingham stalled somewhat. Having been 88-1 off 18, they had slowed to 99-1 off 24. This had partly been a result of Goodyear getting to work on Nottingham’s number three, Jones, who as a former pupil at RGS Worcester, was a chum of our wicketkeeper. Much to Goodyear’s delight it didn’t take long before he was firmly in Jones’ head. As the dots racked up, he lost the plot, swinging recklessly across the line. Yet, frustratingly, he was twice reprieved – Hickmott the sheller of two catches in succession.

Thankfully, this pressure finally brought fruit. Nottingham’s excellent opener chipped a full toss off Hall to Stileman at midwicket. He departed for 65 as the umpires’ called for drinks. The score was 99-2.

Shortly after drinks, Goodyear chatted Jones out for a third time. He clipped Probert straight to Roche at mid-on, leaving two new batsmen at the crease. 47 needed off 22 overs. A formality? Or was there to be a final twist in the tale?

Sadly, it was the former. Despite Hall claiming another wicket, Nottingham eased home, even finishing with a six to round off a much-deserved victory. They had won by 6 wickets with 12 overs to spare.

Following this heavy and bitterly disappointing loss, the chances of promotion remain alive but slim. Needless to say, this was a stronger Nottingham side than the one that had lost their first three games, but such is the way with university cricket. Still, kudos must go to them for how they applied themselves in all departments – we were thoroughly outplayed. Hopefully, they perform as well against Birmingham 3s on Wednesday.

However, the final word must be saved for Warwick Sport and the groundsmen. The playing facilities for this game were simply unacceptable.

UV Zumba, Varsity, Notts 3s.

When will this litany of woes end?