So, after weeks of disappointment, heartbreak, blood, sweat and tears, here we were. The club, an institution held so dear to so many was on the brink of a fourth relegation in 2 seasons. With skipper Ed Cooper having gone temporarily insane due to the excessive stress of second year Maths, it was up to stand in Skipper Bradshaw and a strengthened third team to stop the rot. With the crux of our problems this season being a lack of runs, some of the clubs big hitters, notably centurions Thornley and Aamish, were selected. Due to the fact Aston were fielding their 1s team it was also necessary to pick our own nasty fasty bowler, Rob Clayden. The tension before the game was noticeable, with talk of the fact the Aston 1s were unbeaten, and had a middle order batsman who had scored 250 against the Birmingham 3s. Our task was made even harder by the fact we needed a substantial winning margin of 50 runs. Our team was hoping for a good crowd turnout to spur us on in what was destined to be tough test.
In what may have been a crucial bit of luck, Bradshaw lost the coin toss and we were put in to bat on what looked like a glorious Cryfield deck, hardened by the recent hot weather, with a lightning quick outfield. 250 seemed to be a sensible target pre game. Warwick’s vertically challenged opening partnership of Liam and Bradshaw strolled out in what was certainly their last game for the UWMCC, and perhaps, one of the more important ones (cue the song from Fast and Furious 7 and images of them driving away from one another, Paul Walker and Vin Diesel esque). If either batsmen was feeling the nerves of emotion of the occasion it certainly didn’t show, with plenty of shots being played and runs coming easily. Before long we had raced to 60, but Bradshaw and Liam were both removed soon after, Bradshaw caught well at short extra, and Liam schnicking off to a rising ball. However, this brought the potentially explosive combo of Aamish and Thornley to the crease. However, Thornley struggled to get going, chipping one back to the bowler, and Joshua BD was caught behind soon after, by a great piece of keeping to be fair. The dressing room mood of optimism was turning sour, as we slumped to 60/0 to 109/4. Barclay and Jake both came and went soon after, Jake harshly judged out of his crease despite being a good 8 inches in. The score was 140/6, and once again it looked like the UWMCC were going to fall short of a par total, especially when considering the 50 run winning margin required.
However, whilst Aamish was at the crease, runs would still flow. With the batting wildcard, Rob Clayden joining him, there was always the potential for some fireworks to boost us up to 200. Aamish took on a lot of responsibility for the next few overs, playing some classy shots and denying the hungry Aston bowlers any chances whilst dragging the run rate up. Clayden played the patient role supporting Aamish, and Aamish soon had his 50. This led to him playing slightly more expansively, until we reached the 200 mark, when one shot too many saw Aamish caught well at deep mid-wicket. Povey joined Clayden in one of the clubs tallest batting partnerships ever, and the two proceeded to put on a batting masterclass, only rivalled by the Brian Lara one Sky play every time there’s a rain delay. Clayden played a range of masterful strokes, not befitting of a tailender, most notably a trademark reverse sweep, which had the ever growing audience purring with delight. The audacity of the bloke! Povey provided some lusty blows at the other end, displaying a technique which was certainly not forged in the fires of garden cricket, but perhaps developed on a Lancastrian farm. Clayden was stumped for 60 at 247/8, and displayed one of the widest smiles possible whilst walking off the pitch. Hickmott was caught behind soon after, and with Povey on strike for the last over we saw some serious hitting, boosting our score to 279/9 and his own to 47*, bottling his 50. The first half of our relegation battle was over, and due to some lower order batting we held the advantage.
Our third team took to the field with a clear objective, bowl them out for under 200 runs. Due to the uncertainty of the net run rate we were determined not to go down due to a dodgy calculation, much like when South Africa played for a draw in the AFCON qualifier not realising they needed to win . Clayden and Povey opened up for us, and despite a few wides being bowled they were generally tidy, with Clayden getting one opener caught behind with a peach of a delivery. However, the Aston 1s were clearly not mugs with the bat, and generally rode the storm of fast swinging bowling. The breakthrough came from the unlikely source of a Kraus run out, who after stopping the ball with his chest at square leg, had the choice of both stumps to aim at with the batsmen in all sorts of disarray. With the score at 62/2 both Hickmott and Thornley came on for brief spells, but the batsmen took a liking to Hickmott, and Thornley couldn’t get an awkward lefty out. Kraus and BD were introduced just before drinks, and as always, spin gets wickets, with the set batsmen both falling, Kraus’ wicket being a good BD catch at long on, and BD skittling the other bat soon after. The score was 117/4 at drinks, and it seemed that Aston, with the bloke who scored 250 against Brum looking comfortable, might ruin our day. The crowd seemed very glum, many concluding relegation was imminent (Yeti confidently texting Hall at this time to declare ‘We’re not winning with enough runs to spare’).
However, the over after drinks, Thornley took a good grab at slip off Kraus’ bowling, and soon after Povey took a fantastic catch at cover to remove the double centurion danger man (whilst highlighting Kraus’ Mertesacker-esque pace). Povey covered a serious amount of ground for the catch, and it was fitting he was running towards the ecstatic crowd whilst celebrating. The tide had turned, and it looked like the spin twins could save the 3s from relegation. BD got the next batsman plumb LBW and we were into the tail, who looked happy to try and biff it and not save their wicket. Kraus came on to bowl the 33rd over, his 8th over, and with the score 157/7 Aston needed another 73, a not impossible feat. Kraus clattered the number 9’s off stump, who was looking to go big, and Denne made a passing comment about buying a bottle of Moet if the game was wrapped up with a hat trick. Alas the next batsman was all at sea, missing a straight one and being given LBW. With the prospect of a hat trick, 5 wicket haul, and 3s survival, you might have thought Bradshaw would let Kraus bring in the field, but Bradshaw was resolute in his defence of a long on. Kraus managed the nerve to bowl a relatively straight delivery, pitching on leg and straightening up, and the pad was in play once again, leading to every man in the vicinity appealing as enthusiastically as they could. The finger was slowly raised and Kraus was wheeling off, Liam commenting it was the fastest he had ever moved.
The game was over, Aston all out for 157, and the threes had clung onto safety in dramatic fashion. It was certainly a good send off for our finalists who have committed a lot of time to the UWMCC over the last few years. Having the crowd down was as encouraging as ever, despite Larkins being unable to operate a sightscreen. Let’s try and not leave it to the last game next season chaps.