2s .v. Birmingham 3s

With election season now upon us, the build up to the 2’s second game of the year can only be described as a “coalition of chaos” from all sides. Seven changes to the side that lost to Derby were made by Stilo, looking to avenge the disappointment of the narrow loss last week.

The spectre of adoptions on the horizon, and the ground being unavailable after 5:30 meant the 8:30 meet was to be a struggle for the team. With Leam dwellers scavenging for lifts, Stephen having to walk all the way from Westwood to Bluebell was proving the most challenging prospect (#PrayForStephen). A general communication breakdown led to Piers’ trio racing in from Leam in the hope of no traffic, and an abundance of parking spaces (stranger things have happened, alas, the luck was not with us on this occasion) to make the desired leave time. With Stephen now lost on the way to Bluebell (there is a theme emerging here) there was little to worry about, and on his arrival Stilo was ready to set off a man short. As all bad things come in threes, the final count up meant our captain had forgotten Nipun. A quick phone call, and an even quicker taxi from Lakeside to Bluebell later, the team was ready for the challenge ahead.

The team arrived at Walmley CC to discover they were following in the illustrious footsteps of England’s very own Chris Woakes and Rory Kleinveld, who was sporting the darb back in the day, long before it became fashionable amongst UWMCC members. Perusing old Sunday league photos was a welcome distraction from the fact Birmingham hadn’t turned up to the ground. With the toss forfeited before Brums arrival in their respective Uber’s, Stilo made the decision to bat first on a pitch with a fair amount of grass and a slightly discerning damp patch on a length. The game was reduced to 48 overs as a result of the late start.

Stephen and Tim opened up, and the slowness of the pitch became apparent. Stephen was caught at cover for 3 off the fourth ball of the innings to a ball that held in the pitch. This was a ball after Tim had been dropped at slip, and the interesting nature of the pitch was fully apparent. Nipun replaced Stephen, functioning on two hours sleep and two cans of Red Bull. It clearly took a while for the sugar rush to kick in as it took him 16 balls to get off the mark, but in doing the pair had seen of the brunt of the new ball attack. The pair then settled down well, with Tim leaving the ball with authority and dispatching the freebies that were frequently offered by the openers. Nipun too was batting with great maturity, aware of both the short boundary, and the variable quality of the bowling. The pair
brought up their 50 partnership in the powerplay, with strike hogging the only real worry.

The change of bowling led to the wicket of Tim, snicking off to the keeper for a breezy 32 off 37, and bottling what could have been a large innings for him, having looked comfortable after his early chance. This was further made apparent by how Nipun and Howard then batted. Milking the bowling to the gaps and rotating the strike in a manner of which Spiro would be proud let those on the sidelines predict a score between 250 and 300. The introduction of Brum’s spinner confirmed this, serving up full tosses and wide balls to keep the pressure off the batsmen. Howard leant into some beautiful straight sixes, and Nipun continued to milk the bowling with the occasional boundary to bring up his 50, a well-made contribution considering the circumstances in which he arrived at the crease. The partnership was finally broken when Nipun charged the spinner, who finally got one to pitch (fairly wide) and was stumped for 59 off 96.

Dan Lewis and Howard continued the pace with a considerable number of well ran 2s to the large spaces, and taking advantage of the lack of throwing prowess of a few fielders. During this time, Howard brought up his 50, and looking to push on with the platform set, holed out to long off for 53 off 61, unable to repeat the same shot that had brought him his earlier sixes. At 175-4 and with 10 overs left, the innings continued in much the same fashion, with Birmingham unable to threaten the set batsmen too much, and sensible batting leading to quick accumulation of runs. With Dan finally out caught for 25, it was left to Piers “bags of bottle” Fisher to finish the innings off, delivering some lusty blows on the way to a fairly docile 42 off 38, with a lost ball along the way (Helpful tip: Don’t look in the hedge for a ball when it goes 20 metres over the hedge…). The innings ended at 255-6 off our allotted 48, with Larkins the last to fall, having had an earlier life when bowled on a no-ball that proceeded to go for four byes. Pinch-hitter Roche was not out at the other end, having failed to make any consistent contact after his promotion, but his successful campaigning could lead to call ups from multiple political parties. With a score the umpires believed to be at least 30 over par thoughts turned to killing the game off and a triumphant return to Cryfield.

Hickmott and Roche opened up the bowling, with Roche sneaking one through the openers defences in the second over to provide the crucial early breakthrough. With Hickmott holding up the other end, and Roche challenging the batmen with a probing line at good pace, runs were hard to come by, and runs in front of square something of a collector’s item. With the other opener seemingly intent on a Boycott-esque occupation, the pressure told on his partner as Roche nipped one across and away the left hander, providing Brownsey with an easy catch, despite the batsman claiming he didn’t hit it with nothing else close to the ball. With two early wickets down and very few runs on the board, it was apparent wickets were there for the taking. With Roche replaced by the off spin of King whilst still in the powerplay, runs remained scarce, and a third wicket was taken as Hickmott got a thin edge through to Brownsey following a consistent spell of off stump lines.

With Stilo replacing Hickmott (7-2-11-1), there was no let up for the batsmen, and the game reached somewhat of a stagnation, with virtually no runs being scored and the rate required creeping upwards every ball. With drinks on the horizon, King helped himself to two wickets, the first offering a simple catch to Tim at short cover, before finally bowling the opener following his first signs of aggression. Drinks were reached with Birmingham all but out of it at around the 50 for 5 mark, with UWMCC having bowled 24 overs in an hour and ten minutes. With only seven overs of spin in this period, this was possibly the best indication of the ball not getting off the square. The over rate was slightly delayed during the drinks break by Stephen dropping his box down the toilet much to the amusement of
everyone until realising they’d be shaking hands with him later.

Upon resumption, it was more of the same for the bowlers, with Stileman finally picking up a wicket caught at mid-on by Hickmott following a succession of plays and misses to balls in the same corridor the openers had bowled. By now, the longish tail of Birmingham was starting to be exposed. Having not sent any chair at tea, or sent his kit after getting out, Dan Lewis turned his focus to sending down his medium pace, managing to rattle through some economical overs as the rate climbed above 12’s. The only blotch during his spell (5-0-17-0) was a horrendous wide in his fifth over (“yeah, nice loosener Dan”) and one large six much to the surprise of the batsman, as well as the fielding side.
With a chance at a baggy, Roche’s illness that prevented him from standing anywhere but gully allowed him back for a second spell. The rest clearly did him well as he picked up where he left off his first spell. A good yorker allowed him to claim his third wicket of the day, and thoughts were starting to shift towards the metaphorical cloud of adoptions and actual clouds building over the pitch and threatening rain. Continuing strong through his second spell, he was unable to make the breakthrough necessary, and so ended up with the excellent figures of 10-4-19-3. His last over signalled the start of a mini renaissance for Birmingham, and what was really only an attempt to salvage some net run rate. With a left hander on strike and a very short leg side boundary, Kingy was dispatched for a few boundaries where they may have been either prevented or caught on a ground with some more sensible dimensions. This somewhat ruined his figures, meaning he finished his allocation with 10-2-56-2. On a pitch that offered very little to the spinners, his control and flight, particularly in his first spell was very impressive, allowing the batsmen little room to work the ball away, and keeping the ball at an excellent length, pinning the batsmen in the crease, despite some desperate attempts at trying to get Larkins to run him out when hitting the ball straight at him.

Larkins was brought on following Roche’s spell in the hope of the spinner cleaning up the tail in archetypal 2nd XI fashion. He was also subjected to some large swings, picking up a wicket by bowling one backing away and shaping up for a big swing. The nature of the pitch by this point meant conceding a couple of boundaries was inevitable as the ball started to sit up more and more as the pace continued to drain out of the pitch in a manner similar to the colour draining from many freshers faces later. The result of this was their captain bringing up his 50, the only real resistance offered to the bowling. Freddie responded well by taking his second wicket, assisted by a good catch by Stilo over his head in front of the long on boundary. Larkins’ spell (2-0-13-2) was to be a short and successful one, as Captain Stileman (8-2-24-2) returned to take the final wicket at the conclusion of the 42nd over, giving the 2’s a convincing victory by 109 runs.

As mentioned throughout the report, it was not far off the complete performance by the team, dominating three of the four periods of the game, and still coming out on top in the other period. Despite the occasional misfields, the overall performance and intensity in the field, particularly in preventing singles and the rotation of the strike was reflected by the clinical nature of the catching, with all possible chances taken.

Man of the Match went to Nipun for his innings, both for the manner in which he scored his runs and the situation in which he scored them. Despite offering up a sharp chance to point on 0, it was a fairly chanceless innings.
Although this decision was more of a formality, there were several performances that would prove to be standouts in other games played. The batsmen who made scores all applied themselves well, and our total could have been larger if some more risk had been taken, with almost all the runs coming off the bad balls, a credit to both the patience of the batsmen, and the pressure they put on the Birmingham bowlers by putting away the bad balls. Roche led the bowling attack well, and the combined figures of the trio of pacemen of 25-8-54-6 (not including Dan Lewis’ fine spell) reflected the excellent lines bowled throughout the innings, following the Milno doctrine of fourth stump “cock high” line and sticking to it until the death bowling, something which was never truly required.
The return to campus was therefore a happy one, having cleared the net run rate deficit from last week, and a good set up for the shenanigans that were to follow. Going forward, the 2’s can feel encouraged from this performance to continue this form, along with several options available to the strong and stable (sorry, had to get this in somewhere) leadership of the captain for each game.