Math report written by Ian Garrett
This was, for the third successive week, a performance of real resilience than won a game, in the end comfortably, that looked at various points could be lost. And this was a team with only ten players, missing various regulars for a variety of reasons, demonstrating the depth and resilience in the Ways seconds. The runs were enough, with Khizar Khan yet again the stand out performer, and the totally committed performance in the field never let Avoncroft get near the required run rate.
Rain delayed the start, reduced the game to 41 overs a side, and made it an easy decision for the Avoncroft captain to insert on winning the toss. Ways made a stuttering start, with young opener Bellizia striking at once when Iain Wingfield toe-ended a ball to point, and then after a few boundaries from Ian Garrett, had him edging a drive to gully. Bellizia’s day was to deteriorate fast though when confronted with Khizar, who smashed him for four fours, leg side and off, in his next over. Khizar continued in his usual spectacular vein, helped by Avoncroft’s reluctance to put fielders out to patrol the boundaries, and blazed his way to a 23 ball fifty, reaching the landmark with a huge six over midwicket. With Zoheeb Ahmed playing a useful supporting role at the other end, the run rate was approaching six an over, and the hundred came up after sixteen. Ways’ innings then stuttered again – Khizar crashed a full toss to cover (57), Zo flicked a ball off his pads straight to square leg to fall for 29, and Anthony Jones went cheaply, and 100-2 had turned in to 113-5, and for all the overs left, the potential of a below par score.
The innings was rebuilt by mature and sensible play from Craig Heath and James White. Craig played the dominant role, driving the half volley down the ground or flicking the delivery on his legs to the onside boundary, whilst James dug in and ensured he stayed at the crease. They had added 36 when Craig mistimed a drive and was superbly caught at mid off by Brunt. Jonathan Tovey put together another useful partnership with James, before dragging on to the very slow spin of young Matt Croal, fresh from a five wicket haul the previous week. Sabir fell quickly, but more useful runs were added in a ninth and last wicket partnership between 3rd XI pair of Gavin Anderson and James, with the latter now set and hitting three boundaries before missing a stump-high full toss to be bowled for a more than useful 22 and bring the innings to a close on 188.
Would this be enough? Avoncroft had chased down a similar score against Cookhill the previous week, with captain Ingle batting the whole innings. But compared to previous weeks, Ways’ bowling was on the light side, and a lot depended on the start given by Anthony Jones and Sabir. They did not let us down. Backed by enthusiastic and aggressive ground fielding, the two bowlers kept the run rate tight. Sabir struck with his very first ball, gaining lift that induced a nick to Zo behind the stumps, and although Ingle and his partner batted safely enough, and looked for the sharp single, boundaries were few and far between, and Ways gained control of the situation. Skipper JT had set a target of no more than 40 from the first ten overs – after ten, the score was just 28-1. The next spells would be key – and Iain Wingfield and Craig Heath rose to the challenge. Iain was as miserly as ever – Ingle launched one six over the leg side with a rather desperate slog at one point, but other than that, Iain kept both batsmen quiet, and was unlucky to go wicketless, two close LBW appeals against Ingle being turned down. Craig bowling an eight over spell straight through was equally effective, and struck when we needed a wicket, ironically from one of his few loose balls, a stump high full toss which the batter missed, a dismissal similar to James at the end of our innings. 50-2, and the rate now approaching 6 an over. Craig struck a second time when the bogged down Patel edged a cut and Zo just clung on to it behind the stumps. Ingle now tried to up the pace, as the rate was now above a run a ball, and struck Iain for two fours in his final over to reach his fifty. With eight overs to cover before the openers came back, the game was not in the bag. Gavin Anderson and Khizar Khan filled the gap, and with Gavin struggling to find his length in his first over and Ingle pulling two fours, there was still the fear that Avoncroft could go close. But Gavin found his length in his next over, and took a wicket in each of his next three overs as the pressure grew on the batsmen. The key wicket of Ingle was the middle of those scalps, a ball popping from a length and being chipped to Anthony Jones at backward point who took the catch neatly. In Gavin’s next over, the powerful Brunt took him on and launched him into the leg side, but couldn’t clear Sabir on the midwicket boundary who took an excellent catch. That settled the game. With just youngsters at the crease and a rate now of over nine an over, and the openers to return, Avoncroft had no chance of achieving the target. Both Anthony and Sabir earned another wicket, both aided by Zo behind the stumps, who took an excellent catch from Sabir’s bowling and also, spotting the batter propping forward out of his crease, earned an unlikely stumping off Anthony with an underarm throw at the stumps. Khizar also hit the stumps with a throw from mid-off to gain a run out, and although the last pair managed to survive the last couple of overs to deny us the satisfaction of bowling Avoncroft out, 145-9 and a 43 run victory was an achievement indeed.
This was - again – a game that could easily have been lost. Several players were missing, players had been drafted in from the 3rds (and performed admirably), and ten players in the field could have been exposed, especially as Avoncroft looked to take advantage by running sharply. The performance rose to the challenge, particularly in the field, where barely a mistake was made. The chasing, throwing and ground fielding were excellent throughout, and Zo behind the stumps was a stand-out performer, with four victims and excellent takes both up to the stumps and back. With Alvechurch having lost yesterday, this victory gives us more than 20 points space between us in second and Alvechurch in third, and keeps the pressure on Old Halesonians on the top of our division, with a key clash coming in a few weeks’ time.