After our last ball defeat against Crawley and cancellations against Brown Candover and Winchester College, the Racqueteers were keen to get back on the pitch. Problem was, if you believed the weather forecast, ducks and great crested grebes were more likely to be taking guard than Winchester’s finest. However, buoyed by the optimism of our captain, we turned up at the appointed time. The sky was grey and overcast and moisture seeped through the air. However, it didn’t rain – despite threatening to all afternoon – and we were delighted to play out a 25-over match. Welcome should be made to Richard S, making his debut, and credit to Tom Talks for making the second innings after his earlier victorious hockey semi-final. Credit also to Westgate Lambs, who were equally enthusiastic to play, and were playing their first match for two years.
The Racqueteers batted first, with Mike F and Mike C opening. And herein lies the main story of the match. As a relaxing time for the rest of the team ensued, our captain and president scored a superb century partnership, both scoring fifties, Mike F retiring for 57 and Mike C for 50. The bowling was erratic as Westgate were rusty, but also sometimes very accurate. Their two opening bowlers summed this up: one had an attack of the yips and combined some accurate balls with a number of no balls and wides; the other was mainly accurate and often dangerous. The difficulty of erratic bowling is you never know when you’re going to get a good ball. However, the two Mikes navigated this and a damp pitch, where balls could keep very low, with aplomb. Both fifties were chanceless and scored at approximately one run per ball. Westgate traditionally enjoy themselves on the field and contributed plentiful banter and had at least four cans on the field at all times – indeed, when Chris and Guy brought the drinks out at the mid-innings point, they ignored the offered cordial and headed straight for the pavilion and more beer! The opening partnership set us up for a good score. Jon and Edmund came in next and were each bowled (by the same bowler) for 3 and 8 respectively – they were sure it turned! Gaurav scored a useful 14 not out and Paddy came in at the end to hit 7 not out, our final total being 164 for 2.
Chris and Guy opened the bowling against Westgate’s openers, who started at a fair rate, hitting several fours and only good fielding – including a notable boundary slide by Richard – preventing more. Our bowlers got their eye in and kept it accurate. The reward came in the fifth over, when Guy straight bowled their number two for 20. Chris got in on the act a couple of overs later by bowling their number three, and Guy bowled their number four in his final over. Guy and Chris finished with figures of 2 for 23 and 1 for 25 from their respective five overs. After threatening early on, Westgate remained difficult to get out but didn’t get close to the required run rate due to further accurate bowling and dedicated fielding. Richard bowled a good spell of 1 for 19 off 4 overs, the wicket a good catch by Chris, moving backwards at mid wicket. Tom T got exactly the same figures, taking a caught and bowled for his wicket. Edmund bowled an accurate three overs for only 7 and also made a characteristic diving stop (he does one per game!), Gaurav competently ran out their number five, and Tom L was incredibly accurate, taking one wicket (bowled) for two runs off 3 overs. The final word was left to our captain, who was due to bowl the last over and only needed one ball, taking the last Westgate wicket with a plumb lbw after a stylish appeal.
We finished up under covers at the King Alfred, with sausages, rolls, chips and a pint or two. At this point, the rain was starting to fall, but no matter, we celebrated a thoroughly enjoyable match, a satisfying win and our president’s first fifty!