One Day Competition - President Cardinals vs East Shirley Gold, Sydenham Park #3, Presidents, 1st March 2014
There must have been pressure on them - in good sides it's almost suicidal to bugger off to a wedding or golf match and leave the vitally important job of opening the batting to a couple of "bowlers" as happened last week. And when those bowlers then get you off to a great start against the league leaders, and contribute hugely to that win, you're just plain vulnerable. But equally, in good sides players in that situation step up, and Wildy and Laughts surely did that in this one, in fact fair to say, their homecoming as the repentant opening pair was undoubtedly the decisive factor in this victory.
I had been worried about this weekend from several weeks ago when I first realised that it was against East Gold. Although we were due to have a vital game before it in the previous week against Saints, we also had a full squad to choose in that week barring the absent openers - despite their return, we were never going to have that same luxury this week with many fine players unavailable. And with the East game traditionally a huge challenge for us there was always a danger of it becoming a case of "after The Lord Mayors show" (comes the dust cart). But that wasn't to be as it turned out, like the Saints game the week before, we had the better of this one throughout most of the match, although Easts certainly had their moments to win it.
We won the toss (yes we won one, Ralphy all is now forgiven) and as it turned out he made two right calls, not only in the way he tossed that coin but in his decision to bat on a damp but drying wicket. Laughts and Wildy immediately rewarded that decision from the outset and dominated an East bowling attack that to be fair had been severely impacted by unavailability and injury. Their 125 opening partnership was at its usual good clip with both equally dominating at stages. Wildy (78) was the early aggressor, but Laughts with 69 was hardly the timid follower - between them they hit 10 sixes and 120 in boundaries before Laughts was the second of them to leave with the score at 147. The all important follow through on their innings came from Matt with a nice 44*, a carefully constructed innings in the context of what was required after the fine start to ensure that we got over 200 and created a real challenge to Easts. In the end, in truth, the total was probably 10-20 short of where it should have been if we'd finished strongly, but nonetheless on a damp and stopping wicket it was going to take some getting.
But no one doubted Easts ability to fight to achieve it, and in Craig Gibb they equally have a very strong performing opener. East's opening partnership of 83 got them back into the game again, and when Steve Barry produced one of the best innings I've seen him play in the circumstances, at 168/2, be it slightly behind the required run rate, we had work to do. Kev Moore is a hard man to keep down, and after failing with the bat in those closing overs, he became the initial main performer with the ball - his 1/21 from his eight overs did much to peg back Gibbs and his fellow openers run rate. But at 168/2, and shortly thereafter only needing 49 off seven, we certainly had a game on our hands. This is the time in a match when the energy goes up, when both sides know that the next few defining moments will determine success, this is why we play the game.
And some players are born for such occasions and the two left to bowl are certainly those types. Ralphy is a captain who likes to lead from the front and yet again when the occasion arrived he did - he cleaned out Barry and then Boyle during a couple of critical overs that went for less than fours, when Easts were required to do far more - when Arthur can't put you into the trees when he's trying to every ball, you're certainly doing something right. The other big occasion player is of course Sam.. His initial spell of four overs, admittedly as he was still digesting the hangi from lunch, had been competent - but competent is not something I associate with Samuel Martin. Indeed when he came back for a one over spell mid-innings to get a much needed break through, he had cut down his run up and tried to just think the opposition out...mistake. But the timing of his final spell had now developed into the occasion he'd clearly been waiting for - he decided to do something different, just plain get them out. Back on his long run, bowling fast, straight and full, he went way past competent. Easts had no chance of getting the required 7-8 off him and after he cleaned out the always menacing Arthur Daley, we saw a progression of batsmen back to the sideline as Sam finished with 4/31, all taken in his final and critical last three over spell. The fielding was energetic with one or two difficult misses, with the stand out coming from stand in Craig Borcoski who took two vital boundary catches looking into the sun.
So our Stella run of seven consecutive victories since Christmas remains in tact and pushes us into second place, with another important match probably against joint 2nd placers BWU due next week.
In the meantime we wish Sam all the best for his trip back to the UK this week. His short time with us each time he's in NZ is always entertaining, enlivening, infectious, and not surprisingly, successful. We look forward to seeing you on Skype come the awards dinner Sammy.
Man of the Match: Anthony Wild (one wasn't named but in the context of the match, despite the bowling heroics at the end, it had to be one of the two openers who set the match up for us).
P.S. and it was so good to see the Premiers along side us also win their match against OBC outright and remain in 2nd place as well - life is good.
Check out the scorecard from the game.