By Gary Norman

Last week the first team opened their league account with a defeat away to a newly promoted side. This week the 2’s were hoping to do better as they began their campaign in identical circumstances, in traveling to Stoke Hammond.

With Robbie absent, ‘Captain Omar’ lost the toss and the C’s were put into bat on a green looking strip. Omar opened the batting alongside debutant Umar, and it was immediately clear that being watchful was the order of the day as a good length ball was either flying past your ears or your ankles at random intervals. For the first few overs the opening bowlers Connell and Kutty plugged away on an accurate line and length, giving few scoring chances away resulting in a slow run rate. The C’s openers were generally resolute in defence, with the odd quality boundary thrown in for good measure. After 13 overs the C’s were 29 without loss and Stoke Hammond decided to bring on their young spinner Barrett Jnr. Omar smashed his first ball for six, but was undone two balls later when he was trapped on the crease and given out LBW for 16. Umar fell to Roshan in the next over, bowled for 16, but the openers had done their job and had built a decent platform. Shahbaz joined Gary at the crease and the latter took no time in tucking into some juicy full tosses from Barrett Jnr, pushing the score along to 52 by the time that Shahbaz was trapped LBW for 5. Usman came and went also LBW to the bowling of the Stoke Hammond captain, Barrett Snr for the same score just before the drinks break with the score on 85 for 4.

After drinks the Stoke skipper struck again bowling Gary for 21, bringing Kyle to the crease alongside Aftab. After a solid start Aftab started to cut loose supported firstly by Kyle until he was run out on 8, and then by Simmo. Aftab was leading a charmed life with the fielding side seemingly keen to keep him in and scoring by dropping several chances and in a moment of pure village cricket genius, allowing him a four with long off and long on converging on a straight drive only to crash into each other and helplessly watch ball roll between them and over the boundary. At the other end Simmo going along nicely, mostly playing straight, with the odd trademark leg glance. Aftab reached 50 and was promptly bowled, bringing Steve to the crease with the C’s on 169 for 7. With the overs running out and the opening bowlers back on the scoring rate slowed and by the time that Simmo (22), Farhan (0) and Jim (0) had perished, leaving Steve unbeaten on 8, the innings was over at 185 with one ball left.

The overall feeling at tea was that it would take a good effort to chase down that score on an uneven track and as the C’s took to the field for the Stoke innings there was a quiet confidence that a win was on the cards.

Omar decided to open the bowling with Farhan at one end, and perhaps unconventionally with Jim at the other. It proved to be a master stoke as Jim began with a wicket maiden, bowling Nada for a duck with a grasscutter that beat the bottom of the bat, and it didn’t take long for one to become two as Jim struck again in the following over as Roshan drove straight to Aftab at mid-on for another duck. Third over from Jim, third wicket as this time the hapless batsman cut a short wide ball to the diving Steve who took a brilliant one handed catch at point. 17 for 3 became 17 for 5 in no time at all as Farhan got in on the act, firstly by finding the leading edge of Dunkley’s bat, with Omar taking a comfortable catch in the covers, followed by a full swinging delivery to clean up the incoming Game for a golden duck. There was to be no hat-trick for Farhan but the damage done to Stoke was terminal and it was just a matter of time before the C’s finished the job.

Barrett Jnr and Miguel provided some resistance but after Jim notched up his fourth wicket, bowling Barrett Jnr for 7, it was time for Kyle to take centre stage and clean up the tail. The batsmen facing the quick, swinging rockets from Kyle were doing their best to just survive the onslaught, but the inevitable wasn’t long in coming when the younger Blaney cleaned up Game and Patel in consecutive balls and then repeated the dose to Kutty three overs later. The game was over when Connell nicked another Kyle delivery to Gary at fly-slip two balls later, and the C’s had bowled out their opponents for just 34 in just over 20 overs.

It was the perfect start to the season with runs, wickets and 30 points to kick off the campaign. Omar is again in charge for next week’s home game against Old Bradwell and will no doubt be looking to continue the encouraging start with another win. There were some excellent performances notably from Aftab with the bat, from Kyle and Farhan with the ball and from Omar in charge, but this week’s man of the match goes to Jim who broke the back of the opposition’s batting line up taking three of the top four and returning figures of 4 for 15 from his 10 overs.