By Gary Norman

Q: When’s the best time to have five of your regular players taken from you?

A: Not when you’re playing top of the league Thurleigh, who also had some first teamers thrown in for good measure.

This week the C’s visited Thurleigh, deprived of four players who were taken into the 1’s and one Omar who had broken his thumb playing for another team on Sunday, leaving them with one pace bowler in the eleven and an opposition who were packed with decent players, plenty of attitude and the confidence that comes with sitting at the top of the division.

The hosts won the toss and elected to bat, and the C’s opened with Usman from one end and Robbie from the other. It didn’t take long for it to become apparent that this was not going to be a spin friendly wicket as the openers Dent and Slocombe tucked into Usman’s first over. Robbie was keeping things tighter at the other end, but with the lack of pace in the side batting looked easy. Dent gave a couple of chances early on, being dropped by Gary around his ankles at slip and Sam spilling one at point, and Slocombe was accumulating runs by firstly mishitting it into the gaps and then, as he played himself in, by finding the middle more often.

Chances kept coming but no one could hold on to the ball with Slocombe given several lives, and at drinks it was 120 without loss with Thurleigh firmly in control. The breakthrough finally came when Blade found the edge of Dent’s bat, with Carter taking a smart catch behind the stumps. Milne came and went at three with Jim finding a way to nip the ball under an attempted pull shot, bowling him for 4. Steve came on and the drops continued with Slocombe reaching his hundred after being dropped SIX times. Steve tempted Iqbal with a flighted slower ball which he danced past and was bowled and Blade took a further three wickets, including the centurion, but after 40 overs of toil and with the score at 239 for 7, the hosts declared their innings.

After tea, complete with home-made jam sponge, the C’s set about the unlikely task of chasing (or more realistically batting out the overs) Thurleigh’s impressive score. Things looked more unlikely when they faced the opening bowlers, particularly Wallace who was fast, aggressive and realistically too good for division six cricket. After a quiet first five overs, he took two wickets in two balls, firstly breaking Carter’s bail and then clean bowling Gary with an in-swinging ball that he ushered onto the stumps by leaving it. When Sam was adjudged LBW an over later much to Milne’s delight, which he showed with an overley aggressive send off, the C’s were all teetering at 29 for 4 with the best part of forty overs left to bat. Blade joined Usman at the crease and there was some resistance with boundaries flowing for a while, but this was short lived as Milne bowled Blade for 14 and the C’s were 64 for 5.

Steve then joined Usman at the crease, batting at an unfamiliar six and looked solid from the start. The opening bowlers ended their spells and things started to get a little easier. Steve was enjoying the banter from the fielding side and was giving as good as he got, whilst steadily accumulating runs for good measure. At the other end Usman was still managing to find gaps in the ever more patrolled off side, but one cover drive too many was to be his downfall as Iqbal took a smart catch and he was gone. Raj came and went in two balls, skying an Armstrong delivery to slip and the C’s were in deep trouble at 69 for 7. Robbie lasted two balls before he was bowled, again by Armstrong bringing Callum to the crease. He and Steve batted together for 6 overs, with Callum reaching his highest league score of 7 before the skipper Milne brought himself back on and broke the partnership. Callum’s departure was followed in the very next over by the dismissal of Steve, bringing his long vigil at the crease to an end for a creditable 35 when he was caught brilliantly in the covers by Iqbal. Alan Snr went the very next ball and that was that. The C’s had been bowled out for a meagre 105 in little more than 33 overs.

Thurleigh fully deserved their victory having out-batted, out-bowled and out-fielded their opponents on a day where pretty much nothing went right for the C’s. This week’s man of the match goes to Steve for his 22 over stand at the crease.

On a day where the first team used six pace bowlers and the second team were only afforded one in the eleven, and a regular second team top order batsmen was used at number eight, you have to ask whether the current policy of breaking up a successful second team on the back of two maximum points wins for little benefit is a productive way forward. Would the C’s have beaten Thurleigh with the inclusion of those players taken from them? Who knows but they certainly would have had a fighting chance.

Next week the 2’s host Little Horwood, and judging by last year’s matches they will need a strong team to get back on track. Let’s hope they get one.