Colin spreads his magic dust
Sidmouth clinch top of the table clash amid the showers
The 2nd XI took on Bovey Tracey in a first versus second clash at the Fortfield this week, with inclement weather threatening to claim the enticing fixture for the second time this season, the return fixture having been abandoned without a ball being bowled.
On days when there is rain around the toss can be crucial, especially in 2nd XI cricket where the side batting second has a distinct advantage due to the lopsided rules that apply when overs are lost during rain interruptions.
Prior to play groundsman Colin Whitehall, his assistant Nick Mansfield, and a selection of other players helped to clear the covers and make the ground fit for play after the poor weather of Friday and a heavy shower in the morning. Some of the players were to learn a lot more about the covers during the rest of the day. It was Colin's magic dust - 20 bags of sweepings from the dry ends of wickets - that was invaluable in making the worn ends of previously used tracks safe and playable. The dust had a curious affect on some players.
Dec Lines won the toss and had a no-brainier decision to make. Bovey were asked to bat first and had to contend with not knowing when, or if, weather would intervene. As it happens they made good progress early on, with the opening pair accumulating runs steadily. Curiously, the same pair would later open the bowling as well, drawing questions about the true depth of the visitors' line up.
The ever consistent Fionn Wardrop thought he had got his man, when Tom Moore gleefully pouched an edged cut behind the stumps. There was no doubt was there? Much to the bowler's surprise the umpire's decision was not out. Easy mistake to make. Surely the batsman would still walk in the true tradition of the gentleman's game. No, he remained, steadfastly refusing to admit he had snicked off. His team mates couldn't recall Fee as angry. He exchanged words with the batsman at the end of the over; but nobody heard what was said.
Henry Gater replaced Byron Knowles at the Belmont end, bowling with accuracy, pace and penetration on his return to the fold after six months of travel down under. Despite beating the outside edge on multiple occasions Henry also couldn't find a wicket, but was very economical.
Next were Daley Holmes and Toby Seldon to attempt to break the deadlock. The partnership grew to 100 with both batsmen approaching their half centuries, but with menacing clouds banking up to the west, and with well under 20 overs left, there was a growing feeling that at least one of the batsmen should have chanced their arm earlier. The bowling unit had bowled well to this point but with no luck.
The wicket finally came courtesy of an excellent piece of fielding from Isaac Thomas, running back from mid wicket, to take the catch over his right shoulder; the batsman miscuing a long hop from the newly introduced Charlie Dibble, and falling one short of his half century. A shambolic piece of running gifted Sidmouth a second wicket with a run out from a prostrate Gater, and then calm collection and throw from keeper Tom Moore.
At this point the rain arrived. On came the covers. Out came the towels, the spiker and bags of dust. This interruption was quite brief. However, there was only time for a few more overs before the rain returned again. This time a more significant interruption resulted from the heavy shower and there was no more time for the away side to bat. Bovey, despite losing only three wickets, had set a target of 136 to be chased in 35 overs, which appeared to be well short of a challenging total. The loss of 10 overs to the weather meant they didn't get a chance to accelerate properly. Perhaps they should have predicted it. There again, they'd probably heard that it never rains the valley.
Former cricket chairman Mike Dibble arrived on the ground just before the tea interval, but in unfamiliar gait. His back 'had gone' in attempting to lift a bag of groceries at Lidl in the morning. He was listing seriously as he painfully shuffled his way to the pavilion. It was reminiscent of the stricken Titanic, interspersed with some Frankie Howard.
Michael was one of many observers who commented how the Sidmouth batting (on paper) looked very strong. However, on grass it didn't materialise that way. Progress to this modest target was punctuated by wickets which were, in the main, brought about through the batsman's over ambitious shot selection. There was debate in the changing room afterwards about whose was the worst shot. There were some interesting defence cases offered by the guilty parties, which I suspect would not have held up in a court of law. They ranged from: "it was not as short as I thought", "he was bowling too slow" to "at least my shot had intent".
Colstan Herbert, the home umpire seemed to understand the powers of the magic dust, and had predicted much earlier that Fionn Wardrop at number 9 would be at the crease at the end of the match. This didn't seem likely but Colstan had been close to the magic dust all day.
With Sidmouth stuttering to 75-4 another shower had arrived. More covers, spiking and dust spreading. Second ball after the disruption, and with an adjusted target of 112, Tom Moore, who had top scored with 33, managed to time a full toss straight to deep backward square leg. Then Henry Gater showed his intent - but missed a straight one. 6 wickets down, it needed a calm head. Nick Mansfield thought it was time for a reverse sweep - but missed a straight one. (Nick had earlier emulated the Bovey non-walker after a thick edge behind).
So it was Fionn to came to the crease with 10 still required. Finally, a batsman seemed content to pick off some singles, rather going for the glory shots. At the other end Byron Knowles was also picking up singles to the deep set field. Byron then reverted to type with a beautifully struck six, which unfortunately claimed a windscreen in the Belmont car park, to seal the victory. Byron's undefeated 21 was crucial in getting the leaders over the line and extending their lead at the summit of the table.
Trying to explain to a non-cricket follower that the side who scored fewer runs and took less wickets won the game is difficult. All those who watched the entire game might also conclude that the better side lost. Funny old game.