After an enforced break of 295 days and the loss of 12 fixtures to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has dominated global events in 2020, Pyestock CC were finally able to dust off the whites, bats, pads and gloves and head to Ramsdell CC for the mid-season opener against Whiteditch Rams CC.
The first job for brand new captain Jon Ford was to arrest a run of eight matches without a win which ended Chris Heath’s spell at the helm, dating back to the trip to Fernhurst 12 months ago. Despite an unbeaten record against Whiteditch Rams this would not be easy without Neil and Colin Butler as well as Jay and Tom Threlfall.
After losing the toss, it was hoped that the lack of match practice would hamper the batting hosts more than it would Pyestock in the field, and the early signs were good as Chris Heath ripped through the top order with 4 wickets in his first 4 overs as M.Abbott, Wilson (both 0), Holbrook (22) and L.Abbott (0) all returned to the pavilion early as the score fell to 29 for 4.
A double bowling change robbed the ex-captain of a chance for his first 5-fer since 2014 but the wickets continued to tumble as Danyaal Uddin and Pete Harris entered the contest. Uddin’s first ball, proved a little loose, landing somewhere in the point region after slipping from the bowlers grasp during delivery, but thankfully it proved a one-off as the newcomer claimed 2 wickets either side of Harris claiming the same to further hamper the home sides chances of posting a defendable target.
The last 2 wickets fell either side of the mid-innings drinks break and both came courtesy of run outs, first Sam Armes caught Brown short of his ground, before Dan Heath produced a trademark rocket from the boundary to deceive Vickory and Whiteditch Rams were dismissed for just 62 in 19.3 overs. It was an impressive bowling performance by Pyestock, who were ably backed up by their fielders, 2 catches apiece for Dan Heath and Jake Baldwin amongst others.
Pyestock were wary of a similar lack of match practice and were in no way complacent in the chase, especially as the opening spells from both T.Holbrook and Monger kept openers Paul Bright and Charlie Eve quiet. Only 12 runs were possible in the opening 5 overs, before Monger struck twice in 3 balls as Eve and dangerman Jack Bromley had their defences breached and open the game up.
If the Rams were to have any chance of winning the game, wickets had to be a continual theme, and whilst Jon Ford helped Bright halt the procession, it became clear that runs were still not free flowing. Ford was caught in the 14th over as S.Holbrook held onto a catch to give Monger his 3rd wicket before he himself got into the act by dismissing Sam Armes for 6.
At this stage Pyestock were 34 for 4 and nerves were setting in, despite the strong tail that contained Dan Heath, Ben Bromley and Pete Harris in the bottom 3, but as it happened it was the unlikely face of Chris Heath who steadied the ship.
Despite the loss of Bright LBW for a battling 11, Heath worked well with Jake Baldwin to calm the euphoria that was growing in the Rams ranks with each wicket and calmly pushed the game beyond the reach of the hosts. A partnership of 17 with the young but rapidly improving wicket-keeper, whilst sounding small, was crucial to the stage of the game and resulted in being the largest of the match and took the visitors to just 8 from victory by the time the ex-skipper holed out to mid off in the 24th over.
It was then up to the impressive Baldwin and the might of Uddin to wrap up victory with 7 overs and 3 balls remaining and give Ford his first win as Team Captain, and a positive start to the new reign.
It was all in all a very enjoyable day and Ramsdell proved excellent hosts on a day of new normals and regulations. Thankfully the adjustments did not detract from a very enjoyable game of cricket and the margin of victory fair as Pyestock shaded their opponents in each discipline without ever threatening to mount a charge towards a commanding win.
Thank you to all at Ramsdell CC for the extra work that went into hosting this fixture and best wishes for the remainder of 2020.
Next week, Pyestock travel to Grayswood for what promises to be a different test. The impressive outfit have a 100% record with 2 commanding victories. Pyestock will be looking for a change in the balance and continue their unbeaten record this season to 14 matches (give or take 12 cancellations) 😉