The 3rds arrived at the idyllic Puttenham ground with a strong line-up and plenty of optimism of building on their strong start to the season. We were not to be helped by the steady, relentless drizzle that continued throughout the game and may have proved to be our undoing.
Confident of restricting Puttenham to a low score, captain Toby wasn’t too displeased when their captain chose to bat first. Don Brayshaw (5-0-31-1) and Alex Marden (6.4-1-17-3) bowled with pace and with tight lines from the get-go and were rewarded with early wickets: Don pinned opener Watson LBW and Alex collected a couple of top-order wickets, including a lovely delivery that swung into the right-hander from outside off to clip the top of off stump. At 18-3 after the first few overs, the Shotts were hopeful of chasing a low score.
However, opener Muddassar was looking to play the only way he knew how – to try and hit every ball to the boundary. Despite the best efforts of Charles Brayshaw and Ross Owen, who bowled some lovely deliveries and created chances, Muddassar’s power hitting got Puttenham back into a strong position going into drinks. On another day, many of the mistimed, aerial hits would’ve gone straight down the throat of a fielder. However, we knew that if we were going to get ourselves back into the game, we’d have to do it the hard way.
The skipper bought himself onto bowl after drinks, which proved to be a very good move. Combining with Ross and Allan Jones, Toby didn’t give anything for Muddassar and his partner Suddhani to hit and the run-rate began to try up. With the pressure building, Toby got the key wicket of Suddhani – a snick that was juggled but just about clung onto by the relieved keeper.
More wickets fell, with Toby picking up two more including the dangerous opener and Allan clean-bowling their number 7. Toby ended up with figures of 9-1-44-3 and Allan 3-0-14-1
Our solid performance in the field also proved decisive in removing Puttenham’s middle to lower order cheaply. An impressive direct-hit from Toby, who was already having a good game, was unfortunately overshadowed by Alex’s wonder throw: picking the ball up a few yards in from the furthest boundary and with one stump to aim at, he would surely have been the only player on the pitch who could throw it that far let alone get a direct hit to leave the batsman well short of his ground. A towering catch by Allan then ended any lower-order resistance and left us with a target of 210: a tough ask but nevertheless a chaseable target.
However, as openers John Wheeler and Will Phipps stepped out to bat, the persistent rain was showing no signs of letting up and a limited-overs game was definitely on the cards. John and Dave were removed early before Will and Toby set to work: Will rotating the strike and Toby pouncing on anything loose.
Will’s departure for 20 did not slow the momentum of the chase, as Toby and Alasdair Boag combined effectively. Despite Alasdair desperately needing some new spikes, sliding around like Bambi on ice, the pair ran effectively between the wickets, helping themselves to singles they had no right to and turning ones into twos. This, combined with some lovely timed shots from both batsmen, put us in a strong position at 95-3 after 21 overs, with Toby on 43 and Alasdair on 25.
However, having played for the required amount of overs to make it a game, the captains decided enough was enough. The rain was only getting heavier, and the square began to resemble a swamp rather than a pitch. It was a real shame as, although we lost the game based on being slightly behind the run-rate, we would’ve had a strong chance of chasing the target down had the weather held off, especially with the two set batsmen. Nonetheless, it was a strong team performance and there were a lot of positives that we can take forward to Frensham next week.