SATURDAY XI v HAMBLEDON 3rds - 26th August 2017
So the scene was set for the season finale. Jonathan Edwards had prepared a fantastic looking track, the sun was beating down, and two teams assembled with everything to play for in the last league game of the season.
Hambledon were the visitors, top of the table and looking for a win to secure the league title. Curdridge sat in 4th place, level with Gosport Challengers in 3rd and knowing that they needed acquire more points on the day than Challengers did to grab the last promotion berth.
A crucial toss as ever, and Mr Consistent, Skipper lost the toss and a fired up Curdridge were asked to have a bowl. Back into the team came Dan Clarke, and Andy Patterson made his season debut alongside the usual Curdridge blend of youth and experience.
Del and Dave started up and whilst tidy, the opening batsmen rarely looked troubled as they built an ominous opening partnership. For the second week running both Del and David finished their opening spells wicketless, Del with his usual tidy figures of 10 overs for 22 runs. However on a great batting deck, Curdridge were looking down the barrel of chasing well in excess of 200.
Mike Punt stepped up to the plate to bowl the extra over at both ends and did the job perfectly, before Dan replaced David and Luke tagged in for Del.
The game moved on in a similar manner with only half chances coming Curdridge's way and the score passed 100 without the loss of a wicket, Hambledon were well in the driving seat.
Step forward the American Dreamer, and Luke’s persistence induced a caught and bowled opportunity that he grabbed, and Curdridge had finally got an opening.
The number three, came to the wicket with a clear remit to capitalise on the opening partnership and try to dispatch all balls to the leg side boundary. After a few lusty blows Luke found a way through his defences and the opposition were two down but the score was still moving on with 15 overs still left to bowl.
Salmon then turned Panther, as Al Bollard leapt full length at mid-wicket to pull off a stop that clearly the batsmen didn’t expect as they were both caught at the same end and Jack did the rest to run out the number 4.
Curdridge were gradually clawing their way into this game, and another crucial wicket came as the well set opener was bowled by another Dimmock special.
More fine fielding was on show, particularly from Mike Punt, who was deadly accurate, throwing down the stumps on more than one occasion. Even Del had strapped on some extra battery packs, regularly sprinting round the boundary to stop the flow of runs.
Dan then got the reward he deserved for a great spell, bowling another, and Curdridge were into the middle order.
David was then called upon to close down the innings and the combination of full yorkers at one end and Dimmock twirlers at the other had the batsmen struggling to score runs. David picked up three late wickets with a fine second spell, and the innings closed at 187 for 8.
This represented a fine recovery from Curdridge who at one point were facing a much higher run chase than that, and confidence was high as we dug into a Bollard special tea.
Dan and Nick started up, and Nick was a man in a hurry as he dispatched the opening bowler back over his head first over. He must have had a hot date that night though as next over he only served to hit it straight up in the air and Curdridge were 1 down early on.
Chris then joined Dan in the middle, and played the support role, as Dan and his magic bat dispatched the opening attack to all parts, blending a new found forward defensive with the usual biff, as he played a cracking knock for the team which kept the scoreboard ticking.
Chris then proved that bad balls get wickets as he smashed a full toss straight to cover, and skipper made his way to the middle.
Dan then got a good one, and had is off peg removed, and when the welsh wide boy joined the skipper, the score was 60-4 after twenty overs, and the ask was a run a ball.
Steady batting was then the order of the day, as Curdridge looked to take the game long, with the break at the end of each over following a similar vein. David - “Can we go yet?”, Skipper - “Not yet”,
This continued with good shots from both ends, without taking too much risk, until the end of the 36th over, when the required run rate was sitting at 9 an over, and a new conversation took place. David - “Can we go yet?”, Skipper - “it’s time!”
Skipper then struggled to get an over away putting more pressure on the run rate before launching one towards the long on boundary - unfortunately though it didn’t have enough juice and it was caught just within the rope and Hambledon were clear favourites as the run rate was rising rapidly with a new man at the crease.
If ever there is a man for a late order biff then 'the Bollard' is the man, and he joined David in the middle. A couple more steady overs followed though, and the equation came down to 28 runs needed off 12 balls, and surely there was too much to do now.
Six - into the playground, from David.
Six - into the playground, from David
No-Ball, with two runs on top
Six - into the playground, from David
(one ball short in the over)
Total runs, 22, and the mood changed dramatically, Hambledon now shell shocked as they had thought they had both hands on the trophy and Curdridge suddenly believing that we can do this.
Last over, and a run a ball needed….
Four - carted through mid-wicket by the Welsh wonder and Curdridge WIN!
We saved our best performance for the last game of the season - when it really mattered! Fortress Reading Room Lane remains exactly that with a 100% win record at home this season. 23 points was the haul, but would it be enough?
Firstly, some thank-you’s for people who have gone above and beyond this season:
Thank you Jon Edwards, who has worked tirelessly sacrificing hours of his time to provide us with the best pitch in the league to play on each week
To Andy P, for giving up his time and support every Saturday, doing the thankless task of umpiring - cheers Andy
And to all the players who have been involved this season, but particularly those who have filled in when we are short, without you putting your hands up, we wouldn’t have got through the season,
Man of the Match: There were 11 potential candidates this week but David played a blinder finishing on 82 not out and taking 3 wickets.
Champagne Moment: There were three - ‘Six into the playground, from David’
So to the small matter of promotion, unfortunately it was not to be, as Challengers also gathered 23 points, meaning they finished on exactly the same points as Curdridge but they take the last promotion spot as they had won more games through the season.
An ultimately disappointing end, but it has been a great season where we have significantly overachieved on expectations, particularly when we had lost some club stalwarts over the winter. We have played some great cricket, improving week on week, and we did it with a smile on our face.
The breaking news is Ladbrokes have already installed us as favourites for the league next season. Cheers all!