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SATURDAY XI v WICKHAM - 5th May 2018

Cricket made the long awaited return to Reading Room Lane on Saturday, following a snowy / rainy / monsoon filled start to the year that had rendered all pre-season fixtures unplayable, However with the combination of winters toil from Jon Edwards, a posse of sub-contracted groundsman’s assistants and some fine weather over the past few days then the scene was set for newly promoted Curdridge's league season opener against Wickham. Bolstered by some new recruits (Craig & Matt) and the return of an old face (Jay, who came back into the team following his year long world tour as Miss Diva UK), then the Curdridge side was confident that something more than survival could be achieved at this level.

Some things never change though, and skipper did what he does best and lost the toss, and was promptly invited to have a bat on a deck that looked great, but with the moisture underneath no-one really knew how it would play. Craig and Jack started up and built a steady partnership, Jack in particular playing some eye-catching shots into the leg-side. The opening stand had reached 37 before ’Sniffer' got one that stopped a bit and was caught out towards mid-wicket.


Hilton’s finest made his way to the middle, but it was only a brief stay for Jay before a leading edge did for him. 


Dave then made his way to the middle and some surprisingly steady play ensued, with the damp outfield making fours difficult to come by so there was plenty of heavy panting in the middle as singles and twos were the order of the day. David then fell to a good catch on the boundary and the scoreboard sat at a solid 91-3 after 24 overs. 


Skipper then joined Craig in the middle for a brief stay before trying to put a high full toss into Skinner’s which went straight up and Dan was summoned to the middle. 


By now Craig had passed fifty and was well set, and with Clarkey at the other end, the Curdridge batsmen made the most of the fifth and sixth change bowlers milking them to all parts of the ground. Tension mounted as the innings reached its climax with debutant Craig approaching three figures.


Dan played the perfect support role rotating the strike and Craig delivered a debut ton in the penultimate over - well batted junior! 


Clarkey continued to accumulate at the other end and the innings closed on a competitive 191-4 with several quality batsmen left in the shed for Curdridge. Keep your powder dry for future weeks guys, we don’t want to use it all up in game 1.


A quality Mike Punt tea was devoured and sun screen re-applied (or applied for the first time for those who were now a little rouge.)


Del, now into his 322nd season at Curdridge took his usual spot at the top of the hill as the home side took the field. However things didn’t go to the Del Candy script as the first over was dispatched for 6 runs with no wickets, and Skipper was already thinking about a replacement. 


New boy Matt took the ball at the other end, and the Joe Root lookalike sent down some quality deliveries that had the batsmen missing. Skipper then missed a tough chance at slip so Matt decided he would do the work himself and dispatched the opener with his off-stump removed. 


Del had now calibrated his radar after his winter’s hibernation, and his accuracy induced a caught and bowl chance that gave Del enough time to send the batsmen off with his new ‘you can’t see me’ move before catching the ball in front of his nose and both openers were in the shed.


A decent partnership then started to build for the Wickham boys with Mr Floppy Hat looking particularly dangerous, crashing a series of boundaries into the offside. Matt and Del continued to bowl out their allotted overs keeping a lid on the run rate, and after 16 overs the scoreboard sat at 45-2. 


Skipper turned to the Dim and Dimmer show, with Luke and David replacing the opening pair. With the run-rate required always tailing upwards it wasn’t long before a chance came, and Matt took a fine catch, made particularly difficult as it was his first outing fielding on the Curdridge hill. 


One bought two as skipper turned an easy chance into a difficult one before swooping to pouch the ball near his feet. The Wednesday wicket won’t need rolling at the car park end this week now Jon! 


Wickham were in the game with steady play building a platform to launch from towards the end of their innings, before Al Bollard employed some tactical genius, by diving past the ball at third man, he generated enough anger in David to ensure his next ball was far too much for the poor batsman and his stumps were removed by the quicker one.


The game had now transformed into a game of give Mr Floppy the one and bowl at the weaker batsmen at the other end. However their efforts to rotate the strike were in vain as a direct hit for David sent another one back.


With Mr Floppy still at the crease though the game wasn’t done, but the pressure finally told as he launched the ball into orbit towards the long on boundary. Cue Mike Punt, with his legs performing an Irish Riverdance as he tried to work out where the ball would return to earth. The team had time to stop and discuss the chances of Mike taking it before it finally landed and to the lad’s surprise / joy the Punter pouched a beauty,


That was the game and the tail was wrapped up quickly to ensure full bowling points were delivered. Wickham all out for 116.


For a season opener in a higher league, a fine result for the Machine, with the new recruits blending well with the usual superstars. A couple more wins should see us save from relegation and confidence will be high as we move onto game 2 vs Compton next week.


Man of the Match: An easy decision this week, whilst Matt put in a strong claim with a fine opening spell and some good fielding, Craig with his 107 not out on debut takes this weeks plaudits.

Champagne Moment: There is a clear winner here with Punter’s ‘Riverdance' catch closing down the game - never in doubt mate!

Donut of the day: Always a few contenders here, but Punter does the double this week, following up his catch with a piece of unorthodox fielding. Putting in the slide to ensure his feet connected with the ball as it trickled towards the boundary, and contriving to volley it thirty yards away into the Reading Room car park. Saints could do with finishing like that Mike.

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