Home v Northants Women XI – won by 12 runs

Match report courtesy of Matt!

Cricket is truly a game for everyone!
Another bank holiday weekend saw Graces with another double weekend of games. This Monday saw one of the more exciting fixtures of the season, courtesy of Matt’s Northants connections – a first ever fixture against a first-class county women side, Northamptonshire Steelbacks!
By pure coincidence, Broxbourne were also hosting a women’s softball festival on the same day, so the fixture had become somewhat of an event, meaning the second pitch at Broxbourne would again come into our use. Due to his connections to the opposition (being one of four Northants based players in the Graces team), Matt skippered the side, with Northants choosing to bowl first.
Matt chose to open up with himself and young Henry, making his Graces’ debut. Despite an early scare for Henry, getting caught behind, but luckily off the arm, the pair complimented each other very well. Matt hit in his typical style, taking advantage of any width to the short boundaries, with Henry holding up his end very securely and taking the quick runs in the gaps. The pair were looking fairly untroubled from the openers, forcing the change from Northants, introducing spin not long after the 10th over.  It was noticeable that Matt had decided this was the time to up the run rate, sweeping well for his eighth boundary. However, only two balls later, attempting another leg side hit, he would be bowled for an almost run-a-ball 44 and ended the innings’ highest partnership of 62.
The bowling changes for the visitors proved very successful, with Mahender soon following with a faint nick behind and Adam then bowled, giving spinner Lague her second – Mendis the new batter. Only seven runs later, Henry would be the next to depart, getting stumped after trying to push on, out for a solid 36. Unfortunately for Graces, the wickets kept coming. After hitting a glorious six, soon later Mendis was LBW, Nadeem was caught and then a mix up in running denied Martin his first Graces’ run, before being caught the next ball. 62/0 had become 102/7, despite many overs left.
However, the tail would wag! Seven and eight, Mark and ‘Skippy’ Chris, provided a superb counterattack. Mark was showing some great skill to manoeuvre the ball through the gaps in the field, taking full advantage of the shorter boundaries, whilst Skippy provided a walking highlights package, with what seemed like every outcome possible from every ball – chips, edges, misses, flicks and a booming six into the hockey pitch! The partnership was ended two before the 50 when Skippy was caught and bowled, leaving Jonners to be the rock to Mark’s continuingly impressive innings. The rock proved to be as solid as Jack Leach, providing an immeasurable one run in fifteen balls to a super 9th wicket partnership of 39 – Mark continuing to use hard hands to attack the riverside boundary. Eventually, Jonners departed with the most modern of shots – charging the bowler, then attempting a legside slog on one knee and being bowled! Dan (the fourth Northants based player – filling in with 20 minutes notice!), came in with an over to go, whacking ten from the final three balls, to see Graces reach exactly 200. A superb fightback, thanked massively to Mark’s highest ever score of 41 not out!
To defend the target, Matt turned to the fiery pace of Dan and the guise of Mendis to open the bowling – all to tune of the booming 80s dance classics coming from the DJ in softball festival on the main pitch! Both bowlers appeared difficult to get away, providing close catching opportunities too, but the batters stood resilient. Unable to break through their defences, Graces turned to the slower options, with Mahender proving economical in six overs going for only 16 runs, with Mendis doing very similar still at the other end, yet still no breakthrough and the Northants’ batters becoming more confident in pushing the quick runs too.
The running would eventually prove overconfident as one quick single too many resulted in Mahender getting a good throw in from the inner ring to dismiss Hammond-Lewis for 17. Yet ,this wouldn’t change the strength in the Northants batting with Austin providing great support to ever impressive Smart, who was nearing a well-deserved 50! In an attempt to get her out, Mark was given the opportunity to prove himself as a genuine allrounder. But Smart would be too wise to this, continuing some great hits and good running to the boundary sweepers, collecting a very handy 50. All of sudden, Northants’ run rate was starting to rise and the visitors hit the century mark for the loss of only one wicket!
Matt then brought himself on in an attempt to make the breakthrough. Alas, Austin’s resistance was broken, as attempting to up the anti, got herself stumped for 17. The next batter, Ascott, would be able to successfully up the anti though, with some very quick and precise running, taking advantage of the odd wayward ball from the skipper, and four dropped catches in his five overs, relieving the pressure on Smart at the other end. Despite a strong and accurate spell from Skippy, the number of wickets in hand meant the result was becoming more in favour for Northants with the run rate only just above the run-a-ball mark, an easy feat on the back pitch!
With the music blaring, Nadeem, who had been dancing the entire innings replacing song lyrics with players names (I’m not sure Madonna has ever sung “let’s hear it for the Mendis, let’s give the ball a chance”), was brought into the attack. It would prove very valuable, finally getting the wicket of Smart for a superb 71! The wicket added some considerable pressure to the Northants’ innings, combined with Dan being brought back on. The opener got his wicket, then more were soon followed by Nadeem, grabbing two in an over, swinging the game significantly towards the hosts. One final over from Mendis saw Northants fall 13 short of their target, but it certainly felt closer than that on the pitch! Nadeem’s 3-23 being the pick of the figures.
A fantastic day of cricket, played in exactly the right spirit! The perfect warm up for the T10 inclusion tournament next! Player of the match going to Mark was his efforts to get the team to 200. Special thanks also to Martin (Henry’s dad) for umpiring the game and also to Rob, who scored the entire game listening to the many, many stories provided by his Northants’ colleague!