Away v Hertford – drawn

Balls Park
Mangrove Road
SG13 8AJ

Thanks to Matt for this match report;

Even though it is the third weekend of September, incredibly Graces found themselves in the position of having yet another double header weekend. This weekend saw a fixture arranged in just two days’ notice to travel back to the home county, but not Broxbourne, a visit to neighbouring Hertford.

With Stuart leading the side at Merton, Matt led this one and with a very mixed forecast, a timed game was agreed. Matt lost the toss (well, incorrectly guessing which hand a stone behind the Hertford skipper’s back was in) and Graces were bowling first. Thoughts quickly turned to how many runs the two 1st XI Premier Division batters might inflict, especially with a rather short boundary on one side.

Kash and Nick, of Barton Seagrave, opened the bowling. Opener Rideout was taking full advantage of the shorter boundary with six quick fours. Kash was bowling everything full and Nick was bowling consistently at his own feet, yet incredibly, it would the short stuff that would break the deadlock first. Nick bowling his first full ball out of his first ten attempts saw the other opener sky a ball high into the flight paths ahead and a good, composed catch from Matt got Graces on the board. Kash would soon follow with one of his own, another short ball, smashed, but straight into the hands of Imran S at square leg, another good catch.

A change of bowling saw Moeed and Matt introduced, with instant results. Moeed grabbing a wicket second ball as yet another short ball would get mistimed to young Henry (in the field this time) at cover. This had brought the dangerous Ruskin to the crease, who showed his class, whacking Moeed to the short boundary and Matt over his head with considerable ease as the run rate rocketed above the one-a-ball mark. Imran M was brought into the attack to replace Moeed, while Matt continued to brave it out still.

With an untroubled fifty looming, a Matt “slower ball special” (not a pie, honestly!) was yet again hit over his head, but a superb sprint across the long off boundary from Nick got him to the ball just in time to dismiss Ruskin for 42. It would be one out and another in though for Hertford as skipper Cavener now strode in. The runs continued to flow effortlessly for the hosts and the rain started to drizzle. A combination of a wet ball (attempting to be dried by a fetching neon-pink bath towel) and the short boundary kept the run rate high. This led to knock of twelve boundaries and multiple singles to the sweepers from Cavener as Hertford looked to dampen the Graces spirit as well as the weather.

However, Matt’s decision to continue with himself to try and speed the over rate up in the timed innings worked, as a quicker yorker saw Cavener chop on for a strong 68. This led to a lower order collapse from the hosts, as Matt would get another catch to Nick at long off, followed by a repeat two balls later. Damon then picked up a bowled himself, leaving Hertford 8 down. Matt would then get Graces’ second five-wicket haul of the season grabbing Wellberry LBW and would then turn it into the season’s best figures for the club with Perkins also LBW in the dying minutes to finish with a well-earned 6-58 inside his thirteenth over. Hertford all out 236 with five bowlers getting wickets!

After a further rain delay, but a superb tea, Graces began the chase in the now glorious cloud-free sunshine. The run rate was initially very high as Perkins channelled his inner Harmison with a deadly bowling line to slip giving plenty of extras. However, getting bored of leaving them, Matt would reject the chance to be an all rounder as he lobbed a simple catch to point to depart for 5. The Buckners (Martin and Henry) would continue the charge. Henry being patient to wait for the cover drive, whilst Martin biffed anything he could over the mid off fielder with regular ease. Soon later, Henry would attempt one shot too many and was LBW for 16. By this point, Hertford has their own spin king, young teenager, Wellberry. He was bowling a superb set of leg spin with a well disguised ‘offie’, which Martin and Damon found tricky to get away. Trying to attack the other end, Martin would see a faint edge superbly caught low down at slip (who had actually started moving the other way). This brought Syed in at five. Deciding to play it safe, he chose not to whack the first ball for six, but for four instead. It was followed by 6, 4, 4, 6 as his next four scoring shots! Game back on!

Wellberry would be the major threat for Hertford, claiming Damon stumped and bringing Tim in. The Aussie was full of running, loudly hustling Syed down the other end. Syed was rarely interested though, because it was just easier to whack it out of the ground, another four, another six into the trees, and then a six out of the ground to bring up drinks. 140 to win from 20 overs of gradually fading light.

Wellberry would claim his second getting Syed out. Not to be outdone by Nick in the first innings, a massive shot looked set to be a six for the 50 before skipper Cavener leapt around the cow corner boundary to spring one handed right on the rope to dismiss Syed for 47. Nick was the new man and the odd straight boundary between Nick and Tim kept Graces in the game, although darkness was quickly setting in as the scoreboard lit the pitch up ever more. As the required rate reached 9 and 10 an over, Nick would be stumped for Wellberry’s third, followed immediately with his fourth from Imran S. Moeed soon followed and then Kash stumped for Wellberry’s deserving fifth! Tim left stranded with Imran M as the last stand and 3 overs left. When asked win or draw, Imran without hesitation went for the draw and nothing would be even close to breaking his brick wall of a defence to finish the innings 202/9. Tim top scoring with 43 unbeaten.

A great game played in superb spirits by both sides to surely end the string of Graces double headers, but you just never know!