The season was 6 weeks old, and belief was growing within a strong Hampton Hill CC 2 nd XI. Despite a mixed start to the season (with games lost to rain and opposition), the timed rubbish had begun well with a battling draw against Sinjuns followed by a drubbing for the ages against an over-confident “250 deck” Bank of England team the previous week. The scene was set for a challenging game against league 2 nd Stoke D’Abs in the leafy Surrey green belt. However, mid-week disaster struck as dangerous-fast-bowler slash devastating-middle-order-hitter Jack Fullicks fell to a freak injury – echoes of Jonny Bairstow hung over the Hill, and it was with a mix of excitement and apprehension that we all made our way to the ground on Saturday morning.
The early indications all pointed towards a bowl-first day. The pitch was green, and undulating (at
least to the untrained eye) – and the Bob Willis pavilion gave historical precedence to the impression that this would be a good day for the seamers. Skipper Tom Coates certainly agreed, winning the toss and inserting the oppo, and as we trudged off after the warm-up images of skittled wickets and devastated batsmen crossed the minds of the Hill troops.
Alas – not so. The cloud cover cleared, revealing that the pitch was a sheep in wolf’s clothing, and
the outfield was lightning quick. It was a hot day, and the Hill toiled hard in the field. Stoke
D’Abernon’s openers didn’t allow us the quick start we had hoped for, With Justin Jones (49 (57))
playing some frustrating slash-y drives before departing, alongside other useful contributions from his top-order cronies. The first 17 overs were tough for the Hill, with energy feeling flatter than
usual, however special mention is made for Mike Murton who looked visibly more penetrating than
the prior two weeks, providing a solid base for continued improvement. (9 overs 1-39 for the day)
If the first passage of play was theirs, the second 17 was definitely ours, as the skipper turned to
pace-off for control – handing the ball to Joe Ayley (14 overs 2-53) who provided moments of
greatness intersected with a few too many full-bungers. In this period of play the fielding was
electric. Fantastic energy from Joe Porter combined with spectacular slip fielding from TC and Kash Sheikh providing the Hill with impetus to sooth even the most weather beaten brows.
Despite a fight-back from the Hill, we struggled late, with a flurry of middle order hitting from Tom
‘better put in 4 cow corners for me’ Bullock getting Stoke D’s up to a respectable total – ably assisted by some shocking fielding from yours truly. They kept us in the field for 53 overs all told, and a big effort was shown by the Hill – especially the bowlers (Mike Murton, George Barratt (0-21), Joe Ayley, Rob Fullicks (0-24) (to Lisa’s undoubted dismay), Tom Coates (2-54), and James Everett (0-33). Stoke finally declared on 236-5, and we headed in for a weary tea break braced for the prospect of a daunting chase.
Over an, it must be said, excellent Tea the Hill regrouped. Skipper TC channelled his inner Stokes
declaring their total ‘too few for us’ and encouraging the batsmen to go out, chase the total, and
show these rural pretenders how we play inside of the oyster zone (I may be paraphrasing). A breezy first over (9 from it) showed opening pair Cadogan and Owens that this was indeed a different proposition to the early season sogginess we had endured, and a glimmer of hope was ignited. It was a fast start from both teams however, and the Hill found themselves 21-2 in the third over having lost JC for 7 and the oft mercurial Kashif Sheikh for a duck in quick succession. The Hill’s batting order adjusted to accommodate the flurry of wickets, with elder statesman / safe pair of hands / open faced destroyer Ajmal Bhatti joining Owens, reassuring the younger batsman with a shrug and a light hearted ‘let’s just bat mate’.
And Just bat we did. After a couple of cracked square drives, it became clear that this was in fact a
batting paradise and the runs flowed for both batsmen. We scored at a devastating click, passing 100 before the first drinks break, and breaking the back of the chase early. Will ‘El-pintmonsterino’
Owens – now armed with a wide-brim playing an unrecognisable role of aggressor in the partnership displayed unusual fluency, and less unusual fitness issues on his way to a match-high of 81(84),
leaving Aj on 38* following a partnership of over 120.
The skipper entered the scene, and unfurled a flurry of aggressive strokes – eventually departing for 41 (33) including two fine sixes (and two lost balls). Ajmal displayed stamina, guile and grace on his way to 73* (84), with Joe “be there at the end” Porter joining him to hit the winning runs, (and
indeed to remark upon the open faced angle of Aj’s bat with wonderment). The remaining batsmen
(Fullicks, Murton, Barratt, Everett, Ayley) spared the effort – and in Rob’s case presumably spared
the cost of additional physiotherapy / marriage counselling.
The Job was done. The Hill reached 238-4 off fewer than 38 overs (on pace for a 300+ chase), and
the celebrations ensued. Jugs were bought, and many beers were drunk that evening as the sun set on a famous Hampton Hill victory.
Man of the match: Will Owens – who’s 81 set the tone for the chase (although this reporter thinks
Ajmal Bhatti has been robbed)
DOD: Will Owens – for a series of infractions including a dropped catch, simulating
downing a pint with his bat after passing 50, and for declaring a pitch which yielded nearly 500 runs
and 9 wickets as a ‘seamer’s paradise’ upon arrival