Avoncroft 1st XI opening match of the season was a game of mixed fortunes and familiar stories from recent years. Having lost the toss on a glorious sunny day and been put into bat the reshaped Croft 1st XI made steady progress at the beginning of their 50 overs.
Openers Matt Hare (returning from long term knee injury) and Sam Hughes quietly accumulated 28 until the first wicket of Hare was lost, caught behind off a good delivery from the Rushwick opening bowler Bromage.
This brought Mark Wood to the crease who has come up from the 2nd XI after joining the club two seasons ago – the new “senior pro”! Unfortunately his partnership was short-lived with Hughes who was bowled trying to pull across the line to a ball that kept lower than expected. Wood showed glimpses of why he was promoted to the 1st XI, selective in his shot making and waiting for the bad ball to dispatch, something his new partner Dave Anson (again promoted from the 2nd XI) was also showing an ability for. The pair put on 29 for the third wicket before Wood (24) was unfortunate to miscue a shot and provided a simple catch to square-leg – the frustration showing on Wood’s face as he left the wicket.
Anson was joined at the crease by Tom Murray and the two provided the best partnership of the Croft innings putting on 63 for the 4 wicket. Anson’s (40) innings was peppered with his customary hard hitting drives but this eventually led to his downfall as he tried to dispatch Rushwick’s Hooper to the boundary but top edged to leave a relatively simple catch.
At 115-4 Croft still felt like they had a chance to post something close to 200 which would be competitive on a track that was beginning to show some turn and an uneven bounce. Unfortunately what ensued was very different as Hooper and Indima pulled apart the Croft middle and lower order to bowl them out for 133 in 44 overs.
The total was never going to be an easy one to defend but Croft started their attack confidently with John Hunter leaving the Rushwick batsmen bamboozled at times with his in swinging deliveries. Rushwick at 12-2 looked like they might wobble but a stand of 62 between Cooper and Saunders proved the turning point. Taking Rushwick to 74-3 it would require a herculean effort from Croft to win the match. All gave their best, Hunter taking 3-50 off 14 and Athey and Wood chipping in with another two wickets, Rushwick though in the end cruising to victory finishing on 134-5 in the 28th over.
A disappointing start to the season for Avoncroft and for new skipper Mark Whitehead, another one of the players promoted from the 2nd XI. The message for Croft players is simple – we have to build innings more carefully and give ourselves a fighting chance of winning a game, we will struggle to do this with low scores and handing extra overs to the opposition regularly.
Croft return to action next Saturday against Alvechurch at home, 1pm start where they will look to take on a team relegated from Division 2 last season.
Match Report by Mark Whitehead, 24/4/17
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