Avoncroft 1st XI lost their opening home game of the season to a well drilled Alvechurch team. Skipper, Mark Whitehead, put Alvechurch in to bat on a cloudy and overcast afternoon hoping to do some early damage on a track that had had some overnight moisture.
While Paul Athey only went for 12 runs in his first 5 overs, Jon Hunter was not able to exert the normal control over the opening overs that he so often manages. Conceding 41 runs in his first 5 overs brought about a change in the attack with Craig Hughes, returning to the side after missing last week’s clash at Rushwick, bowling his right arm off spin from the bottom end of the ground. In the 16th over Dan Elliot came into the attack from the top end replacing Athey who had completed his spell of 7 overs for just 23 runs conceded. This became the turning point for Croft’s fortunes with the ball, Alvechurch at this point 88 without loss. Elliot removed both openers in his first two overs before then taking out the next two Alvechurch batsmen leaving honours about even at the mid-point, Alvechurch 122-4 but the momentum with Croft.
Alvechurch’s fifth wicket fell in the 28th over bringing Wolstencroft to the crease who has a reputation for hard hitting, something he executed well, quickly rattling up 67 before being caught by Matt Hare of the bowling of Hunter. The Croft team continued to work hard with the ball and in the field and this brought to an end Alvechurch’s innings in the 47th over for 255, Dan Elliot 12.1-1-66-6, Jon Hunter 14-2-80-3 the pick of the attack.
After having fought back well with the ball, Croft’s batsmen knew they had to bat long to have a chance of winning the game, with 53 overs to score the runs it was an achievable task if good partnerships could be built throughout the innings.
The innings started solidly enough with Sam Hughes and Matt Hare opening the batting. They accumulated 40 in the first 10 overs before Hare was caught behind for 5. This then brought about a familiar pattern of wickets being lost quickly. By the 12th over Croft were 46-3 with Sam Hughes (29) returning a simple c&b to Desai and Craig Hughes (0) being caught at first slip. Croft managed just another 5 overs before they began to lose wickets again, Dave Anson (20), having looked solid and positive, was caught at cover bringing Croft skipper Whitehead to the crease to join Mark Wood.
Wood (3) chopped onto his stumps, having looked composed until then, leaving Croft stumbling at 74-5. Dan Elliot joined Whitehead, Elliot looking to follow up on his 6 wicket haul with an innings to help guide the team to victory. Unfortunately he lasted only two overs, playing on and leaving the crease with just 9 to his name.
At 83-6 Croft looked dead and buried but skipper Whitehead was not prepared to accept defeat yet. In a partnership of 64 with James Downing, the pair showed that with a mix of resolute defence and selective attack, runs can be accumulated quickly without excessive risk. Whitehead feasted on the bowling of Desai with three cover drives despatched to boundary in one over while Downing carefully remained resolute in his defence, working the ball around and providing the strike to his captain where possible to take the game to the opposition. At the halfway point they had reached 126-6 and where looking comfortable at the crease. This pattern continued through to the 32nd over where Downing (13) fell victim to the useful off-spin of Sata. What Downing had done though was show a maturity in his batting and provide an anchor at one end to build a partnership around, something his team mates will need to take on the responsibility for until he returns from University in June.
Paul Athey then joined Whitehead at the crease but was quickly out lbw for a duck. Again it looked like the cause was lost. Jon Hunter, not known for his long innings, joined Whitehead and would go on to play a resolute and entertaining knock, his lofted cover drive for 4 no doubt being one the spectators will remember fondly. He again provided an anchor for Whitehead to play off having joined him at the crease on 148-8, the pair built a partnership that had the Alvechurch attack starting to look concerned that the victory may slip through their fingers and possibly even end up in defeat. Whitehead continued with a mix of pushing singles and full-blooded attack before he was finally dismissed for 61 with the score on 182 in the 42nd over. Croft were eventually dismissed for 204 in the 47th over and left rueing an opportunity to build some confidence and momentum against a good Alvechurch side.
Croft return to action next Saturday against Astwood Bank, the match being played at Hanbury.
Match Report by Mark Whitehead, 1/5/17
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